We are the Cooks. Nathan and Becky, Natalie, Sutton and Beckett Cook.
Our story is one we love to tell. It’s a story of God’s incredible, amazing grace in our lives. There are so many details, and when you get the time, we’d love to fill you in on each little chapter and how God sovereignly wove our lives together, but for the sake of space, we’ll give you the quick version.
Nate was born and raised in Oklahoma. He was a ranch hand, raised pigs, lived and breathed football, was a country music lover, etc. He was an Okey, just not from…well, you get the picture. Becky was born and raised in Wilmington, NC, by the sea. She spent her time swimming in the ocean, drinkin’ sweet tea, playing softball and eating the fresh catch of the day. While our ideas of what real barbeque is couldn’t be more different, we still had many similarities. We were both blessed to be raised in Christ-centered homes. We each gave our lives to Christ as very young children and grew in that relationship throughout high school and college. In 2001, after getting his undergraduate degree, Nate chose to go on an 8 month-long mission trip to Dakar, Senegal. He prepared for and led a team of college students who joined him from all over the United States for the summer. Becky needed to get 200 hours of nursing experience for her nursing program, so she decided to look for a way to spend her summer doing missions while getting that experience. She ended up on Nate’s team that summer and as God drew Becky into a more intimate relationship with Himself, He also drew her into an unexpected, undeserved relationship with Nate. We spent time out in the villages together dreaming of how we wished God would dare to use little ol’ us back in Africa one day. We felt Him leading us back to that place before we even had the first clue of where our relationship with each other would lead us next.
The next summer, we were married. We packed our bags in NC and Oklahoma and moved to Kansas City. While Nate completed medical school and a pediatric residency, Becky worked as a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse at the children’s hospital. We were sure God would open the door for full time medical missions work at any time. That was the plan. Get married. Finish school. Become a doctor. Move back to Africa. Well, as many of you probably have learned for yourselves, God’s ways are not our ways, neither are his thoughts our thoughts. While we were still able to be involved in multiple mission trips overseas, we clearly heard God saying, “not yet” on three separate occasions to full time missions work. We sought the Lord in our confusion and felt led to move back to the East Coast, closer to Becky’s family. (Here is where we’d really like to be able to tell you those details we referred to earlier, but we will save it for another day.) Anyways, God gave Nate an amazing job as a pediatric hospitalist in Becky’s hometown. So we happily packed up our two small kiddos (Natalie and Sutton) and headed home to our very own happily ever after.
Becky began to volunteer with Operation Christmas Child and we continued our relationship with World Medical Mission. This kept us both involved in missions in a very tangible way. We were able to see how God was using us in our local church. Nate loved his job. Our house was great. There were grandparents just down the street. It was bliss. So much so that it didn’t take too long until Baby #3 (Beckett) was added to our family! We were finally settled for what seemed like the first time in our marriage and it felt good.
Then it happened. We attended the Prescription for Renewal conference last Fall (2013), which is all about short-term missions work, by the way, and clearly felt the Lord leading us to full-time medical missions work in Africa. We stayed up into the wee hours. We prayed. We dared to believe that the dreams from our early 20s were finally coming true. We prayed some more. We began the process of figuring out exactly what it would mean for us to pursue a missions career in Africa at this point in our lives. Over the last few months, God has led us to Africa Inland Mission. Their mission statement is “Christ-centered churches among all African peoples.” This is the mission God began speaking into our hearts when we first met in West Africa. By His grace, we know Jesus. We know “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). We are excited to see how God will use the gift of medicine He has given us to bring people into His Kingdom in Africa…binding their wounds and showing them the way to true healing for their broken hearts. There is a need for a pediatrician at Kijabe Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya, so we plan to join their team from July 2015-June 2017. That’s all we know for now. They may continue to need us in Kijabe or the Lord may send us somewhere else. One thing we do know for sure, wherever He leads us we will go, holding tightly to His faithful right hand.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139: 7-10