- Like Father, Like Son -
Sitting alone in a dimly lit room, Russ Forgoston concentrated on the rhythm of his breathing. Deep breath in…hold…slowly exhale. Deep breath in…hold…slowly exhale. Incense filled his lungs as he endeavored to empty his mind and reach the heightened sense of enlightenment so sought after by other Hindus. Russ had begun meditating regularly, each time hoping to get a little closer to God.
Hindu mysticism was a new path for Russ. Raised Jewish, he dutifully studied Jewish law throughout his childhood, but his search for more of God eventually took him beyond where his rabbi could lead. At sixteen Russ began studying metaphysics, and this led to mysticism. After encountering various supernatural experiences that Russ believed were bringing him closer to God, he decided it was time for a pilgrimage to India. “Because of those experiences,” admits Russ, “I desired to go to India, to actually live in ashrams, find a guru, and sit under that person so I could have further experiences.”
And he did just that. In India, Russ sat under a Hindu spiritual teacher, called a guru, in an effort to find “truth.” Even though he saw and experienced the supernatural, he realized he had not grown closer to God. He returned from India disillusioned and confused— and no closer to the truth. It seemed to elude his grasp like wisps of smoke. One final dead-end effort was Russ’s experimentation with the New Age religion.
Up until this point, Russ resisted any requests from those he knew to pursue Jesus or the Bible, but the day finally came when he could resist no longer. “After many years, I started to really feel like I ought to check into Jesus. And so I started a process of studying the Bible, as well as extra-biblical materials, so I could verify if this was really the truth.”
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Russ’s reward came in the form of a Christian friend who witnessed to him and gave him some of Andrew’s tapes. “I started listening to [Andrew],” remembers Russ, “and it just started resonating with me inside. I had the sense that, wow, this man is really talking about God!” Soon Russ had ordered every tape series Andrew had and listened to each one twenty or thirty times. An excitement grew as he realized for the very first time that he could actually have a real relationship with God.
One Sunday at church, the Holy Spirit let him know his time had come. “I was sitting in the back row, and there was an altar call. I really didn’t have any feeling that I wanted to get up,” says Russ, “but all of a sudden, my legs started to become vertical, and I was in a standing position. And almost like an automaton, I was walking, just straight-legged, to the front. It was almost like I was being drawn to the front of that church. I knew I could stop the process, but I knew that it was something that was drawing me.” It wasn’t something, of course, but someone—God Himself! At the altar, he went to a prayer minister and simply said, “I want Jesus.”
Those three simple words filled Russ with the peace, the satisfaction, and the ultimate truth he had been searching for his entire life. Looking back, he could see God’s hand drawing him, even though he couldn’t put himself on the right path. “I believe God was drawing me the whole time,” says Russ. “But since my heart was not open to really receive Him, I just moved in the direction that I knew to move—the area of metaphysics and mysticism. I think it took a lot of faithfulness on His part to keep pursuing me…Even though I was roaming around in the wilderness for years, seeking Him as best I could in my own strength, it was ultimately His faithfulness and my heart opening to His message that allowed me to receive Him as the one true God.” Now if Russ could only convince his son about the Truth he had found…
A Different Kind of Lost
Russ’s son, David, had been heavily involved in the party scene throughout high school and college—drinking, taking drugs, and smoking marijuana. After a while, he went from being a drug user to a seller. “Before I knew it,” says David, “I found myself driving across the country buying duffle bags full of pot…dealing with tens of thousands of dollars and just living the crazy life that goes with it.” David admits that no matter how deep he got into the drug scene, it was never enough. His “crazy life” was rapidly spinning out of control.
Meanwhile, Russ was trying to get close to David. “My dad always wanted to be in relationship with me, but a long time before, I had pretty much written him off.”
Russ remembers, “We would still have a lot of fellowship, but we would meet for dinner or lunch, and he would quickly want to leave. But in those times, I just told him how my life had become transformed by God’s love.”
David remembers discovering a Bible in the backseat of his dad’s car. “I asked him about it, and he said he became a Christian. I was totally shocked. How could he have sold out to some religion? My dad had always talked about God. He was a real spiritual guy. He was into mysticism and things like that, and I thought that was cool. I thought that one day, I would follow that path and find out the truth. What he said to me was, ‘This is what I believe is the absolute truth, and if you don’t believe it, that’s fine. If you ever want to talk about it, you can, but I think you just need to find the truth for yourself.’ I didn’t make a big deal about it and never thought about it again.”
Won by Love
David started thinking about his father’s word once he realized how much of an identity crisis he was in. He couldn’t understand why nothing could satisfy him and why he always needed more. He took Russ up on his offer to talk. David recalls, “I started telling him about my life and the drug dealing and the big entrepreneur I was becoming, and he just sat there and listened. I could tell he really cared about me. He shared some wisdom with me. He wasn’t preaching, but I could just tell he knew stuff I didn’t.” David could also tell that his dad had a newfound peace he’d never seen before on his father. The stress and anxiety were completely gone. “I couldn’t put my finger on it,” says David, “but there was definitely something different about him.”
Pretty soon David was asking Russ about God and the Bible. Russ shared about God’s love and grace and how it’s possible to actually have an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe. Russ also told his son about the people he’d seen healed and other accounts of amazing miracles he had heard about. Although the stories seemed quite far-fetched to David, he believed them because his father had never lied to him before. But, David figured, even if the stories weren’t true, the change he witnessed in his father was reality.
All that David had seen and heard from his dad got him thinking seriously about this Jesus he kept talking about. One afternoon while David was sitting in his apartment, the Holy Spirit brought revelation to him that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God. “It just came,” David remembers. “I couldn’t explain it. I just knew that I knew that I knew, and I was so excited about it. When I went to sleep that night, I remember lying down and, for the first time ever, feeling safe, totally secure. I was just lying there thinking, God, thank You.
The Call to Charis
When Russ heard the good news of his son’s salvation, he quickly equipped him with resources to start him off right in his walk with Christ. Along with buying him a Bible, Russ gave David several of Andrew’s tapes. “Every tape I got was just more confirmation,” says David. “Everything [Andrew] said was feeding me. Everything Andrew taught pointed to the Word of God.” David soon began diving into the Word for himself—so much so that he dropped out of school, moved in with Russ, and sometimes spent all day reading the Bible. When he wasn’t reading the Word, he was listening to Andrew’s tapes. David soon learned that God had a very specific plan for his life.
The following spring, David was praying one day, and the Lord spoke to his heart about attending Charis Bible College (CBC) that August. He didn’t hesitate to tell his dad the good news. Two months later the two of them went to a Gospel Truth Seminar together. At this particular seminar, several Charis graduates shared testimonies of the impact the school had on their lives. The testimonies moved strongly on Russ’ heart. He recalls, “I just knew as I heard their testimonies that I was going to Charis Bible College. I was completely excited.”
His excitement changed to anxiety, however, when he thought about all the preparations involved in moving to Colorado. “I didn’t really know how I was going to do it,” says Russ. “I had a condominium. I had my chiropractic business. It was too short a time for me to take care of all the things I needed to.” Instead of the August session, he decided to prepare for November. It turned out that November was not God’s plan. God moved on Russ to give away his practice and bless others with it. He was now free to move to Colorado and begin college with David in August.
The Call to India
Russ and David soon learned that Charis was the first of many steps of faith God would require of them—steps that would lead them on an adventure of a lifetime. Russ remembers, “One morning at 4:00, I heard what seemed like an audible voice, saying, ‘You went to India many years ago seeking the truth. You now know the truth. Go back and tell them.’”
Just a few weeks prior, David planned on tagging along on a missions trip to India with a fellow CBC student. The student told David that he really didn’t know why God had put it on his heart to go to India. David remembers, “He said to me, ‘I don’t know why I’m going there. I think this is really about you.’” As soon as they arrived at the village where they were to minister, they discovered that the people there had never before even heard the name of Jesus. “I remember thinking,” says David, There’s nobody here that’s preaching the Gospel of grace and unconditional love. From that moment, David knew exactly where God wanted him.
“When my dad picked me up at the airport after my trip, I began explaining to him the experience I had,” says David. “I told him, ‘I really think we need to go to India.’ He then told me that during my trip, God woke him up to tell him the same thing.” Convinced that God had a destiny waiting in India for the two of them, Russ and David could hardly wait to begin their ministry together. They knew from the start that it would require total dependence on God. “We didn’t have a plan,” says David. “We didn’t know what we were going to do.”
A Family Affair
The Forgostons didn’t seem to mind not having a plan, because they knew the Planner. Russ admits, “I was so convinced that God was going to be faithful to direct us, we could be dropped from a helicopter anywhere on the subcontinent of India, and somehow He would direct us to where we needed to go for the ministry He had planned for us.” With that kind of faith, Russ and David boarded a plane for India immediately after graduating from CBC in May 2007.
Within months of arriving in India, Russ and David were on another plane, this one headed to Switzerland where David married Judith, a former CBC classmate. Russ, David, Judith, and their newest addition, baby Hannah, born December 2008, are all a part of God’s new missionary team in India—a team that continues to grow by God’s grace. God has provided the Forgostons with help in every area, including a newsletter writer, a website developer, a praise and worship leader, and a television director. Additionally, some 2009 CBC graduates have also committed to join the Forgoston team on their mission field.
The work to be done in India is monumental, but the Forgostons are off to a tremendous start. One of their initial endeavors was to train leaders to teach the Discipleship Evangelism course, which has now led hundreds into a deeper walk with Christ. They are also helping establish micro-businesses for the poor, where people are given small loans of twenty or thirty dollars so that they can start their own businesses, such as making baskets or operating food stands. A third area of ministry is CBC India, which opened in Chennai, India, in August 2009.
Before David and Russ left to start their new lives in India, they had a meeting with Andrew they will never forget. Because they had no strategy for when they arrived in India, Andrew felt the need to talk to them. David tells the story: “[Andrew] said to us, ‘You know this really doesn’t make any sense. Normally, I would always tell people not to do what you are doing. This isn’t smart…but I think it’s right for you guys. I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think you are right and are doing the right thing.’”
As it turns out, Andrew was right. It certainly didn’t make sense in the natural, but what does when God’s involved? As Russ says, “It’s living in the impossible!”