Rev. Joe Cooney – Missionary to Ireland, Part 1
While still relatively new to the Apostolic faith, Joe Cooney, raised by a single, Irish Catholic, immigrant mother, received his call to global missions in his first semester at Indiana Bible College during a January Missions Conference in 1998. UPCI Missionary to Africa Ted Grosbach was the speaker.
Joe’s mother was still a devout Catholic when her son, recently honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, responded to an invitation from a high school friend to attend a store-front Apostolic church in Columbus, Ohio. Within a few weeks of Bible studies, he was baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Ghost. It would be some years before his mother would experience her own New Birth, but she and her son remained close. He developed a warm relationship with his father later in his life.
After an inconsistent start in his newly found faith, and a brief and unhappy return to a life in the world among old friends, he finally made a full surrender to the Lord a year before enrolling at IBC. “I spent three months weeping and thanking God for never giving up on me,” he said. Later that year, still in his early twenties and about to receive a promotion in his sales job that would have added nearly $3,000 to his monthly income, the Lord began to deal with him about attending Bible college. He ultimately decided to visit IBC during the Christmas break in 1997.
“I took off from work and drove three and a half hours from Columbus to Indianapolis. Halfway to IBC, the Holy Ghost moved on me in my car, and I wept the entire last one and a half hours. When I arrived, I had no doubt it was where God was calling me to be.”
Lessons Learned at IBC For Missions Preparation
“When I came to IBC, I literally knew no Bible or doctrine, so I was taking EVERYTHING on board all at once. There wasn’t a ‘missions program’ at that time,” he said. “I would make myself available for ministry trips, chapel services, choir, Chorale, drama club, Student Council President my junior and senior years, tent revivals, outreach, Bible studies, and any preaching opportunities that would open for me. I worked a whole summer in New York City at Oneness Rehoboth Apostolic Church. I challenged myself and took harder subjects because I was blessed to have theologians like David Norris and Talmadge French and the scholars at IBC at that time who really stretched our minds and thinking. These amazing experiences in and out of class all prepared me for missions ministry.”
Confirmation of His Missionary Call
“I didn’t attend IBC for a degree, even though I ended up getting one,” he said, graduating in 2001 with a Bachelor of Theology, “but to learn and discover why the Lord had called me there. I was completely open to doing whatever God wanted me to do. I had no restrictions, no parameters, and no limitations of what He might desire from me.”
He felt the Lord had clearly spoken to him about a call to global missions in that missions conference during his first semester, but he determined he would say nothing to anyone about it until he had received a clear direction from the Lord as to where he was to go. That is why a later phone conversation statement from his Irish Catholic mother was so astonishing.
“One day my mother called me just to talk while I was at IBC,” he said. “This was before she was saved, not Spirit-filled, and still Catholic. While we were conversing, she said the Lord had spoken to her. My mother never talked like this, so this was very strange. I asked her, ‘Do you mean He spoke to your heart, or how, exactly, did He speak to you?’
“She replied, ‘He asked me if you were to go overseas, would I support you?’ I literally pulled the phone away from my head thinking, ‘How in the world does she know God’s called me into missions?’ This was, of course, a confirmation from God to me, letting me know once again that He was calling me to be a missionary. I asked her what she said to God, and she responded in her Irish accent, ‘Well, of course, I said I would.’ It taught me something valuable that day: always have your ears and heart open. God is always speaking through people, and in ways we may easily disregard and deem unimportant, and at times, it’s the ones we least expect who speak to us on God’s behalf.”