When Charles “Chuck” Wright was growing up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he set a personal hunting goal to shoot 20 bucks before he turned 20. It was an ambitious target for a boy. Even some experienced deer hunters go a whole season without shooting a single buck.
Wright ended up bagging 25.
Time and again, Wright has distilled his life down to his most important goals, and then set about achieving them. His determination, and a commitment to his faith, drove him to set up a volunteer network for hosting foreign military officers and to help organize the annual National Prayer Breakfast for five decades.
The fourth of six children, Wright jokes that he was a late bloomer. He flunked the first grade, but eventually earned a Doctorate in Ministry and received an additional honorary doctorate.
Wright was born on July 13, 1933 in Houstontown, Pennsylvania. His father worked for Bethlehem Steel and his mother raised the children. During the week, the family lived in the city of Johnstown, where his father worked. On weekends, they would drive an hour east to the family farm in Houstontown to visit his grandparents, aunts and uncles. That’s when Wright and his father would hunt deer and pheasants.
After high school, Wright enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh and planned to study forestry. But he attended a crusade event hosted by famed evangelist Billy Graham, and it changed his life. Wright had listened intently to Sunday sermons growing up, and he was so moved to hear Graham speak that he decided to commit his life to following Jesus Christ.
Freshman year, Wright switched his major to theology and transferred to The King’s College, a small Christian university in Delaware. (During his studies, the college moved to New York, where it remains today). After earning his bachelor’s degree in theology, Wright continued on to seminary, before becoming ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1960.
Wright met his wife, Margie, at The King’s College, and the two were married in Pennsylvania, when Wright was completing his seminary degree. Wright served as pastor at churches large and small for more than 25 years in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Wright says he has focused on one purpose in life: “To find a few people in every place and help them follow Jesus together.” He grasped every opportunity to form prayer meetings and gatherings to spread Jesus’ word to others, including legislators, diplomats and foreign military officers.
“That is where I have found my meaning,” Wright says. “By helping them follow Jesus, you’re giving them every gift.”
When serving as pastor in Churchville, Maryland, Wright learned there were dozens of international military officers training at the U.S. Army Ordnance School in Aberdeen, about six miles from his home. When he asked what arrangements had been made to befriend the foreign officers, he was told there was an annual dinner for them at a local restaurant. Wright thought that wasn’t enough. He wanted to make the officers feel welcome, and he wanted to share with them the message of Jesus Christ.
So he invited the officers into his home and the homes of his congregants. Every few months, he organized weekend retreats where dozens of officers were hosted by him or other American families for food and fellowship. Over the years, officers from many countries, including Ethiopia, Iran, Korea and Vietnam, stayed with him. Even after he moved to a church in Pennsylvania, he brought the foreign officers to his new home by bus.
"Chuck would invite them to the house to talk about Jesus," says his wife Margie. "A side result was that they also grew to love America."
In 1985, Wright moved to Washington, D.C. to work full-time with The National Prayer Breakfast Movement, an interfaith prayer gathering hosted by members of Congress. It is attended by about 4,000 guests, including the president, members of Congress, the courts, diplomats and members of parliament from around the world. Working in that capacity, Wright travelled to more than a dozen countries to meet with people of all faiths.
Chuck and Margie have raised five children, and now enjoy spending time with their 17 grandchildren. Last August, the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Cape Cod. All of their children and grandchildren were reunited. Two of their sons have spent many years in Africa helping the poor. Another son conducts business in China, where he has also arranged medical care for orphans.
These days, Wright doesn’t have the stamina to go deer hunting. But last Christmas, he brought his sons quail hunting. He outshot them all.