Graham has seen and heard the amazing things God is doing in people’s lives—and in his own.
Graham Cooke, an active 74-year-old, grew up in—and later worked for—The Salvation Army. Among many roles in his ‘retirement’ Graham is an ‘Honoured Friends’ representative, liaising with those who plan to leave a bequest to further the work of The Salvation Army.
Graham shares: I thoroughly enjoy the role. I phone and visit bequestors to thank them on behalf of The Salvation Army and also offer support. Many have already supported the work of The Salvation Army for years and share fascinating stories.
One man in his 90s is a veteran of World War II. He remembers as a young soldier in the heat of battle, being pounded by enemy fire. The Salvation Army chaplain who was with them would gather them together and pray and sing a certain hymn, literally between battles.
When I asked him the song and he sang a few lines, I was able to join him. It was a song I’d learned in The Salvation Army as a young boy 60-plus years ago. That was a really moving moment.
Another lady—also in her 90s—was abandoned as a child with her disabled sister and mother, after her father returned from the war a changed man. The Salvation Army literally kept them alive with food and clothing for many years, and even helped get her into a good school.
Yet another reason I love the role is the opportunity to care for and reach out to others. For me it is an integral part of my faith.
Visiting The Salvation Army at Bankstown (in Sydney) for their centenary a few weeks ago, I realised the new building was on the very site where I attended a Billy Graham style tent meeting when I was 10 or 12 years of age. At the end of that service there was an appeal to ‘give your heart to God’ and I did that.
The real test of my faith came many years later when I was 40. When my wife was diagnosed with the early stages of an incurable degenerative disease it floored us. Our children were young and when a minister came to pray with us, my wife said, “I think we’ll ask this man to pray that this will be taken from me.”
I looked at her and said, “Can you do that?”
The outcome was that it happened, and over time all her symptoms went away. That really astounded us. I could not believe what had happened and that set me on a path to things of faith that I’d previously been totally closed to—pursuing even more of the presence and voice of God.
I love the Salvos and love my work and I’m more passionate about my faith than ever. Even through some very challenging life circumstances, God has become so very real to me.
The other reason I love the Honoured Friends role is that I just love people.
I am a people person and it is a role that I feel was just made for me. All in all, it is a joy and a privilege!
For more information about supporting the Salvos through a bequest, visit salvos.org.au/donate/wills-and-bequests/