From Anderson to the jungles of Vietnam and to the pastorate, Ron Fousek has a fascinating personal story of God’s providence and grace that is worth telling.
He was born again when he was 20 years old and quickly became a deacon and choir member at Riverside Baptist Church in Anderson. He and his wife, Jewel, had been married for about five years when, as he says, “Uncle Sam called.” He was drafted into the Army in 1968. Jewel moved back in with her parents, and he departed for basic training. “I volunteered for Non-Commissioned Officers School and trained with the Rangers,” he said. After his training, he was sent to Vietnam, where he was a squad leader and platoon sergeant with the First Infantry.
One day he was on a mission in the jungle when they stopped for chow. “Sitting beside me was Nick, a short-timer, who was sitting on his helmet. I told him he needed to put his helmet on, but he shrugged it off, saying, ‘Aw, Sarge, I am a short-timer.’ About that time, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) landed in our midst. Nick was hit but I wasn’t, and I immediately wondered why, since I knew shrapnel scatters when an RPG hits. He had head and leg wounds, and I picked him up and cradled him in my arms until a helicopter arrived to take him away. I believe he died in my arms, and a short time later we heard that he had died.”
After Nick’s extraction, Ron reached for his Gideon New Testament with Psalms and turned to his favorite chapter, Psalm 118, for comfort. “I never really noticed verse 17 before, ‘I shall not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord.’ When I read that verse, I knew God was calling me to preach. In May 1969, I wrote Jewel a letter, sharing with her that God was calling me to preach. She could have rejected the ministry, but she embraced it.”
Following his discharge from the Army, he and Jewel reunited and continued serving the Lord at Riverside. He graduated from Anderson University in 1972 and became the youth minister at Whitefield Baptist in Anderson. Later, he was named associate pastor. In 1973, he answered the call to become senior pastor at Shady Grove Baptist in Belton, where he stayed for seven years. While at Shady Grove, he and Jewel discovered that they could not have children and that a hysterectomy was recommended for Jewel. They had prayed for children for years, and they met this disappointment with prayer. “Through prayer, we found a peace that passes all understanding,” he said.
Before Jewel’s surgery, Ron was awakened in the middle of the night and “noticed two tall, white-robed beings talking to each other and pointing toward us. With a pleasant expression and a nod, they were gone,” he said. “Amazingly, I was not alarmed and felt nothing but a settled peace. I went back to sleep.”
Jewel’s surgery was at University Hospital in Augusta, Ga. When she was taken to surgery, her parents and a friend waited with Ron. Shortly after the surgery began, Ron said, “I received word that the surgeon wanted to see me. I did not know what to expect, but, as I walked down the hallway, the two doctors performing the surgery met me in the hallway and said, ‘Your wife is pregnant!’ Just after they started the procedure, they noticed she was pregnant — seven weeks pregnant. The seven weeks corresponded to the night the two angels visited us.” In August 1978, their son was born. He is married today with two children, and Ron and Jewel have a grandson and a granddaughter.
His next move was back to Whitefield as pastor until 1997, when he accepted the pastorate of Ebenezer Baptist in Hendersonville, N.C. During his tenure at Ebenezer, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and spent eight weeks at the Radiotherapy Clinic in Atlanta. He and Jewel would drive to Hendersonville on the weekend while his two associate pastors took care of his weekday duties. He remains cancer-free today.
Throughout his pastoral ministry, he continued his education, eventually earning a Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary. From Ebenezer, he moved back to Anderson and the pastorate of Eureka Baptist in 2004. He retired in 2014 and filled the pulpit in various churches while teaching at Covington Seminary. He said he did not “particularly want to do an interim pastorate.” However, Big Creek Baptist in Williamston persuaded him to become their interim pastor. Six months later, he became the senior pastor. His retirement lasted approximately two years. He has served Big Creek for the past five years and, at 76, continues to preach with the same passion he had 50 years ago.
“Big Creek is only three minutes from our house,” he said. “Our church is known as the mother of churches in Anderson.” It is also one of the oldest Baptist churches in South Carolina, organized in 1778.
A few years ago, Jewel was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Ron said, “She was declared cancer-free, but now the cancer has returned, and we are praying the treatments she is receiving will lead to renewed health.”
The couple will celebrate their 58th anniversary in December. They met in high school on a day Ron was handing out Spearmint chewing gun to a group of girls. When he came to Jewel, he had only one piece left, but he gave it to her. He said, “She broke it in half and gave me a piece. She still does that to this day. I sure am glad it was Spearmint because she hates Juicy Fruit. This ministry would not have happened without Jewel as a partner and helpmate. It makes all the difference to have a loving, active, involved, and supportive wife,” he said.
— By Rudy Gray