The Last Word: Kevin Cook

BY MATTHEW G. LAMOREAUX

  

 
 
 

THE LAST WORD

KEVIN COOK
Finance Director, Mercy Ship Anastasis
Ghana, West Africa

I’m the ship’s finance director. My job is to make sure we have cash available in the field to meet the needs of the ship’s ministries and its operating expenses. As a charitable organization, Mercy Ships must be able to demonstrate that we’re putting as much as possible of our donors’ contributions into our programs rather than into the operations of the ship.

My primary job on the Anastasis is to serve the 320-person crew that’s here to help the people of Africa. We get involved in a lot of different programs, primarily medical, but also construction and well-drilling projects, and ministries involving local orphanages and prisons. My wife is involved with a team that teaches poor women how to support their families by growing and selling mushrooms.

In addition to my regular job I signed on as a member of the transport team. I had a young boy who came in with a cataract; I carried him down from the operating room to the ward after surgery and later took the bandage off his eye. He was able to see—he was so excited. You can’t help but get excited, too, when you witness people who have their sight for the first time in a long time—or maybe the first time ever. That compensation is far greater than anything I ever received in industry.

I started in public practice and then became controller of a private manufacturing company in New England. I later became the CFO. I then was director of accounting for a large law firm until I went into full-time mission work with Mercy Ships in August 2004.

I wasn’t really sure what CPAs could do in mission work. I thought I would be relegated to the United States and would not get out into the field. A friend of ours was a plumber with the same questions when he joined Mercy Ships. So I inquired, and found they needed help in the finance area in several locations, including West Africa. We’re here in Ghana through the end of February. Then we’re off to Liberia until November 2007 when the ship goes into dry dock. In early 2008 we’re heading to Sierra Leone.

All the Mercy Ships people in the field are volunteers. We come from a variety of backgrounds—doctors, dentists, engineers, IT professionals, plumbers, electricians and even a hair stylist. In the Mercy Ships organization ( www.mercyships.org ) the staff and crew members pay the organization a fee to offset the cost of our food and cabin space on board. We receive support from churches, family and friends to help with our crew fees each month.

There’s a tremendous need out here for finance people. People perform a variety of roles and stay anywhere from two weeks to several years. I have accounting positions available; if someone wants to come and work for six months, I would be tremendously happy—thrilled—to have an experienced person help.

—As told to Matthew G. Lamoreaux

Editor’s note: Cook has been an AICPA member since 1977. His membership status is inactive while he serves in a volunteer capacity overseas.

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