The Doc Returns: 2 Weeks After Clash With Rebel Forces

Jan 24, 2003 11:43 AM EST

The 'Doc' returns to the United States after a life-threatening experience with rebels in Cote d'Ivoire.

Dr. William 'Doc' Foster, a physician, has served Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Mission for more than six years as a medical missionary in Cote d'Ivoire. In 1996 he left on a volunteer assignment to give medical support to missionaries and to service Liberian refugees within Cote d' Ivoire.

Six years into his mission, on Dec 1, 2002, a band of rebels broke into his house in the village of Toulepleu, near the Liberian border, and shot AK-47 assault rifles several of times near his face, severely damaging his long -term sense of hearing. Trapped by the rebels for 29 days, and having arrived in America for more than 2 weeks, 'Doc' says his left year still isn't fully recovered.

Though the experience was frightening, "I knew that if I died I was going to heaven -- it was no big deal," said Foster, whose African name, "Dweh," means animal that cuts a broad path and many follow. He felt secure, he said, since every day, "God was with me."

Rebels had begun fighting in Cote d'Ivoire in an effort to overturn current government status quo. In November, LCMS World Mission withdrew five missionary families from the country because of the escalated conflict, but Foster was trapped by the rebel factions - totaling more than 100 men - before he could leave.

Foster recalls being under "house arrest" for just over a day, then being moved to the Red Cross compound where we treated rebel and civilian patients with shrapnel and gunshot wounds and a variety of injuries and illnesses.

"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."

On December 28th, the rebels released Foster and two other foreigners due to the increasing pressure from the U.S. government. Foster Jan. 3.

Currently his missionary position in Cot d'Ivoire has been eliminated by the Synod's mission board, however, Foster would gladly serve overseas again.

"I have a call," he said, I want 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."

"Because I lived through it. God obviously has something else for me to do," said Foster, noting his faith that became "stronger than it ever was."

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."

William Foster was born in York, Nebraska and belongs to Zion Lutheran Church in Wellington, CO. He has a daughter, Quinn and son in law Doug, a granddaughter Comille, and a son Benjamin Foster.

By Pauline C.