Provost Eric Forseth writes about hope in the midst of life’s challenges

Elizabeth Emmelkamp- Staff Writer

In recent Dordt College news, the Dordt Press published Provost Eric Forseth’s book Holding Together: Courage for Life’s Pain and Struggles.

The book, comprised of 50 personal reflections, seeks to offer hope to readers in spite of life’s pain and unexpected challenges, said Forseth. The work answers the question of how an individual can cope optimistically and with hope.

Forseth has personally dealt with pain and challenges enough that the book contains insight from his own life and struggles.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) at age 31, Forseth’s mother could no longer supply the physical needs for her children. According to the National Society of Multiple Sclerosis, more than 2.3 million people worldwide have M.S. The diagnosis appears most often in Caucasians of Northern European decent. Uusually diagnosed between the ages of 20-50, the disease appears more often in women than men.

After the diagnosis, the family sought opportunities for outside help. Forseth’s father called a family meeting and even put an ad in the paper stating, “Help wanted, unwed mothers welcome.”

Placed in the middle of 7 children, Forseth adjusted at age 6 to the phenomenon of unwed mothers living with his family. Over the next 24 years, the family took in 55 unwed mothers, asking them to help raise the infant twins, take care of primal needs, give transportation and cook meals.

“[My mother] was a person of hope,” Forseth said. “She was always affectionate and loving despite her physical limitations.”

One such mother, Jackie Russell, received this hope in a special way when Forseth’s mother led her to the Lord. Jackie, in return, led Forseth and several of his brothers and sisters to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Around young children or in public, Forseth recalls the stares directed at his mother in her wheelchair and the unwed mothers accompanying his family.

“[But] My mother did not let people feel sorry for her,” he said. “She smiled at them and looked them right in the eye. Her spirit of optimism was contagious.”

Years later, this spirit of optimism prepared Forseth for when his wife, Kim, received the same diagnosis in her early 50s. Kim had been a four-sport athlete, a college educator and faculty chair. Her Ohio college put her in the athletic hall of fame, and “she never lost a college tennis match,” said Forseth.

Now, Kim struggles with balance, hand-eye coordination and dropping things, but she remains active in other ways. Volunteering in church keeps her active with teaching children and women.

Kim’s attitude and that of Forseth’s mother provide the base for the two themes in Holding Together—Attitude and Service towards others.

One of the ways to have a joyful attitude is to put your focus on others, said Forseth.

The book emphasizes coping with the day-to-day. People who get in trouble are those who try to solve the problems of tomorrow. We should plan to work and work to plan without being over-focused on tomorrow, he said.

Since writing the book, Forseth finds joy in hearing from people who say the book has made an impact on their own lives in how they react to challenges and hardships.

“Eric Forseth has written a rare book,” said Steven Garber, Principal of the Washington Institute of Faith, Vocation and Culture. “Holding Together invites us, slowly but surely, both to understand the griefs of the world more fully and also to make our way into its surprising graces.”

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