The oldest of three children, Berta was born to Friedrich and Ilse Zuther in Berlin, Germany, 30 April, 1939, at the beginning of the war. Four years later, she lost her hearing, due to measles.
Since childhood, Berta always loved God and wanted to please Him. Though her parents did not require her to attend church, she chose to be confirmed in the Lutheran church at age 13. Later in her teens, she wanted to become a missionary to the deaf or deaf-blind in less-fortunate places.
In 1959, she met Andrew Foster at a World Federation for the Deaf conference, which was held in Germany. She had read about him in a German deaf magazine, that he was a deaf missionary and educator to the deaf in West Africa. She recognized him, and since she had already taught herself English, introduced herself and told him of her interest to be a missionary. Andrew was a little skeptical if her beliefs aligned with that of his mission organization. She eagerly accepted his offer to study the Bible through the Emmaus Correspondence School, and for the next year, she studied the Bible – in English. During that time, she grew in her understanding of God, and of salvation through Christ alone, and put her trust in Him.
In August, 1960, Berta moved to Nigeria to work for Andrew’s mission organization. Soon a romance developed, and they married in Nigeria in January, 1961. Throughout the next decade, Andrew and Berta had five children: Andrew, Jr., Johannes, Faith, Timothy and Daniel. The oldest and youngest were born in Michigan; the middle three, in West Africa.
The Fosters had moved back and forth between the States and Nigeria in the early part of the 1970s. They returned to the States in 1975 for a one year furlough; but in the next year, Berta was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, whose medical care, necessarily lengthened their furlough. Through Berta’s encouragement and insistence that “the Lord’s work must continue,” Andrew made annual months-long trips to various countries throughout Africa. It was hard for him to leave Berta in her illness, but they were mutually dedicated to do the work God had called them to do. For the next dozen years, they endured long separations, considering it their personal sacrifice to minister to the deaf in Africa.
Berta’s cancer went into remission just a couple of years after her diagnosis, but physically, she was not yet strong enough to return to tropical life. She worked faithfully as the administrator of Christian Mission for the Deaf, while Andrew was busy on his mission trips. Over the years, her strength gradually increased so they discussed the possibility of Berta returning to Africa with Andrew in 1987. They decided not to proceed with those plans; instead, Andrew went back on his mission trip alone. It turned out to be his final expedition, for he died in a plane crash in Rwanda in December, 1987.
After Andrew’s death, Berta cheerfully took on as much of Andrew’s executive load as she could, in addition to her administrative load. After all, the work “had to be done.” In 1989, she was able to revisit Africa, for the first time since the mid-1970s. She spent half a year in 10 different countries, visiting some of the schools and churches for the deaf which Andrew had founded. After returning to the States, she continued to work in the mission office, supporting her African colleagues overseas. The hard work and long hours took a toll on her health. At the age of 55, she suffered her first heart attack. It was so severe that she needed a quadruple-bypass surgery. Berta was forced to slow down for her health’s sake; meanwhile the work piled up. So, with gusto, she resumed working in the mission office as soon as possible. She embodied Romans 12:1 – she truly was a “living sacrifice, presented to God.”
During her sixties, Berta experienced occasional heart attacks. They were not as severe as her first one, so she returned to work soon after each incident. In 2006, she was able to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire) – her first time back to Africa since 1989. It also turned out to be her last visit to her beloved, adopted continent.
A couple months before turning 70, Berta went to the hospital following a mild heart attack. During a routine medical procedure, a heart catheterization, she suffered a major stroke – a 1/1,000 chance. This stroke was much more devastating to her than any of her heart attacks that she was forced to retire a few months later. Berta made much progress during her first year after her stroke; the next several years saw many ups and downs. She steadily declined in the last year of her life.
In the early hours of Saturday, 27 January, 2018, God called Berta into heaven. The first voice she heard since early childhood was the Savior’s voice saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”
Berta is survived by her sister Ilse Krause and brother Friedrich Zuther, both of Berlin; her five children: Andy (Liselotte), Johannes, Faith Haynes (Mark); Tim (Sheryl) and Dan; 14 grandchildren: and 2 great-grandchildren.