Faithful husband, father, grandpa, friend, encourager, mentor, teacher, Bible translator and laborer in God’s Kingdom, Keith Forster met his Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face on January 31, 2018, after years of declining health due to Multiple System Atrophy. He was surrounded by his family as he entered eternity.
Keith was born February 7, 1939, in Grahamstown, South Africa to Denis Gaskell Forster and Margaret Munro Forster.
Preceding Keith in death were his father, mother, and sister Shirley Forster Douglas. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Wilma Jean Coddington Forster of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; daughter Wendy Staffeldt, her husband Erik and their daughters Valerie Anne and Kirsten; daughter Valerie Gorman, her husband Greg and their children Anna and Joshua; son Stephen, his wife Sarah and their daughter Jane. Keith is further survived by his brother-in-law William Denis Douglas, and Denis’s children and their families (Ruth & Mike Ward, Gillian & Peter Milligan, and Andrew and Nicky Douglas) of South Africa, and by countless friends, Wycliffe colleagues and his beloved Kunas whose faith in the Lord Jesus Christ he has encouraged.
If there is a phrase that accurately characterizes Keith, it is “My life for a Book.”
As the son of a Baptist minister, Keith spent his early years living in the several different cities in South Africa where his father pastored. When he was a young teenager, the family moved to the gold and uranium mining town of Welkom, Orange Free State. It was during his high school years that God planted a seed in Keith’s heart for the need for Bible translation. He was burdened by observing mine workers from all over southern Africa who spoke a variety of languages, several of which did not have a single word of translated Scripture.
After graduating with a degree in chartered accountancy from The University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, God used I Chronicles 28:20 to confirm His call to become involved in Bible translation. Keith pursued biblical studies at Columbia International University (CIU) in South Carolina, where he met Wilma, who would become his wife and co-laborer on the mission field.
After graduation from CIU, Keith and Wilma joined Wycliffe Bible Translators. In September 1971, Keith, Wilma and their three-month-old daughter Wendy moved to the Border Kuna village of Paya, located in the jungle rainforest on the Panama side of the Panama/Colombia border. The village chief assigned a young teenager, Ricardo Bastidas, to teach Keith and Wilma to speak their language.
The Forsters give thanks to God for their brother-in-Christ, friend, teacher, and co-translator, Ricardo. He worked with them faithfully from those early days until together in 1993 they rejoiced to see the publication of the Border Kuna New Testament. Meanwhile, early in 1980 while concurrently working on the Border Kuna translation, Keith and San Blas Kuna pastor Lino Smith began work translating the New Testament for the San Blas Kuna people. The San Blas Kuna New Testament was published in 1995.
Translation work began on the San Blas Kuna Old Testament in 1999. A team of five men: Teobaldo Martínez, Jaime Rios, Hernán Smith, Lino Smith and Amalio Vergara, finished the translation of the complete San Blas Kuna Bible which was dedicated in 2014. At the time of Keith’s death, more than 15,000 copies of the San Blas Kuna Bible were in print.
From 2014 until his recent illness limited his direct involvement, Keith sought to be actively involved in encouraging the wide distribution and use of Kuna Scriptures. He loved God’s Word and loved to see it used to change lives. He has been passionate about encouraging the production of various Scripture Use materials: audio New Testaments in both Border Kuna and San Blas Kuna, the Jesus Film, a hymnal for the Kuna church and a Kuna children’s Bible storybook. God gave Keith the ability to think “outside the box” with innovative ideas such as publishing Scripture on waterproof (synthetic) paper which would allow people living in remote areas of high humidity to have Scripture printed on the virtually indestructible material.
On the occasion of the dedication of the San Blas Kuna Bible in 2014, Keith reflected on the culmination of his life’s work:
“The verse I was given that day (the day he was commissioned by a group of seasoned missionaries to follow hard after the call of God on his life) was I Chronicles 28:20. Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God….is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”
“In 1963 this verse was 100% promise. Now I gratefully testify that the verse is 100% testimony to God’s faithfulness. He has been with us. He has not failed us…and…He has given us the privilege of finishing all the work to which He called us. We serve an incredible God.”
Keith’s family wishes to thank his faithful caregivers, among whom are Dr. John Bousquet, and Mrs. Vivian Hendrix.
From his earliest years until he left earth for the presence of his Lord, Keith lived a life of beautiful faithfulness to God, his family, his friends and the Kuna people. Almost daily Keith’s request of the Lord was “Father, keep me pure in my life, true in my doctrine, and unflagging in my love for You.”
For more about Keith’s “life for a Book,” visit www.Bible531.com.
A service to celebrate Keith’s life is planned for Saturday, February 24, 2018, 2:00 p.m. at Faith Bible Church, 1437 West Pleasant Run Road, DeSoto, Texas 75115
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given to the mission organization of your choice or to the Kuna Publication Project* at Wycliffe Bible Translators, which continues to support the production and distribution of God’s Word and Scripture Use materials among Panama’s Kuna people.