By Heidi Thulin
On Field Media
In the summer of 1990, after a short-term mission trip to northern Kenya, south Californian Forrest discovered that Africa had gotten into his blood. Shortly afterwards, he joined a TIMO team in the Lake Victoria area, realized God was gifting him to work as a missionary, and returned to the U.S. to obtain his master’s degree in intercultural studies. During the summer months, he led short-term teams to east Africa.
“That’s how I met my wife,” Forrest smiles. Purity worked for the AIM Kenya Branch office (now Eastern Region) as the Director’s secretary. Forrest’s first and second summers in Africa, he asked her out for a soda, but she refused. The third summer, she finally agreed, and what was supposed to be a “quick soda” turned into a two-and-a-half-hour date.
In 2002, Purity’s family held a koito, the Kalinjin tribe’s engagement tradition, and nearly thirty members of her family gathered in a small room with Forrest’s family to negotiate the marriage proposal. “They asked for five cows for a dowry,” Forrest remembers. “My spokesman said, ‘You need to know that all of us here, as friends and family of Forrest, know that he really loves Purity and that he wants to marry her, but we are not going to agree to that. We don’t do it that way in America.’”
“You could’ve heard a pin drop,” Forrest laughs. “They were shocked. They figured it was a total deal breaker. After letting the sweat build up on their brow, we said, ‘We’re not going to give you five cows. We’re going to give you six.’ They were shocked again, but very pleased. Then it was party time!”
The couple married in Kenya in 2003, and a few years later, they built a house and a ministry in a small northeastern Tanzanian village among the Datooga people. “Never a day went by,” Forrest says, “where someone didn’t come and sit on our front porch and talk.” Their children joined the family in 2007 and 2011 and have spent their entire lives along the Lake Eyasi shoreline. Riley, like most of the young village boys, loves football and running around with his bow and arrow, while his sister, Crystal, is the performer of the family and ceaselessly sings Datooga or Swahili praise songs.
The last few years, while Purity focused on homeschooling, Forrest spent his time mentoring a newly-ordained Datooga evangelist named Gabriel. “He’s a God-fearing man and a good leader,” Forrest explains. “Looking back, it was good the Lord directed me to do that. Now, on our departure, he can continue on. The core group of believers [in the area] is basically four ladies. Gabriel is committed to keep working [with them and their families].”
Before the Haskins left Tanzania for a few years back in California, Gabriel invited Forrest to officiate a baptism of nineteen people, some of them from the Datooga tribe he has come to love. “That was really a great day,” Forrest says. “The future of the Lake Eyasi area is looking bright. And I don’t think God’s done with our family in Africa yet!”