A Unique Theological Education Consultation

On October 9, 1978, Dr. Ralph Winter was written a letter by his friend who at this time was in Geneva, Switzerland with the World Council of Churches, Unit on Faith and Witness, Programme on Theological Education. The top of the letter has Dr. Winter’s name on it, but the salutation reads “Dear Colleague.” Three entities plan to have a small consultation on “New Approaches to Leadership Development” on January 9th and 10th of 1979 at the Cook School in Tempe, Arizona. The three groups are the Cook Christian Training School, the Ecumenical Team for Continuing Education, and the Programme on Theological Education. This letter is to inform Winter about the event and to invite him to participate or suggest others who should be invited as well. Winter is one of twenty persons this letter is sent to and he suggests one gentleman as noted in his handwriting on the back.

There are various concerns that will converge and that cause the occasion to be a challenging one. The writer says, “Cook School has recently taken far-reaching initiatives in the development of theological education by extension programs among Native American peoples, and they will be holding a curriculum workshop in conjunction with the consultation (January 11-13).” The Ecumenical Team will hold its regular meeting at this same time to learn from Cook School and other programs of theological education that will be represented. Individuals representing several innovative programs both in North America (mainly Native American) and elsewhere (the Third World) are invited to give case studies at this consultation, which will think about the possibilities and problems these experiences might present for the development of leaders among minority and majority cultures in the United States and Canada.

A gentleman at the Cook School in Tempe will coordinate the activities and send out more information, so the writer states that he will give him the names of the twenty recipients of this letter. He is sad to mention they do not have funds to cover everyone’s transportation costs, only the speakers’. He writes, “If you can attend the consultation, may I ask you to stay on through January 12 in order to form part of a working group to [address] issues and strategies for the development of theological education by extension and other alternatives in the North American context.” The writer concludes by asking the persons to advise the coordinator of their interest and to kindly allow this writer to have a copy of their letters to the coordinator.

People Can Serve God At Every Age!

Ralph and Roberta Winter were on the Board of Administration of a ministry known as SERVE, which stands for Sending Experienced Retired Volunteers Everywhere. The purpose of SERVE was to mobilize retired persons into short-term mission, and this group distributed a pamphlet in the summer of 1995. It explains how SERVE was created, saying that the growing number of retirees within and without the Presbyterian Church provides a great resource of qualified people to serve in a mission role short-term. SERVE encourages ministers, missionaries and lay people to be a part of world evangelization in the United States and abroad. “When volunteers return to their home churches after short-term service, they are better equipped to assist the local parish in strategic outreach and to inspire others to participate in this ministry and also to consider long term mission.” SERVE partners with mission minded Presbyterian and reformed groups, mission agencies and parachurch entities to recruit volunteers into short-term mission opportunities. The first track followed is to match volunteers with short-term openings based on their experience and choices of geographic area and time duration. The second track followed is in developing projects and staffing.

SERVE has a variety of functions. They recruit volunteers for mission service that is short-term. They maintain a database of the short-term opportunities and volunteers available. They match the short-term mission volunteers with suitable opportunities nationally and internationally. They cooperate with Presbyterian and reformed denominations and mission agencies. They assist in developing short-term mission projects. They network, provide training and orientation, and follow up at the conclusion of the service. The mission of SERVE is to mobilize the growing number of older Presbyterians and others, both clergy and lay people, toward short-term mission. “SERVE recognizes the many opportunities for short term mission activity throughout the world and the diverse strengths and skills retired people can provide in these situations.”

The vision that inspired SERVE happened when a Presbyterian leader observed in mission conferences the many Presbyterians who responded to his invitation to serve God short term on a mission field. He consulted with Ralph Winter and a couple of others about the need to mobilize the increasing resource of qualified pensioners into mission. The reply to begin this specialized ministry was enthusiastic. Following focused prayer and discussion, SERVE was born in April of 1993. The ministry at first cooperated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and then expanded to work with other reformed denominations and mission agencies. The volunteer staff of SERVE are deeply committed to missions. Short-term opportunities call for many tasks besides the traditional skills of ministers and missionaries. “Examples are accountants, administrators, attorneys, carpenters, communication and computer specialists, construction personnel, doctors, electricians, engineers, mechanics, nurses, paramedics, teachers, technicians, and other support personnel.” The time duration varies from a few weeks to several years. SERVE is incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania and is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization by the IRS. A SERVE fellowship is being planned for those desiring to participate in this ministry as prayer partners and supporting members. The pamphlet concludes by stating that contributions to SERVE are IRS deductible.


Dr. Winter’s Thoughts About Mission Education

Dr. Ralph Winter wrote an “Executive Summary” in 2002 that is focused on the state of mission education. He begins by explaining that for ten years, the U.S. Center for World Mission has been involved in one of the most extensive projects that has been tough to work on, and that is rewriting, enriching and restructuring the whole college and seminary curriculum. He poses the question of why a mission center would undertake this sort of project? The answer he offers is that “the university tradition that now blankets the earth tears into tiny course-sized fragments the reality of God and His Creation and even the human story.” These fragments prevent the average believer from ever seeing the complete picture. So Winter and his staff have felt that there are numerous reasons for putting the picture back together and making sure the result reflects properly the Biblical emphasis upon God and His mission to the world. While Winter is excited about the 50,000 students who have gone through the Perspectives Study Program by this year, a single course is only a drop in the bucket compared to what ought to be done. He is tired of trying to add to, patch up and reintegrate existing college and seminary courses. What needs to be done could not be accomplished by just adding another course like Perspectives. So Winter and his team decide to invade the mainstream curriculum of the liberal arts with proper content and perspective as they see it, teaching everything traditional to college and seminary (except for vocational specialties) and doing so with a broad global mission perspective that encompasses 4,000 years.

Yet one small university like William Carey International University in Pasadena, CA could do very little to impact the many students daily emerging from other schools. What benefit would be there to one specialized university offering a new mix of basic education, Winter asks. It could only be achieved in partnership with other schools. The idea is to sell this new boldly rebuilt curriculum to Christian colleges in hopes that they will enroll a large numbers of students. Winter writes, “Early on we received the unexpected request from Wycliffe’s new Language Survey department to employ a modified version of our graduate curriculum for those mission candidates who have only two years of college.” Since the material Winter’s people have prepared has linguistics and cultural anthropology as strong subjects which seminary curricula leave out, this connection with Wycliffe seems like an ideal bridge to a college degree for said candidates, and even more if they complete their study on the field! So the “Degree Completion” program has been instated at the time of this writing and Winter is enthusiastic about it impacting not only Wycliffe but other mission agencies too. It provides opportunities for thousands of mission-minded believers in their late 20s and early 30s who work in local churches for a mission cause but are hindered by not having a college degree, nor the solid knowledge that would enable them to be missionaries or mission mobilizers at a higher level.

Winter has to wonder if enough Christian colleges will take up the new curriculum and really make a difference to the mission world? How will this type of study program be available to field missionaries, Third World missionaries and national pastors? Winter says, “Could this also substitute for seminary in many fields where very few pastors have adequate training of any kind?” Could it be abridged for first-year college students? Yes, what this all means is that striking new, incredible events can now be talked through and are in the offing. Winter is glad that various mission leaders and executives he knows of are joining the discussions about this World Christian Foundations study program. Praise be to God!

PSP Reader

Ralph Winter’s Guatemala Years

On Saturday morning, January 9, 1965, the Los Angeles Times had an article with the title “Factories for Guatemala Sought by Missionary” with the subtitle “Minister Praises Climate in Highlands, Describes Rural Work Among Indians.” The writer introduces Dr. Ralph Winter by quoting him saying the highlands of Guatemala has the best labor market north of the equator. Winter is identified as an anthropologist, linguist and ordained United Presbyterian minister who has worked in Guatemala for eight years after his one year in Costa Rica. He tells his interviewer, “…there is an industrialists’ gold mine in Guatemala in low-pay, high-quality labor.” Winter goes on to mention the weather, claiming that it is just as perfect at an 8,000 foot elevation in the mountains as it is in Southern California, where he was born and raised. At the time this article was written, the Winters were visiting his parents, Hugo and Hazel Winter, in South Pasadena for the holidays, having arrived after 80 hours of driving from Guatemala in the family’s station wagon. Winter, an alumnus of Caltech with an engineering degree, shares that for time and financial reasons, the family drives straight through with two drivers taking turns, one driving while the other sleeps. Amazingly, the road is black-topped all the way from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to South Pasadena! Next, the writer reviews Winter’s educational background: studies at Princeton and Fuller Theological Seminaries, the universities of Michigan and Oklahoma and a doctorate in linguistics at Cornell University. In 1956, the former Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) appointed him to Guatemala, “but with the disfavor attached to the word ‘missionary’ in some foreign countries, he is now listed as a ‘fraternal worker’ with much of his time spent among the Mam Indians.”

The Mam Indians are a tribe of 250,000 members and are descended from the Mayans. They already had their language reduced to writing and had a New Testament in their language for a long time by the time the Winters arrived. Yet the Winters work equally with Guatemalans of both European and Indian descent. The programs they established are open to anyone interested. Their area of the mountains is brisk, hilly and dry, therefore limiting agriculture and making industrialization the only feasible way forward. So the Winters have actively pushed for it in the last five years. Factories were set up in the region to test the Indians’ aptitude for the work, and the results were pleasing. “The only real difficulty they have is the bias against them—because they are Indians—when they go to the capital to sell things,” Winter states. The Winters on many occasions have had to be intermediaries between productive Indians and the market place they face. One policy that has been set up is for an Indian working in a factory to retain his hold on a piece of land, even the smallest parcels, and Winter is proud of this fact in the lives of the Indians. So the factory workers increase their income with labor. Winter admires these people for being independent, practical, very different from other Latin Americans, and pragmatic when solving life’s problems. He strives to engage in gospel work as he engages in rural development work. The National Presbyterian Church of Guatemala has 15,000 committed members in a population of 3.5 million. But 60,000 have access to Presbyterian churches in their locations.

The Winters have a variety of areas they are focusing on while working in their rural region. These include helping to establish public schools that are funded privately, medical work due to Mrs. Winter being a registered nurse, running small plants, and establishing credit unions. Winter indicates that of course their goal is to plant churches as well. The writer quotes him, “We find that the most important thing is to gather people together weekly and renew and reinforce their hopes and aspirations. We feel that the church network provides a solid background for our other activities.” One result Winter hopes for from the partial industrialization of the mountain country is that progressive Indians will stay in the highlands where they would rather live. He thinks that progressive people emigrating in search of work badly affects society as a whole. The article concludes with the announcement that Dr. Winter will only speak publicly once while in Southern California on Sunday evening at Bel Air Presbyterian Church.