Mission-Minded: Local pastor makes annual trips to Amazon to spread Gospel
Barry Bivens returned last month from his 34th mission trip to the Amazon rainforest.
Bivens pastors the Workman for Christ church, 5760 U.S. Highway 60, that places an emphasis on missions, or what is referred to by Christians as “the Great Commission” found in Matthew 28:19 that reads, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...” (NIV).
And to ensure the bulk of the church’s funds go toward missions, Bivens said no one at the church, including himself, is paid a salary.
“To us, missions are a serious thing, and we feel like it should be treated as such,” Bivens said. “What we take in from offering and tithing, we apply 80 to 90% to missions. We pretty much give everything away to missions — local and foreign.”
Workman for Christ is affiliated with Cowboys for Christ — a nondenominational ministry based in Fort Worth, Texas.
According to its website — cowboysforchrist.org — Cowboys for Christ was founded in 1970 and describes itself as “highly evangelical and very mission minded.”
Bivens, 69, who grew up Daviess County, said he had horses as a child, but it wasn’t until “later in life” that he began training and showing horses.
It was through those horse connections that he not only became involved with the Cowboys for Christ ministry, but also began hosting his own church services.
“I started having cowboy church at rodeos and horse shows,” Bivens said. “I ended up getting too worn out showing horses in the state and around the country, so I just started a church here.”
However, Bivens’ mission field work began in the early 1990s while he was still on the horse show circuit.
And it was that initial visit to the Amazon that almost became his last trip.
Bivens said the barge carrying the brick broke down and almost did not make it to the village.
“My first trip I went there was not as a missionary, but to help build a church,” Bivens said. “I went there for the experience, the excitement and the adventure. It wasn’t what I expected, and I didn’t want to go back. But I realized after we got the church finished and on my journey back home, the Lord started speaking to me, and I felt like He was calling me to do this work permanently.”
Since then, Bivens and a team have made an effort to travel to the Amazon once to twice per year. They’re looking at returning December.
While there, he works with a group called Iquitos, Peru and MEPI (Misión Evangelica Pentecostes Independiente). Its mission is to train pastors to bring the gospel to remote tribes in the jungle area of Peru. The school is in the city of Iquitos and is home base for many of the mission trips to the surrounding villages.
Bivens said two Bible colleges have been built in Peru that are seminaries for future pastors.
“We build churches in the Amazon jungles and villages that have never seen a foreigner before,” Bivens said. “And the people who get saved and feel the call into the ministry, we bring them out of the jungles and to those colleges.”
The village populations run from less than 50 to into the hundreds, according to Bivens.
Along with the churches, they pass out Bibles that are usually with Spanish translations. They’re also able to show a movie that starts from Genesis in the Old Testament and goes to the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament.
Bivens said the mobile movie system is solar powered, allowing it to be transported anywhere in the Amazon.
“What’s amazing about this is when you show a film, very near 100% of the village is there to watch it,” he said.
Bivens has since retired from showing horses and sold his farm on the McLean County-Daviess County line.
And in 2017, he started the church that averages between 20 and 30 people in attendance. Service is held in a converted barn at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“We take the focus off ourselves and put it on Christ,” Bivens said.
Don Wilkins, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7299