The Beginning ~
In October 2007, Bill Rowley went back to Peru at the invitation of Mike Riggs, a missionary with Chelsea Bible Church, to visit the Andes of Peru and teach on Creation to the Quechua. The Rowley family had previously returned from a church mission trip in the summer of 2007 to Lima, Peru, also where Mike Riggs worked.
During that October trip, Bill heard the story of how the Shining Path had terrorized the mountainous regions of Peru, specifically Andahuaylas where he was visiting. The Shining Path started out as a communist group which eventually turned to terrorism. They operated from 1980-1992, but now work as drug smugglers.
He heard first hand from one of the pastors who had been stoned and left for dead how he managed to walk/crawl back to a village where he was able to recover. He was one of the few who survived. Many pastors and political leaders had been killed and now there were over 1,200 churches with about only 80 trained pastors left. They asked him to send Mike to help teach and train those who were filling in as pastors but had no training, chosen only because they knew how to read.
Through a series of events, including searching for an evangelical mission organization that was already working in Andahuaylas, Bill came home and asked Becky, his wife, “How would you like to start a mission organization?” Used to his unusual comments, she calmly replied back, “Well, it’s a good thing I was a missionary kid.”
As it turned out, there had been missionaries in those parts before the Shining Path came through. But the mission organizations pulled all their missionaries out when the terrorism began and none had gone back. In fact, the organizations Bill talked to had two responses: 1) they would never send missionaries back or 2) thought it would be an interesting prospect and could probably put together a plan they could implement in 5-10 years.
Needless to say, the urgency and plea of the nationals touched the hearts of Bill Rowley and Mike Riggs, and God put the rest into motion.
Believer’s Bridge was started so the Riggs could have a mission organization that would take care of all the details that a missionary needs when they are on the mission field. They do not claim to know everything about running a mission organization, nor are they ignorant of how missions work either. In fact, they are amazed at the events and training they received prior to 2007.
Bill Rowley graduated with a degree in International Business in 1996. Many of the jobs he had involved working with other overseas businesses, including travel to those countries. Becky Rowley was born to missionary parents in Brazil and lived most of her childhood and adolescence there. Missionary living is nothing new to her.
Missions in general has been something Bill and Becky have been involved with ever since they knew each other, including a mission trip to Mexico while in college. Bill initiated and planned several mission trips to Latin America, including the 2007 trip to Lima, Peru mentioned at the beginning. They attended 3 mission classes while attending Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale from 2002-2003. Becky worked in the mission’s department while in college. The list goes on and on, all prior to the events that culminated in the start of Believer’s Bridge.
Since they stepped through the (trap) door God had planned for them, the events that followed (and are still continuing) have amazed, humbled, tried , empowered, and continue to strengthen them. When they first started, Bill was working a full-time job but realized in 2010 they would need to transition into the ministry full-time. Little did they know that it would be the near future. A week after returning from a mission trip to Belem, Brazil in July 2010, Bill was let go. Panic set in, but they prayed and felt this was yet another of God’s ways to turn their full attention to the ministry.
Currently Believer’s Bridge has one American missionary family, and three national families working with them full-time. There are several others who volunteer and a few who have shown interest in a full-time career. They partner with organizations, churches, families, and individuals to help supply teachers for both the institutes and seminary.
The institute is probably best described as a series of classes taught for one week at a time every other month for 12 months, with 2 extra months (2 extra weeks) for anyone that missed a class or two. Institutes can be established at any church at the recommendations of our missionaries and agreement with our Statement of Faith. Typically the churches are in the remote areas surrounding the city of Andahuaylas. Before the Institute can open the church has to 1) have dorms 2) have a kitchen 3) and bathrooms, all to the Quechua standards, not American. Students who attend have to be recommended/approved by their pastor or the leadership team of their church.
At the end of the courses, they receive a certificate. Basic foundations of the Bible are taught with the intent of not teaching a denomination, but what the Bible teaches. Believer’s Bridge is not planting churches, but discipling pastors and others with a better understanding of the Bible.
It may seem odd to teach only every other month and for one week. But the institutes are not held in developed areas. The people survive off the land, are very poor, and can not take a lot of time off. None own a car and will walk for days to get to the institute. But their hunger to learn has been overwhelming. According to statistics, the first institute would not exceed 25 students. The first institute had over 250 applicants!
The seminary is similar to an overseas university. Students get their degree by getting the amount of credits necessary for that degree. Classes are held on Saturdays for 5 hours. It is currently accredited through the IEP (Iglesia Evangelica Peruana – Evangelical Church of Peru) and MINT Seminary in Miami. We are working toward becoming self-accredited by 2014 by Peruvian standards so it will be able to run on its own.
There is only one seminary right now (2011) which is in the city of Andahuaylas, where it is more developed. The IEP has asked Believer’s Bridge to open two more seminaries. One in the state of Ayacucho (where the Shining Path started) and one in another state.
Teachers are always needed, either for the institutes or seminary. Anyone wishing to teach at the seminary must have a comparable degree to the level they wish to teach. For example, to teach a Bachelor’s degree, you must have a Bachelor degree, Master’s, a Master’s degree, and so on. Anyone wishing to teach at the institute should have some Bible training and experience teaching a Bible study, Sunday School class, or similar. Being able to speak Spanish is best, but not required, since some institutes are in Quechua speaking areas and have to be taught in Quechua. Translating from English to Spanish to Quechua becomes time-consuming and “eats” up the actual learning time.
So now that you know our story, we would love for you to be a part of it! Feel free to get in contact with us by email, mail, or phone.