Several years into Come before Winter’s history, Ron Holland, then missions minister for what is now The Hills Church of Christ, shared with Karen Alexander a report written by one of his ministry’s subcommittees years earlier as they were struggling to create a program to restore missionaries and increase longevity on the field.

The subcommittee had met three times, spending more than half of their allotted time together in prayer. Following the third meeting, they wrote their report.  Here are some highlights of that report:

  • The need for such a program was great.
  • Any successful program would require getting the missionaries off-site, and missionaries would need to be fully funded.
  • A team should be sent in to serve and encourage.
  • The team must include a counselor and others with the maturity to listen to the needs of the missionaries and to pray with them and over them.
  • The renewal team should be mature, have a propensity for prayer, and be discrete; members need not necessarily be a part of the church’s missions team.
  • These events should be called “renewals,” should span a full week, and should:
    • Include the blessings of worship, forgiveness through confession, edification, and encouragement.
    • Create a safe haven where souls can be unburdened to confess and ask for prayer.
    • Provide specific times for one-on-one prayer.

Even as they reported to the full group, they knew the plan could not be implemented.  The cost of moving entire missionary families off-site was prohibitive.

However, unbeknownst to the missions committee, the weeks and months they wrestled and prayed over their plan coincided with the time that Karen was struggling and praying to make sense of her idea to serve missionaries worldwide. Though Karen and Ron had never met, the program outlined in Austin, Texas, and carried to Brazil in July 2001 for CbW’s inaugural renewal mirrored the committee’s recommendations so closely that Ron thought the Come before Winter group had somehow gained access to their report. Today, both Ron and Karen believe that God blessed the prayers of a north Texas subcommittee by directing hearts and minds hundreds of miles away.

One final “coincidence” added to the sense that it was truly God who had envisioned the ministry and was directing the journey. With only a week or so left before the team’s training weekend for that first renewal in 2001, the group had yet to fill a significant role: a second pastoral prayer warrior who would pray one-on-one with participants at the event. Karen had asked Jeanene Reese to locate and recruit that last team member. Jeanene had been praying and inviting recruits for weeks, but to no avail. Growing weary of the task, she reached toward her phone, planning to call another, but as her hand touched the phone, she made a split-second decision to call Suzy Jeffrey, an elder’s wife at the Hills. Jeanene knew nothing of The Hills’ subcommittee, but Suzy did. She had been a member of that prayerful group, and she agreed to join the team a few days later. Though the renewal was already fully planned when Suzy joined the team, and though Karen and Suzy had never met, the event they would host together matched the subcommittee’s report as if they had collaborated. The last member of Come before Winter’s team understood the mission clearly.  She would become a valued member of the ministry’s first leadership team and of its board of directors.


One cannot give what he doesn't have. Having my gas tank refilled, I can definitely function as an effective servant in God's ministry.

Men's Renewal, Thailand, June 2016