Natchez man showed us all truly how to live
This Monday, my wife and I attended the funeral of Ike Foster at Pine Ridge Baptist Church of Natchez.
We felt as though a chapter in our lives, as well as an era for the church, were coming to an end. After the turn of the century, I had the privilege of being the pastor of PRBC for nearly eight years. My family and I lived next door to the church on MLK Road in the parsonage during those years.
I was the fifth pastor in its history and loved being a part of that ministry. When I would announce my identity to folks in town and tell them I was the pastor of Pine Ridge, many would instantly say, “Oh that’s Ike Foster’s church.”
I understood what they meant by the association and gladly continued my salutation.
In becoming acquainted with PRBC, one quickly realizes the role that Ike and his family played in the history of his work. During his days on earth, he made great sacrifices to see that this local church would be sustained.
He was not a great orator, but what he said had meaning.
During my tenure there, Foster and I had several conversations regarding his funeral.
Although the Lord moved us away from Natchez, we stayed in touch by phone.
He knew that if the Lord tarried, he would see death. In a matter of minutes, God gave me these words only days before he passed away.
So I took it as from the Lord that these things needed to be said. Unfortunately, I was not asked to participate in the final service for our dear brother, but I have these words in memorial of him today. We saw in Ike Foster several good things that were there because of what God can do with a life:
• The strength of character: We cannot preach or pray Foster into heaven. His life has been lived. It is what we do in this life that effects eternity. There was only one man that walked the earth who was without sin and that was Jesus Christ. Like us all, Ike was a sinner, but he was redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. He never claimed to be perfect but did know the One who can forgive sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. People were willing to listen to Ike and follow his advice. He was a strong, community leader that had a testimony of faith in Christ. His word was his bond, and once his opinion was formed, it was hard to change him.
• The virtue of courage: Foster was willing to stand for what was right and was willing to stand alone if need be. He was a decorated veteran for his military service who served his country during WWII in Northern France and Central Europe. He lived when times were hard.
• The law of giving: Foster sacrificed to help others. He gave generously to his church and loved and supported missionary efforts around the world. He would help the needy and feed the hungry. To Ike, giving was being good, and being good and kind was demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. He honored his commitments.
• The value of family: A man who has family is rich. In his way, he poured himself into the lives of the next generation. To a fault, he would defend his family. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren learned the ways of friendship, family and faith from his example. Each week for many years, the family gathered to celebrate life, to encourage the downhearted and lift up the fallen. That pattern of Sunday evening get-togethers began when Foster’s first wife suddenly passed away and has been carried on for many years.
• The purpose of tradition: Foster knew the reason why certain things were done a certain way — everything from winding the tender branches of the purple hull and pole beans around the stakes the correct way so they would climb . . . to cooking cane syrup the right amount of time to get the proper consistency. He also believed in his community and supported local businesses. If I ever needed anything for the church, he would direct me to Gene’s Tire Shop or Etheridge’s Hardware, or the like, for the solution. He wanted Natchez to succeed and grow.
• The reason of his hope: Foster placed his faith in Jesus Christ as a young boy and never wavered from that belief. By his own testimony, he may have not always followed as closely as he should, but his hope was in the Lord. After his first wife passed, God gave Foster a jewel of a Christian wife in Miss Julia. She is a godly and virtuous woman. I believe she will have many crowns in heaven awaiting her, not to mention the loved ones that have already gone ahead. What a day that will be.
The blessed hope of the return of Christ and the reunion of loved ones gone before were their focus as a couple. The following verses describe the reason of the believer’s hope. Foster loved the Old, Old Story of Victory in Jesus.
This week we have said goodbye to a beloved friend. But it will not be long before we will see each other again in that “land that is fairer than day.”
Foster like King David of old “served his generation by the will of God.”
Foster lived on this earth for almost 93 years. When his service was done our Heavenly Father said, “Come home my child.” I believe Foster will hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
We honor Foster today because he truly had compassion that made a difference, and he showed us all how to live.
He was a Christian leader, a giver and a peacemaker. We love him and thank God for his impact on this generation.
Greg Kelley is pastor of is the pastor of Faith Baptist Church of Sachse, Texas.