Z - Archived Opinion Writers
By Preston Foster, December 8, 2013
My dad didn’t gamble. He did, however, play the numbers.
I asked my dad how he decided (50 years ago) to leave his “safe” and well-paying job as a ship fitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to become the caretaker at Victory Lake Camp (an Adventist haven) in Hyde Park, New York.
Dad knew the job in Hyde Park paid much less than what he was making at the time. Dad and Mom had (at the time) two growing, athletic boys who could eat through a week’s worth of groceries in 3 days, so money was an issue.
Moving to the country was really my mom’s idea. She attended Victory Lake’s Senior Camp (for those aged 21 and higher) and fell in love with the place. She saw the opportunity to raise her sons on 106 acres of beautiful rolling hills—a few miles from both the Franklin Roosevelt and Vanderbilt estates—as ideal. Although we lived in a nice “Huxtable” suburb in Long Island, Victory Lake would be, in her mind, a significant upgrade that provided what the suburbs could not.
Still, Dad was a practical and cautious man. He could not leave a good-paying government job on a whim. So they prayed. In prayer, Mom and Dad specified a minimum acceptable salary that would be the sign of the Lord’s will. If God wanted them to do this—to move to the country, eliminating Mom’s salary as a secretary and drastically reducing Dad’s—then they needed a sign from Him.
The next day, Dad drove into Manhattan to the Northeastern Conference office on 150th Street in Harlem, where he met with R.T. Hudson, the conference president. Elder Hudson gave Dad his best pitch. Elder Hudson praised Dad for his work with young people in Mt. Vernon and Westbury, helping to found vibrant churches in both places. He talked about the benefits of raising kids in Hyde Park, the great schools, and the distance away from the negative influences of both the city and the “burbs.”
Then Elder Hudson, almost apologetically, began to discuss salary. He softened the blow by emphasizing the benefits of the job: free housing, seasonal work, and the opportunity to pastor a small mission in Kingston, then a church in Poughkeepsie. When Elder Hudson told my dad the maximum salary the conference could offer, Daddy began to weep, uncontrollably. Elder Hudson, fearing he had lost the “sale,” re-emphasized the benefits of the job and the limits of the pay, saying that it was a much as he could offer.
Elder Hudson did not realize that he had “hit the number” requested as a sign in prayer exactly. It was the power of God’s specific answer to his prayer that unhinged my father. The fact that God would be so intimately involved in his life and the life of his family moved him to tears. Besides accepting Christ and, later, marrying my mother, moving to Victory Lake was the best decision Dad ever made. While there he also served as chaplain of the camp, baptizing and influencing thousands of campers—some of whom went on to be ministers, conference presidents, college administrators, Grammy-award winning gospel artists, and, most importantly, kind, loving Christians.
Faith is amorphous, but it can yield tangible, objective results. Using statistics, it is easy to discount the significance of Elder Hudson’s “hitting the number.” You can account for the range of probable correct answers, rounding factors, a knowledge of likely salary ranges, etc., to minimize the miracle nature of this mini-lottery. However, if you saw the blessings that flowed to many people as a result of that single decision, it would strengthen your belief in Divine Intervention. It was faith that God rewarded in directing, by the numbers, my father to Victory Lake. The evidence of things not seen was made tangible to a faithful layman pastor and his family.
I do admit that, some days, I’ve wished that Dad had applied that faith to the real lotto.
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