In many ways, Iain Cook (’07) was ‘living the dream’. After graduating from Trinity Western with a degree in Communications, Cook eventually decided to pursue his music passion and move to Los Angeles, where he hoped to produce music for movies and television. It was going well, and he started to advance in his career. But things took a sharp turn the day he received an unexpected Facebook message from a stranger.
Music for Film and Television
Cook was always interested in composing music for film and television, but it wasn’t until studying with professor Jef Gibbons at Trinity Western that he really began to believe it was possible.
“He was an amazing professor,” says Cook of Gibbons. “He kind of coached me in my writing.”
After graduating, Cook used his newly honed skills to compose music for a few commercials and an indie film. He enjoyed the process, and after a few years decided it was something he wanted to pursue in Hollywood.
“It was a pretty crazy experience,” says Cook of his earliest days. It took him longer than he’d hoped to get his foot in the door, but after a year he was working for Remote Control Productions (film composer Hans Zimmer’s production company).
“It was really cool to meet Hans Zimmer and other world-class composers,” says Cook. “I was working for people and on projects at basically the pinnacle of the music for media world.”
Working at the prestigious studio gave Cook credibility around the city, which felt good. But he was constantly caught in a tug-of-war between the allure of Hollywood and his faith. On top of feeling torn between priorities, he often felt intimidated by the big names he was working with to the point of somewhat hiding his faith.
“I almost felt like moving up in that world was becoming more important to me than remaining true to my faith,” says Cook. “All the time I had spent studying the scriptures, living in Christian communities, and seeking to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit—none of that mattered in a purely secular work place. All that mattered was what you could create that the market valued.”
Cook started to wonder if God was calling him to remain and serve Him in the secular workplace, or whether he was to go somewhere else to pursue more overtly Christian work. He began pray for God’s direction.
What Happened Next
When a roommate decided to move to another city, Cook was forced to find a new place to live. While looking for options in the area, he found an incredible beach house with stunning views. The house was perfect! But the roommates weren’t a good fit.
“I remember praying, ‘I don’t know if this is the best you have for me,’” says Cook. “I felt that my ideal would really be living in some sort of community of missionaries and with people intentional about their faith. And I’d really like to be on the water.”
That’s when the YWAM Ships base in Hawaii crossed his mind. Cook had lived in Hawaii when he was younger, and was familiar with YWAM through a few programs he’d attended and because his parents had partnered with them in the past. It was the kind of place that checked all his boxes. But was it an option?
This was all running through Cook’s mind for about a week, until one day, he received an unexpected message on Facebook.
The message was from someone at YWAM Ships who’d found Cook’s profile on Linkedin. Apparently, they were looking for someone with his skills and were wondering if he’d be interested in media production through their communications office.
“It’s like one of those moments where this thing happens where there’s no way it could have happened unless God was involved,” says Cook, who was blown away upon receiving the message.
But would he go? Could he leave his Hollywood job behind? He felt he needed to get prayer and so consulted a missionary friend in South Korea. Cook simply asked for prayer, without mentioning the YWAM offer. Toward the end of the prayer and conversation, right when Cook was silently asking God for discernment, his friend said he felt like God was giving him the word “Kona”.
Kona is where the YWAM Ships base is located.
With that final confirmation, Cook left his job, packed his things, and moved to Hawaii.
A Community of Love
“I really believe the Holy Spirit is key to transforming communities and people’s lives for the better,” says Cook, who is excited to now be a part of a community that seeks this, too. “One of the things I loved most about Trinity Western was the community. In some ways, it’s similar here.”
The mission of YWAM Ships is to go out and minister to unreached people in places only accessible by boat. Volunteers travel all around the world, providing free medical care and sharing the gospel. For several years now, Cook has desired to mix his media skills with missions work, and is excited to see how God has opened the door for him to contribute his skills and abilities to the work they’re doing.
Cook believes God led him to L.A. for a season, and deeply respects Christians who work in that field. But through this experience, he felt God reminding him to pursue something more than just building his reputation through creating high quality entertainment.
“There’s some eternal quality when you’re giving your life to doing work that connects with God’s redemptive purposes in the world, reaching people with God’s love,” says Cook.
Although not working in Hollywood anymore, Cook’s still very much ‘living the dream’.
“In fact,” Cook says, “I’d call it a better dream.”