His life of service is told in his book of memoirs, “No Choice, I Have to Believe in Miracles.” Published primarily for the next generation to know his experiences, Koester said he wanted to “praise and thank my Lord ... my deepest pleasure would be to help others to know that Jesus was who He said he was ... He has all power and He loves us more than we could ever dream.” That’s how “No Choice” came into being.
In the book’s 12 chapters, Koester relates situations involving his military service, his ministry and family in which he knew that only miracles brought solutions and answers. He confirms again and again it was God-given miracles and not luck which helped him through life.
Koester grew up in Michigan, and when 16, he lied about this age and joined the U.S. Marines. He finished his basic training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and was assigned to the Tank Battalion of the 5th Marine Division. After a stop in Hawaii for more training, the division boarded a ship headed for Iwo Jima, coming to land on the island during naval bombardment. The then 17-year-old reserve tank crewman was one of the youngest Americans to set foot on the island during the siege.
In Chapter 4 of “No Choice,” Koester was told of being diagnosed with a coin lesion which could have proved fatal. He and his wife had just built a house in Ludlow and they were expecting their fourth child.
And he recalled how, 15 years earlier, he had watched his buddies and fellow Marines being stacked in piles — 12 to 15 bodies in a stack.
He said he was sure he wouldn’t get off the island alive, but “would be planted in one of the rows of graves being dug by a bulldozer.” He wondered if, like Hezekiah in 2 Kings, that was his “15 years” of life.
Koester relates more than a dozen miracles that made him a survivor of Iwo Jima. It was the mid 1980s before he learned many of the personnel in the division had been wounded, he said.
“In the Tank Battalion ... most of them were wounded or dead.” And Koester said he felt he had cheated death.
After returning home from the war, Koester went to college on the GI Bill and received a degree from Eastern Illinois Teacher’s College in 1950 and, later, a master’s degree from the University of Illinois.
In the late 1950s, he applied to the Church of God Missions Board for an appointment as a missionary when he attended Lee College. But after not finding employment, he and his wife, Hazel, went back to Illinois. In 1956, they moved to the Ludlow area, where he lived for 40 years, continuing in mission work and teaching. His sons, John, Steve and Mike, still live in the area.
In 2001, the Koesters moved to Cleveland. His wife died in 2004, just two months before their 55th wedding anniversary. His daughter Naomi lives in Cleveland.
In Chapter 5, we meet the “old Ford,” whose picture graces the book’s cover. It’s the story of a miracle “based on the odds against this series of events happening accidently.”
He said, “It’s true; you can believe it or don’t believe it.” A series of “coincidents” involving the Ford and a fuel pump wove a journey of faith, as God directed the turns, the meetings and events that got them from Indianapolis to Decatur, Ill.
He summed up the travel saga — as well as his life — saying, “God, who isn’t worried about time or things, gave His special example of special timing of events.”