Rocky Mountain Bible Mission

Reaching the Rocky Mountain West for Christ
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History of the
Rocky Mountain Bible Mission

In the spring of 1957, Darrel and Betty Burch, new missionaries with the American Sunday School Union, were placed in the Bitterroot Valley community of Stevensville, Montana. Their assignment was to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the rural areas of Montana west of Helena, from the Canadian border south to Idaho. Darrel soon realized that covering 62,000 square miles was too much for one person, so he began writing two of his friends from Bible school days at Prairie Bible Institute for assistance.

Don & Ferris Rust and Gale & Elsie Fister were working in a lumber camp at Port McNeil on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They logged during the day and spent evenings and weekends reaching lumberjacks for Christ. Both families felt led of God to relocate for gospel ministry in Montana.

The Rusts moved to Stevensville in July of 1957; Gale and Elsie followed a month later. All three families started driving the highways of western Montana, knocking on doors and holding youth groups, Bible studies, Sunday Schools and small church services. Gale and Don held secular jobs and ministered evenings and weekends. Some of their early preaching points were Haugan and DeBorgia, Saltese, St. Regis, Frenchtown, Lolo and Camas Prairie. With some round trips being well over two hundred miles, Gale and Don each held services in eight different communities on a two-week cycle. Darrel and Betty Burch left the field in the spring of 1962, and Sam and Marjorie Gupton replaced them as the area's American Sunday School Union missionaries. Sam was an effective visitation and recruitment worker, and soon had many more areas to serve and more lay workers involved.

Sam enlisted Frank and Betty Jackson in Helena in August of 1962, and the Jacksons started reaching out to Garrison, Gold Creek, Helmville and Lincoln. In addition, services were still being held in the above-mentioned locations west of Missoula, plus DeSmet, Trout Creek, White Pine, Alberton, Tarkio, Plains and other places which escape memory, as exact records were not kept.

In 1968, Sam Gupton was given to understand that, due to the shortage of income from this area, he would be moved by the American Sunday School Union to another field. The workers, churches, and friends of the local communities expressed disappointment at this prospect, and decided before God that this field was ready to harvest. God used this time of crisis to further His work in western Montana, as on February 21, 1969, the Articles of Incorporation of the Rocky Mountain Bible Mission became official. Gale Fister was president, Wallace Tucker was vice-president, Robert Lukey was secretary and Frank Jackson was treasurer. Sam Gupton was the only full-time missionary, and a giant step of faith was taken as the new mission trusted God for $500.00 a month for the Guptons' support.

By 1973 it became obvious that the Mission needed a better organizational structure. Mission responsibilities were shared by laymen, but due to the pressures of their own jobs as well as their ministries, they did not coordinate as well as they needed, and some serious problems developed. The need for a full-time director because evident. In April of 1974, after much soul-searching, Frank Jackson resigned his position as an engineer with Mountain Bell to become the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Bible Mission.

The Mission's immediate goal was to enlist more workers and locate them in communities with the greatest need. Bible college students were recruited each summer and were sent to many different communities to hold Vacation Bible Schools in the month of June, and then to counsel at camp during July. In 1977, Martha Friddle and Amy Purviance joined as the first full-time children's workers, underscoring the importance of that unique outreach, which opened a number of communities to the gospel and church planting.

Through the years the Lord added churches to the Rocky Mountain Bible Mission. Some were planted and grown from scratch, others joined the Mission out of a desire to belong to a parent organization for resources and support.

The Mission also branched out in several other vital ministry directions. In 1980 RMBM began sponsoring a radio translator for KMBI, a Moody Bible Institute affiliated FM station from Spokane, Washington, which provides Christian radio to the Missoula area. In mid-2000 KMBI had to stop broadcast through RMBM.

In 1986 Indian outreach began on the Flathead Reservation through the Ravalli and Hot Springs churches, and from these efforts a very effective Native American children's ministry was developed. The venture, called "Pathwalkers," had been used by the Lord in six western states by the summer of 1999.

Near Troy in the northwestern corner of Montana, Elohim Bible Camp in 1991 became Elohim Camp and Retreat Center, a permanent facility developed under the Mission umbrella. Until year-'round capability is achieved, Elohim will be used for kids' Bible camps during the summer months.

Nearer Missoula in the Clearwater Junction area, Camp Utmost has been used for kids' Bible camps since 1958. In 1996 forty acres were purchased and building began on "new" Camp Utmost, a few miles from the original site. Utmost is being built for year-round use as a Bible camp and conference center.

The addition of an itinerant personal and family counselor and counseling trainer in 1994 contributed an important service to the rural mission field.

The fall of 1995 saw the Mission adopt a three-year program for training rural pastors and church leaders called Bible Training Center for Pastors. The BTCP has been so well received that a satellite school in the Hot Springs area was begun in the fall of 1998. Combined with a comprehensive pastoral internship program, the Mission is now actively training our own workers for pastoral and other leadership ministries in rural areas. An annual Rocky Mountain Shepherds' Conference provides encouragement and technical help to those engaged in uniquely rural gospel ministry.

With an annual budget approaching three-quarters of a million dollars, the Mission achieved general accounting standards status in the fall of 1997, which was happily followed by our acceptance with STEER, Inc., a ministry which channels agriculturally-based financial contributions to qualified organizations. The Mission's sitting largely in the heart of cattle country offers tremendous possibilities for funding our workers and ministries with the help of STEER.

Currently the Rocky Mountain Bible Mission has over sixty workers serving among eighteen churches, two camps, children's outreach, and the Mission office. In addition to the executive director, the Mission's finance manager and administrative staff operate out of offices in Missoula. An executive board, comprised of three Mission church laymen, three pastors and the executive director, oversees the Mission.

In recent years of the Head of the Church opened doors of evangelistic opportunity in rural areas of Idaho, Wyoming and Washington, resulting in a Mission church presence in southwestern Wyoming from 1993 to 1998, northern Idaho since 1995, and northern Wyoming in 1998. New prospects for Pathwalkers, Vacation Bible School, youth and adult outreach are ever presenting themselves, challenging the Mission continually with exciting possibilities for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Lord is pleased to release His resources and laborers, the Rocky Mountain Bible Mission will continue to proclaim the good news of the cross to those for whom Christ died in the "little places" of the Rocky Mountain West.