Leaving a Legacy in Mongolia
When Richard and Mary Cook applied to serve as senior missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they expected to be called to serve as hosts at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Instead, to their surprise, they were called to serve nearly 6,000 miles away in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
It was 1994 and there was no mission in the country yet, but less than a year after the Cooks arrived, the Church established the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission and called Elder Cook as the first mission president. The Cooks returned briefly to Utah to receive training, and on the way back to Mongolia they visited BYU–Hawaii.
“By then I knew that BYU–Hawaii had something that our members in Mongolia needed,” says Elder Cook. “They needed to be trained. Little did I know that not only would they be trained, they would be transformed. And that’s exactly what we needed to grow the Church in Mongolia.”
As a result of their visit to BYU–Hawaii, the Cooks felt inspired to establish the Mongolian Education Endowment Fund to help students from Mongolia attend the university. “It’s been our privilege to witness the effect that BYU–Hawaii has had on the growth of the kingdom in Mongolia,” says Sister Cook. “Today most of the leadership in stake presidencies, bishoprics, branch presidencies, and Relief Society presidencies have attended and been transformed at BYU–Hawaii. And we are thrilled to see the transformation continue to their children who are born in the covenant.”
During a recent visit to BYU–Hawaii, the Cooks met with current Mongolian students and their families at a special fireside on campus. A few weeks later, Sister Cook had a meeting with a financial planner and was asked who she wanted to name as the beneficiary of her retirement account. “It was a quick decision,” she says. “After seeing the results from BYU–Hawaii in Mongolia and having just met the next generation of leaders, I decided to leave those funds to the university.”
With that and other planned gifts, the Cooks became members of the Matthew Cowley Society, which comprises donors who have included BYU–Hawaii in their estate plan. “We give to this university because it meets a specific need, not halfway but 150 percent of the way,” says Elder Cook. “Not only do we give, but we’ve encouraged our friends to give. The transformation that students receive when they come here is remarkable. These students are our neighbors, and this is a great and sacred cause.”