I was in a store last week when the owner, a friend of mine, asked, “Are you still running?” I immediately thought of author and runner James Kerkula. His fascinating book about how he rose from poverty in Liberia, Africa, immigrated to the United States, started running marathons, and came to run an organization that promotes education for the orphans in Liberia has touched and inspired me, and it will you, too.
My interview with James follows.
When you read the book, you will understand why I am laughing while I ask the first question.
Me: Are you still running?
James: Yes, I’m still running!
Me: What is the driving force behind Still Running?
James: The importance of understanding/cultivating personal positive-toughness (personal resilience) and relying on the grace of God (divine providence) is the heart or driving force behind the book.
(a) Positive personal-toughness (personal resilience) begins with taking care of your personal health—body, mind, and spirit.
(b) Divine providence begins with having a vision of God – i.e. knowing and acknowledging the role of God or infinite intelligence in human affairs
Me: Why is the education of our world so important to you?
James: I will start with this quote (by Horace Mann) on Page 11 of Still Running: Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the condition of men (women), the balance-wheel of the social machinery.
Formal education enhances personal resilience by enabling a person to better see and understand his or her world is connected to a larger national and global marketplace. Being able to navigate the larger marketplace is pivotal to overcoming personal challenges, including poverty. Knowledge is the engine that propels the world in the 21st Century; without it an individual, community, or country will be left behind. K- through-College education will help an individual find his or her own way, even in difficult times. Without it, personal resilience is near impossible. This is the thesis of Chapter Four of Still Running.
Me: Please tell us about LEI.
James: The Liberian Education Initiative: African School of the Future (LEI) is a proposed K-12 education environment focused on college prep education, sustainable development, and servant-leadership for Liberia, a tiny West African nation founded in the 1800′s by free slaves from the United States. Liberia is emerging from a 14-year brutal civil war (1989-2003) that virtually destroyed the nation’s physical infrastructure and human capital, including its education system.
In addition to obtaining a strong preparation in literacy, mathematics, and science, students will acquire critical knowledge, skills, and attitudes derived from their direct participation in highly experiential alternative energy, science, and small-enterprise development projects. Furthermore, social and business ethics, an important underlying foundation of nation building, will be integrated as an essential component of the academic curriculum. If successful, the school will eventually expand to a college-level institution—the University of Todee.
Me: How does running help you to achieve all that Christ has planned for you to do?
James: As articulated in Part III of Still Running, physical health is the cornerstone of all achievement, including one’s ability to serve Christ or lead a mission-driven life. Personally, running helped me to overcome a debilitating migraine. It helped me to turn a sick body into a picture of health. Like food for the body, running has become an indispensable ingredient component of my very existence that give me daily energy and fuels my drive to serve Christ and others.
Me: Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
James: I run a technical assistance organization – www.communitycapitaladvisors.org – which provides technical assistance to grassroots organizations and small enterprises. We organize K-12 schools and community development financial institutions in distressed communities.
Me: Is there anything else you would like us to know about your book?
James: The title of the book, Still Running may imply a how-to material on running; but the take away of the book is the role of divine intervention and personal resilience in human affairs. It is written from a Christian vantage point.
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/still-running-james-kerkula/1119249327?ean=9781490831534
And, in case you are wondering, my answer to my friend’s question mirrors James’ answer to me, “Yes, I am still running!”