NZÉRÉKORÉ, Guinea — Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) is saddened to share the death of volunteer worker Beryl Forrester. While teaching and resourcing a young church plant in Nzérékoré, Guinea, Forrester experienced a brief illness and passed away on Tuesday, March 2, at the age of 80.
“EMM’s mourns the passing of a beloved brother and missionary, but celebrates the remarkable legacy of his years of service in West Africa and his example of sacrificial obedience for the sake of the gospel,” said EMM Mission Team Director Lorri Bentch.
Although an exact cause of death has not been confirmed, Forrester was being treated for suspected malaria and a possible blood infection. Guinean healthcare providers determined that neither the coronavirus disease nor ebola was responsible for Forrester’s passing.
Forrester had been living in West Africa since 2000, having planted congregations in The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. He worked diligently to empower African leaders to take charge of the growing Mennonite Church West Africa (MCWA). Part of Forrester’s strategy to develop pastors in this region was to teach a course he assembled called Biblical Studies in Anabaptist Perspectives.
“Saturday was the last day I heard his voice and he said to me, ‘Please, continue to disciple people to be followers of Jesus Christ,’” said Adriano MBackeh, an MCWA pastor ministering in The Gambia. “In all, thank you, Lord, for what you taught me through this vessel, Beryl James Forrester.”
MCWA has been part of a Mennonite mission presence in the greater West Africa region since Forrester relocated to West Africa. The mission began first in The Gambia and reached Guinea-Bissau in 2005. By 2020, MCWA had begun new mission work in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Forrester’s call to Africa began in 1959 when he performed alternative service with Mennonite Central Committee. In 1961, near the end of his two-year term in Morocco, the Lord made clear to him that one day he would bring him back to Africa as a missionary.
Four decades later, at the age of 60, Forrester decided to follow through on this calling. While living in Oregon as a fruit farmer, Forrester received an offer to sell his farm. He considered that this sale meant it was time to return to Africa.
Expecting that agricultural development would be an important part of his work, Forrester also recognized that he had some role in sharing Jesus in whatever context he would serve. However, at the time, he had little expectation of how broad-reaching his work would become.
“Beryl was a true pioneer in every sense of the word,” said Michael Baker, former EMM regional representative for West Africa. “No was not an option when it came to the work of the gospel. He had a passion for the African people and saw Jesus as the freedom from their bondage. Beryl was willing to go where the church was not … yet.”
Twenty years later, Forrester became a sort of apostolic father-figure to the growing churches throughout the region. He exemplified the EMM core value of multiplication in ways that will leave a lasting impact in West Africa. In his 2015 book, “Animists to Anabaptists,” Forrester wrote, “I have offered my life … to Jesus for the sake of God’s kingdom. That is the model I desire to see replicated in the lives of those our mission reaches with the Gospel.”
If you would like to support the continued work of this growing Mennonite conference in West Africa, you’re invited to give financially to its ministry. Gifts can be given through EMM online with a preference note for MCWA.