She Never Gave Up Praying – The Cook Brothers
MIKE: I’m Mike Cook. I’m the oldest brother.
DANNY: Danny Cook, the youngest brother.
GREG: Greg Cook, the middle brother.
We grew up on a farm, so we were in the middle of nowhere. We kind of got to do what we wanted.
MIKE: I remember when I was young, going to church, mainly with my grandma and granddad, I guess where the foundation came from, was from grandma and granddad. As we got older, we had a lot of fun as boys growing up in a rural area. But we did get in trouble. We did do some sinful things. I realize now as kids that we were pretty rotten sometimes.
We were allowed to be as much “boys” as we could be. And we’d get in rock fights with these kids across the canal in the other neighborhood. We were smaller usually, but we would usually win. Once, we were in a bar fight, just like you see in the movies, the bottles cracking over my head and stuff like that.
GREG: But we kind of started it.
DANNY: I actually started that one.
GREG: And that’s the way it was. It was wild. None of us had any fear of anything, of anybody. We thought it was good, clean fun. But in reality, it wasn’t. It was a lot of stuff that caused a lot of harm to a lot of people.
MIKE: Out of control. We were out of control. We weren’t given a lot of rules when we were growing up. We were just told to be boys.
So being raised to be pretty independent, I felt like I became more fiercely independent. Yes, there was drinking in the house. And it was normal. Just going through my teenage years was a little difficult – not being in a church, not having any kind of groundedness. Then we started working. We were always hard workers, which helped with my being independent and building up my pride in myself, which we were just all really good at. We didn’t need anything else.
I lived with grandma for about a year after my parents split apart. My brothers left and I had to finish high school. I remember walking into the house sometimes and she would be with her notepad, on the phone. It was a prayer line that this church was operating. And she would pray sometimes for hours at a time for people. I saw her list. Sometimes there were 50 to 100 names on that list. And she would pray for each one individually.
I know she was praying for us. I know for a fact she was praying for us.
GREG: All the sins and all the bad stuff, I had a tendency to just store them in the back of my brain and never look back and always hide them. And it just kept piling up and accumulating. Alcohol was what helped that. You didn’t think about it, you know, you could put it off for another day… put it off for another day… but then as it overflowed, I had to deal with it. I tried my own ways. Nothing ever worked.
I thought about suicide. Ultimately, I hit rock bottom. And it wasn’t working. Everything was still accumulated on my shoulders and in my mind, so I went back to drinking, treating my wife horribly, my kids horribly. Couldn’t go to a birthday party without having a drink.
My wife found out about biblical counseling. We weren’t attending this church but quite a few people mentioned Pastor Steve. So she asked me if I would go and I said, “yes, let’s go.” I wasn’t even going to this church and this church took me in. And it helped save my life. I’m so very thankful.
I wasn’t reluctant to get help, I wanted the help. Steve was there to help us. He guided me and my wife through this process and got us following Jesus.
I saw the weights just start coming off my shoulders, started taking accountability for everything that I’ve done in my life, all the stuff that was stored in the back of my brain that I just kept putting off… I almost felt like I was floating. It came off. It was gone.
Ever since then, I’ve been trying to walk the line, the straight and narrow with Jesus and follow what he’s telling me to do. And I couldn’t be any happier. Yes, I still deal with everyday stuff, but I’ve got somebody walking with me now.
I don’t have to walk alone.
Once I started making it down this path, and I think the other two brothers saw the transformation I was making. And I think the bandwagon kind of started piling on that.
DANNY: Coming back from Iraq, I was drinking a lot – like a lot, a lot… I almost died from it – for about 15 years. Pretty bad alcoholic. Struggling with a lot of guilt, a lot of shame, depression. It was chaos raging in my head that I couldn’t stop. It was constantly there. I was always angry, mad.
I tried finding stuff that could fulfill what I was missing. Because I wanted peace. I wanted happiness. I couldn’t find it. I tried everything. Nothing worked.
So I started coming to church. I kept hearing about forgiveness. So I was finally able to forgive myself. I kept coming to church, kept listening, kept listening.
And God cured me.
Of course, there’s still a lot of things I’m dealing with. But I’m on the right path. And I just got to stay on. It’s worth it.
MIKE: I was 31 when I got married. My wife started to change, we were going to church. And she was taking the necessary steps as a believer. And here I was. I had a good foundation but I was kind of just lagging behind, not doing anything for a while. I was still wanting to just be the ruler of my own life. And it wasn’t working out.
And so finally, a few years ago, I had a moment where I pretty much hit my rock bottom. That’s when I realized that I don’t want the same thing in my family that I felt like I had growing up.
I knew I was doing wrong. I was getting sicker and sicker of myself as I went along. So when I had that low point, that was just it. That was the last I could take of myself. And that’s what convinced me that I actually need to make real changes.
I wanted it to be better. And so that’s when I committed to stop drinking. I came in and I met with Steve a couple of times.
And God really just started working in my heart to change me.
Now I just… I’m so happy. I have a peace that I never had before. The anxiety is gone from all the stupid stuff I was doing. My pride is diminished. I think John the Baptist said, “He is increased, and I am decreased.” And that’s probably the best way to sum it up, as we’re letting go of some of that stuff. I’m just happy how things are going now. The peace is really nice. I never expected this, and to have it happen with my brothers, too…
It felt like dominoes.
DANNY: God has brought us all together.
This wouldn’t have happened without God.
And it’s awesome to be able to – because I’m the newest one to Christianity – to be able to share with these two. I get to see their improvements, which is totally crazy because of our whole lives. So I’m learning a lot from those two.
It’s OK to let things go. Don’t always have to be right. Don’t always have to be the bigger, tougher one. Because that means nothing.
GREG: Now we can freely talk. That’s never happened before. It’s very peaceful, gaining more knowledge and actually finding out about each other a little bit more. It’s pretty awesome.
Danny was getting baptized last Sunday and I was just sitting in one of the pews. We had all of our family there. I look over and Mike’s sitting over there. And here comes Danny walking up to get baptized. And the first thought in my mind was,
“Grandma got us.” She got us. She always prayed for us.
We knew that she wanted this for us. But we were too stubborn. So we were just sitting there. And it hit me, grandma did this. She helped us. She prayed for us. She got us in this direction. I can tell you nobody in Collier County would have ever thought this was possible. So here we are.
MIKE: Grandma and Granddad were members here.
GREG: That’s when they were on Pine Ridge.
MIKE: It’s unbelievable to feel that enormous love this far into the future. That she cared so much about us. And she knew what to do. She knew to pray, pray, pray.
GREG: She never gave up praying. She never gave up talking to us about it. Never. Even when we weren’t listening, she kept going and kept going.
DANNY: Because we were all full of pride. And to be able to get us all to come together is awesome.
MIKE: She never lost her temper with me or anything. But even with all the stuff I was doing, it was all smiles from her. And everything was forgiven. Just like Jesus. She had that kind of forgiveness in her. It was awesome.
That’s what drew me more into the church, is to have a person like that in your life that is passionate about Jesus Christ and they’re showing it to you.
It’s a big draw.
DANNY: With all the wrongs I’ve done in my life, all the bad things, coming to First Naples is open arms. “Come on, come on. Come in.” When you would think that it would be the opposite of, “Stay away, don’t, get out of the parking lot…”
GREG: “…We don’t want your kind around here.” It’s not that. It’s not that at all.
DANNY: It’s just so welcoming here. Every Sunday morning, everybody’s smiling. Everybody’s happy. It feels like you’re part of a community. Because everybody that comes here, they have problems. It’s one of the reasons we’re here. It’s like everybody’s giving each other a big hug almost. It’s OK. It’s OK to go through this. It’s OK that you’ve been through this. It’s OK that you’re still going through this. But this is where you need to come.
And it’ll get better.
MIKE: It’s a little intimidating at first, because it looks like a mega church. I mean, it kind of is. But once you get into the smaller programs and you start to meet people individually and start talking to them, then you start hearing their story… and nobody’s story is perfect. But it’s not as awkward anymore once you start getting to know people in the smaller groups and stuff.
The kids are going here. It’s really like a family here. This church has taken me in. I couldn’t feel more loved.
GREG: I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for this church, if it wasn’t for the people in this church, helping me get to believe in Jesus Christ. I’m just so thankful.
If I can do it… if we can do it… You can do it.