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A Family Legacy: Training Pastors in South America

Three generations of the Grams family have served as missionaries to Argentina, working to train up Argentinians and Christians from the Americas to reach the lost for Christ.

"Miracles are the norm," declare Ben and Belu Grams.

Ben and Belu, directors of River Plate Bible Institute (Instituto Biblico Rio de la Plata) say their students regularly testify about God's provision. Belu explains, "Inflation is at 100% here in Argentina. Students cannot get loans to pay for school, so they come by faith. God provides pretty much to the cent what students need. Families sell everything they can -- even wedding rings, other jewelry, and cars."

This year, the Bible school celebrates 75 years of training missionaries, ministers, teachers, and evangelists. Most Assemblies of God pastors in Argentina have attended the school, but its reach extends beyond borders, with 17 nations represented among the student body.

In Central and South America, the campus is known for life-changing encounters with God in weekday chapels and evening services. Recently, one student was healed from painful flat feet, demonstrating the miracle by stepping on paper that showed the outline of his new arches.

Ben notes how closely tied the school is to the local church and ministry. After their first year, students must return to their home church to minister. They cannot register for their second year without their pastor confirming their involvement in writing. Ongoing ministry is also part of their training. On weekends, students pile into a school van to minister in churches and communities.

Once, as students spoke at a park in 100-degree weather, the student leader promised drinking water to the listeners. When the students heard this, they waved their hands to tell her, “No, no! We don’t have enough.” But they prayed, and God miraculously multiplied their small amount so each person in the crowd could enjoy two drinks of water.

“These students are here because God has called them,” Ben says. “They don’t consider other options. They know God is the only one who can do miracles. They are learning to rely on Him, and He is answering.”


Ben’s grandparents, Monroe and Betty Jane Grams, established this family’s missionary legacy, heading to Bolivia in 1952. In addition to planting churches, they built the first AG Evangelistic Center in South America and established Altiplano Bible School to train pastors for Aymara Indian churches. Today, that region hosts over a thousand churches.

After 17 years, the family moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Until his retirement in 1997, Monroe helped found and then directed a leadership training program with Latin America Advanced School of Theology, known as ISUM in Spanish. Over 8,000 pastors and leaders from every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America have studied there. Monroe taught in every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America, and his students have included almost every AG superintendent in Latin America.


Rocky Grams returned in 1979 to where he grew up with his parents Betty and Monroe. Upon reaching the field, national church leadership gave Rocky and his wife Sherry the freedom to develop a training ministry for church leaders. God then used them to further the development of River Plate Bible Institute.

“Each year, 75 to 120 graduate, and most of these are in full-time ministry,” Rocky and Sherry write. “Watching the Bible school grow to over 334 resident students, being indirectly involved in 53 night Bible schools and 175 extension training centers with a total enrollment of 8,421 and 5,385 active students.”

In 2003, the school had record numbers in all three programs: 371 students between two resident programs and 699 students in their Saturday program.


In 2012, God spoke to Ben and Belu about ministering in Argentina, where Ben grew up serving with his parents, Rocky and Sherry. For their first several years, Ben and Belu served as campus chaplains at Patagonian Bible Institute in southern Argentina. Now at River Plate Bible Institute, they balance family life with leading the school’s ministry and administration. Belu says, “I love what we do. Though we’re busy, we see fruit right away.”

Staff relationships with students are an integral part of the school’s effectiveness. “The staff works quickly to get to know new students,” notes Ben. “They also let students know they are praying for them throughout the semester.”

Besides resident training, several other programs increase the school’s reach in Argentina and the Americas. On Saturdays, 400 students come to the campus for classes and another 200 join by Zoom. Despite severe inflation, student numbers increase every semester.

In a new program called Flex, students can complete two of the first three years online, allowing them to continue ministry in their home church and community. The Flex model also requires students to spend some time in residence to experience the spiritual formation of campus life.

God continues to open doors for River Plate Bible Institute as the school makes plans to build a chapel. Neighboring property owners unwilling to sell are now willing, and a ministry called Priority One is giving significantly toward chapel construction.

Generations of the Grams family have embodied one of Assemblies of God World Missions’ top priorities: training. Following the discipleship patterns of Jesus Christ and the Early Church, they and other AGWM missionaries train local leaders worldwide to equip and resource believers for effective ministry in their communities.

This article originally appeared in Worldview magazine. Used with permission.