One of the difficult but beautiful tasks for me in ministry is representing Global Interaction at the funerals of cross-cultural workers. Of course I am unable to attend all of them – and some we don’t even hear about until some time later – yet for those that I can attend I count it a deep honour to hear the passion and sacrifice of lives lived with Christ’s mission at the centre.
Earlier in 2015 Beryl Kirkwood died.
Beryl received the first inkling of a mission call in 1944 at the age of 18.
At the conclusion of a sermon the details of which she could not recall the Pastor simply asked, “Those who will respond to God and allow him to have your whole life please stand”.
Shortly thereafter she received the tragic news of the deaths of three Australian Baptist Foreign Mission staff, Cyril and Edna Moore and Ron Potter. Like so many of her generation, news of their loss spurred her into action and she trained as a nurse.
This was the beginning of a great adventure.
In regard to field service, Beryl Kirkwood served the Lord in Mission with the Australian Baptist Missionary Society from 1952 through to 1970.
Beryl’s first mission deployment was to East Pakistan – now Bangladesh. She married Neville in 1954 and together they moved to Assam in early 1955 where they were stationed at Baghpara where they began working amongst the Garo People.
Over the following five years four children were born.
Through the 1960’s the family lived and ministered amongst the Garo, Boro and Rabha People Group, stationed at Debitola.
Their ministry was holistic: health, education, pastoral care, evangelism and discipleship. Both Neville and Beryl played significant roles in establishing healthy, sustainable Christian faith communities. They were able to handover the work to Mizo believers – a partnership that is still today bearing fruit among least reached groups in south east and central Asia. They also lived through astonishing storms, various tropical illnesses, political and religious unrest and even an invasion. In 1969 a combination of strategic shift within the mission, family needs and health brought Neville and Beryl’s cross cultural mission to a conclusion, a bittersweet reality for Beryl. She felt like she had more yet to do, but also trusted God for his next appointment.
Life took difficult turns and in the end Neville and Beryl’s marriage ended. However her love for Jesus and his mission never dimmed and over the next 45 years Beryl continued to support the mission actively, prayerfully and financially.
She also explored other ministry options. In 1990 she represented Australian Baptist women at the Baptist Women’s World Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea. She became President of Baptist Women of NSW and ACT (Women 2 Women) in 1998 and served for three years and then another three as Past President. She remained active on this organisation right up to the week prior to her death, speaking at and attending many W2W events.
For many years, Beryl represented Baptist Women on the Council of Australian Church Women (an Interdenominational Women’s Movement) and was a highly respected, hardworking and loved member of that group. In all these things Beryl kept her eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of her faith.
Beryl Kirkwood is one of hundreds of Baptist men and women who have served our God in global mission, each building an eternal legacy by the lives that they have touched.