My Tribute to Dr. Ralph Winter


It saddens me report that the great missiologist, mission catalyst, Dr. Ralph D. Winter past away last week, May 20th, 2009.  While this was a full week ago, that week has been spent reflecting on the man of God Dr. Winter was, and the vision he had that propels us as an organization forward in honor of him.

Dr. Winter had become very frail, he named his successor, Dave Datema – former Insight Pasadena Program Director – and dictated a few final articles containing a conclusion to his life of contributions.  Tuesday May 19th, the immediate community was invited in their home to share our appreciation for him, his life, and his work.  At this point we knew it would be soon, but I don’t think anyone expected that soon.  It was an amazing experience for me.  How often does a person get to share with someone they respect so greatly the ways that person has meant to them.  He laid there in a bed, so weak he could barely keep his eyes open.  A few us where there at a time and took turns thanking him and honoring him right there.  This is the man who is responsible for this life of reckless abandonment our family lives.  It is his realization/popularization of unreached people groups that has encapsulated us and changed our life direction for ever.  He is the reason we left comfort and our home to come to California – to inspire others with this same vision.  He is the one who continues to point us back to the glory of God’s throne, where we lay our lives down in obedience and worship him.

The night he died, the community gathered at the house again to encourage the family and praise God for the man of Dr. Winter.  It was a beautiful testimony to the glory of God.

The following day the U.S. Center community gathered around and shared stories of Dr. Winter and the appreciation they had for him.  Some staff members from up to 30+ years back came and shared of first working with Dr. Winter.  There was joy, laughter and funny stories.  There were memories of dear friends and family members.  There was a re-commitment to continue Dr. Winter’s vision.

I shared three stories.  When we first arrived here in Pasadena, for the first almost year (and even at this bed side last week a little bit), Melissa and I were star struck over being in the same room as Dr. Winter.  Here is this man we respected so highly that was just a part of the community.  We didn’t care about Brad Pitt or Kobe Bryant or the possibility of running into other “celebrities,” but we were still shocked to be with Dr. Winter.  We were at the Perspectives National Conference last summer and got to have an extensive prayer time sitting with Dr. & Mrs. Winter.  I remember feeling so privileged to hear the man pray.

At the same time he was personal and approachable.   When we first arrived, families of the U.S. Center had us over to get to know us a little more.  The Winters took us out to a restaurant to eat.  Here we were sitting and eating with them, riding in their car!  Dr. Winter was telling us a story (unfortunately I don’t remember the meat of the story) and he was talking with his hands being animated about the story.  In mid sentence he knocks his water over and spills all over himself.  Mrs. Winter and I get off as she wipes him off and I wipe up the floor, he is still telling his story, not paying attention to the fact his lap is drenched.

My last story for you all is at a weekly meeting we have together listening to missionaries from around the world share about their work.  That night the sound was off and keep cracking very loudly.  The man speaks and as Dr. Winter gets up to pray, we all relax to get in prayer mode, and Dr. Winter imitates the cracking sound in the mic.  We all look up, not knowing what just happened and he did it again and started chuckling.

Dr. Winter is a hero of the faith, and the leader of a new movement in the mission realm.  His vision and focus still astound many, and his articles pierce through issues with such understanding.  He is someone who will be missed dearly, and celebrated for years to come.  I am still in awe that I was fortunate the know the man behind the ideas, heard his prayers, and the concerns of his heart.  May his vision live on.

Let me link you to a few other reports, blogs, and tributes:—2009.html

If you would like to say something about Dr. Winter, either something for his family, or a memorial message – how he influenced you, please comment here or email me directly.


One Response to “My Tribute to Dr. Ralph Winter”

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