Dr Raymond Windsor OBE, FRACS, FRCS (Ed.)
1928 – 2011
Dr Ray Windsor, a member of Mt Albert Baptist Church, died on August 10. He was a man with many natural gifts.
As a pupil at secondary school he excelled at cricket and rugby. As a medical student he turned to soccer, withdrawing from contact sports to avoid injuring his fingers because his first love was the piano.
As a young man he played several concerts with the National Orchestra and solo concerts in Wellington and Dunedin. His fine baritone voice saw him performing as a soloist with the Auckland Choral Society in the 1950s. He was also an able student, ranked 16 on the list of University National Scholars in 1946.
It was to surgery, however, that he devoted his career. Underlying his pursuit of this vocation was his deep desire to become a medical missionary. In this he was influenced by his deep personal Christian faith and the example of men like Dr Paul White, the “Jungle Doctor,” and Dr Albert Schweitzer.
Following graduation from the Otago Medical School in 1951 he completed two years of residency in Auckland hospitals where he met his wife-to-be, nurse Gwen Thompson. They married in 1953 before transferring to Wellington for advanced surgical training.
In 1955 the couple moved to the UK with Ray travelling as a ship’s surgeon to gain more surgical experience and obtain specialist surgical qualifications. He returned to New Zealand in 1958 to an appointment as a research fellow at Greenlane Hospital’s world-famous Cardiovascular Surgical Unit.
The following year he was appointed to the unit as a locum consultant, training in cardiovascular surgery under Brian (later Sir Brian) Barratt-Boyes.
But all along, he and his wife remained challenged by the medical needs of the developing world and felt the call to missionary service. Some considered this tantamount to professional suicide.
The Windsors joined the Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship (BMMF, now Interserve) an organisation that already sponsored several hospitals in India. Ray’s first appointment was to Mussoorie in North India where, while studying Hindi, he was both superintendent and surgeon to the Landour Community Hospital.
During three years working there and at hospitals in Chandigarh city and rural Herbertpur, interacting with local and expatriate medical staff, he became increasingly convinced that the major health need of the indigenous population was not cardiovascular surgery but basic primary community healthcare. Coincidentally, the Indian government was effecting a policy of nationalisation by taking over hospitals previously staffed by expatriates.
Other hospitals were closing because of the unavailability of work visas for expatriate health care workers.
In a strategic move, the BMMF leadership gave Ray the green light to attempt to facilitate a mutually supportive association of mission hospitals to be led by qualified nationals focusing on community health and preventive medicine. It was an arduous task and some agencies were resistant. But by persuasive negotiation, enough were recruited to make the project viable.
In 1970 the Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA) was officially registered. It is widely regarded as the first indigenous mission agency in the world. Currently 20 hospitals and 30 community-based health organisations operate under the EHA banner.
In 1970 Ray was appointed Director of BMMF. Ever an innovator, he oversaw major changes in the mission’s direction, including moving the international headquarters from London to Delhi.
He formed strategic alliances with like-minded organisations. In the early 1970s he was at the forefront in coordinating the response of relief agencies to the desperate needs of Bangladeshis after the war with Pakistan, serving as the inaugural director of the umbrella organisation HEED (Health, Education Economic Development). This sought to up-skill people to be self-sufficient rather than become dependent on aid. Today, HEED is one of the largest NGOs in Bangladesh, employing more than 4000 workers engaged in an enormous variety of projects. He was awarded the OBE in 1983 in recognition of his services to India.
In 1982 Ray was appointed Principal of All Nations Christian College, a leading missions training establishment in England. Despite minor brushes with British conservatism, he succeeded in modernising the curriculum, improving teaching methods and making long-needed additions to the campus buildings.
Ray’s tenure was interrupted in 1985 by news of his mother’s ill health. He felt it incumbent upon himself to return and care for her.
This move did not inhibit his involvement in global mission. At various times he represented the South Pacific on the Missions Commission and executive of the World Evangelical Fellowship, developed a quarterly bulletin for missionary trainers in the majority world, researched and published The World Directory of Missionary Training Programmes, participated in several international consultations on mission, led the NZ Evangelical Fellowship and the Evangelical Missionary Alliance and served on the boards of TEAR Fund and the Bible College of New Zealand.
He was also active on the missions committee of his home church. He was widely and justifiably regarded in the Christian community as a wise man who could give good advice on most issues and was always willing to be consulted.
In later years the onset of Parkinson’s disease slowed him down but gave him greater opportunity for involvement with his five children, their spouses and numerous grandchildren. After an amazingly full and influential life, he died peacefully at home aged 83.
He is survived by his wife, Gwen, and their children.