Physician Heals Body, Mind, Spirit
ARC Volunteer Receives
Army’s ‘Others’ Award
Recent “Others” award recipient Dr. Dale Foster spent 40 years doing surgery, first in a jungle hospital in Cameroon and then at a hospital in Southern California. Dr. Foster says repairing physical ailments is just a temporary fix. Healing the spirit is more important, he says, because it lasts for eternity.
That is why the medical doctor volunteers as a counselor two days a week at the Anaheim, Calif., Adult Rehabilitation Center. The ARC, under the leadership of Majors Oliver and Geretta Stenvick, center administrators, serves all of Orange County and is a 140-bed, all male drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.
“My basic goal in life has stayed the same right from the beginning-saving lives,” says Dr. Foster, 75, of Anaheim. “There has very definitely been a basic theme running through my life. There have just been different chapters.”
Dr. Foster counsels men at the ARC who want to change their lives-away from alcohol and drugs towards a relationship with Christ. He has counseled some 600 men since he became involved with the Center.
“The big stumbling point is that human nature is selfish. People want to run their own lives,” Foster says. “In order to become a Christian, you have to turn your life over to God. Some people are unable to do that.”
Dr. Foster served as a medical officer during World War II and could have gone on to a lucrative medical career. Instead, he took his wife, Florence, 4 year old daughter, Judith Ann, and 7 year old son, Dennis, to Africa . He earned $5,000 his first year-15% of what he could have made in the United States. He ministered in Cameroon, which is a country the size of California, but which had a population of about 5 million in 1950. Dr. Foster’s mission hospital was in Sakbayeme, the center of the Bassa people, with a population of 100,000.
Foster and his wife, a registered nurse from Anaheim, trained local men and women to serve as interns, nurses and surgeons at the 200-bed hospital in Sakbayeme.
As head surgeon, he sometimes had five or six operating tables going at once, he says. The hospital performed 1,500 surgeries a year, three-fourths of them done by African interns. About 500 babies were delivered annually. He also provided medical care for residents of a leper colony half a mile from the hospital.
In their free time, the Fosters taught religious classes, led Bible study and held a worship service for lepers each Sunday.
Foster encountered his share of strange medical oddities in the jungle. In one case, reported in a medical journal, he operated on an 8 year old boy who had a benign kidney tumor. The 55-pound tumor, the size of two basketballs, weighed more than the 45 pound boy.
The Fosters returned Stateside because of his wife’s failing health. For a number of years he and his family have been active in Santa Ana’s Trinity United Presbyterian Church, where he heads an evangelism group that welcomes new members to the congregation.
Dr. Foster retired from surgery in 1989 after suffering a heart attack and a subsequent quadruple bypass surgery.
Among the many men whom he has helped was one man who had spent 27 of his 44 years in prison on drug charges prior to being released to the Anaheim ARC. The beneficiary had used heroin most of his life, but, coming to the ARC because there was no place else to go upon his release from prison, he requested an appointment to see Foster for counseling.
Tired of being an addict, the man turned to Dr. Foster for help. He learned to read and studied the Bible daily. Upon completion of the ARC’s six month program, he was able to find employment and is still a productive, independent, contributing member of society. “His life was just a miracle,” Foster said. “From being an addict at 15, he became a happy and joyful fellow.”
Dr. Foster’s selfless service was recently honored with the presentation by Territorial Commander Commissioner Peter H. Chang of the Army “Others” award. Majors Oliver and Geretta Stenvick were also present for the award presentation, along with many of the Foster’s family and friends from the community and from the center population.