Peder Fostervold, one of our outstanding Christian laymen, and an intense and faithful laborer in the vineyard, has moved up higher. (This was written shortly after His death.)I believe the Biblical word testimony is the key-word to his life and activity.
Fostervold was converted into the Christian testimony. He was born July 14,1884, at Osmarka, Ore parish, near Kristiansund, Norway, being the 10th of 11 children. He was converted and born again in 1898, at the age of 16, in a revival that swept over the home parish. God let him taste of the joy of soul-winning from the very beginning of his Christian career, as his parents and several brothers and sisters were saved, no doubt some of them more or less through his personal testimony. His young Christian life was greatly strengthened and the testimony God had planted in his heart was much encouraged in two living Christian schools he attended shortly after his conversion: The Trondheim Christian School for young people and the Framnes Christian School for the young in Hardanger, where the Spirit-filled J. Brandtzaeg was president.Brandtzaeg never failed to approach every one of the young students concerning their relationship to God; prayer and testimony meetings virtually belonged to the curriculum, and a very free and brotherly spirit prevailed, which young Peder Fostervold drank in and which followed him throughout his life. By the time he came to America, in 1911, at the age of 27, he already had many years of experience as a speaker and a Christian worker.
His preaching of the Gospel was a, testimony. In a way, he did not preach, but in a simple and most natural manner just bore testimony of the living Christ. He always found the practical and personal part in every text and applied it in a most fitting way to every-day life. He dug things out of the Word of God that nobody else would think of--never failing to make the personal application. He had a marvelous fund of illustrations of personal experiences, which he used in a singularly striking way, often raising his voice in tense emotion as he told them, but never in a "preacher's voice." Always it was in the natural, every-day-like, personal manner, but with signal blessings to many.
His labor and witness-bearing through the printed word were a personal testimony. The two books he wrote over 20 years ago--"Basunstot" and "Paa Fast Grund" were personal testimonies from the Living Word, and so was his last book, "Den Faste Grundvold," which has been translated under the heading "A Firm Footing." It is a personal experience testimony throughout. The first sentence in the book reads:
"The faith which lays hold on Jesus arises in a feeling of misery under sin." One of the last sentences runs: "We place ourselves and fellow-believers in our heavenly Father's hands and rest as a weak child in His fatherly love and care." The personal sinner saved and helped by a personal Savior and a personal heavenly Father is the scarlet line in his writings.
His editorials in the "Indremissionsvennen" were always brief and to the point, carrying a real message. He was the father and real founder of this layman's paper. "Indremissionsvennen" lived in his heart night and day. He and it were inseparable friends and bosom companions first, last and all the time.
His thousands upon thousands of personal letters in a very clear and characteristic hand-writing were arrows with barbs every one with some striking personal touch, which only Peder Fostervold could think of putting in black and white.
His outstanding services to promote laymen's--and inner mission-work and to encourage all the gifts of grace were in the line of a personal testimony. On this point, I believe, he ranks second only to Elling Eielsen, himself, during these 100 years of laymen's work among the Norwegian-Americans. His attachment and personal and heart-felt devotion to all Christian laymen's activity and inner mission work were unspeakably strong. He simply was lay-men's work personified.
He believed strongly in organization. He was the chief promoter in founding the Hauge Inner Mission Federation in 1920. I doubt if there is a single one of the same 30 laymen's organizations included in the Hauge Federation unless it has felt the personal encouragement and forward push of Peder Fostervold. He felt toward each one of them as a big brother, and had a heartfelt concern for the welfare of every one of them. He was an unseen power from behind giving you a strong and steady push in the back, as you were climbing up a steep hill.
His characteristic and singular personality carried an unusual weight. He was of a somewhat slight and undersized build, but knotty and wiry. His soul was in his eyes- sometimes carefully discerning between the unreal and the genuine. Sometimes the eyes would flash fire; again they would be like the sharp point of the awl, or the keen edge of a well-ground axe; then again they would speak brotherly love and tenderness. His voice was clear, penetrating heart-reaching and always natural. He was candid, out- spoken, brotherly and cozy-a real man in overalls. He had a tremendous capacity for painstaking work and an almost bull-dog' tenacity of purpose. He was never a quitter, never a shirker, never an imitator. He hated all sham, falsehood and hypocrisy. His personality exerted an intense influence, almost like a spell at times.
His very faults were singular and outstanding. Only Peder Fostervold could have such peculiar faults. For one thing, he never learned to speak the English language in public, though most earnestly solicited by his friends to do so. It was a most grave mistake that curtailed his usefulness and made his views and certain points cramped and exclusive. However, on the other hand, he reached many souls through the Norwegian language that otherwisewould have been neglected. He was one of the last strong survivors of the exclusive use of the Norse language among us.
He also persisted in the use of the Old Norse dialect language (ny-norsk), which those less versed in the language could not follow so well, though he modified this to some extent during the later years.
Next to Elling Eielsen, Fostervold was perhaps the strongest transplanter of the old-country free and independent spiritual laymen's activity among us. But he was at the same time a faithful church member of the Lutheran Free Church congregation at Willmar, Minn.
Peder Fostervold's labor and struggles in silence and quiet were a strong testimony to those who knew him best. Most people knew nothing about his very arduous and painstaking work. He studied his Bible and commentaries a great deal. He was a lover of good books. His prayer- life was far more in secret than in the open. He would often kneel and pray over the open Bible as he prepared his messages. His work with "Indremissionsvennen" and his large volume of correspondance he would work at late at night and during the early morning hours, when out preaching.
He stressed an absolute honesty in financial affairs and a very punctual meeting of one's obligations; but he was also very kind-hearted and a liberal giver. He had contracted a debt in the old country in a religious paper-enterprise, and he had a large family of nine children, so he had a long, anxious and hard struggle to discharge all his financial obligations, which God gave him grace fully to do.
The welfare of his family and many children lay heavily upon him, as he had to be so much away from home. His wife, who never thrived in this country, left for the home land three years before his death, together with the younger children. Then his illness set in and the awful war came on, so he was often in real anguish night and day. He made almost desperate, but unavailing attempts to reach his family with money. He feared they might be in real need.
So toward the end of his life he became a lonely burden-bearer, a real cross-bearer; the "foot of the cross" then became very precious to him.
His sickness, death and funeral were a testimony. In the spring of 1939 Fostervold was a very sick man. Sick and lonely. But through prayer, anointing of oil according to James 5, he was healed by God for the time being. But when the sickness, cancer of the stomach, returned last spring, he knew that the end was near. He now made his home with his brother, Ole Fostervold, near Willmar, Minn. His last testimony in print came in the "Indremissionsvennen" July 3, 1940. It's a heart-felt thanks to the brethren for all cc-operation and fellowship in Christian work ending with these words:
"Our real country is above. There is our High Priest!''
Tuesday night, July 23, the friends realized the end was near. He asked Mrs. Ole Fostervold, who together with his own oldest daughter, Heidrun, took care of him, if she could take the responsibility that night with the watching, prayer and intercession. When she said she would do so, he added: "Let us then do it in the name of Jesus." Those were the last audible words. He was released Wednesday, July 24, 1940, at 5 P. M. Age 56. The funeral was on Saturday, July 27. Besides his pastor, N. Nilsen, Pastor Hovland, Wm. Hodnefield, Pastors Gjerde and Gisselquist, Mr.
G. 0. Oudal and others took part.
Peder Fostervold, evangelist in the Hauge Federation, its corresponding secretary and editor of "Indremissionsvennen," has left us. These positions of trust he held for 20 years. Though there are others to take these places, yet he leaves a tremendously empty place, a great void which I doubt can be filled. It feels as if a wall in the house has been torn down. But we are thankful to God for his life, work and example. He encouraged those gifts of Grace that should take his place. He did not forget the future of God's work. Though he did not take off his overalls till quitting time, he had gradually slipped into the background during the last two years and prepared the way for others. May God bless them to carry on.
Blessed be the memory of Peder Fostervold!
From "The Hauge Movement in America" Copyright 1941