Jim Winters speaks at Marantha homecoming
Sunday, Sept. 20, Maranatha Bible Church, 2320 Statesville Blvd., will celebrate its 36th homecoming with former Air Force pilot and current Bible translator, missionary James Winters. The day begins with a combined adult class taught by SIM (Serving in Mission) missionaries Jon and Pat Shea, followed by the worship service at 10 a.m. with Jim preaching about world missions. The service will be followed by dinner on the grounds. The public is invited.
Jim Winters grew up on a dairy farm in Washington state and went to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, graduating with a degree in mathematics. He then served a total of 11 years as a military pilot in the Air Force and Air National Guard, including three years at Pope Air Force Base and three years in Charlotte flying the C-130 as a pilot and flight instructor.
“I became a believer in Jesus Christ just after graduating high school before leaving for USAFA through the ministry of a small rural Bible church,” he says.
“The USAF brought me to North Carolina and I felt the Lord’s leading to leave the military, thinking it was to be a missionary pilot. I met my wife, Petey, at our local church in Fayetteville, where we developed a friendship working together in junior high-aged youth ministry. We married mid-way through my training as an aircraft mechanic in preparation for missionary aviation.”
Jim’s wife, Petey, was born in Germany, the daughter of a U.S. Army officer. She moved around often as a child. Her family settled in the Hudson Valley when she was about 11 years old. She graduated from Russell Sage College in New York with a degree in physical therapy and then did graduate studies at the University of North Carolina.
Her career as a physical therapist included work in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina.
She came to understand the Gospel through the ministry of their home church in Fayetteville. She was discipled in the church by a pastor’s wife and became interested in medical missions through her contacts with medical professionals serving in missions.
The couple came to the Salisbury area in 1987 in preparation for service in missionary aviation and joined Maranatha Bible Church, where Bob Vetter was pastor at the time
Jim got his aviation maintenance training through Piedmont Bible College (now Piedmont Baptist College) and worked a year as a mechanic in Albemarle.
“We were accepted to serve in aviation and yet showed a capacity for linguistics and translations,” Jim says. “We sensed the Lord’s leading in that way and left aviation to be trained as linguist-translators.”
The church commissioned Jim and Petey Winters for missionary service with Wycliffe Bible Translators in May 1990 and they then did graduate studies in linguistics, starting at the University of Oregon. Jim completed a master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Texas. While in Dallas they were assigned for service in Senegal. They studied French for 18 months in Belgium and arrived in Senegal in 1995.
Petey has mostly focused on home ministry and educating the children. Jim first served as facilities manager for theDakar Center in Senegal, which houses administrative offices and provides transient housing for language teams assigned to language communities in rural areas.
The Winters family lived for seven years in southeast Senegal among the Beliyan people. There they did linguistic analysis and developed an alphabet/writing system for the Oniyan language.
They also began a literacy program with teaching materials to teach the people to read and write their language and facilitated the establishment of a team of mother tongue translators now engaged in translation of the Scriptures. All four Gospels have been translated. They have also completed Acts, Roman, Galatians, and James in first draft.
For the past three years Jim has served as field director of the Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau Branch of SIL International. SIL is the primary partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Jim directed a team of about 50 expatriates from 14 nationalities now working in a dozen languages in Senegal/Gambia and another dozen in Guinea-Bissau working with many national partners. In the last three years they have seen the completion of three New Testaments, progress in language development and translation in others and the integration of several national colleagues as branch members to serve as true peers in a diverse, multicultural work force.
Jim and Petey have five children, including four they adopted: Josiah,18; Hannah,17; Hadassah,11; Mareshah, 11; and Benitah, 8. Josiah is attending Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. Their three older children were all born in the Carolinas. Their youngest two daughters were adopted from Sierra Leone, West Africa, and are now experiencing life in the United States for the first time.