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Hitting the Number
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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.

Pray, church.
 

William Noel
2013-12-09 8:59 AM

Preston,

Thank you for sharing such a personal reminder about God's leading in our lives.  Some may find such stories amazing.  I've had enough of them that I now regard them as normal and something to be expected. While I am no longer as amazed or surprised as I once was, God always leaves me in awe of His power and love in contrast with my doubts and failings.

Our reactions to such Divine actions are a good measurement of our relationship with God.  If we do not see God working actively and personally to guide and provide in our lives it is because of our distance from Him.  If we react as our father did, hopefully it is because we are just beginning a lasting, closer walk with God where we can see Him doing such things more often.  The closer we come to Him, the more we become aware of just how many great things He does for us and through us.

Stephen Foster
2013-12-09 3:34 PM

This kind of thing is, or was, a coincidence of randomness; as is creation. If this happened, it doesn’t prove anything. Where is the evidence that this kind of thing, or anything similar, has happened to others; or that God cares about what decisions we make or what directions our lives take, or what we do with whatever things or talents we possess?
 
Of course, I am being totally facetious. Truly, only the foolish have said in their hearts that an intimate God does not exist. The words of Mr. T come to mind, “I pity the fool!”

Jack Hoehn
2013-12-10 2:08 AM

How kind of God to come down and communicate to us in language we can understand.  Your parents made the rules, put out a fleece, and God played in their game with them.   Did He direct their minds to come up with a number the conference could afford?  Or did He influence the Conference to offer what they needed?  It doesn't matter, He communicated to them they were in His service and had His blessing.

I've found I've tended to underbid God.  I have learned with similar circumstances that when I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, It opens the door to His generosity in so many ways that I no longer tell him the minimum that I need!  I've had the joy of making the moral decision, with no knowledge of how the financial implications would work out, and seeing Him open the windows of material heavens to provide not only the minimum, but  the maximum, everything we could ask for, even for things we didn't know we needed. 

As God chided David over his attempt to grasp a woman that was not his and he really did not need, there was no excuse due to any lack of God's blessings in our lives.  Here is God's attitude, so clearly expressed to David,  2 Samuel 12:8    "I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more!"  So who knows Preston, wishing for the Real Lotto may have been far too little a think to ask of God.  I suspect God has even bigger riches than a jackpot in mind for your folks and of course for you!

William Noel
2013-12-10 8:48 AM

Jack,

I did not sense in your lines that this was your intent, but you have given a good illustration of how we grow in our relationship with God.  He wishes so greatly to have us know Him that He comes far more than "half-way" to meet us and even meets us on our terms just so we can have a growing relationship with Him.  Over time after that everything changes and we no longer approach Him in the same way as we once did.

Ella M
2013-12-10 2:49 PM


Preston:

I am inspired by your story and thank you for sharing it.  That God works in our lives through many means is clear to those who look for His blessings in those God Moments of each day.  They seem to multiply as one searches for and recognizes them.

I am going to get back to my journeling which has gone by the wayside recently.  I want to record all those moments of "coincidence" that we can look back on when we need it.  God bless.

William Noel
2013-12-11 9:21 AM

Ella,

You will be richly blessed by recording the works of God and reviewing them, both in celebrating what God has done and in strengthening your faith when it is weak. 

A friend of mine years ago shared one day about how they journaled in the way you described and reading over it caused them to realize those "coincidences" were actually a pattern of God at work.  Seeing that pattern helped them become more aware of how many things God was doing and grow in their walk with Him so that they came to expect seeing Him working as routine and normal, not to be taken for granted yet completely to be expected.

Preston Foster
2013-12-11 11:27 AM

Jack and William,

I am still dealing with my "minimalist faith" (my term).  

Like my dad, I am still dealing with the wonder and awe that God will intervene, in my behalf, far beyond what I ask or deserve.  The cool thing about having the dad that I did is that he, by the way he related to me, helped me understand our relationship to God himself.  Dad (who passed away, peacefully, at 94, this past October) loved me even though he knew who I really was.  He gave me gifts, continually.  He loved me, faults and all, because I was his.

The magnitude of God's intervention in Dad's life increased over time.  From that time forward, the walk of faith was, for Dad, based on a rational trust in Him.

Likely, we all underestimate how much God will reward our faith.  My goal is to live a life "sold out" to faith. 

  


Preston Foster
2013-12-11 2:29 PM

Jack and William,

I didn't mean to sound ungracious (I just re-read what I wrote and tried to hear it from outside of my head!).  I agree with both of you.  What God will do with faith is unfathomable.  Thanks for your encouragement and additions to this train of thought.

Peace.

Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
2013-12-11 4:43 PM

RE: "Dad (who passed away, peacefully, at 94, this past October) loved me even though he knew who I really was." [Preston Foster]
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My condolences to the Foster brothers and their family on the passing of their remarkable dad who was a true man of God from what I have gathered.

It is in these tangible experiences of faith, as noted in the blog, that we can see the hand of God at work.  Being a PK myself whose family moved around with dad wherever he was sent to pastor brought a wealth of life experiences and wonderful testimonies of faith.  My dad left a good teaching job to serve as a field secretary treasurer and later as a pastor.  The challenges were many but we have no regrets - all to the Glory of God. 

The incident related in the blog isn't about luck I would say but rather placing explicit trust in God's providence.  When Jesus sent the disciple Peter to catch a fish and further explained that the first one he caught would have money in its mouth in order to pay taxes, that was an explicit evidence of his wonder working power [Matt 17:27].  God provided Abraham with precisely what was needed too in Gen 22:13, 14 [Jehovahjireh, the Lord will provide, the Lord will see us through].

Blessings
T

 

Stephen Foster
2013-12-12 10:45 AM

Trevor,
 
Thank you very much for your words of condolence regarding our father’s passing.
 
His was an amazing life to witness. I can attest to how God is faithful to those who love Him, and love their fellow man; and to those who believe and live by His promises.
 
Dad was largely self-educated yet possessed the best balanced intellect of anyone I’ve known; and was most importantly a nice man. (He had an extremely high IQ and EQ.)The guy that the public saw, the pastor that his churches saw, was the same person his family saw every day.
 
He taught us how to think for ourselves as opposed to what to think. He taught us about God, but tried most to demonstrate/emulate what God is like. He also taught us to bowl, shoot pool, golf and other similarly important things:).
 
When he lost his sight about five years ago, he never complained about anything. He fell and broke his right arm, and later fractured a hip; but he handled it all with grace and courage. He was a generous, caring and unselfish kind of man.
 
I wish everyone had someone like that to look up to.

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