Byrdalene Kay Horst, 81, of Goshen, Ind., a mission worker who accompanied Indigenous churches in northern Argentina from 1971 to 2010, died March 21.
Serving with Mennonite Mission Network and a predecessor agency, Horst taught literacy, led Bible study, served meals and traveled widely, while nurturing in her four children her love of language and music. She collected and recorded thousands of hours of Toba Qom and Pilagá church music.
Mission colleagues Alfonsina and José Oyanguren remembered Horst as “a tireless advocate and Bible teacher for Indigenous women.”
She was born Sept. 4, 1941, in Archbold, Ohio, to Cora (Nofziger) and Harold Wyse. After graduating from Goshen College in 1964, she married Willis Horst, and they traveled to Arizona to teach on the Diné (Navajo) reservation. They grew to love relating with Indigenous peoples and decided to answer God’s call to mission.
Prior to the Horsts’ arrival in the Chaco, Mennonite mission workers had encouraged the formation of a totally Indigenous church, the Iglesia Evangélica Unida (IEU, United Evangelical Church) and supported the legal registration process. The Horsts embraced an accompaniment ministry, which was a radical approach to mission at that time. They worked closely with the IEU, as well as congregations of other denominations, focusing on the use of Scripture in Indigenous languages.
“Byrdalene and Willis shared with the broader church their deep belief that we as Mennonites, and Christians as a whole, will understand God’s message for us more clearly and more deeply when we seek to understand the insights of Native peoples, as well as people of all cultures,” said Linda Shelly, MMN director for Latin America.
She is survived by her children, René (Marlene Harder Horst) of Boone, N.C.; Carmen (Eric Kurtz) of Goshen, Ind.; Emily (Malcolm Sedaca) of Córdoba, Argentina; Cristina (Lucas Robert) of Córdoba, Argentina; and seven grandchildren. Willis died in 2013.
A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. July 15 at Walnut Hill Mennonite Church, Goshen.