F.C.D. Wyneken: The Early Years

Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken was born on May 13, 1810 in Verden, a small village about 30km southeast of Bremen, in the Kingdom of Hannover. His parents were Heinrich Christoph Wyneken and Anne Catherine Louise née Meyer. He was the tenth of eleven children (six sons and five daughters) nine of which survived infancy. His father, pastor of St. Andreas Church in Verden, died when Wyneken was only five years old, leaving his mother to raise nine children. She did an admirable job; all six sons went on to a university (three studied theology and three studied law) and two daughters married pastors.

Wyneken had a powerful physique, enabling him to endure the hardships of frontier life. His biographers also credit him with a charming personality, sound judgment, clear-cut convictions, and a calm head in difficult times.

Until the age of seventeen he was schooled at the local Gymnasium in Verden. He enrolled at the University of Göttingen, but after a semester left to attend the University of Halle, where he received a degree in Theology. Typical for the time, Halle University’s theology department was awash in humanism and rationalism. Wyneken himself admitted that despite his degree, he knew little of the Bible, even after completing his studies.

To earn a living, he took jobs as a private tutor. It was during this time that he became acquainted with Pastor Georg von Henfstengel in Lesum, near Bremen. During the four years he taught there, he learned the real worth of the Bible as the word of God and Christ as his Savior and also forged close relationships with a number of orthodox pastors in the area.

Wyneken next spent a short time as a rector of a Latin school in Bremervörde and thereafter as a tutor of a young boy from a wealthy family. Due to the boy’s poor health, he spent two years with them in southern France and Italy. In addition to his native German, he became well versed in English and French.  In 1837 he was released from his duties as tutor and returned to Germany.

Young Wyneken took and passed his theological examination on April 10, 1837, with flying colors. He was ordained with fellow candidate, C.W. Wolf on May 8, 1837. The rite was conducted at St. Wilhadi Church in Stade and not long afterwards Wyneken preached his first sermon in St. Jürgen Church, near Lesum. In his search for meaningful Christian reading material, he came across missionary journals, which described the miserable spiritual conditions of German settlers in America. He was profoundly distressed by what he read. So much so, that his conscience compelled him to go to America and minister to these unfortunate people. He wasted no time in setting a plan in motion.

Leaving his family and friends, the twenty-eight year old Wyneken embarked for America in May 1838 together with his friend, C.W. Wolf. With the help of Gottfried Treviranus, a pastor in Bremen, Wyneken and Wolf had made the fortunate acquaintance of the ship’s captain, Mr. Stuerje, who graciously provided the two young missionaries free passage to America on his ship, the Caroline.

F.C.D. Wyneken: The Missionary