From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LCMS - Rebel-held missionary returns to United States

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Fri, 17 Jan 2003 15:10:18 -0800

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod Board for Communication Services

LCMSNews -- No. 5
January 17, 2003

Rebel-held missionary returns to United States

By Paula Schlueter Ross

Nearly two weeks after arriving in the United States from Cote d'Ivoire
(Ivory Coast), West Africa, where he was trapped by rebels for 29 days, Dr.
William "Doc" Foster says his left ear still isn't back to normal.

When a band of rebels broke into his house in the village of Toulepleu, near
the Liberian border, on Dec. 1, they tried to intimidate him by shooting an
AK-47 assault rifle several times right next to his face, close to his ear.
As a result, he said during an interview this week in St. Louis, he still
doesn't hear too well.

Even though the experience scared him, "I knew that if I died I was going to
heaven -- it was no big deal," said Foster, a big man whose African name,
"Dweh," means "animal that cuts a broad path and many follow."	Every day
during the monthlong ordeal, he said, he felt like "God was with me."

Foster, a physician, has served LCMS World Mission for more than six years
as a medical missionary in Cote d'Ivoire.  He became trapped last month when
several rebel factions -- totaling more than 100 men -- took up residence in
the village.

Rebels had begun fighting in Cote d'Ivoire in an effort to oust current
government leaders.  In November, LCMS World Mission withdrew five
missionary families from the country because of the escalating conflict, but
Foster became trapped before he could leave.

Foster said he was under "house arrest" for just over a day, and then moved
into a Red Cross compound, where he treated patients -- both rebels and
civilians -- with shrapnel and gunshot wounds and a variety of injuries and
illnesses.  The rebels, he said, typically left the village during the day
and returned in late afternoon.

"I prayed a lot," said Foster, 58.  "I prayed with every person I treated."
Five villagers died in rebel shootings, he said.

"When [the rebels] first came in, they wanted money, food, clothes --
whatever they could carry," he said.  "And they took it.  I gave it to
them."	They also killed Foster's pets -- a monkey, "Mel," and a cat, "Tom"
-- that "grew up together."

Because of increasing pressure from U.S. government officials, rebels
released Foster and two other foreigners on Dec. 28.  Foster, a member of
Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington, Colo., arrived in the United States Jan.

Although his missionary position in Cote d'Ivoire has been eliminated by the
Synod's mission board as part of a cost-cutting measure, Foster says he
would gladly serve overseas again.  "I have a call," he said, and wants to
"return something to God."

He thanked Missouri Synod members for their prayers.  Without them, he said,
"I couldn't have slept as well as I did."  He says his faith is "stronger
now than it ever was."

Why?  "Because I lived through it.  God obviously has something else for me
to do," he said.

Every Christian is a missionary, Foster said, "whether you go out and do it
by leaving the country or just by talking to your neighbor.

"We all have the call."


Please note

LCMSNews release No. 4, titled "15 Lutheran colleges plan winter/spring
fairs,'" did not include a date for the college fair in Minneapolis/St.
Paul.  That date is Sunday, April 27.


LCMSNews is published by the News and Information Division, Board for
Communication Services, of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.  Please note
that subscribers to LCMSNews will not be able to reach anyone by hitting the
"Reply" button when viewing an LCMSNews release.  Such replies will be
deleted.  However, if you have questions or comments about this LCMSNews
release, contact Joe Isenhower via e-mail at, or by
phone at (314) 996-1231.

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or to change your e-mail address for LCMSNews, go
to the following Web address:


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home