Family Ties Grow Stronger, Thanks to ‘The Cross’

By Joy Allmond
When Mark and Raina Cook invited friends and family to their Charlotte, N.C., home for a viewing of “The Cross,” they expected, well—family and friends.
In one sense, they got less than they bargained for; only family showed up. Mark’s parents, grandmother and sister Michelle came in from Ohio for a weekend visit.
Yet, in another sense, they got more than they hoped—conversations that had never happened before in their family.
For the Cooks, this weekend was the culmination of a series of life events that happened over many years.
In fact, Mark was almost not even there to host the viewing party Friday night.
A Little Background: Mark’s Story
Through a series of negative life experiences, such as being bullied and tragically losing several people close to him, Mark spiraled downward into a serious depression. One day, he even leased a storage unit, with a plan to drive his car into it, close the door and leave it running. He wanted out of this life.
But God had a different plan.
“I felt in my spirit that God was telling me to stop,” said Mark. After that, several events transpired that led him into an intervention with Raina, his parents and his pastor.
Shortly thereafter, Raina took him to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.
“When I was there, I felt completely humbled and vulnerable. It was there that I was able to give my life to Christ,” said Mark. “Everything Billy Graham said, everything I saw, and everything I read seemed directed at me.
“So, when this opportunity to host a My Hope party presented itself, I knew we had to do it. I wanted to continue what happened to me, and bring it into my own living room.”
Three Years Later: Friday, November 8
Raina gave her testimony once the program was over. The door to Michelle’s heart began to crack open.
“She asked where she should start reading in the Bible. In the past, she has said the reason she doesn’t read the Bible is because she does not understand it,” Mark said.
“She has only known me as a Christian,” explained Raina. “So, when I was able to tell her how I lived before, and that Christ has the power to change people, I really think that made her listen.”
Mark also had an eye-opening interaction with his father. On Saturday, Mark’s dad began to open up about his own walk with Christ.
“I’m 31 years old, grew up in a Christian home, and this is the first time I have ever heard my dad give his testimony,” Mark said. “He was extremely vocal.”
His dad’s newfound freedom was sparked by something Billy Graham said in the message.
“My dad said that hearing Billy Graham say that he doesn’t understand everything in the Bible resonated with him,” Mark explained. “This gave him confidence to talk about his faith. He knows he doesn’t need to have all the answers.”
Continuing the Conversation
Since Mark and Michelle regularly talk and text, it is easy to continue the Gospel-centered conversation that began in the Cooks’ living room.
“I learned through my experience at the Library that we are not supposed to do it on our own. Even Jesus, who was perfect, had a group of people around him,” explained Mark.
“I hope I can walk alongside my sister and others—and they can know what can Christ has done for them.”