|Taken from http://www.ralphwinter.org/autobiography/
In our society the unbending social concensus, the pervasive conviction, is that, in order to grow up right, during their first 24 years, people need to be incarcerated in little square rooms and battered over the head with books full of facts irrelevant at that age. Now if you subtract those lost years, 24, from my present age, 78 you get 54 years. That is, these last 54 years are the main productive period of my life.
I early caught on to the fact that I could learn more, learn faster and retain longer by directly concerning myself with the concerns of God for His Kingdom and for His righteousness. That is to say, I was an early believer. The will of God in this imperfect world was central early in my thinking. Thus, during those early typically unprofitable years I did think of a maze of things that ought to happen, and I worked in my spare time to make some of them become real.
For example, the Navy did me a favor by paying for some of my education, helping me finish Caltech debt free. It then gave me some very practical training in Pre-flight school to become a fighter pilot on an aircraft carrier. However, the war ended just before I finished Pre-flight school and so I never got out of California during those two and a half years in the Navy.
An example of something I did out of school hours was when I was 23 and still in school at Princeton Seminary. I initiated a stream of tentmakers going to Afghanistan to teach English. Meanwhile I was using up the last of my wartime GI Bill tuition to acquire a Ph.D. in linguistics in order to go to Afghanistan myself. By this time I was married and we both were eager to do this, even though our finally going did not quite work out. Recently my wife and I attended the annual “Kabul Reunion” at which about 50 veterans of this long-standing effort in Afghanistan gathered to fellowship together.
I had accepted Christ when a “chalk talk” evangelist somehow got into the Sunday School of a fairly liberal Presbyterian church in Highland Park . As an early teen I confirmed that decision at a huge “Christian Endeavor” conference held in the Long Beach Civic Auditorium. Bob Munger, a young pastor at that time, led the decision service. Later, when I was 15 my par- ents felt they had t 80 o move from a denomination that had formally given up the highly Evangelical Chris- tian Endeavor movement to a church that embraced that movement. Little did they know that Lake Ave Church would not long after hire a full time youth pastor who had to stand up in front of the group instead of letting young people lead the meeting, and so the incredible, ecumenical Christian Endeavor movement was phased out at the Lake Avenue Church , too. In any case, by this time my whole family was already at Lake Avenue and really liked it. My father soon became a trustee and was one of those opposed going into debt for the removal of the “ Corner Church ” and the building of the present “Chapel.”
[He was not against doing it, he was just against going into debt to do it. At that moment in Lake Avenue history the church moved from where 50% of the budget was going to missions down to 33% for missions. When the current sanctuary was built, again with even more massive debt, our mission budget declined to 18%, and now it is even lower.]
A major new element in my life began at Lake Avenue where I first encountered Dawson Trotman and Charles E. Fuller. My life was turned around into an intense commitment, which involved and was then fueled by memorizing 500 verses in the Bible during a period both before and after enlistment in the Navy.
Back in those days just after the war Lake Avenue was in a rather hazy relation to any denomination and so after teaching and studying at Westmont (on top of a Caltech degree earned during the war), and studying both at Princeton Seminary and Fuller Seminary, and getting my Ph.D. (at Cornell, combining cultural anthropology, linguistics and mathematical statistics), my wife and I went back to Princeton Seminary to finish up and be ordained as a Presbyterian missionary.