From Sinner to Saint
The Life and Love of James Cook

James Cook

By Elizabeth Mary Filipe

“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.”
~ Pearl S. Buck

Emerging from a history of bittersweet grace, James Cook beautifully exemplified the Biblical directive to go forth and shine the light of Christ into the darkness of the earth. In his ears, “the earth” meant his local community, into which he poured the love of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit with zeal and sweet devotion.
Steadily and gracefully, the unique brightness of James Cook’s new-creation radiated into each soul he encountered inside the Providence Rescue Mission, on the delivery route of The Good News Today, and extensively within his taxi service. His “little light” also made its presence known in the warmth received by the nameless and faceless in his community, whom Jim both named and remembered.
In each arena of Jim’s selfless influence, Christ’s command and comfort rang confidently: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
God did not snatch James Cook away from his wife, his brothers in Christ, or the world he had touched with his unquenchable joy and compassion. On August 21, 2013, God welcomed him home, a grace-filled soul of rescue and compassion. God smiled to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
In the months following Jim Cook’s entry to glory, a tragic obstacle caused His children to cling still more tightly to Christ’s promise “I will be with you always.” For unfortunately, Jim’s newly purchased life insurance policy covered only a small amount of the expenses accrued by his funeral and burial, leaving his wife with a nearly unbearable financial burden.
However, God who so powerfully transformed Jim’s heart, will once again transform the impossible into the miraculously possible, irresistibly planting the desire in the hearts of His saints to provide the funds to cover the expenses of Jim’s funeral. “For with God, all things are possible.” Romans 8:28

From Sinner to Saint
On Sundays around the nation, pink-cheeked children, dressed in little, frilly dresses and carefully ironed, button-down shirts jubilantly call out the words:
“My God is an awesome God, My God is a mighty God, Yahweh is His name. When I call he answers, what I need he gives it to me that’s my God, more than wonderful to me. There›s nothing that my God can›t do, what He›s done for others, He›ll do for you. He’s a doctor in the sickroom, lawyer in the courtroom; let him be the healer of our broken heart.”
Little girls clutch tiny purses, flushed with the pleasure of resembling mommy. Little boys proudly pat clip-on ties, remembering the safe drawer they pulled them from and the strong father who put them there. In the house of the Lord, children sing His songs, resting in the innocent assurance of complete security and the utter peace of parental care.
Years of addiction and anguish would eventually bring him to the throne of the mighty God whom innocent children worship. Yet Jim himself experienced only a semblance of parental care in his childhood home and an utter absence of safety in his adulthood’s homelessness.
As if personally acquainted with its bittersweet details, author Nicholas Sparks poignantly and accurately describes Jim’s story.“Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can’t get any better, it can.”
As a young boy growing up by the sea in Newport, Rhode Island, the unlikely serious of events which set his life’s trajectory display mystifying ironies. Yet, winsomely, they provide subtle premonitions of the unlikely grace which would later set him on an entirely different course.
Raised as a Roman Catholic by his parents, Jim served faithfully as an altar boy at his local church for six long years. At the age of twelve, still carrying out the tasks of his religious activities, Jim smoked his first marijuana. Two years later, cocaine entered the realm of his ocean-side world. At first, he used the drug casually, but soon the robes of the altar boy became saturated with the aroma of the smoke.
Addiction took the place of dedication, catapulting Jim Cook headlong onto a path leading perilously close to destruction.
In the years of chaos that ensued, Jim’s life spiraled out of control.  His one desire centered on where and when he might acquire the next cocaine high. Jim hid deeper and deeper within himself, sunken in the sole company of his all-consuming addiction. Diligently, he sought to bury the deeper needs of his soul beneath the haze of drug addiction. Yet, in the mysterious, miraculous plan of God, he never succeeded.
In Jim Cook, Christ desired not a man who would bury, but a man who would build. As author Soren Kierkegaard eloquently reminds us, “God creates out of nothing…Yes, to be sure, he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.”
Finally, led by the hands of a mighty Healer, Jim Cook stepped out of his nothingness and through the doors of healing.

From Salvation to Service
Planted in the center of inner-city Cranston, Rhode Island, Providence Rescue Mission provided a Christ-centered environment in which redemption turned the heart of the addict upside down. At the Providence Rescue Mission, Jim Cook fell in love with the Love that sought him first. Through intense Bible studies, classes, and the godly mentorship of Mission workers, the man once held captive by addiction joyfully basked in the freedom of Jesus. Consequently, he could not put his light under a bushel, but set out to show Jesus’ love in any way he could.
“Almost immediately after leaving The Mission,” fondly recalls The Good New Today editor, Larry Lepore, “Jim volunteered to start delivering The Good News Today. He delivered faithfully every month without missing a month for several years, even when he was hospitalized one month with heart problems. Not only did he deliver his route, but when we fell short of delivery people, he volunteered to take an additional route. This made his two combined routes the largest of all of our volunteers, delivering over 1,600 copies to more than 60 locations in Northern RI.”
Jim seemed to instinctively sense the presence of need. He often discovered men and woman who had little to wear and traveled regularly to K-Mart to purchase clothing for them, sometimes drawing from his own financial resources.
Pastor Charlie Cabral, minister of Living Hope Church in Pawtucket, RI , intimately knew and deeply admired Jim Cook. “Jim was in love with Jesus,” said Pastor Cabral.  “He talked about Jesus all the time, not wanting to start conversations about anything else.”
Pastor Cabral remembers Jim’s unquenchable happiness in his salvation. “He was just so joyful…He had a smile on his face all the time. Joy just oozed out of him.”

Jim did not just speak about Jesus, however.  He put wings to his words.

 “Though Jim talked about Jesus all the time, he also wanted to incorporate Jesus into everyday life. He got very involved in people’s lives, constantly asking ‘How do I bring Christ to these people in words and small acts of kindness?’ He loved walking with them through the unique struggles they faced.”

Most of all, Pastor Cabral admires Jim’s childlike faith and pure, unconditional love for others. “He loved as Christ loved. I want to be more like James Cook.”

“He Called Me ‘Fancy Face’ ”
“If there was a need he put it in front of anything else,” said his wife, Donna. “His heart was made of compassion.”


Jim and Donna

Donna Cook, walking through the golden later years of life, spoke with the cadence of a robust Jamaican accent. Exhaustion laced her voice as she picked up the phone. Muffled activity bustled in the background. When asked if she might answer a few questions for an article about her husband, she paused for only a moment before acquiescing. Her candor and utter, honest depth of pain coursed through the phone line, a bittersweet cry of help directly from the Refiner’s fire.  She opened the door to her memories, her struggles, and her sweet joys, describing her husband with the pride of a wife filled equally with passionate love and deep respect.
TGN: Your husband was such a precious gem. What do you love about him, Mrs. Cook?

DC: “I love him. I love him walking away, just walking away from me. I love his lips. He was a kind, a generous person. He was never judgmental,” she marveled. “In worship, he never held back, just so happy and joyful in praising God. He sang in the car, he always sang in the car.”
TGN: What was the greatest part of your husband’s mission?
DC: “The greatest part of his mission was always encouraging people. He was so happy and joyful all the time. My husband’s greatest passion was his Christianity. He wanted to be a good husband and to be a good Christian. Even today I cannot believe he’s gone.”
TGN: He must have loved you so much. In what ways did he show you his love for you?
DC: “When he did something wrong, he always tried to make it right with me. He was so humble…so humble. He used to tell me, ‘Honey, if you knew the way I was before, you would not like me.’ But he was always trying to make me happy. He was so happy in his marriage.”
TGN: He was very proud of you.
DC: “Yes, he was very proud of me. He thought I was beautiful. His family did not approve of him marrying me, and they will not help me now. But he called me “Fancy Face.’ ”
TGN: That is a beautiful name. Did you think him beautiful as well?
DC: “Oh, yes. And when I saw him I did not see his color, I saw a beautiful human being. He was so gentle. I love him. He was always someone you could be around, no shame.”
TGN: What is your greatest struggle right now?
DC: “The funeral expenses are such a heavy weight to me. We had not had Jim’s insurance for enough time before he died and so the insurance company will not pay. It is left to me. Everything else I think I can do.”
TGN: You are very brave.
DC: “Everything around me is dark. I need some peace. I feel so lost. People say the pain will go away, but I do not see it going away any time soon.”
TGN: How can we help you?
 DC: “If I can pay for the funeral expenses that will help me so much. The church did give him a good sending away. But I do not want the church to have to pay…I do not want the church to pay. Larry Lepore said he would have an article written to help me. I pray someone will help.”
The phone call ended with an emotional prayer and the assurance that her pain will not go away. But it will become something else, too. It will become beauty.
“Whoever oppresses the poor insults his maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors Him.”
Proverbs 14:31
“…Whoever Is Kind…”
Children of the King bubble over with gifts from a well which they have neither filled with the life within them or keep from the world around them. As undeserving recipients of eternal glory, showered upon them by a wildly loving Father, they gaze with unwavering awe at His face. They selflessly give, not to avoid the discomfort of guilt, but through their unbounded devotion to awaken the approving smile of the King. With the wondrous, shocking love of Christ continually before them, their hands and feet move under the unquenchable call of a sorrowful saintly woman: “It is better to give than to receive.”
Pastor Cabral and the brethren at Living Hope Church worked with the good folks at «Manning-Heffern Funeral Home of Pawtucket to put a beautiful going home service together for Jim. Together with the Good News and the Providence Rescue Mission we invite you to prayerfully consider helping Donna with these final expenses.

It is perhaps safe to say that James Cook, a man who earnestly surrendered his entire life to seeking the good of others, would covet the help of his brothers and sisters for their own good even more than his own. Characteristically, he might say with Paul, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.”

If you can help please send a check to Living Hope, 100 Broadway, Pawtucket, R.I. 02860 Checks can be made payable to Living Hope Church. Please write in the memo “James Cook’s Funeral Expense”. The Church’s Phone number is (401)723-2039.