When Dr. Monte Madsen first felt a call to ministry, he was only 16 years old and immediately began preaching in the small church of a remote, Texas town. “The county judge would introduce me,” Madsen pauses to don a thick, Southern drawl. “‘We got this young preacher boy to speak to us today, and I need ere’body to listen! We think he’s a good fella, but he’ll need yer encouragement, okay? Alright, c’mon up here, brotha.’”
Today, Madsen does the encouraging. As the president of Christ Mission College, formerly Latin American Bible Institute, Madsen is leading a new generation of young adults to follow their own unique calling and commit their lives to sharing the Gospel.
Ringing a Bell
Madsen enrolled as a student at Latin American Bible Institute (LABI) in 1982. Twenty years later, he returned as a consultant and was eventually promoted to president. As he settled into the new job, Madsen spent countless hours researching the school, paying special attention to the original president and founder, Henry Cleophas (H.C.) Ball.
H.C. Ball accepted Christ in 1910 when he was 14 years old, but his love for the Lord was all-consuming from the start. He received a calling to minister to the Latino population in America only ten days after his conversion, though at the time he could not speak Spanish. He quickly learned the phrase “Sunday afternoon in the schoolhouse” in Spanish and repeated the invitation throughout the town of Ricardo, Texas, where he and his mother had recently moved. A week later, the English-speaking, Caucasian high schooler stood outside a small schoolhouse, ringing a bell and waiting for his first congregants to arrive.
H.C. Ball went on to become a prominent figure in the history of the Hispanic districts of the Assemblies of God, and his impact spread across the Midwest, planting seeds like a Texas tumbleweed. Among those “seeds” was a Bible institute. “He wanted to create a place of opportunity for young ministers,” says Madsen. “It was a simple matter of need.” So in 1926, H.C. Ball and his wife, Sunshine, founded LABI to assist their brothers and sisters in Christ and propel the early growth of the Hispanic districts.
Decades later, when Madsen attended LABI as a student, Ball’s original objective still held true. “The central message was ‘we’re training pastors and missionaries,’” Madsen explains. “They used to line us up. ‘All pastors over here! All missionaries over here! All others over here!’ I always lined up with ‘all others,’ because I didn’t know what I was doing,” he laughs. “I just followed the call.” But by the time Madsen accepted the position of president, it was clear that this line of “others” had grown. “Half or more of our alums come back and say, ‘I worked for Exxon-Mobil.’ ‘I worked as a teacher.’ ‘I was a counselor.’ ‘I worked as a county judge.’ ‘I was a racetrack chaplain,’” he shares. “The students here are not just pastors and missionaries.”
As Madsen contemplated this truth, he and his staff were also beginning a long-awaited discussion concerning the future of the institute. In the same year that LABI was founded in Texas, the Balls’ friend and fellow missionary, Alice Luce, founded a sister school in California. Although the two schools were states apart, their shared name had often resulted in mixed mail and confused prospective students. So, when LABI California became LABI College, Madsen knew the San Antonio school couldn’t follow suit. “We didn’t want to perpetuate the confusion,” he says.
The time had come to end the uncertainty. With a host of new names in mind, Madsen continued his research with more attention and interest than before — studying the ideas and values that had shaped the ministry he now led. Along the way, he became even more fascinated by the steady devotion of the man who started it all.
When a teenage H.C. Ball discovered a need for more Spanish-speaking ministries in Texas, he helped train and equip pastors to lead churches in Los Indios, Brownsville, and Kingsville. When he realized there was a lack of Pentecostal literature available in Spanish, Ball produced the magazine La Luz Apostólica, founded Casa Evangélica de Publicaciones, and published thousands of copies of Himnos de Gloria — a compilation of translated English hymns. And in 1926, when he noticed the need for a Bible institute among Latino believers, H.C. and Sunshine Ball founded LABI.
Despite his age, his race, and the simple fact that he could not speak Spanish, when Ball discovered a need among God’s children and felt the Lord’s encouragement to respond, he didn’t hesitate. Madsen related to this fervor for Jesus. He thought back to his younger self — preaching in a small Southern church, feeling a pull to LABI, lining up behind ‘the others,’ listening intently for the Lord’s next instruction. I didn’t know what I was doing. He thought. I just followed the call.
This, Madsen realized, was the kind of school LABI was created to be — one that led young men and women, like H.C. Ball and himself, not necessarily to a specific career or mission field, but to follow the call of God. “Christ’s mission applies to all people, all endeavors, all walks of life,” says Madsen. So in 2016, nearly a century after its founding, the leaders of LABI Texas changed its name to Christ Mission College (CMC). “The school was named after Him and His mission,” says Madsen. “All are called to follow Christ.”
Answering the Call
Like many Texans, Madsen is proud of his heritage. It’s a truth that’s apparent from the moment you step into his office — decorated with a decades-old map of Texas hung from desert-orange walls, worn leather lounge chairs, and pillows stamped with a lone star. But in the middle of it all, a bronze Bible sits on the coffee table, displayed for all to see.
Madsen is a proud Texan, but above all he’s a proud man of God, and the students he interacts with every day share this deep love for Jesus. They pursue God through biblically based education, local and international mission trips, consistent chapel, and internships at churches throughout San Antonio. And when these students graduate, they continue to seek His direction and reach a vast collection of communities and countries with the Gospel. “CMC is a place to prepare those who have answered the call to serve,” the college’s website reads. Although they may not always know what lies ahead, this emerging generation will follow God’s calling. And like H.C. Ball, they will go on to impact lives throughout the world.
Pray for CMC
- “Propagate a culture of Spirit-filled life and mission”
- “Strengthen the student enrollment capacity”
- “Strengthen our income streams”
–Dr. Monte Madsen
CEP and CMC
Christ Mission College’s partnership with Church Extension Plan extends back nearly 20 years. In 2000, CEP loaned CMC funds for the first of many building projects. Since then, the school has continued to grow and build new facilities, all with CEP’s consistent support and encouragement. “They saw potential in us when we didn’t see it,” says Madsen. “That’s the God’s honest truth.”
Source: Rosdahl, Bruce. (2011). Whatever the Cost: The Formative Years of H. C. Ball, Pioneer of Hispanic Pentecostalism. AG Heritage Magazine, 4-13. Retrieved from https://ifphc.org/Publications/AG-Heritage