Memories of Joan Beer

Known for her quick smile and twinkling eyes, Joan Beer (pronounced Jo-ANN) was always an encouragement, always ready to listen. Jesus was real to her, and He called her Home December 22 at the age of 86. This godly woman was laid to rest on January 5 after an inspiring celebration of the life she lived to the glory of God.

Joan was part of the World Missionary Press family for 48 years. As one staff member wrote, “For those of us who worked with Joan here at World Missionary Press, she cared for us, cried with us, loved on us, gave godly advice, but most importantly, she prayed with us and for us.” She was a ‘mother’ to many besides her own four children.

Ott and Joan Beer were one of several young couples who volunteered once a month at World Missionary Press in its early days in Winona Lake, Indiana. When a new pressman was needed, co-founder Watson Goodman approached them to join the staff. At first Ott just laughed, because he knew nothing about running a printing press. But as Ott and Joan got on their knees by their couch to pray about it, they both knew they would go unless God stopped them.

At first, when they started working in August of 1967 at $1.25 an hour with four young children, their families were not supportive. Ott had to leave his family’s honey business, though he continued to farm 100 acres. Joan said, “People thought we were crazy, but God always provided.” In 1970, just as they were thinking about moving the 20 miles south to Winona Lake, God was leading WMP to relocate in New Paris, where they could grow, so the Beers did not need to sell their farmhouse in New Paris!

Joan worked two days a week in the prepress department so she could be home most days with the children after school. She had worked for a photography studio in Bluffton, Indiana, so she was used to developing photos in a darkroom. “But when Watson taught me to develop plates for the press,” she remembered, “it scared me to know that if I rubbed them too hard after their chemical bath, the image could be wiped off!”

For 48½ years, Joan handled the manuscripts of many Scripture booklets in various languages. Before the days of digital Bibles, she would cut needed verses out of foreign-language Bibles and paste them in order on blank pages for typesetters to copy. In the early days corrections had to be typed, cut out, and pasted with rubber cement over the error, using a light table to align it perfectly. To proofread languages she didn’t know, Joan developed a method of reading the verses backward, comparing them with the Bible text word for word.

What Joan liked best about working at WMP was printing God’s Word and sending it out to the world. “I’ve loved working with people also burdened for the lost and praying with them every day,” she said. One former staff couple shared this memory: “We had never met a couple that were so conscious about people’s souls.”

In 2016, Joan said the hardest thing in her life was to stop working when her husband Ott needed care at home under hospice care. Ott had worked full-time at WMP for 20 years, printing Scripture booklets on ever-bigger and more complicated printing presses as production increased. He had then answered the call to pastor a dynamic church full-time, which he did for 25 years with Joan’s loving support. Ott’s time at WMP took its toll on Ott’s physical body, but in the end he said, “I would do it all again.” Truly, this godly couple stood alongside co-founders Watson and Rose Goodman to provide a solid foundation for the still-thriving worldwide ministry of World Missionary Press.

Joan loved to garden and work with a monthly widows’ group (which she did for 40 years) as well as being involved in the lives of her four children (Kim, Mike, Kelli, and Mark) and their spouses, 12 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. In her ministry application to WMP 54 years ago, Joan had written that knowing Christ personally had given her a desire to have a Christ-centered family. “The most important thing to me is to see that my children have a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as I do, . . . to be a faithful witness for Him in my community or wherever He would have me.” Joan’s delight was in her Lord, and He gave her the desires of her heart.