Worker Spotlight: Robert & Ruth Billings

November 10, 2017
Robert Billings

In the fall of 1977, I attended a prayer meeting in an assembly in Barcelona, Spain. I would be teaching English as a Second Language in that city as a self-supporting missionary. My desire was to go into full-time work, but I did not want to be the pastor of a church and did not know what church group to join. It was a confusing time for me as a young Christian. At the prayer meeting that evening, the Spanish elder spoke on the subject of plurality of eldership in the local church. As he began the teaching, I thought to myself, “This idea of plurality is not biblical, but as a visitor, I will not say anything.” By the time he had finished the message, I was convinced that the Bible teaches that a group of elders should lead the local church. A few weeks later, I was baptized in La Bisbal Street Chapel in Barcelona. The Lord had led me to the churches with which I have had the fellowshiped over the last forty years.

Testimony of Salvation

I was raised in a loving home, went to Sunday School in a non-evangelical church every week, and generally had a wonderful childhood—except that the most important thing was lacking—I did not hear the Gospel at home or in church. I started my freshman year of college during the tumultuous Vietnam War era and lived the life of a typical student. By my sophomore year, I began to tire of that life. The Lord had put me on a dormitory floor where the only Christian students in the college lived, and they witnessed to me. I told them that they had gone to Sunday School for too long and were brainwashed. But I could not deny their lifestyle. Although, the rest of us talked about peace and love, these Christians were the ones demonstrating such qualities.

The next school year, I had a new hunger to find out whether the Gospel was true. The Christian fellows in my dorm had graduated, and for nine months I had no spiritual conversations with anyone. But I had a Bible and began to read it earnestly. Walking alone one night, I prayed to God and said, “I do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead; but if He did, please show me.” As I read the Bible more, its message became clear: man’s basic problem is sin; our good works cannot save us; Christ died for our sins. A true savior would have to be alive—Christ rose from the dead! In March 1973, after reading Romans 3-5, I knelt down by my bed and put my faith in Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Entering Full-Time Work

In 1981, I was commended to full-time work by Bethel Bible Chapel in Red Bank, New Jersey, two miles from where I was raised. I was also commended by Lakeside Bible Chapel in Sterling Heights, Michigan, near to where I had taught in a Christian school. My primary ministry in the 1980s, in addition to teaching in assemblies, was door-to-door evangelism and discipleship. In both New Jersey and Michigan, I spent much time speaking to people at their doors, and giving them a survey about their beliefs. Some people became believers and were baptized, and others who already were believers, came into fellowship at Bethel and Lakeside. The Word of God does not come back void. After preaching one Sunday at Bethel, a couple approached me and the woman said, “We know you.” I did not recognize them. The woman then said, “Nine years ago, you came to our house.” The man started attending a men’s Bible study at the chapel. Soon he became a believer and was in happy fellowship with us for years, before passing on to Heaven.

Family Life

In December 2009, I was in Honduras preaching in the rural town of Mezapa. As I began the message, a woman came walking down the aisle to sit in one of the first pews. Her uncle had picked her up late for the meeting, almost all the seats were filled, and she had little choice but to walk to the front of the packed church. After the meeting I greeted her, and then her family. They and the group I was with ate dinner at an elder’s home. We conversed, and she told me her name was Ruth Urrea Nunez. A few days later, as previously scheduled, I spoke in her assembly in the village of Pajuiles. I then began making regular trips to Honduras, preaching 150 times in various assemblies on and near the northern coast. Pajuiles became my “home base” when in Honduras. In July 2011, Ruth again walked down the aisle toward me in a chapel, this time wearing a wedding dress. We now have a three-year-old son, Edward, and reside in Red Bank.

Hispanic Ministry

In the late 1980s, I began preaching in Hispanic assemblies in the New York area. I also began taking two trips per year to Spain, speaking and doing discipleship work in the southern provinces. All of the trips to Spain would have been worth it for the opportunity to disciple one man, Jonas. He had stopped taking drugs around the time we met, and we began spending much time together. Jonas grew to be a dedicated Christian, married a godly wife, and now has two children. In 2010, through contacts made in Honduras, I began traveling regularly to Easton, Pennsylvania, to teach at a home Bible study. It was wonderful to be there in 2013 on the first Sunday that they broke bread as an assembly. Ruth and I continue to go to Easton once or twice a month to help with the work.

The Spanish ministry in Red Bank has been expanding. In the past five years, a number of Hispanic families have come into fellowship, at Bethel Bible Chapel and there are also unbelievers who attend regularly. Bilingual men in the assembly simultaneously translate the morning message for those who do not understand English well. One couple for whom we translate trusted Christ recently. This summer we did door-to-door evangelism in an apartment complex where almost all of the residents are Hispanic. We then held an open-air Vacation Bible School at the complex, and we are currently following up on these families.

The Lord has been very gracious to me in salvation, family life, and ministry. Ruth and I appreciate all the love and support which we receive from brothers and sisters. We have so much to be thankful for.