Rio Grande Bible Institute
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The Rio Grande Bible Institute (also known as RGBI) is a nondenominational school located in Edinburg, Texas which has two main purposes: to serve as a Bible college for students from Mexico, Central America, and South America, and provide Spanish language training for non-Spanish-speaking North Americans who will serve as missionaries in Spanish-speaking areas of the world.
The Rio Grande Bible Institute was founded in 1946 by M.C. Ehlert, a Danish evangelist who pastored churches in Minnesota and Iowa before moving to the Rio Grande Valley in 1937, to minister to the Hispanic population there.
In January 1947, Mr. Ehlert, with the help of many like-minded friends and his wife, Elizabeth, began the first classes at night so that local Hispanics could attend while working during the day. Classes were taught in both English and Spanish for the first few years, but in 1955 the English school was terminated in favor of a Spanish language school for missionaries heading to Latin America.
Today the campus, located just within the southern portion of the city of Edinburg, still includes dual schools (a Spanish Bible institute and a Spanish language school) on its 62 acres (251,000 m²). Its purpose continues to be to train godly Christian leaders for the Spanish-speaking church. The Bible Institute has a four-year program, as well as one- and two-year programs in Biblical studies and theology. In the four-year program the student may choose an emphasis in Christian Education, Pastoral Ministry, or Missions. The Missionary Language School offers an intensive, nine-month program for career missionaries preparing to minister to Spanish-speaking people. These students have already been accepted by a mission agency or local church and are making RGBI Language School their final stop before leaving for their particular area of service.
Other ministries of the organization include correspondence and online courses in Spanish, a night school with both English and Spanish course offerings, Christian video courses, and a Spanish AM and FM radio ministry. In addition, RGBI has its own art department and print shop which produce devotional, informational, and promotional literature. The campus bookstore provides Bibles, books, CDs, DVDs and supplies not only for the students but also for the public. Each year more than one hundred retirees known as "Winter Volunteers" descend on campus to provide much appreciated help throughout the winter months. For the past thirty years these energetic people, mostly from the North, have constructed most of the campus buildings and done a myriad of other tasks from sewing, quilting, and cooking to pouring cement, repairing roofs and building a wall around the campus. About six miles from the Edinburg campus, Bibleville, a Christian conference center, attracts another five hundred "Winter Texans" each winter. There the residents, who live in their own homes or RVs, enjoy Bible conferences every other week and music concerts each Saturday as well as Sunday services. They become involved in a variety of outreach ministries including volunteering at the Bible Institute, as tutors in local schools, or at area churches.
The following goals, which were adopted for the Bible Institute in 2002, outline how RGBI seeks to fulfill its mission.
"We will seek to:
- 1. Guide the student to a thorough understanding of the Word of God and biblical doctrine. (II Timothy 3:16-17)
- 2. Prepare the student to serve God effectively in the Christian ministry to which God has called. (II Timothy 2:2; I Corinthians 12:6-7)
- 3. Always model before our students a passionate walk with God, so that their love for Christ will continue to deepen and grow. (I Corinthians 6:20; 11:1; John 15:9, 13)
- 4. Challenge the student to obey the Great Commission to preach the Gospel and make disciples, who are integrated into the local church. (Matthew 28:18–20; Romans 1:14-15)
- 5. Encourage the graduates to return to their respective churches with a world missionary vision to serve God according to His will. (John 4:28, 29; Matthew 9:37–38)
- 6. Guide the student in spiritual growth and maturity, and provide the opportunity to grow in the Christian life so that Christ’s image will be formed in that student. (Ephesians 4:13)
- a. Spiritually: Develop a growing relationship with Christ through prayer, obedience to God’s Word, worship and service to Christ. (Colossians 4:12)
- b. Intellectually: Facilitate the student’s ability to understand and develop analytical thinking and to formulate and present a Christian worldview in a professional manner. (Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2)
- c. Socially: Develop a life that is Christ-like in both personal and social areas, being guided by Biblical principles and controlled by the Holy Spirit at all times. (Colossians 3:17)
- d. Economically: Fortify the student’s understanding of Biblical stewardship. (Romans 13:8; Philippians 4:19)
- e. In the workplace: Develop an appreciation for the dignity of work and a Biblical work ethic. (Acts 20:34; I Thessalonians 2:9)
- 7. Cultivate and develop the abilities of the student so that he can effectively communicate God’s Word in the context of the Hispanic world. (II Timothy 2:2; II Timothy 4:1-2)"
These goals were revised and adopted by the Faculty of Rio Grande Bible Institute on October 21, 2002, and are included in the latest editions of the Bible Institute catalog and Faculty Handbook.