February 21, 2011
Mike Cooney's prayers were answered when he promised to attend Mass every day.

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Mike Cooney's prayers were answered when he promised to attend Mass every day.

MIKE COONEY
SPECIAL TO THE WCR

I feel compelled to write about the incredible gifts God has given me, some requested, some I pleaded for, some just suggested by me to be given within his will if he is listening and if he so desires. "Let thy will be done." Some gifts were also given out of his immense love that seemed to guide me into the better life.

Let me begin with one of the biggest gifts God provided in the last 20 years, really amazing to me at the time.

I was having a difficult time financially in 1989. I had gone out on my own after eight years of teaching at NAIT and started a training school in 1984 and was still developing MarTech College, my private business school.

I had contracts with the federal government to train groups of 30 students in Edmonton and Calgary. In 1989 I had four contracts, two in each city, one to work with unemployed youth and the other to help unemployed women.

I thought I had it under control until the government sent me a letter cancelling all future contracts.

NEW FOCUS

The government wanted me to change my focus from training for sales and marketing (which had proven successful) to preparing students for small computer repairs and/or warehouse work.

We had had much success in placing students with training and future job prospects in companies, but had never had any acknowledgement from the federal government. More than 40 companies had written letters to the government suggesting our training was valid and that they wanted our grads.

I believed I was on the right track, specializing in sales, marketing and management training for all sectors, so I approached the provincial government which was inviting proposals for the starting of private schools.

Accidentally or fortuitously with God's assistance, I had met the director of the provincial private schools branch, mentioned to him what I was interested in doing. He encouraged me to submit a proposal, even though he had more than 100 to review ahead of mine. He assured me a quick review and we proceeded.

JOY TURNS TO SORROW

I was approved in April 1989. One month later by May 14 I had recruited a class of 35.

Then the shock. When I announced to all students that we would start in June, only two people were willing to start then; the rest would begin in September.

But I didn't have enough funding to pay all bills until October. I was sunk.

I calculated that I needed $35,000 extra to pay all bills to keep my secretary and pay the lease. So I called a couple of friends and told them of my predicament. One said "no" and the other said he would think about it.

I can't remember praying but I must have pleaded with God to help. (I hadn't been going to Church weekly but I still had some faith.)

Here's one of the mini-miracles. I say "one of" because now that I look back I realize there were others.

I was asleep on a Sunday morning in late May 1989. Shortly after 11 a.m., I was awakened by a strong tightness like a fist grabbing my whole chest. I was startled, woke up, looked sideways at the clock. It read 11:11. I heard a thought in my head — Go to church.

My reaction was to negate the thought because I didn't go to Mass anymore and hadn't for many years, except at Christmas. So I drifted back to sleep. Then about 11:45 I woke again with the thought that if I'm being offered help from God and don't respond, I have to be the stupidest man on the planet.

I bolted and drove quickly to a local Catholic church. Mass was starting at noon and I was in a pew, on my knees. By 12:05, I had made a promise. I knew that one is not supposed to negotiate with God but to heck with that.

I promised that if God could get me $35,000 in one week, I would go to Mass every day for the rest of my life. To make this story a little shorter, God delivered. One of my friends came through with a cheque and I have been at Mass every day now for 22 years.

I used to joke about it saying that "I think I meant every week for the rest of my life." But God and I both know the truth of what I promised and I'll keep it as long as physically possible.

CHEQUE ARRIVES

The second friend that I had contacted came through with the cheque in one week and he negotiated both a loan and a percentage interest in the school. Since then he has received more than his investment back in the following 20 years, plus he has become a close friend. Thanks Gerry.

The next mini-miracle followed closely. I couldn't start the two people who wanted to begin right away in June, but they were both under agency funding so they had full tuition available right away. I needed the funds so another thought came to me to start them in the co-op phase of the program in June (normally they would take some training first) then join the rest of the class in late September.

After I explained the possibilities to them (that I could place each of them in a company now and that they could begin the class later) they agreed. I invoiced them and we started the new school.

MARKETING AND SALES

I placed one in marketing chocolates with a local manufacturer and the other in sales with a carpet retailer. The guy in chocolates was very happy and did very well. The other fellow needed some private coaching, which I provided, and he did very well for years working his way into management.

We went on to develop the school into an Edmonton private school called MarTech College and built it successfully for the next 19 years. When I turned 65, the market turned against us. Young people were able to find jobs starting anywhere from 12 to $15 per hour.

So, in the following year our student numbers dropped from 120 full-timers down to about 40. I had to close the school in an orderly fashion, paying all the outstanding bills.

I've always thought of this business startup as a mini-miracle. Without God's help where would I have gone and what would I have done? Even the timing out of the business was perfect. I had been diagnosed with Parkinson's three years earlier.

Thank you, dear Lord Jesus.