Alumni Update: Wil Bailey


Mary Hanna Bryant, Treasurer

Learn about Alumni and Battle Scholar Wil Bailey below, as he tells about his time at Rocky Mount Academy and his life as a missionary in Costa Rica. 


What are some of your favorite Rocky Mount Academy memories? I have two answers to this question. One answer is what I enjoyed the most while I was there, the other is what means the most to me now looking back. Playing Friday night home soccer games against RMHS and NNHS when the sidelines were packed with people shoulder to shoulder from one end of the field to the other was really exciting at the time. The thing I most appreciate about RMA now is that I came from a giant public school where I didn’t really feel like I was seen by anybody, into a school where there were only 7 or 8 students in my classes.  So the amount of individual attention we got, not just academically but also feeling they knew who I was, was a game-changer for me. It couldn’t have happened at a more important time for me academically or socially.


Which RMA teacher(s) had an impact on you? This is a really tough question for me to answer in part because of what I mentioned above. I appreciate so much now the personal aspect of being part of that student body and feeling like it really mattered to all of our teachers how well we did with our school work and personally. This may get me in trouble but I’d say Mr. Sykes was the most fun. He was also the only teacher who ever kicked me out of a class!  As embarrassed as I was at the time, even then I think I knew I deserved it and he was trying to teach me a lesson I needed to learn.  


Where did you attend college? I majored in Spanish and minored in Latin American Studies at UNCW (’98) and then got my Master of Divinity at Duke University (’03).


What led you to go into mission work? I started going on mission trips to Costa Rica with First United Methodist Church in Rocky Mount when I was 15 years old (the summer before I started at RMA). I went back to Costa Rica every summer after that until I went off to college and then started going down every year for a week in January. I knew early on that I wanted to always be able to do that, but never imagined that I would wind up full-time in the mission field. I really thought I would grow up and get a “normal” job and go to Costa Rica one week of the year with my church. While I was in seminary all of the pieces started to come together and the summer before my last year at Duke I was invited by the Methodist Church of Costa Rica to come back when I finished school and work with them as a bridge between churches in the US and churches in Costa Rica. I had met Yolanda, who is from Costa Rica, by then and we knew we were going to get married, so everything just made sense and fell into place. I am so grateful to my home church for teaching me the value of service in the community (local and global) from a young age and for showing me what it means to have a long-term commitment to missions. Our ministry is the fruit of a relationship that started between our church and the Methodist Church of Costa Rica over 30 years ago and continues today!


What do you miss about living in the U.S.? Bacon, egg and cheese biscuits…my family…my friends (Not necessarily in that order)! I also miss long, straight, flat highways (ours are almost all curvy and in the mountains). Sometimes I miss efficiency, how quickly things can get done in the states compared to here. For the first few years, I was constantly frustrated by how long it was taking us to get things done, but over time I realized that it would be better and healthier for me to move at the pace of the culture I was immersed in rather than trying to get them to all speed up. Moving from a time-based culture into an event-based culture was challenging but I’ve gotten to the point where there are things I really love and appreciate about both!


What do you love about living in Costa Rica? Costa Rica is a beautiful country. It is about half the size of North Carolina and has a population of 5 million people. There are lots of challenges that come along with being a small “developing” country but Costa Ricans are hard workers and frequently find themselves at the top of the “happiest people on earth” lists. I think that their emphasis on family and the way they spend time together and what their priorities are is really refreshing.


What is your favorite thing about your job? My favorite thing about my job is getting to share with people our vision for who and what we believe the church is meant to be in the world. I love getting people out of their comfort zones and routines and creating opportunities for people who are from different places, cultures, and speak different languages to get to spend time together and get to know one another…to serve and be served by one another.  Our hope is that by creating those kinds of healthy relationships, everyone’s needs are going to be met. Sometimes those are physical needs like food and shelter. Sometimes those are emotional needs like feeling seen or heard or loved. Sometimes those are spiritual needs like feeling connected to the God who made us and His purpose for our lives. We are really privileged to get to play a part in that kind of “Kingdom Work” and it is exciting for us to get to see that day in and day out.


Where are some of the places that volunteers come from when doing mission work in Costa Rica? When I moved to Costa Rica 18 years ago I thought all of our volunteers would come from eastern North Carolina. Now we have teams from all over the USA, from as far away as California and Washington state that come to work with us. It has been an amazing journey to see how this ministry has grown and the network of churches and individuals who now make us the Costa Rica Mission Projects family. Before the pandemic shut everything down we had 45 teams from all over the country signed up to work with us in 2020.



How many countries have you traveled to? Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Netherlands, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Cambodia, and South Africa.  Most of those trips have been work/missions related.

What is your favorite project that you have completed in Costa Rica? In 2013 our organization was able to acquire some land in the town where we are based and start building what we call the Missions and Ministry Center. It is the home base for all of the outreach and community work we do now and it is the home away from home for most of our volunteers while they are here. In addition to the cabins for volunteers to stay in, we have a daycare center for children from no/low-income families, a home for young women who are pursuing higher education,and a counseling center where we work with families and individuals in crisis. It was and still is amazing seeing the vision we had for such a place actually come to life, and seeing how excited the people who have been part of this ministry for so many years were about it.