|Missionary service is family tradition for Wingeiers|
Phil Wingeier-Rayo and Doug Wingeier are part of a missionary family
whose service through The United Methodist Church and its predecessors
dates to 1896. The son and father, former missionaries themselves, spoke
at the Aug. 5-8 "Bridges of Hope" mission gathering at
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
A UMNS photo by John Nuessle.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Aug. 9, 2007
In an age when mission service can mean anything from teaching
seminary students to rebuilding houses for hurricane victims, Philip
Wingeier-Rayo believes there is still a role for the traditional,
"Anyone can feel called and God can use people as instruments coming
and going to any place in the world," said the 41-year-old United
Methodist who served as a missionary for years until 2003 when he joined
the faculty of Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C. But, he added,
"When you learn the culture and you learn the language and you're there
for a number of years, you have special insights."
Wingeier-Rayo and his father, Doug Wingeier, were among the speakers
at the Aug. 5-8 "Bridges of Hope" mission gathering at
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.
The conference brought together people involved with mission at all
levels of the church, according to Norma Kehrberg, a retired missionary
and former head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Participants explored the role of mission in the 21st century, analyzed
the changes in communities impacted by Christian mission and affirmed
ministries of justice and presence as forms of mission.
Missionary service is a tradition in the Wingeier family. Doug
Wingeier's maternal grandfather, Charles Buchanan, went to Singapore in
1896, followed a year later by his wife, Emily. They served as
missionaries there for 10 years, then served in Java until 1923.
The Methodist mission compound where they lived and where his mother
was born later became the campus of Trinity Theological College - the
same campus where Wingeier taught when he and his wife, Carol, spent
eight years in missionary service in Singapore. "The house where she was
born was just a stone's throw from where we lived and where I taught,"
After the Methodist Church there became autonomous in 1968, they
returned to the United States. Wingeier, who will be 77 this month,
taught at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary for 27 years before retiring in
1997. They now divide their time between Lake Junaluska and the
Brooks-Howell Home in North Carolina.
Wingeier-Rayo spent his first four years in Singapore. "Missions were
very much a part of our household," he said. "My older brothers and
sisters pretty much grew up in Singapore."
His three older siblings - now a nurse-midwife, writer and health
practitioner - are not employed by the church, but "they share our
values," said Doug Wingeier. In the case of all their children, he said,
"We tried to help them become autonomous persons who made their own
A wider perspective
Although he was no longer a missionary, Doug Wingeier used his
sabbaticals to teach, research and live in other cultures, and his
youngest son often accompanied the couple on trips. In 1977, when
Wingeier-Rayo was in sixth grade, his father enrolled him for a time in a
French school in Haiti. As a high school freshman, he spent time in the
"Those cross-cultural experiences exposed me to the wider world and
made me realize I had it pretty good," he said. "It's helpful to get
that perspective on life."
His father suggested he study Spanish in high school, and
Wingeier-Rayo said he got the first hint of his own calling when the
church he belonged to became a "sanctuary" church, hosting refugees from
Central America who were not much older than himself. "I felt it was my
obligation as a Christian to go and share with those who had less than
myself," he said.
“When you learn the culture and you learn the language and you're there for a number of years, you have special insights.”–Philip Wingeier-Rayo
He also learned it "was fun to go out and serve" when he became a
22-year-old mission intern assigned to Nicaragua through the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries. "It was exciting to be a part of a
movement that was larger than myself," he said.
Wingeier-Rayo also met his wife, Diana Rayo, in Nicaragua, where she
was working with the church. After he returned to the United States,
they corresponded for about a year until she received a visa and was
able to join him. They now have three children, Massiel, 22; Keffren,
21; and Isaiah, 9.
He was planning to go to graduate school when the mission board asked
him if he'd like to be the first missionary in Cuba in 30 years. After a
pilot project, which involved a six-month immersion in the Cuban
reality and a six-month U.S. tour with a Cuban counterpart, the
Wingeier-Rayos served from 1992-97 as missionaries in Cuba.
During a study leave, he completed his master's and doctoral degrees
at Chicago Theological Seminary and then returned to missionary service
as a way of paying back an educational grant from Global Ministries. He
taught from 2000-2003 at the Methodist seminary in Mexico City.
Building long-term relationships
At Pfeiffer - a school founded by a deaconess in 1885 and still
related to the board's Women's Division - Wingeier-Rayo is now an
associate professor of religion. He has helped the university develop
its first major in missions and hopes it will fill a need for young
people who want to serve beyond Volunteer-in-Mission trips.
Short-term mission work is important, he said, "but I think we have
to be careful not to rely on that entirely." In building a long-term
relationship in another country, the missionary becomes a bridge "that
allows other people to see through you and to see that culture and learn
about that culture."
His father, who is still active in peace and justice mission issues
and served on Christian Peacemaker Teams in the Middle East, Mexico and
Colombia, agreed. He pointed out that during his son's time in Cuba, he
was a bridge between factions of the Cuban Methodist church, between the
church and ecumenical seminary and between American and Cuban
The way his grandparents carried out their missionary service by
living fully within another culture "is still relevant and important and
essential," Doug Wingeier said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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