His name is Wayne Cook and one of the first things you’ll notice is that his eyes are generally smiling, which goes well with his proclivity for telling good jokes and making bad puns.
So, first – some background. Wayne Cook is Louisiana born-and-bred and attended the New Orleans Theological Seminary where he received a Doctorate in Theology. His career path has been wide ranging from being a pastor in Louisiana and South Dakota, a Prison Chaplain, Director of Education at the LA Rayburn Correctional Institution and a Seminary Professor, to name just a few.
Asked why the interest in Prison Chaplaincy, his eyes twinkle as he says, “I decided it would be easier to work with inmates than with deacons.” The real reason – he’d read a book on the subject and became intrigued with its challenges.
During his tenure at Rayburn, he swam upstream to acquire the management support and resources to create the only state prison in Louisiana with a secular college degree program. Wayne managed existing educational programs in literacy and GED, expanded vocational degrees as well as started an academic associate degree program and a Master’s program for inmate chaplains. The eight inmate chaplains he trained “turned the institution upside down by living a Christian witness 24/7 in front of the other offenders.”
His next job there was as Assistant Warden (a very unusual transition; most people come to the position through a background in Security). Wayne and his family came to live in one of the Warden’s houses right next to the prison. He walked to work, had inmates who cared for his car and garden and his family and friends were met at their gate 24/7 by a guard with a shotgun.
What is his assessment of working with inmates? “I’d say, by and large, they’re not that much different than people anywhere – if you treat them with respect.”
Just as he was transitioning to his next job as Deputy Warden at another correctional facility, his wife, Andi, received the devastating diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer. Wayne was able to continue working, tailoring his job to ensure that he could take care of his wife.
When the cancer began to grow again following chemo, Andi chose not to continue chemotherapy. She now uses a regimen of other traditional and non-traditional treatments and is currently doing very well. She says, “It is in God’s hands. We thank God for every day that we have together.”
Andi Cook is a force in her own right. In addition to her U.S. career as a journalist, she spent over a decade as Education Director at the Rayburn facility, picking up program development where Wayne left off. Andi is a gifted musician with a beautiful first soprano voice and has directed musical programming at several churches where Wayne pastored. Her passion for writing has also produced several books of biblical fiction – i.e., taking biblical characters and fictionally expanding on their stories (FYI: available free online at wattpad.com). Her most recent book is a very personal one, entitled Cancer, God and Me.
Wayne and Andi’s next chapter began with the idea of retirement. They have three sons and one of them lives in Guadalajara. After several visits there, they considered moving to Mexico. Finally, they visited Ajijic and, like many ex-pats-to-be, decided that it was home.
Andi describes the move this way, “We felt that God was leading us here. Before we decided to come, I basically told God that he needed to sell our house if he wanted us to move to Mexico. One week later, after more than six months on the market without a single look, a buyer walked in, bought it, paid in cash and moved in immediately. So, I think God really did want us here.”
While not intending to work any further, God placed them as neighbors to the very convincing and compassionate Lynn Turnbull who discussed her current LPC care ministry, and the rest is LPC history.
When asked how they feel now about living here at Lakeside, Wayne said, “It’s great. This is the first church I’ve been in where they do ministry with church on the side – and not vice versa!”
So, join me in welcoming Wayne as he works to meet the challenges of LPC congregational care. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to introduce yourself to Wayne and Andi at our fellowship time after the service. I’m sure they’ll be as glad to meet you as you are to meet them.
One last note – Look for an upcoming article that will explore in more detail the activities and programs being developed as part of LPC’s Congregational Care Ministry.
– Elise Rychlewski