Barry Bivens returned last month from his 34th mission trip to the Amazon rainforest.
Bivens is the pastor of Workman for Christ Church, 5760 US Highway 60, which emphasizes missions, or what Christians call “the great commission” found in Matthew 28:19 which reads: “Go therefore 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 that the bulk of church funds go to missions, Bivens said no one at the church, including himself, receives a salary.
“For us, missions are a serious thing, and we believe they should be treated as such,” Bivens said. “What we get from offerings and tithes, we apply 80 to 90% to the missions. We give almost everything to the 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 “very evangelical and very mission-oriented”.
Bivens, 69, who grew up in Daviess County, said he had horses as a child, but it wasn’t until ‘later in life’ that he started training and showing horses.
It was through these connections with horses that he not only became involved in the Cowboys for Christ ministry, but also began to hold his own church services.
“I started having a cowboy church at rodeos and horse shows,” Bivens said. “I ended up wearing myself out showing horses around the state and around the country, so I just started a church here.”
However, Bivens’ mission fieldwork began in the early 1990s while he was still on the horse show circuit.
And it was this first visit to the Amazon that almost became his last trip.
Bivens said the barge carrying the brick broke down and barely made 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 for the experience, the excitement and the adventure. It was not what I expected and I didn’t want to go back. But I realized that after I finished church and on my way back, the Lord began to speak 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 visit the Amazon once or twice a year. They plan to return in December.
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 jungles of Peru. The school is in the city of Iquitos and is the home base for many mission trips to the surrounding villages.
Bivens said two Bible colleges have been built in Peru, which are seminaries for future pastors.
“We are building churches in the Amazon jungle and villages that have never seen a stranger before,” Bivens said. “And people who are saved and feel the call to ministry, we bring them out of the jungle and into these colleges.”
Village populations range from fewer than 50 to several hundred, according to Bivens.
With the churches they distribute Bibles which are usually with Spanish translations. They are also able to show a movie that starts from Genesis in the Old Testament and goes all the way to the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament.
Bivens said the mobile film system is powered by solar energy, allowing it to be transported anywhere in the Amazon.
“What’s amazing is that when you show a movie, almost 100% of the village is there to watch it,” he said.
Bivens has since retired from horse shows and sold his farm on the McLean County-Daviess County line.
And in 2017, he started the church which averages between 20 and 30 people in attendance. The service takes place in a converted barn at 11 a.m. on Sundays.
“We take the focus off of ourselves and put it on Christ,” Bivens said.