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Community and Societal Development

How can cross-cultural development workers help communities and societies thrive by following godly principles?

Reflection on Dependency and Replicability

WCIU Journal: Community and Societal Development Topic

April 2, 2019

by Ralph D. Winter

In a January, 1996 Frontier Fellowship meeting, Ralph Winter described a situation he faced in Guatemala in the 1950s and 60s with a medical missionary who refused to train national workers; refused to charge patients a small amount for services so that the work wasn’t wholly dependent on outside funding; refused to do what it would take to make the medical clinic replicable so that thousands of others outside of walking range of the one clinic could also benefit from clinics in their areas. Dr. Winter then had this to say:

Ralph Dana Winter  (1924 – 2009) was an American  missiologist  and  Presbyterian   missionary  who served in Guatemala and helped pioneer Theological Education by Extension, raised the debate about the role of the church and mission structures, and became well known as the advocate for pioneer outreach among unreached people groups. He was the founder of the  U.S. Center for World Mission  (USCWM),  William Carey International University , and the International Society for Frontier Missiology.

Ralph Dana Winter (1924 – 2009) was an American missiologist and Presbyterian missionary who served in Guatemala and helped pioneer Theological Education by Extension, raised the debate about the role of the church and mission structures, and became well known as the advocate for pioneer outreach among unreached people groups. He was the founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM), William Carey International University, and the International Society for Frontier Missiology.

This is the difference between working valiantly, sacrificially, earnestly, effectively night and day in the work of the Lord and being a hero, compared to saying it isn’t of any value for me to be a hero, I’m here to help them. It’s what’s happening to them that counts. Not what happens to me or what people think of me or the clinic or the record that we have. “We’ve got the best clinic in the whole of Central America.” Who cares?

… You cannot believe how many brilliant development ideas will not work. They will give great success to the people who do them; give great things to report about. But if certain external dependencies don’t continue to happen, the whole thing collapses.

This is the kind of critical, realistic thinking that needs to come from this Center [US Center for World Mission, now known as Frontier Ventures]. We must not simply accord with peoples’ preconceived ideas. We’ve got to get back to reality. We’ve got to get out of Pasadena. We’ve got to send more people more places; we’ve got to drag more people in from outside. We’ve got to be very careful that we don’t simply pipe out the same kind of myths that come in from the churches. It’s so easy to say, let’s tell you more about that. We’ve got to tell them that they’re all wrong!

EDITOR’S NOTE: To see an example of “realistic thinking” from outside Pasadena, read the chapter by Ron and Carolyn Klaus, “A Model for Sustainable Transformation: Lessons Learned from Ethiopia” in the WCIU Press edited volume, Agents of International Development and Shalom, pages 157-75.