Posted by: calloftheandes | March 17, 2016

Flexibility Marked Legacy of Longtime Missionary Ralph Horn

Ralph and Gwen Horn

Ralph and Gwen Horn

by Harold Goerzen

Being available to God to serve anywhere, anytime, anyway is said to be an important hallmark for any missionary. And this was the characteristic mentioned most by friends of Ralph and Gwen Horn when asked to describe their legacy.

Ralph, a veteran of more than 50 years of missionary service at some 10 locations in two countries, died at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., Saturday, March 5, after a courageous battle with cancer. At his bedside were his wife, Gwen, and other family members. He was 85 years old.

According to Reach Beyond retirees, Doug and Darlene Peters, the Horns possessed a valuable missionary trait—flexibility. “They were used of God in various mission ministries in Ecuador and the U.S. across many years,” said Darlene.

“I remember Ralph as a big man, always smiling, a hard worker who could do many things,” added Reach Beyond retiree Imogene Booker. “He willingly did what was needed in each place where he and Gwen served, and they were faithful witnesses wherever they went.”

Born to Jacob “Jack” and Sylvia Horn in Evanston, Ill., on May 31, 1930, Horn grew up in nearby Winnetka. As a young boy he attended Sunday school and committed his heart to Christ during daily vacation Bible school when he was about 12.

After graduating from high school in 1948, Horn studied at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (formerly Northwestern College) in Minnesota. That’s where he met fellow student Gwen Spear, and they were married on Sept. 3, 1949.

Horn worked as a machinist and a service station owner and got involved in his church’s music ministry. He also continued his education, taking correspondence courses through Moody Bible Institute, Arizona College of the Bible and Goshen College.

In 1959 the Horns sensed God’s prompting to serve to missions, and they worked as Berean missionaries to the Navajo people in New Mexico for 4½ years.

The Horns then chose to leave their beloved Navajos. After a year of Spanish language school, they arrived in Ecuador along with their four children in 1965.

Initially they served high in the Andes at Guaranda, working among the Quichuas (descendants of the Incas). But within about six months they moved to Shell in Ecuador’s eastern Amazon region, serving with HCJB (now Reach Beyond) on loan from the Berean Mission.Ralph_Horn_01_tweaked

A gifted manager, Horn’s first assignment was as administrator of Hospital Vozandes-Shell, a facility owned and operated by Reach Beyond that served Ecuadorians for 55 years until closing at the end of 2013.

Eventually serving directly under Reach Beyond, the Horns took on a wide variety of projects. For several years Horn led the Quichua Language Service at Radio Station HCJB in Quito and coordinated the shortwave broadcasts from the station’s international transmitter site in Pifo.

Horn was involved in the construction of a dam in the Andean community of Loreto. This facility helped store water for the hydroelectric plant in Papallacta that powered the worldwide broadcasts. He also helped with the Radio Circle, a ministry to build and distribute radios that only picked up HCJB’s local broadcasts.

Among his many other assignments, Horn led the choir at English Fellowship Church in Quito. And he didn’t hesitate when asked to supervise the final months of the construction of the C.W. Jones Television Center in Quito in 1967. The center housed Ecuador’s first TV station (originally operated from one of the radio studios) that the mission launched in 1959 and ran for 12 years.

“Ralph was able to interface with the Ecuadorian contractor, and under his leadership the project was successfully completed within budget and on time,” the Peterses noted. “As a manager, Ralph worked well with people.”

After returning to the U.S. in 1974, they did a six-year stint at partner ministry SonSet Solutions (formerly HCJB Global Technology Center) in Elkhart, Ind., serving in the engineering department. Horn did such things as developing radio towers and antennas and helping with Project 500 that involved building a powerful 500,000-watt transmitter for the station in Ecuador. He was also involved with the suitcase-sized, portable FM transmitters now being used at hundreds of local partner stations worldwide.

The Horns then served at the mission’s international headquarters in Miami, Fla., for three years. During this time Horn handled shipping and receiving, sending a variety of broadcasting and medical equipment and other supplies to Ecuador.

“Ralph was my supervisor [in Miami] when I was going through a difficult time in my life,” related longtime Reach Beyond employee Lucy Gray. “He was a very kind man, always encouraging, and he became a father figure to me. I learned a lot from him as I observed his times of grief when he lost his two sons…. I will greatly miss him.”

Before returning to Elkhart for another six-year stint, the Horns spent about a year at partner Inspiracom (formerly World Radio Network), assisting with the ministry’s Spanish-radio stations in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas. These are part of Inspiracom’s 14-station network along the U.S.-Mexico border. In addition, they pastored a church in Forrest City, Ark., for 1½ years.

After 28 years with HCJB, the Horns officially retired in 1993 but remained active with the mission, volunteering in Elkhart during the summers. In 2000 they moved to Woodland Park, Colo., and four years later resettled in Colorado Springs where they often volunteered at the Reach Beyond Ministry Service Center.

“Ralph Horn was one of the most tenacious people I’ve ever met,” said Reach Beyond retiree Tom Fulghum. “In the trajectory of his missionary service he faced many exceedingly difficult situations and circumstances and faced them victoriously. He was always ready to do anything he could to help meet a need. He was dedicated to the task and a blessing to all who knew him—a godly guy who used his talent to honor God and help build His kingdom.”

Reach Beyond retiree Chuck Howard, who continues to do administrative work in Quito, agreed, describing Horn as a “loving, caring man who always had a winning smile and cheerful, encouraging words to share. His quiet, peaceful manner had a profound impact on many.”

Horn was predeceased by his two sons, Don and Scott. He leaves behind his wife of 66 years; two daughters, Trudy and Pam; as well as seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.


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