By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)– A key Asian mission group mourned Sunday, May 24, the death of Ralph Winter the founder of the U.S. Center for World Missions and, later, William Carey International University. He was 84.
The death of Winter, described by Time magazine as one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals in 2005, marks “the passing of a giant from the scene of missions,” said K.P. Yohannan, founder and president of mission group Gospel for Asia.
Winter, who died late Wednesday May 20 of cancer, will be remembered also as someone who changed mission work forever, said Yohannan. “I don’t think there was anyone more significant in the 20th century world of missions or anyone who brought as much change to how missions were strategized than Ralph Winter.”
Yohannan said that before Winter began his work, the focus of missions was on reaching countries–“coloring in the map of individual political entities.” “But Dr. Winter pointed out that when Matthew 24:14 says the Gospel will be preached ‘as a testimony to all nations,’ the Greek word for ‘nations’ is ‘ethnos,’ which means a distinct people group,” the GFA leader said.
“It was a whole new paradigm of missions thinking…We all began to understand that missions
needed to be specific and targeted to reach people groups who had never before heard the Gospel, regardless of what country they lived in. He created a whole world of fresh missions thinking.”
He said Winter had a personal impact on him when he began his Asian mission organization. “When he asked me what percentage of our finances and personnel were invested in reaching unreached people groups, I of course said that it was all for that purpose. But when I came back and researched it, I found that many of those we were supporting were not going to the unreached at all. That’s when I knew our model had to change.”
GFA soon began training native missionaries, including at Bible colleges. Many of them later established churches and evangelized in India among groups such Dalits, seen as the ‘lowest caste’ in India’s ancient system of Hinduism. “We are grateful to God for his faithfulness to the cause of reaching the lost, and our prayers go with [Winter’s] family at this time, ” Yohannan said.