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Gene R. Cook - A Story of a Missionary's Faith

Let me tell you of a young man I knew when I was a mission president in Uraguay. He was a missionary full of faith. He was Uruguayan. He had been in the mission about three or four months when I arrived as the mission president. I noticed that wherever he served, people seemed to be baptized. In the beginning, I thought it was his senior companion because he seemed too young, too new, to be the cause. That was my mistake. He knew how to make things happen.

He was called as a senior companion and a district leader. I sent him into a city that had gained a reputation of being a tough, "no results" type city. Missionaries had not baptized anyone there for nearly a year—not one person! The members were discouraged. Only 10 to 12 members were attending the branch.

I didn't tell this elder anything. I just notified him of the transfer. It only took him three weeks and he and his companion began baptizing. He served there about 10 weeks. All of his district also started baptizing which was most pleasing to them.

It is great to have a missionary that can baptize, but if he can teach others how to do it, his leadership is of great worth. This missionary never wrote me much in his weekly reports. He would only write, "Dear President, I sure love you. Things are going great. Sincerely," or "The Lord is blessing us greatly. I love the work. Your brother."

He was called to serve as a zone leader and sent to supervise the whole upper area of the mission where there were some very challenging cities. As a new challenge, he would have to teach the missionaries to do what he was doing through district leaders. He served there two or three months and was responsible for scores of baptisms and literally changed the spirit of the whole zone and many member leaders as well as missionaries. They very frankly wrought a spiritual miracle.

Then came a spiritual struggle for me—a restless feeling about him. The impression was that he should be sent to Paraguay! The work was very slow in Paraguay—an average of only 20 to 25 baptisms a month in the whole country. I wrestled with that and thought, "He has really proven himself here, but to put him in Paraguay might drag him down like it has many of the others. He may have a hard time sustaining his faith." I had to struggle with my faith to convince myself that he really ought to go, but the promptings were obeyed.

He was sent a telegram transferring him to Asuncion, Paraguay, as a zone leader and told that he should leave the next day. When he came in to Montevideo, he didn't even come to see me. He was modest and always a little embarrassed and seemed to avoid "the President."

He departed from the mission home, but he left a letter which was the first one that I had ever received from him. It said, in effect, "Dear President Cook, I received a telegram today telling me to go to Paraguay, and I thought you ought to know a few things: 1) You can't baptize in Paraguay. I have had at least 10 or 15 elders tell me of their experiences there; 2) The members are not helping at all; 3) There are great morality problems among the people; 4) The people live together unmarried; 5)..., etc." And he went through and listed 10 to 12 of some of the most negative things that I have ever heard in my life. I thought to myself, "Oh, no, unbelieving people have gotten to him." But as he finished the list, he said, "I just wanted you to know, President, that I don't believe any of those ideas."

Talk about faith! Then he said, "I want you to know that on Christmas Day (and I was reading this letter on December 1) we are going to baptize 25 people." When I read that, I prayed for him and thought, "The Lord bless you, Elder. You have a tremendous amount of faith, and the Lord will sustain you. You don't know the country. You haven't ever been there. You don't know where you are going to live. You don't know your companion, the leaders, the members. You don't know anything, and yet you are telling me that you are going to baptize 25 people in 25 days."

Well, this young man was full of faith and a real example of a great Latin leader. On December 25, he and his companion baptized 18 people. They hadn't reached the 25—only 18—which was just about all that the whole country baptized in a normal month. It was a great privilege two weeks later, when I was in Paraguay, to participate in a baptismal service where he and his companion baptized 11 more. His district in total baptized about 30 that day.

Can you see how one righteous man can turn around a whole outfit? You never forget that. Whether it be a General Authority, like President Kimball, who turns around the whole world and sets us on a different course, or a mission president, a good district leader, or even a good junior companion—he can literally turn around a whole group of individuals if he is full of faith in the Lord.

"...All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23).

Story shared by Elder Gene R. Cook, in an Area Council Meeting of the Andes Area (Lima, Peru) in 1980