A Legacy of Lifelong Learning
In this series of TEAM Ministry Updates, we’re sharing stories that highlight each of TEAM’s defining values. The following narrative is shared by Barry Winchell, a second-generation TEAM global worker who served in the U.S. and Italy and now acts as one of TEAM’s Regional Executive Directors. Barry shares this story as a beautiful iteration of “Lifelong Learning.”
When I reflect on TEAM’s value of Lifelong Learning my thoughts tend to consider the future and how we need to keep learning and growing as we move into the days to come. Imagine my amazement when I recently encountered this value from a more historic perspective and personal experience!
Newlyweds on a New Adventure
It was July 14, 1982, when my wife Dawn and I entered Brooklyn, NY for the first time in our ‘76 Chevy. The vehicle contained all our earthly possessions and a boatload of wonder, anxious thoughts, dreams, and questions about what this new ministry was going to hold. We had only been married a couple of weeks and headed to Brooklyn only because the Lord had closed every other door I had tried to go through (some of which I tried very hard to keep from closing). What did I know about urban ministry in one of America’s most famous and infamous places? Nevertheless, the Lord had His way, and off we went to serve with the First Evangelical Free Church of Brooklyn.
What an amazing, personally challenging, and fruitful experience He had in store for us! In fact, this experience shaped us so deeply that our cross-cultural destination for ministry changed from Africa, where I had been born as a TEAM missionary kid, to Europe. (Incidentally, Dawn had anticipated her cross-cultural ministry would be in Europe, having been deeply influenced by global workers from TEAM who served in France. But I digress.)
Dawn and I knew how important it was for us to get ministry experience in our own country before trying to replicate that in another part of the world. And speaking of another part of the world, Brooklyn was anything but what we knew our country to be. I still believe we suffered more culture shock going to Brooklyn than we ever did when we eventually made it to Italy. That was primarily because we did not expect it! In many ways, it was a whole new world we had to learn, or rather, a whole new world we got to learn! And learn we did!
Recently, we went back to that same church where we still enjoy lifelong friendships. I was asked to share about our current ministry with TEAM. My mind went immediately to two places. First, to TEAM’s Mission Statement: We partner with the Global Church to send disciples who make disciples and establish missional churches to the glory of God. Secondly, to TEAM’s founder Fredrik Franson. I knew that TEAM was founded in Brooklyn, NY, but I didn’t realize that Franson’s vision and this local church are inseparably tied.
Franson was born in Sweden but raised in Nebraska where he was saved as a young adult. His gifting as an evangelist and teacher were soon discovered and he was later commissioned by Moody Church as an evangelist. As he ministered in Scandinavia and Germany, Franson heard the call of Hudson Taylor for 1,000 missionaries to go to China. Franson personally committed to sending 100 of those. Franson returned to the United States, and on October 14, 1890, he held his first Bible course at Pilgrim Church in Brooklyn. Of the 50 young people who attended, 16 would be included in the first party to sail to China.
Franson was also one of the founders of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The First Evangelical Free Church of Brooklyn, where we had served, was the first of these established in that borough! The church originated as an outreach to Scandinavian immigrants who came to work on the docks and as domestic servants. The Lord richly blessed that outreach and the church flourished to the point of having two distinct congregations: a Norwegian-speaking congregation and an English-speaking congregation. Out of this local body of believers, three generations from the same family were sent, loved, and supported as TEAM global workers in China!
Lifelong Learning Comes Full Circle
As I stood before the English-speaking congregation that day some 40 years since our start in ministry, and over 130 years since Franson first landed in that city, I looked out at a congregation that is now majority Chinese in its makeup. The church hosts a Chinese-speaking congregation as well.
The Lifelong Learning lesson I shared with that church on that day was this: The fact that there is a Chinese congregation that meets in this church, and that there are so many Chinese believers here in this very service today is a tribute and a legacy to the ministry of the pioneers who went from here in Brooklyn to China, not only 130 years ago, but also during more than a century of faithful ministry of this church.
Today, as TEAM sits poised on a new era of global ministry – where God is raising up workers from everywhere, to everywhere, we continue to learn and adapt to a role as “partner” rather than “pioneer.” What started with 16 Americans in a Brooklyn church is now a collaborative effort of resourcing and empowering the global Church to reach the nations.
May our lives and our ministry ever reflect a life of learning of both what God has done and what He has yet to do as we join Him in partnering with the Global Church to send disciples who make disciples and establish missional churches for the glory of God.
5 CommentsLeave a comment
Thanks, Barry and Dawn, for your testimony, tied to the history of TEAM. What a blessing you guys have been in EFCA and TEAM. We hope Barry is doing better with his health. We are doing well.
Phil and Ann Schwab
How wonderful to read of your church in Brooklyn. We just got home from Long Island where we enjoyed re-connecting with our supporting churches. What a joy to belong to the family of God! Each one doing their part in bringing the Good News to the nations!
thabk you for the profound information
Well articulated. Thanks for your faithful service. And thanks for letting me have a front row seat all these years.
Thanks so much for this great reflection on God`s ways in missions! The Lord does truly have such wonderful ways of reaching the nations!
It has been a pleasure to work with you guys in Italy and enjoying our lifelong friendship as a result of our time together. May He continue to use you!