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Leading the Way: Verbal skills serve Ceres pastor and auctioneer well

When Pastor Wayne Unger of Grace Community Christian Church of Ceres isn't in the pulpit, you may find him in his second career. His mouth wraps around words and spits them out like bullets as he auctions off items for charitable organizations.

Unger said he occasionally uses his auctioneer's spiel in sermons, but generally doesn't call bidders to repentance or speed through his sermons in five minutes flat.

He has spent time in interesting places: The son of an oil wildcatter has worked as a missionary in Africa and behind the former Soviet Iron Curtain. He's been in Ceres since July 1987, and in 1990 started his present church, which met in his home and Ceres schools before the church on Service Road was completed in March 2000.

Here's more information:

Family: Born in the small farming community of Sullivan, Ind. Grew up with parents and one older brother, whose son still farms in the area.

Unger, 63, met his wife, Sue, at an Easter sunrise service at his church. Sue Unger, 65, manages Prudential real-estate offices in Turlock, Ceres and Waterford. They have two married daughters, Sherrie McDaniels of Indianapolis and Kelly Julian of Mariposa; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in ministerial science, Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Ill.; graduate of Missouri Auction School, 1974.

Career highlights: Served in Rhodesia, Africa (now Zimbabwe), 1966-73 for Central Africa Mission; sold livestock and did pulpit supply in Wyoming; lived near Vienna, Austria, for three years while working for TCM (Taking Christ to the Millions) International, where he traveled behind the Iron Curtain to help churches. "There was always the possibility of being stopped and harassed and searched. In those days, there were armed guards, German shepherd dogs, land mines at borders." Came to Ceres Christian Church in July 1987. Began Grace Community Christian Church in October 1990.

Future: Unger travels overseas about once a year to help with mission projects, most often working with Gypsy pastors in Romania. But until God "shows me something else, this is where I am."

Greatest challenge: "I think any time you work with people, it's a challenge."

Greatest passion: "I enjoy preaching. I enjoy auctioneering. I really have a heart for missions (and) would like to stay involved in missions in some fashion until I die.

Personality: "I see myself as reserved. I kind of hold judgment on people and things until I have a chance to observe. I am not by nature a people person; I've had to learn to be one. I enjoy having fun. I like to watch people. I have a weird sense of humor, but I don't like sarcasm and throwing barbs, because they stick."

Spare time: "I like to go to the gun range. I'm a member of Rotary. I like to spend time with my wife — she's my best friend."


Grace Community Christian Church

Address: 3754 E. Service Road, Ceres

Phone number: 531-1902

Members: average Sunday attendance is 225 to 250.

Meeting times: 10 a.m. Sunday worship, with separate children's worship; youth groups meet Sunday at 5 p.m.; children's program (elementary age) is held Wednesdays at 6 p.m.

"Leading the Way" runs twice a month and profiles faith leaders — ordained and lay — in our community. To suggest someone, send the name and contact information to Sue Nowicki, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256 or e-mail snowicki@modbee.com.

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