Editor’s note: The following are select tributes to Dr. Ralph D. Winter as they appeared in the May-August 2009 issue of Mission Frontiers, the bulletin of the U.S. Center for World Mission (www.uscwm.org). Winter passed away on May 20, 2009, after a long battle with cancer. He was 84.
U.S. Director, Frontiers
In October 2007 I sat with many others who had gathered to hear whatever Dr. Winter would talk about. We would have heard him speak on any issue, but when he had been introduced Dr. Winter said, “If you have a burning question, I’d like to hear it; I may not be able to help, but I like to work on burning questions.” The reason I wrote his words down and am looking at my note today is because I think this was the essential Dr. Winter. So often, such as in Guatemala when Dr. Winter proposed what became known as Theological Education by Extension, he was a social engineer offering solutions to problems that everyone around him was facing.
As there were no burning questions that day, Dr. Winter proceeded to wow us with his prepared remarks. But the tribute Dr. Winter would like is not that we would be wowed, but that we would follow him, follow him in being students of the Bible as though we could change the world. Some people see things as they are and ask, “Why?”; Dr. Winter dreamed things that never were and said, “Why not?”
David J. Cho
Founder, Asian Missions
It was 1971 at the Green Lake Conference; I met Dr. Ralph D.Winter to invite him to Seoul for All-Asian Mission Leaders Consultation, 1973. Since then, I was associated with him and constantly kept up until he was called to his heavenly home. He was my mentor and consultant for network development of missionary leadership in the non-Western world. He was always with me to form AMA (Asia Missions Association), TWMA (Third World Missions Association), and the establishment of the East-West Center for Missions Research & Development. He even played an important role to build a bridge between the United States and North Korea for my Peace Mission to North Korea. In 2006, he was with me at the Ephesus Conference of AMA and in 2008 at Bangkok Forum of the Asian Society of Missiology with his wife. His prophetic voice was always amazing, so creative, and unforgettable. He was really my giant hero.
Yong J. Cho
International Director, Global
Network of Mission Structures
When I came to prepare for the AMA Convention in Pasadena in 1986, I met a man with a giant heart. Although I knew about Dr. Winter before, I came to know a true man who lived with his words in a wartime lifestyle. He wholeheartedly understood the position of non-Western mission leaders and supported them by any means. When I was asking permission to make a Philippine edition of the Global Prayer Digest, he was so happy about it and gave a full right to use it without asking any copyright. Recently, when I was considering accepting the role of International Director of Global Network of Mission Structures, Dr. Winter persuaded me to take the position because it would be historically significant. When we visited Japan together to promote the Tokyo 2010Global Mission Consultation and Celebration, he clearly presented the significance of the conference to the Japanese Christian leaders and they agreed.
Dr. Winter’s thoughts were always challenging, his ideas were brilliant, but more than that his heart was always with the non-Western Christians for the cause of global mission. He will be really happy to see Tokyo 2010 going well.
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA
Dr. Ralph Winter was a man whose convictions and passions reflected the heart of God as expressed in Luke chapter 15 for the least, the last and the lost. His words and life challenged the rest of us to open our hearts to love and our lives to serve the often ignored unreached and unengaged people groups of the earth. Because he shared our commitment and pioneering spirit, it was natural for Wycliffe USA’s Board of Directors to extend honorary membership in Wycliffe to Ralph more than a decade ago-he was, after all, an extraordinary champion for Bible translation and an enthusiastic missionary for those who are marginalized and still waiting for Scripture. We will miss his insight and vision.
President, Youth With A Mission
On behalf of our founders, Loren and Darlene Cunningham, and the whole international family of ministries associated with Youth With A Mission, I join with followers of Jesus worldwide in honoring the life and work of Ralph Winter.
I was present when Ralph introduced his revolutionary ideas during the historic Lausanne Congress in 1974 and personally witnessed the pioneering of the U.S. Center for World Mission in Pasadena. I have also observed the profound influence of his life and teaching on the work of YWAM missionaries worldwide.
Many years ago during a time when Ralph faced seemingly insurmountable difficulties, I told him I thought he was a prophet disguised as an academic. He dismissed such an idea but my reason was simple. I could see the Holy Spirit at work. A man of humility and diligence was being graced with revelation. Ralph’s ideas were much more than the educated hunches of a brilliant mind. His ideas were refined in prayer and bore a weight beyond reason. They became the effective strategies of a generation of missionaries.
Just a few weeks ago, Ralph and Barbara visited our campus in Kona. He was as brilliant as ever and gave context to our whole journey. He validated so much of what is happening among us by giving an historic overview of our efforts and looking far into the future. He had particular praise for Jim Stier’s compilation on the discipling of nations. Ralph profoundly strengthened our commitment to a missionary university that penetrates all spheres.
Years ago, Ralph stepped onto the international stage as a pioneer and innovator, however he walked among us in Kona as a father of fathers surrounded by the evidence of a fruitful life. We love this man. He taught us, and he served us, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.
As I contemplate his recent passing, I am overwhelmed with a sense that his life was a completed life. Through unrelenting diligence, he walked all the way out to the boundaries marked out for him.
Thank you Ralph. You are an inspiration. Thank you Jesus, for taking a comfortable civil engineer and building him into a blessing to the whole earth, a man who laid foundations in time and eternity.
Jesus Film Project,
Campus Crusade for Christ
Just wanted you to know that we will be praying for you and the whole family during this time. Ralph was a tremendous encouragement to me from the time I came on the Lausanne Committee at 30 years old. When I asked him for endorsements for the JESUS Film and many of the other projects I was involved in, he was always very gracious. I continue to feel the impact of his life. My own personal commitment, if the Lord permits, is to see every people group in the world engaged with evangelism and church planting in the next 10 years.
International Director, Pioneers
On behalf of the international leadership of Pioneers, I want you to know that we share in the sorrow of the passing of our brother, Dr. Ralph Winter. At the same time, we give thanks for his incredible life of dedicated service in the Name of Christ and on behalf of the gospel which has inspired a generation and movement of the Global Church to focus on unreached peoples-to send and be sent. Among those so influenced were my parents Ted & Peggy Fletcher, the founders of Pioneers, who were living in Southern California near the newly established U.S. Center for World Mission, immediately prior to starting Pioneers. Both Ralph and Roberta Winter were a source of steady encouragement to them, to “reach the unreached” and to stay focused on those places and people of greatest spiritual need and least opportunity to hear and be saved.
We will be praying for the Winter family, as well as the fellowship of the U.S. Center for World Mission, as you grieve this immense loss and continue wholeheartedly in the challenge of your on-going work as single-minded advocates for the unreached.
Director, Mission Korea
All mission leaders and Perspectives graduates in Korea, including those of us with Mission Korea, are deeply sorrowful over Dr. Winter’s passing away. While his influence on world missions was extraordinary to everyone in the world, his impact on Korean missionaries and Mission Korea was truly remarkable. Dr. Winter was one of the first persons to introduce the concept of missions mobilization to the Korean Church as he spoke about Unreached People and missions mobilization at the Mission Korea conference in 1992. And his perspectives played a crucial role in the rapid growth and development of the Mission Korea movement for the past two decades. When I met Dr. Winter in 1998, he suggested to me that an umbrella organization like Mission Korea should introduce the Perspectives program to Korea. As a result, nearly two hundred Perspectives classes have been held in Korea for the past eight years and about ten thousand Christians have effectively been trained and challenged for missions. Dr. Winter had fully understood the importance of mobilizing young adults. He had always been proud of the Mission Korea conferences as a collaborative missions mobilization effort for Korean young adults and he encouraged me whenever we met.
For decades, Dr. Winter’s wisdom on non-Western missions provided much encouragement and challenge for the newly emerging missionary-sending nations like Korea. Nobody could deny the fact that Dr. Winter had a special love for the future and development of non-Western missions, although he himself was a Western missions leader. He persevered and endured to finish the unfinished task through his creative thinking and many practical recommendations. He was an excellent example for any missionary. I personally experienced my thinking and perspective changing each time I met Dr. Winter. He visited Korea two years ago and he spoke to a group of Perspectives graduates. When someone asked how he could remain so successful in his ministry, Dr. Winter replied, “Everything depends on how consistently USCWM partners and I are connected to God on a daily basis.” Now, Dr. Winter is at home with the Lord at all times. May the Lord bless his soul!
Director, TIMO, AIM International
I received your note of Dr. Winter’s promotion through my connection with CrossGlobal Link. I just wanted to mention that we, as the TIMO (Training In Ministry Outreach) program of the Africa Inland Mission, are deeply indebted to Dr. Winter. It was at a “World Consultation on Frontier Missions” in Edinburgh in 1980, Dr. Dick Anderson, then the International Director of AIM, met with Dr. Winter and basically asked him, if he were starting a strategic outreach to the unreached, how would he do it. Dr. Anderson took his ideas and TIMO has come out of that. Today, TIMO is being used of God within AIM as its main means of getting in amongst the unreached across the African continent, while effectively training new workers (both African and international) to effectively impact their host communities with the gospel message. Beyond AIM, TIMO is partnering with other mission organizations as well as indigenous African churches and missions to run teams. As well as being blessed by his writings, we exist, partially because of his input. We are grateful to God for his life!
Mission to Unreached Peoples
I first met Dr. Winter in 1980 in Scotland where he introduced the concept of Hidden Peoples based on Matt. 24:14. I went back home to my newly-created mission agency and re-named it Mission to Unreached Peoples in light of God’s perspective on the “nations” of the world. Since that time, our focus has been to take the gospel to every nation through every means possible.
The Perspectives course that came out of the USCWM has also had a profound impact on my life. I have used it in several of its versions to impact the countries in which I’ve lived and the churches I have attended.
Dr. Winter was a humble man of God who changed the focus of missions in our generation. We started with 16,750 unreached people groups and we’ve checked off many of those peoples in the past 30 years. May God give us the grace to finish the job so we can all go be with Jesus just like our dear brother is doing right now!
India Missions Association
I led a team of 10 people, from several countries, in a discipleship group to study Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Our study group read a chapter a week and met to discuss our discovery on that chapter. We shared many great perspectives, which we richly learned, and we missed almost nothing. Then we prayed for missions across the world. All our books were marked with highlighters of the things that affected us. I believe that eventually our Perspectives books were perhaps the most highlighted books in the world. We were affected much by the thoughts in the articles, especially Dr. Winter’s. I ended up quoting them in many of my writings. Almost all the people in that study group ended up as missionaries or great mission mobilizers and great friends across the world.
Subsequently, the article on Sodality and Modality, the connection and balance between mission organizations and the churches made much sense. The thoughts on the insider movements and Hindu Christians made much sense. I was nourished on many of his revolutionary thoughts and grew to appreciate his writings as an admirer, even before I met him personally.
I found Winter was creating more thinkers by his books, articles, the William Carey International University, the U.S. Center for World Mission, and by his influencing, enthusiastic talks, both in the lectures and also in individual conversation. After speaking to him, I found my thoughts provoked and it always took time to digest.
Hosting cutting-edge missionaries and mission organizations in the USCWM campus allowed multiple thinkers and practitioners to meet and sharpen each other. I found that people can never be indifferent to many great mission thoughts after being in the USCWM or reading Winter’s thoughts in all his writings or speaking engagements. This was a real inspiration for me.
Meeting and dialoguing with him on several occasions as an evangelist, a mission leader, and as the leader of the Indian Missions Association brought many subjects to be discussed. He genuinely admired and encouraged the emerging missions in the Global South. He always openly said, “What the Western Protestant missions have done in 300 years, the Indian missions (and other non-Western missionary sending nations) have done in 30 years.” Whenever he said that I squirmed, as I was aware of the many difficult issues we were grappling with. Of course, he was also aware of them too as similar issues were dealt by the Western missions in their eras.
He was one of the first individual donors to give a sizable gift to the Vision City of India Missions Association, which is designed with a similar purpose of the USCWM to stimulate missions thinkers for Asia and eventually for the globe. He understood the direction of the Vision City, and whenever we met, there was warmth of appreciation for each other.
He also encouraged his other disciples to interact with each other and learn. He continuously listened and learned and created a culture of learning. I, personally, will miss a great friend and a thought provoker. Though I will not be able to attend all the great gatherings, I will listen and read his thoughts being quoted by many of his beneficiaries, as the greatest spokesman for mission in this century.
Our deep condolences to all his family members and co-workers in the USCWM. May his vision continue to grow in many ways. Amen.
U.S. Director, SIM
Ralph Winter’s impact on the World Christian Movement has probably been greater than any other person in our generation, with the possible exception of Billy Graham. He shaped and popularized some of our most basic missiological ideas. For me personally, my life was changed when I heard him speak at Lausanne 1974. His presentation of unreached peoples and E-1, E-2, E-3 evangelism challenged me to think about the direction of my life and to elevate reaching the unreached to the top of what I wanted my life to be all about. I’m sure Dr. Winter’s impact on my life has been repeated thousands of times over. The World Christian Movement will miss Dr. Winter’s creativity and ability to popularize and communicate core biblical and missiological truth. We praise God for allowing us to have experienced the life and thinking of Ralph Winter.
Founder, Operation Mobilization
We as a movement, Operation Mobilization, are so thankful that Ralph came into our lives. His love and esteem and willingness to sit down and talk was a blessing and encouragement. We will never forget his visit to our International Offices, which at that time were where I live in London, England. He came like a tornado out of heaven in his unique style and message. He was so ready to think and pray out of the box and his contribution to reaching the unreached is beyond calculation. To our God be the glory.
On the Web
For more tributes or to write your own reflection, go to: www.ralphwinter.org