Missionaries Serving for a Lifetime
Spreading Good News, Fall 2012
Charles Fox, Central Area Manager
It is often said that the call to ministry never ends. That is especially true for retired foreign missionaries Dr. and Mrs. Ray (Evelyn) Benfield of Winston-Salem. Both were born and raised in Iredell County on neighboring family farms where cotton was the main crop, along with corn and hay for the animals used on the farm, including mules, milk cows and hogs.
Ray and Evelyn were high school sweethearts, both graduating the same year from Celeste Henkel High School in Statesville, NC. They also grew up in the same church, New Bethany BC, near Statesville. Ray went on to graduate from Wake Forest University and while a student founded Peace Haven BC in Winston-Salem. One of his WFU professors had defined the need for a new church in the Sherwood Forest area and recommended Ray to become the pastor.
Ray continued his education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary while at Peace Haven. Evelyn quipped that Ray went off to seminary and left her "husbandless with a new baby." He received his Doctor of Ministry degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also served with the US Coast Guard during the Korean War.
Ray pastored FBC Carthage and Lindley Avenue BC in Greensboro. He served as both Second Vice President of the Baptist State Convention and First Vice President between 1971 and 1978. From 1974 until 1980 he served as a Trustee of the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB). In 1980 he and Evelyn were appointed by the International Mission Board to serve as International Mission Pastors in Salzburg, Austria; Athens, Greece; and Copenhagen, Denmark.
Following their retirements from IMB, both Ray and Evelyn have continued to serve in various denominational ministries and activities. Ray has been interim pastor for at least five churches, including a six-month term at an IMB church in Denmark where he and Evelyn had served previously. Since retiring in Winston-Salem, both have been very active in local missions and ministries. Evelyn served ten years as a leader for ethnic group ministries and a reading assistant at Forsyth Technological Community College. She related that it seemed like everywhere Ray served as interim pastor, she was teaching Sunday School. Ray now continues his ministry at Brookridge Retirement Community as a part-time chaplain. Evelyn continues her extensive work with Woman's Missionary Union of NC.
In the fall of 2011, Ray and Evelyn decided to use the proceeds from the sale of property in Iredell County to establish a charitable remainder unitrust. Both saw no need for continuing to maintain the property in their retirement years and wanted it to be used to impact their grandchildren. Such a trust was an ideal vehicle to rid themselves of an unneeded asset and create nice income for the grandchildren as well as ultimately benefiting Peace Haven BC and WMU. Evelyn recently said, "Now we can give to our grandchildren all year 'round, not just at Christmas". This sums up the giving spirit of this lifelong missionary couple.