Just before noon on Tuesday, March 6th, Virginia Keith went to be with her Lord, surrounded by her husband and her three children. Her final week was spent in hospital struggling with several health issues. Her homegoing was peaceful as John and their three children Carol, Shirley and John Gordon sang hymns (in 4-part harmony!), read scripture and prayed her into eternity. Virginia leaves behind her husband John with whom she shared 62 amazing years of life and ministry, three children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Virginia met John at Gordon College where he was studying theology and she was teaching French. Their marriage in 1955 was predicated on God’s promise to them from Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.”
God was faithful to His promise, as they served with Canadian Baptist Ministries for 40 years, on five continents and in at least 20 countries. Both Virginia and her husband, John taught in English, French and Portuguese. At different periods of their ministry they lived in Portugal, Angola, DR Congo (Zaire), Kenya, Yugoslavia, Slovakia and Croatia. Shorter term assignments during the decade that she and John oversaw all of CBM’s international ministries also took them to Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Estonia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine.
In addition to her work as a CBM missionary, Virginia has also taught at elementary, secondary and university levels, has been a reference librarian, and in her retirement has hosted ambassadors and diplomats from countries such as Turkey, China and Indonesia at their lakeside home. But the roles she loved the most were as a wife, a mother, a grandmother and most recently, a great grandmother.
Two of Virginia’s more memorable experiences were these. Being evacuated from Angola at the outbreak of the civil war, traveling with her two young daughters and pregnant with her son, at times lying on the floor of the vehicle as bullets were flying around them. The second was decades years later, traveling with John to scout out future ministry in Albania, when it was not permitted for them to even carry their personal English Bibles into that closed atheist country or to mention the name of God, and then several years later being there in the capital Tirana as former US President Jimmy Carter formally opened the Baptist Centre in the heart of the city.
Virginia’s other love was baseball. While she was born and raised as a Boston Red Sox fan in Massachusetts, she fully embraced her adopted country and became an avid Toronto Blue Jay’s fan. Just two days before her death, in her hospital room, she even spent some time discussing with her children some of the Blue Jays new acquisitions and their prospects for the 2018 season.
Virginia will be deeply missed by many, but our loss is heaven’s gain. Hers was a remarkable life, in which she faithfully served her Lord and Savior to her last days. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 10th at 11:00 am at Lakefield Baptist Church. Visitation will be Friday evening at the Hendren Funeral home in Lakefield. Online messages of condolence can be posted on the funeral home’s website (www.hendrenfuneralhome.com) by clicking on Virginia’s obituary page. Cards may be mailed to CBM and will be delivered to John and the family.
Memorial donations to Canadian Baptist Ministries have been designated by the family to be used for scholarships for women students from the Middle East and North Africa studying at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. Donations may be made online at www.cbmin.org/donate [write Virginia Keith in memorium gift in the additional information section] or mailed to Canadian Baptist Ministries, 7185 Millcreek Drive, Mississauga, ON L5N 5R4