Ken Bowyers has devoted most of his life to the ministry. But entering the ministry was not his lifelog dream. That dream was to farm alongside his dad.
The seed to enter the ministry was plated when, at the age of eight, Ken attended an old-fashioned revival and accepted Jesus as his Savior. But he adds that the very first place he “visited” as a newborn was Maple Valley Church when he was just two weeks old. Ken’s dad was a trustee in the church, and his mom taught Sunday School.
Born in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia in 1951, Ken was the fourth of six children. His dad worked as an electrician in the coal mines, and his mother was a housekeeper. His grandfathers were both farmers and loggers, and his family had a small family farm that included cows, chickens, and pigs, and they raised hay and farmed with a team of horses.
As a farm boy, Ken fondly recalls helping his dad with farm work as soon as he got home from school. “My dad was my hero,” Ken states. So, imagine the pain when, on his 15th birthday, Ken’s dad, Luke Bowyer, was killed in a coal mine explosion. He was just 45 years old.
Recalling that day, Ken explains that his dad got called to a special shift in the mine. It was a Saturday, and he had assured Ken that he would get home in time to celebrate his birthday; however, he never made it home. As recorded in the Beckley Post Herald and The Raleigh Register, July 24, 1966: Seven died, two were injured, and 39 escaped unharmed when a “thunderous explosion ripped through the Siltix Mine of the New River Co. near Mount Hope at 8:45 a.m. Saturday….” The blast, which occurred 14,000 feet from the mouth of the mine, was caused by highly volatile methane gas.
Left a widow, Ken’s mom got her GED and graduated as an LPN to support the family. She worked until she was 65 years old.
Meanwhile, Ken became the man of the house, and they all worked at maintaining the farm. Because he and his dad had always dreamed of getting a larger farm, Ken pursued that dream through high school and college, graduating from the University of West Virginia in 1974 with a BS in biology. He then began farming with his uncle and raising cattle alongside teaching high school.
Finding it difficult to maintain the farm while teaching, Ken resigned his teaching position and began working in a mine machinery factory. He also was able to realize that dream of expanding his farming operation and purchased a 285-acre farm. His future was settled, he says.
However, along the way, some changes were about to occur. Ken admits that, although he had never stopped attending church, his walk had grown colder and colder, as his new friends were not Godly folks. Yet, God had not given up on Ken. One night, “after a very worldly party,” Ken says, “the Lord spoke to my heart and showed me the cost of being a hypocrite.” On that Sunday night, he went forward and reaffirmed his walk with Jesus Christ.
For the first time in many years, Ken says, he began to read his Bible and pray. The more he read and prayed, the more he sensed that God wanted more from him than just attending church. He spoke with his pastor, who suggested that he attend an evening class at Appalachian Bible College.
Continuing to sense God’s calling him to more, Ken again spoke with his pastor, who advised him to enroll at the Bible college full time. This would mean, however that Ken’s life-long dream of farming would have to be set aside. Nevertheless, Ken enrolled as a full-time student and put the farm up for sale.
Ken was studying to become a pastor; yet, he continually felt the call to enter the missionary field. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Sandra Tegeler, who also felt the call to foreign missions. Subsequently, going on a summer missions trip to Honduras, Ken felt his missionary call confirmed.
Ken graduated from Appalachian Bible College in 1978 with a BA in Biblical studies, and two weeks after he and Sandra married, they entered Cadidate School and were accepted into a mission, preparing them to minister in the Brazilian Amazon.
The next step was studying linguistics at Oklahoma University; however, since Brazil was not issuing visas for people desiring to teach Bible in the Amazon at the time, the Boyers prepared to minister in Mexico with the same type of indigenous groups that they would have worked with in Brazil.
After studying Spanish at Rio Grande Bible Institute, the Boyers entered Mexico in 1982 with their two sons, Daniel – age 2 ½ — and Philip – age four months.
During their first years serving in Mexico, Ken and Sandra dedicated their time to the construction of their Bible Institute – where they still teach today – and to beginning a summer camp. They moved to Puebla for a year, teaching school to missionary kids in transition to moving to the remote Totonac Indian village in the mountains of Veracruz – where they continue to serve today!
Ken recalls that in their first years, “It was a six-hour hike from the nearest road to get to our house… and our household needs were carried by mules.” He adds, “The Totonac people taught us more than we taught them, it seems. And our lives have become deeper and richer as we spent our lives with them.”
The Bowyers have made great strides in their mission endeavors. They have planted churched while encouraging established churches. They have missions in 13 villages throughout the Veracruz Totonac Region. Ken helped missionary doctors from Germany to build a medical clinic in another remote area of the Puebla Totonac region. Many of the youth under Ken’s guidance have become missionaries and are revising the translation of the Totonac New Testament to make it more understandable.
Today, the Bowyers continue to work with the churches, camps, and the Bible Institute and have branched out to minister in other tribal groups such as the Otomi, Aztec, and Zapotec regions. The also enjoy working with the UIEM (Union of Evangelico Mexican), which consists of 140 churches in six states of Mexico where Ken helps with their church-related activities.
Although Ken and Sandra now live in Devine, where Daniel and Philip attended high school, Ken travels back and forth to Mexico, maintaining the ministries that he helped establish. He and Sandra continue to work through their mission organization, C.O.S.E.C.H.A. Ministries, and are members of FBC, Devine, where Ken also serves as a deacon.
“Retirement is not in our plans,” Ken says. Their desire is to continue teaching the Bible “as long as the doors are open and God gives us strength.” And Ken humbly adds, “Our missionary work has been a team effort from God between my wife and myself…and was only possible through having my wife working with me in every endeavor.”