C. Peter Wagner (b. 1930 - )
Person Item Type Metadata
Wagner was born in 1930 in New York City. His father, a millinery manager for department stores, was upwardly mobile and his promotions caused the Wagner family to move repeatedly. By 11 Wagner took his first job tending a soda fountain in a drugstore in Cleveland, Ohio. He would later be a newspaper delivery boy, a tobacco plant stripper (to be used for cigars), and a poker player.
"We played simple five-card draw. My friends all loved the game, but I was the only onen who had studied the odds. I don't think anyone even noticed that over the period of maybe a year and a half, I never lost a sitting! They were having a good time, and I was enjoying their money!" (Wrestling with Alligators, 20)
After declining a scholarship to an elite preparatory academic, Wagner finished high school in Buffalo, New York. In 1949 he started at Rutgers University, whose full tuition scholarship he did accept.
1950 - 1956
At Rutgers University College of Agriculture, Wagner was invited to McDonald Farms in Cortland, New York. Working as an intern on the farm he met his future wife, Doris Mueller. Her influence was key in his conversion to Christianity. By his own admission religion was nonexistant in his family life apart from Christmas or Easter church services. Doris, on the other hand, was a born again Christian. With her assistance, he became a teetotaler, despite his participation in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He also soon quit swearing and gambling. Regular prayer and church attendence followed.
Then Wagner joined ths small Rutgers University Intervarsity Christian Fellowership.
Doris and Peter married on October 15, 1950, just 14 months after they met on the farm in upstate New York. When they graduated two years later, they left New Jersey so that Peter could attend Fuller Theological Seminary. (Fuller did not yet accept women, but the nearby Bible Institute of Los Angeles [Biola] did.)
The Wagners lived rent-free in a three-room apartment on the edge of the men's dormitory because Doris had agreed to clean and manage the dorm. Their first ministry together was at the Bell Friend Church in Bell, California.
When Peter finished his degree, he selected missionary assignment through the South American Indian Mission organized through the New Brunswick Bible Church the Wagner's had joined while they were still undergraduates at Rutgers.[Doris' degree at Biola was interrupted by the pregnancy of the Wagner's first child, Karen.]
In 1956 the Wagners left for eastern Bolivia, near the Brazilian border.