The Heart of Kernersville: Pete Kunkle

By NJ Clausen

Hello to all, and wishes for a joyful, peaceful season of love and kindness. Many may exchange gifts, but the person that I have the pleasure of introducing you to this month takes caring, sharing, and giving to a whole new level, Doctor Peter (Pete) Kunkle.

Born in Ulm, Germany, Pete is the oldest of three children. He was very close to his maternal grandparents, who did not come to the United States when Pete, his mother, and the military man–of which Pete’s mother would later marry–moved to Ohio. Pete recalled Christmas in Germany, specifically when a person who was dressed all in black came to the house, which frightened the young boy and is why he remembers the incident vividly! The hooded man had either sticks and coal or you got a bag of candy and fruits. This was to get you to think that you had to be a good person, a lesson ingrained early.

When Pete was 6 years old, they arrived in Ohio before Christmas, and Pete’s mother and father-to-be got married. His most vivid memories are being adopted, becoming a US citizen, and having his dad’s last name. His first Christmas here was totally different then what they had in Germany. His dad purchased his first train, and it was the beginning of a lifelong love of trains and the joy of collecting them from different places.

School was a struggle at first, as he did not speak English. By the time he was in high school, Pete had “set his head” to moving forward despite the unkind treatment in his early years. He played football, ran in the 220 relay, and threw the discus and shot-put in track. He played the drums and tuba, but he was also a gifted singer, competing in and winning some state competitions.

After high school, Pete continued his education at Kentucky Christian University. Originally intending to be an attorney, Pete said that God turned him around, and he became a preaching minister with a minor in psychology. While Pete was traveling with a singing group from the university, a recruitment group that went out in the summer, they needed a preacher and he discovered his calling. Pete was dating Kathy, and between his sophomore and junior year of college they were married. Pete was scheduled to go to Alaska on a missionary internship, which he and Kathy went on together. He calls the adventure a real-life experience, dealing with a very mixed group of people. Pete went on to say that you do not realize, as you are experiencing life, how some hard times really test you and make you who you are going to be; how God sets a path for you on that journey that you cannot see. 

He shared the story of going with Carl to dig a grave for Carl’s son. It was about 40 degrees below zero, and the grave had to be below permafrost. Pete remembers the tears freezing on Carl’s face, and thinking of the pain he was enduring to do something special for his child. It taught Pete a great deal about ministry and compassion and ministering to someone who was really wounded.

After Alaska, they went back to KCU so that they could graduate. They were at a small church in Kentucky for 5 years, before a friend encouraged him to come to the growing community of Kernersville. After a few years, Pete and a small group would get together and pray. This was the beginning of what would become First Christian Church. He admits he was young and inexperienced, which was likely part of his appeal to non-believers. He believes all people have a right to know Jesus, no matter what they have done or where they come from, if they are willing to repent, they are welcome. 

Pete was the Lead Pastor for 36 years at FCC and was involved concurrently with HASTEN for 37 years. The word HASTEN stands for, Health and Salvation to Every Nation, and has medical clinics in 6 different countries. Doctors donate their time to help those in need, with no charge to the patient. Pete talked about their medical trailer, which they are refurbishing to meet the requirements of the state of North Carolina. There is a huge need for care in North Carolina, and other states have also been in contact with this Christian mission.

When asked to share a Christmas wish, Pete wants brutality and random shootings to stop; for peace to inhabit the Earth and where unity would prevail, and that bitterness and hatred would be removed.

Pete describes his life as a fun ride, and that God opened many doors. In his travels he learned that people all over the world love their children as he loves his daughter, and love God as he does.

If you are a professional in the field of physical, dental, or mental health and would like to donate time to HASTEN, please contact Dr. Pete Kunkle at: You will be a blessing and be blessed.

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