We are dedicating this Langstaff Letter to our daughter Beth who went to heaven on Sunday, March 20th. She is with Jesus.
Beth was part of the ministry of the Langstaff Letters. She was a brilliant student, scholar, and teacher. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Beth completed a Master of Divinity degree at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. She then went on to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Historical Theology at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey, graduating Magnum Cum Laude.
Quite often, when I was preparing the Langstaff Letters, I would ask her for information or advice, drawing on her knowledge of various matters. Dorothy would also seek her advice about a variety of issues.
I often discussed matters with Beth on the phone or in emails – theological. cultural, and political. We did not always agree, and sometimes we had lively debates about some of them, especially politics. I used to say Beth was the ‘Theologian of the Family.’ For her thesis at Princeton, she wrote about why John Calvin did not accept the Holy Spirit’s gifts and believed that miracles ceased at the end of the apostolic age. It was entitled “Temporary Gifts – John Calvin’s Doctrine of the Cessation of Miracles” – as such, she was questioning and challenging his position.
Because of health reasons, neither her Mother Dorothy nor I nor her sister Joy, our Administrator, were able to go to the funeral in Germany. We were able to send a message to be read at the service. Here it is:
MESSAGE FROM ALAN LANGSTAFF AND FAMILY
From the moment she was born, Beth captured our hearts with her blue eyes and smile. She was so beautiful, like a little cherub. We never knew how much you could love someone so tiny.
She was an adventurous child . . . always challenging the limits. Beth had a great imagination. Being one of the oldest of the extended family, she would often lead her sister and cousins on countless adventures through the empty lot next to her grandparents home in Gosford, Australia. Organizing supplies and, of course, a good supply of chocolate, the cousins would all head off to fight their way through forests, forging rivers, to search for treasure . . . she would create a new world for them in an empty lot with nothing but dirt and weeds.
Beth admitted that she didn’t always think before she acted, especially in the years before she became a mom herself. We remember when she thought it would be wise to climb up on top of an old wooden door frame she and her friend Elaine had found in the woods near our home in Orono. You see, there was a rope hanging there, tempting her to grab hold, jump off the frame, and swing. She couldn’t resist the temptation. The climb up the structure went well, grabbing hold of the rope and swinging through the air was fun, the landing . . . .let’s say Beth didn’t calculate the physics behind the length of rope compared with the distance to the ground. But then, she was never great at math. She hobbled around for the rest of the summer, her foot in a cast.
But this is how she embraced life. She saw a challenge, and she didn’t run away. Whether rock climbing at St. Croix River, skiing the black diamond slopes in Banff, Canada when she had never skied before, or traveling across the country to participate in outreach at the Olympic Games in California, she tackled life with courage and enthusiasm, even if she did lack some wisdom at times.
With both her mother and I being in the ministry, life was undoubtedly busy. We intentionally included Beth and Joy in our faith adventures – we traveled the world together, such as attending a YWAM outreach at the 1972 Olympic Games in Germany. Little did Beth know that one day she would be living in Germany. Family was important, and traditions were valued. Sunday roast dinners after church each week. Yearly trips north of Sydney to our holiday home in McMaster’s Beach, where we spent hours at the beach or lagoon playing in the sand, collecting shells, and climbing on the rocks around the headlands. So many memories of our times together.
While studying at Princeton, she met a German student Thomes Foell. They were later married, moved to Germany, where Jessica and Jonathan were born. She and the family have lived there for around 30 years. It would have been easy to drift apart when Beth moved to Germany. But Beth refused to allow that to happen. She was intentional in staying connected to us. Months were spent here in America each summer. More memories were made – Camping up north, explorations, and picnics at the MN Arboretum, family birthday celebrations when we picked a day to celebrate all the grandchildren’s birthdays at once, learning to fish at Baker Park . . . we could go on. And even though separated by miles, she has been a support and encouragement through some of the darkest valleys in life. When David, her brother-in-law, died suddenly, she immediately returned to America.
As we have grown older, she has supported us, loved us, and helped us. During the last few years, as travel was impossible with her cancer diagnosis and COVID, Beth and I started emailing each other. Most days, emails were sent back and forth, sharing the day, discussing theology, politics, what was happening with the family. Beth and her mother also made sure to call, checking in on each other. Those emails and conversations are such treasures, and they will be so missed.
Six years separated Beth and her sister Joy. But no matter the age difference, the miles that separated them, or the ups and downs of life, Beth and Joy stayed connected. Thanksgivings and birthdays were shared with a constant commentary sending photos and texts. Calls were made, but not before they made themselves a cup of coffee to have while they chatted. They shared the joys of raising children; they shared the fears of a cancer diagnosis. And more recently, Joy shared a constant stream of photos of Beth’s grandnephew David, as seeing him play and grow would bring a smile to her day. Their times together and conversations were filled with laughter and tears. As Joy says, “It is a blessing to have a sister; it is an amazing and overwhelming gift to have your sister be your closest friend.”
Our family joked that we could “Lock Beth in a library and slide McDonald’s Big Mac’s under the door, and she would be happy.” I think her love of Big Macs dwindled as she got older, but her love of books and knowledge only grew. She worked her way through school – First, a bachelor’s degree, then a master of Divinity, and finally her Doctorate at Princeton. She was always ready to discuss what she was learning. She wanted to inform, argue with, and include everyone in her journey. She even encouraged her mom Dorothy to enroll in one of her classes, ‘ The Book of Romans’ with her. She was brilliant. She took on the academic world and not only succeeded in everything she did, but she also made a lasting impact in the lives of her teachers, colleagues, and students.
Over the last week, we have received countless messages and what stands out is the impact Beth had on people all over the world, not just in Germany, where she currently lived, but in the United States and Australia. She has touched so many. As one person wrote, “She was one of those special friends that even though the miles separated us … you always felt close to her.”
We still remember the Sunday afternoon in 1968 when she committed her life to Jesus at a Billy Graham Crusade Meeting in Sydney. We wondered if she was too young to know what it all meant, but she was determined to go forward and make a decision to accept Christ. And since that day, she has sought to follow Jesus and to glorify Him.
We all grieve the loss of Beth – the conversations, the emails, the love we shared, the laughter, and yes, even the tears – but we believe she is now with Jesus. The Bible says that Christians grieve but not without hope. As Christians, we have the hope of spending eternity with Jesus. Today we grieve, but we rejoice that she is with Jesus.
Beth, we are so proud of you, as our daughter, as mother to Jessica and Jonathan, as sister to Joy, as an aunt, and as a great aunt. We love you, Beth, and we will see you again.
Father, Mother, Joy, and all our family
“This is heartbreaking news. I have known Beth for almost 40 years and have many wonderful memories with her. Beth and Joy were like big sisters to me and I was like a little brother to them. Our relationship was a gift to me, especially during a difficult season in my life. What a gem! Her strong intellect and numerous talents were only exceeded by the tenderness and sincerity of her heart. Nicole and I love you and Dorothy and the entire family. Our special connection with your family is an incredible blessing and gift to Nicole and I. Thank you, Pastor Alan, for what you wrote even in the midst of your shock and grief. Beth is with Jesus and she is more alive than ever. And at the same time, this separation is extremely painful and difficult. You are all in our prayers and in our hearts.” – Chris Rasmussen
“Dear Uncle Alan and Aunty Dorothy – so sad to hear of Beth’s passing. My thoughts are with you all. I have such fond memories of growing up with her in Australia _ she was a wonderful cousin.” – Melissa Roan Ward
“Blessing you and Dorothy and the family in this difficult time. Beth was always a ray of sunshine and she loved intensely. Her life has touched so many. We are thankful for her and all of the ways she impacted us and our family! Grace released by our good Papa over each one of you!” – Larry and Wilma Rich
“Dear Alan and Dorothy, I read your piece on letting go last week and was struck by the number and significant events in your lives that have required the intentional choice of letting go. It never occurred to me that the piece would end up being prophetic. . . I can’t imagine the range of emotions you have already experienced and are presently experiencing, but when I read your “She’s with Jesus” quote from Holy Spirit, I knew the comfort of the Lord embodied those words and would carry you in your journey of grief over her loss. You are loved guys, by Him and by many in His body. Peace and joy in remembering and celebrating all of Beth’s multifaceted loveliness…we are all a blink from joining her with Him for all of eternity…Hallelujah!!!” – Jim Kuehn