When Howard Cook was born, his grandma declared, "He's a chip off the old block!" He has been called, "Chip" ever since. As a child, he was introduced to Christianity, but wasn't interested in the salvation Jesus offered. He believed that there was a God, but not that God cared personally about him. He didn't believe Jesus rose from the dead, but he always knew something was missing from his life. He actually envied people who had faith - that they were able to believe in something that strongly.
Chip describes his mom and dad as “good parents who taught him what side the fork goes on.” He went to college and became a career man. He wanted to grow things, because he wasn’t all that fond of people. “Plants,” he says, “don’t talk back or cause pain.” During that time, he thought people were there to be used or to entertain him. He dated a few girls, but it wasn’t until he was 38 years old that he met his wife, Chris. She was the first woman he ever loved.
When Chris and Chip were married, things were rough from the beginning. Chris had a miscarriage and finances became a challenge and a burden. It was a burden that weighed so heavily on Chip that drugs and alcohol became a huge part of his life. Chris had significant health issues during her second pregnancy as well, and Chip’s dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. Living in Arizona at the time, Chip was torn between being with his dad in California and being there for his wife. Chip’s dad passed away the night before his daughter, Heather, was born. And, Chris almost didn’t survive the delivery.
Even though Chip has been employed in management positions at golf courses during most of his adult life, finances continued to be a struggle due to a wide variety of issues. This further drove and escalated his addiction. Chip had always been what is considered a functional alcoholic, but the increased consumption caught up with him, and he was fired from his job.
Life was not turning out the way Chip had planned. It didn’t look like he would be able to retire, Chris moved to Colorado, and Heather became increasingly alienated from him. For the first time in his life, Chip began to think about suicide. He was scared to die, but he thought he had nothing to live for. At first, what kept Chip from taking action was the thought of his daughter finding him. However, the guilt and shame of his life became overwhelming, and he attempted to take his own life.
Then, something incredible happened. The motel manager where he was staying let himself into Chip’s room and found him. The paramedics came, and Chip says, “That’s when Jesus saved me. I felt like a warm blanket and a big hug surrounded me.” Chip has never been the same. He was actually smiling and laughing in the back of the ambulance immediately following his most desperate choice yet. He hasn’t wanted to drink since.
Life was still difficult, but now Chip was doing life with Jesus. He learned dependence on God during his subsequent homeless season. He learned not to turn to substance abuse when life got tough. He learned the power of forgiveness when his wallet was stolen. He learned the beautiful way God orchestrates stories when God brought him to Ventura to stay with his niece. He learned how to consistently worship God when he began attending Ventura Missionary Church in April of 2019. He learned what Christian community is all about, because for the last ten weeks he has participated in Ventura Missionary Church’s Rooted Discipleship Experience. He is just beginning to learn how God redeems, as his daughter reached out and asked to meet with him this week.
Recently, Chip was diagnosed with an aggressive lung cancer. He is so grateful that he knows where he’s going when he leaves this earth. Chip knows God is with him and trusts in His plan, but he’s also somewhat confused about why God would choose NOW to allow him to have a terminal disease.
Chip doesn’t let that confusion stop him from seizing opportunities to tell others about what Jesus has done for him. He longs for family members to know Jesus. He shares his story with the “captive” audience of techs and nurses at the hospital where he receives chemotherapy. He laughs when he says, “They’re actually paid to listen to me.” Chip goes on to say, “Maybe the purpose of the cancer is that someone I shared with last week will find Jesus, or maybe someone who reads this story.” On Sunday, November 24, 2019, Chip publicly declared that he is brand new in Jesus. He was baptized, surrounded by his Rooted group and in front of his new church family!