FAIRBURN, Ga. -- A memorial service has been set for a beloved Atlanta-based missionary who suffered a stroke while on a mission trip overseas.
Alan Winter, 58, who founded Frontline Missions in Fairburn 20 years ago, was on his latest mission in Colombia when he fell ill. 11Alive first shared his story last week, after he was hospitalized. Winter passed away in an Atlanta-area hospital Wednesday.
A Celebration of Life has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 15th at 11:00 am. The service will be held at the New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville. The family is encouraging people to wear Easter colors in celebration of his life.
At first, doctors there didn't know what was wrong, and Winter did not receive treatment for stroke until the next day. His condition worsened, but his family couldn't afford to fly him home. He required an expensive medevac flight. Then word got out, and people around the world, who Alan Winter had helped through the years, responded immediately, donating tens-of-thousands of dollars, in hours.
But once home, and after nearly a week of surgeries and procedures, doctors were not able to save him.
"At 1:45 p.m. my father, Alan Roy Winter, ran the race so well that he got ahead of the rest of us and rose to be with the Lord," his son, Justin, wrote on a Facebook page where he had been posting updates on his father's condition for a global community of people who were praying for him. "After complications from multiple strokes he rises from life to life more abundantly."
"He welcomed everyone with open arms as part of the family," his daughter Joanna Grimes told 11Alive Wednesday night.
They speak in awe of Winter, a man who they said would do anything for anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world. His family is overwhelmed with gratitude, hearing from countless thousands of people who said Alan Winter saved their lives.
"I had him for thirty years of my life. And I'm so thankful for it. And I'm better for it,” said daughter Janice Sewell. “But people who only met him for an hour, he can change their lives because he's so genuine and he loved without holding anything back."
They speak of how he would take troubled families from metro Atlanta into their home for a month or two at a time. The speak of how he saved a troubled 15-year-old by adopting him. That teen, Jerry, is now 46, married and a father, and active in Christian ministry.
"Alan Winter - he lived full. But he died empty. He gave everything," Jerry told 11Alive. "I would not be here today if he was not a part of my life."
Heidi Winter says her husband treated everyone as children of God.
"Alan was willing to be able to recognize the potential in people that other people might not see. And he'd say, 'Oh, no, well we can work with them,' and he would just believe in them.... Alan was full of love. And he had a heart to just embrace anybody and everybody."
The family is finding peace in their faith, as are people around the world who loved Alan Winter, thanking God for him - the man who lived to serve others and who gave his life serving others.
The family has not yet announced funeral arrangements.