Friedrich Wyneken was born in Germany and immigrated to the New World in 1838. There, he served many German Lutherans who did not have access to pastors or church communities. Wyneken also became the second president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. We read about him today with a devotion from Ebenezer.
As a missionary in Indiana, living in a log hut of 16 x 10 feet, where bunches of moss were stuffed between the logs to keep out the rain and a few panes of glass stuck between the timbers admitted the light, where logs served in lieu of table and chair, Wyneken studied and wrote. There he taught his confirmation classes in Adams County. In fact, he preached and instructed wherever he could find shelter in a house or a cabin and at any time when people were willing to hear the Word of Life.
As he expected no comforts in his living, but looked only to necessities, so also was he very plain in his dress. A slouch hat, an old coat, and a pair of yellow trousers of so-called English leather were good enough for the dirt roads and forest trails over which he traveled, and his well-worn, not to say shabby, black suit was reserved for ministerial acts. He made nothing of fatigue and gave no thought to danger when he crossed morasses and streams by day and night. He was not hard to please as to food, but gratefully subsisted on whatever the pioneers set before him. No one ever accused Wyneken of greed. He never thought of money, it seems, except to give it to people whom he considered poorer than himself, yea, he gave to them his very articles of clothing. When he preached, he held the attention of his hearers by his earnest and lucid sermons, and when he conversed with the pioneers, his friendliness and his genial manners won their hearts, especially as he often adapted himself to them by using the Low German dialect, and would enter on those things which concerned them and filled their lives. He truly became, as St. Paul says, all things to all men.
Children instinctively loved him, for they felt that he was their friend. Towards young people Wyneken was friendly and cheerful, but he would risk even the loss of their friendship rather than not admonish them when he was called upon to keep them from the downward path and to resist their follies.
When he endeavored to win sinners for Christ, he spoke to them most earnestly and persuasively, often literally “buttonholing” sinners by taking hold of the lapel of their coat or running his finger through their buttonholes. Men whom he had won by his pleading used to say to Wyneken in after days: “Do you remember, pastor, how you buttonholed me on that occasion?” But he could be very stern with the hypocrite, and like a flash he could answer the scoffer and rout him before he knew it. There was something intensely human about Wyneken which will forever endear him to us.
Rev. Haesbaert of Baltimore in 1839 wrote these memorable words about Wyneken: “Wyneken is a hero of the faith of that type for which a person, as a rule, looks in ancient times, long gone by. Oh, how his example shames many of us who live in peace and comfort, having abundance of all things, and who are not ready to make the least sacrifice for the Lord and His poor brethren!”
Devotional reading is adapted from Ebenezer, pages 59–61. Published in 1922 by Concordia Publishing House.
O dearest Jesus, most desirable friend of the soul, how kind You were to everyone in the days of Your flesh! . . . How gracious were Your lips, how kindly Your eyes, how amiable Your actions, how helpful Your hands! . . . Most beautiful Savior, make me to resemble Your image, that I may meet everyone with charity, goodness, and gentleness and visit the miserable with counsel, the afflicted with comfort, and the needy with help; that I may grieve no one with my lips, injure no one with my words, and terrify no one with my actions. Let me . . . daily increase in grace and favor with God and man. Amen, O kindest and most gracious Jesus! Amen.
Prayer is from Lutheran Prayer Companion, pages 207–8 © 2018 Matthew Carver. Published by Concordia Publishing House.