Christian Endeavor was a significant part of Dr. Ralph Winter’s young life in the family in which he grew up. On April 25, 1997, he received a newsletter entitled “Christian Endeavor World” with a write-up in it entitled “Hungarian Christian Endeavor.” It says that in August of 1996 for two weeks the Hungarian Christian Endeavor Union organizes two English speaking camps as part of their summer Camp Program. Numerous Endeavorers from the British Union accept the invitation and go off to a thrilling experience that helps them know more about what is happening in Hungary as it seeks to build up the work of Christian Endeavor among the young people. In 1989, most of the people who reconstitute the Hungarian Christian Endeavor Union are in their late sixties and early seventies.
The first camp attendees are primarily late teens and early twenties. Their English in some cases is poor but they are determined to give this a try. Would the camp counselors be up to the task? Each day begins with a Hungarian breakfast, morning worship, and a Bible Study with the week’s studies being from the Gospel of John. How would the counselors know if the campers are on their wavelength? First, the counselors have to speak slowly. Second, a group study follows the Bible study and the campers must answer three questions:
- What have we read about God today?
- What have we read about Jesus today?
- What have I read about myself today?
The reports from the campers later in the day give the counselors an idea about how well the message in English is being communicated. Alongside Bible study and worship, the counselors teach songs and choruses in English. The first day is tough but by the third day the counselors are surprised to find out that not only are campers adding to their English but they are asking questions! Every night the counselors prove to themselves with a sing-along and Gospel message that God is at work in these young people’s hearts. They rejoice as campers share testimonies on the last night around the camp fire about what God has been doing in their lives this week. One counselor writes, “[Because] it [has not been] all study, walks, games, a trip along the Danube, [and] bathing in the hot springs,…each night we [go] to bed tired but rejoicing that we…accepted the invitation to take part in their English camps.”
For the second camp, the team of counselors dwindles from five to two. This camp has much younger people as campers. The first camp’s young people had been studying English for a few years in school and college, but the second camp’s young attendees are Juniors just starting in their English studies. The counselors re-plan the program. One of them thanks God for the experiences at Junior camp in Scotland. Based on those, they plan new programs and hope they are effective. By God’s grace they are. Bible lessons are much simpler, each camper learns 12 new English words each day, and games and songs become part of the teaching. The highlight of this camp occurs on a walk in a beautiful forest area in Hungary. Counselors ask campers to collect items to use in the making of a Bible picture. The counselors wonder if the message will in fact reach the young learners. “Amen, it [does], as ‘The House Built on the Rock and Sand,’ ‘Noah and the Ark,’ ‘The Sower,’ and ‘The Burning Bush’…appear before our eyes. The last night [is] marvelous as they [dramatize] ‘The Prodigal Son’ and ‘The Good Samaritan.’” The counselors’ hearts are rejoicing. The Word of God in faltering Scottish/English gets through and they see God in the campers’ lives. It is worth all the tiredness of speaking slowly. Tears are in the young people’s eyes who attend these camps. As they say goodbye, the counselors are glad that God has enabled them in a small way to be His Servants.
Dr. Ralph Winter wrote a letter to a counterpart of his, another mission history professor, on June 8, 2002. This professor had written a letter to Winter and mentions that he teaches about William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Cameron Townsend, Donald McGavran and Winter himself! His focus regarding Townsend is his language emphasis (translating the Bible into every language) and regarding Winter is his “hidden peoples” emphasis that commenced in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974. Winter responds to this writer by clarifying that in 1974, he does not believe he introduced a concept as new as Townsend and McGavran’s, but rather attempted to clarify the statistical implications of what these men did. He says that McGavran’s perspective directed “missions away from unpenetrated groups toward the fostering of ‘people movements to Christ’ within societies already possessing some sort of breakthrough which he called ‘bridges of God.’” By this term, McGavran is referring to one who has sought and found Christ and worships on the fringe of another group of people distinct from his or her own. Winter points out that this perspective caused McGavran to precisely and logically not advocate the unreached peoples movement for years.
Winter goes on to write that McGavran was a loyal friend to him personally but was doubtful about expending limited mission personnel on completely unapproached groups when groups were already penetrated and needed a discipling to the fringes. Townsend emphasized the practical undertaking of translating the Bible, which is happening among already reached groups, but he also highlighted the plight of groups isolated by language differences. The focus here is not as much on church planting as on getting the Word of God into local languages. Winter desires to clarify for this colleague the meaning of the phrase “hidden peoples.” Being aware of the early thinking about bypassed peoples, Winter feels as though the term “unreached” is a poor choice because of how it has subsequently been used in the phrase “unreached people,” which refers to unconverted individuals. The need in the world, however, is about groups who do not have a viable indigenous evangelizing church movement yet. Winter thinks that World Vision is not wise in their definition of an unreached people either, this being that the group is less than 20% Christian.
Winter explains that the official Lausanne Strategy Working Group-backed definition faced immediate opposition globally on the grounds that the term “Christian” is ambiguous between the two absurd terms nominal or born again. “If ‘nominal,’ then many groups would make it as ‘reached’ which really weren’t, or if ‘born again’ then no group in the world would make it as ‘reached.’” For a brief time, the Strategy Working Group felt the pressure to speak of “born again Christians” and had to revise the percentage down to ten, five, and two. In the meantime, people at the U.S. Center for World Mission employed the term “hidden peoples” in all literature. Early in 1982, Ed Dayton of World Vision approached Dr. Winter with a proposal. If he and his staff accepted the term “unreached peoples” and gave up “hidden,” then World Vision would accept the U.S. Center’s “presence-or-absence-of-the-church” definition and would convene a meeting of mission executives suitably representing their groups to endorse that change. The meeting occurred, Winter confirms, in March of 1982 in Chicago and was sponsored by the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies and the Lausanne Committee. The change was official and Winter and his group stopped referring to “hidden” peoples although reluctantly because of the inherent disadvantages Winter sees in the word “unreached.”
On August 11, 1963, Dr. Ralph Winter typed a letter to his parents on his typewriter. He was living in western Guatemala with his wife and four daughters, and his parents were in South Pasadena, California. He begins by writing, “Dear Mother and Daddy, The mail time is coming up and I realize that two days will go by before it is possible again to send a letter.” He has just returned from a Presbytery meeting in San Felipe on the hot coast. He slept in a dorm room at the new Seminary. One afternoon rain storm was so fierce that his stuff, which was ten feet away from a window that was only open a quarter of an inch, got wet. Thirty five men packed into a very small room without windows that looked like a shack for 6-hour sessions per day. They had to close the only door when the pouring rain diminished hope of conversation. Winter is glad to be home in San Juan Ostuncalco.
Dr. Winter and his helpers are working on constructing church benches for the Quiche Bible Institute. They have asked for seventy two. The need is to get an advance on the order quickly and to purchase $350 or $450 worth of more equipment just for this order. Winter and his crew will clear only $150 on this order, yet will then be in good condition to take further orders up to 400 more for Guatemala alone. Winter says, “Our prices are about half what others charge and the market is very extensive considering Central America with its 500 churches.” The next project along the lines of supplies is communion trays. This may sound silly to his parents, but there is a crying need for them. At this time, even the best churches have crummy ones and the small communion glasses cannot be made in Guatemala. Extra equipment will be useful for various other projects as well.
At a meeting the night before, two fellows suggested out of the blue that they want to take on resurrecting a little church up the mountain as a project. Winter is quite happy about this. Six poor men are eating on their own in the town and, Winter writes in pen in the margin, the families with whom they eat are getting tired of them. Now Winter and others want to open a small restaurant as a model business for the locals. “We already have the place, right on the square in town, and with a little corrugated iron roofing over an interior patio and a few utensils they’ll be in business—for their own needs and others. Also a washing center” [is needed in this location.] Winter acknowledges that all of this will take time. At the moment, he is writing an article for the Guatemala News while his wife Roberta is struggling with Sunday school lessons. They are also planning the September 15th exhibit in the national fair, so due to all that is going on, they may have to postpone coming home in November or December rather than October.