Founder Karen Alexander likes to say that Come before Winter began in the mind of God and through the prayers of those with understanding. She does not count herself in that number. When she first thought of a mission to serve ministry leaders around the world, Karen had virtually no missions experience. A stateside Bible class teacher, speaker, and ministry leader, Karen could hardly have boasted about her missions resume, which included only one week-long mission trip a few weeks earlier.
CbW hosted its first renewal in Campinas, Brazil, in July, 2001. Twenty-six participants, missionaries from Brazil and Chile and a Brazilian Christian magazine editor, attended. In addition to Karen, the nine-member team included four other CbW contributors who helped to form the ministry:
- Karen Goudeau Fenter, board member and former missionary to Campo Grande, Brazil
- Jeanene Reese, now associate professor of Bible, Abilene Christian University
- Suzy Jeffrey, long-time leadership team member. Suzy, a member of The Hills Church of Christ and of that congregation’s mission team, prayed for months for ways to sustain and encourage missionaries on the field prior to receiving an invitation to participate. (Read why we believe those prayers were heard and are being answered through Come before Winter).
- Heather Hammock, who had trained for mission work with Great Cities Missions, has served CbW in various roles, including three years as Vice President of Operations.
Almost two months after the Campinas renewal, the events of September 11 threatened to shut down the ministry due to difficulties involving international travel, but in early 2002 invitations to Albania and Greece, followed shortly by another to Italy, kick-started a worldwide ministry.
Come before Winter currently hosts two renewals a year for English-speaking women in a cycle that rotates through eight “regions” of the world every four years. To date we have circled the globe five times with as many different curricula (Mark, Philippians, Psalms, Exodus, and Matthew). We are working on our sixth curriculum, a study of Habakkuk.
Since we began in 2001, God has also expanded the ministry to include:
- Renewals for men
- International Development Seminars (training for non-English-speaking ministers)
Good news travels fast. In 2003, two years after our first renewal, we began receiving regular requests from men and women to host events for men. We repeatedly heard the questions: “Have you ever considered hosting events for men? Do you know of anything like this, anywhere, for men?”
In 2004, the board agreed to pursue the possibility if a viable “driver” emerged—a leader and minister who believed in the mission and program and was capable and willing to take on the huge tasks of recruitment, curriculum writing, and directing. Though many men inquired, the task seemed too large to attempt.
Ten years later, in December of 2014, the man came forward. He knew the ministry as well as any man could and believed in both its mission and program. Shane Alexander, son of founder Karen Alexander, accepted the position of men’s program manager after leading the first men’s renewal in Thailand in June 2016. The renewal was attended by participants from 11 countries, including Pakistan, India, Russia, China, Japan, Cambodia, Philippines, South Korea, Laos, Singapore and Thailand. A second men’s renewal was hosted in Filzmoos, Austria, in May 2017.
International Development Seminars:
The idea to launch CbW’s International Development Seminar program came in 2003 when missionaries LaVonne Norville and Becky Payne requested that we offer training in biblical studies, similar to what they had experienced at our renewal, to national leaders in Tomsk, Russia. The training lasted four years, at the end of which a group of young Russian leaders directed their own renewal in Russian.
Today’s IDS program requires students to commit to attend one seminar each year for four years. These seminars are given in the participants’ language with the help of an interpreter, and all materials are translated. As a graduation exercise after completion of their fourth seminar, students host a renewal for church leaders in their country. IDS teams have hosted three renewals to date—in Russian, Portuguese and Spanish. Our Japanese IDS team, which formed in 2015 and has just completed its third year of training, is preparing to host a renewal for Japanese women in ministry in early 2018.
To discuss the possibility of beginning an International Development Seminar program in your area, please contact Holly Emery.
Our philosophy and program:
We believe that no program of study or group of teachers can effect renewal. God alone creates; he alone renews his servants. In order to serve, the Come before Winter team doesn’t lean on what we know about missions; we don’t pretend to be experts in the life experiences of our participants. They are the experts, and we never forget that we are for God their servants.
For each renewal, we bring together a team of servant leaders to encourage and inspire. We immerse participants in a regimen of study, prayer, worship, and reflection. We cover the cost of lodging, meals, and the program. We walk with them as they listen for God. We pray together as we await the message God provides.
Nine regions we serve:
- South America
- Central America
- Russian region
- South Pacific
- North America
- Middle East
The revelation, the insights are priceless, and I'm so thankful to God He has provided this mission. So thankful to the team for doing such a great job in serving and being the voice, hands and heart of our Lord for us.