History of CEM

Early days:
Donald and Ruth 1952
Donald and Ruth arrive for an evangelistic crusade in 1952

In the early 1950s, the missionary couple Don and Ruth Luttrell moved to Vieques, Puerto Rico. They had a vision to reach the Caribbean with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Don was a missionary bush pilot. Hopping from island to island in a small airplane, Don and Ruth challenged thousands of people in local rallies. Ruth also ran a public-health clinic for Vieques while Don served as acting chaplain for the U.S. Marines at Camp García. As time went on, they began to see the need for more discipleship and follow-up ministry.

Don and Ruth on Tortola
Don and Ruth doing missionary work on the island of Tortola (early 1960s).

In 1953, The Bible Correspondence School of the Caribbean opened. Dr. Luttrell and the missionary team began writing a series of lessons that were designed to get the student to dig into the Bible for himself. Not a “multiple-choice,” but rather a “fill-in-the-blank” format, the lessons were meant to make the Bible an indispensable part of the learning process. This way, the student would become comfortable with the Bible as a whole, and learn the format, content, and makeup of the entire book. At first, these lessons were distributed at the rallies, local groups, and through churches. As the Lord blessed the ministry, it quickly became apparent that even more was needed.

Calvary Evangelistic Mission, Inc.
Dr. Luttrell served as base chaplain at Camp García Marine Base on Vieques. He was a tough, but popular spiritual father to many. (Detail of photo from 1960, Vieques)

In 1955, the work on Vieques was formally solidified into CEM. It was incorporated in Puerto Rico for nonprofit, religious, and educational ministries. Based on the bedrock of the Holy Bible, CEM is interdenominational in scope. Recognizing that there is freedom in the Body of Christ to agree on the essentials of our faith, but to disagree cordially on smaller matters of choice, CEM believes that the way to show our faith to the world is to work in unity with every aspect of the Church Universal. CEM was founded as an evangelical, Bible-based, faith Mission.

Calvary Evangelistic Mission exists to glorify God by partnering with the Church Universal to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-19), with a historical focus on the Caribbean. Undergirded with prayer, and based on II Timothy 2:2, CEM challenges, trains, and motivates people to receive and serve Jesus Christ. Through its radio stations, Bible Correspondence Schools, and by sharing methods and materials, CEM seeks to impact the home, Church, community, region, and the world for Christ.

Don Luttrell, D.D., served as the first President of CEM, Inc. After his passing in 1987, his wife Ruth served as President until 2005. She then stepped aside and their daughter Janet assumed the office, which she filled until 2014.  Today Donna “Nita” Luttrell, the youngest of the Luttrell children, serves as President of CEM, Inc.

The Rock Radio Network
Don and Ruth sorting the daily program load of reel-to-reel tapes. This was a time-consuming chore. (1972)

As God continued expanding His work on Vieques, it became apparent that the rallies and Bible lessons were having a huge effect, but that even more was needed. Don believed that it would take too long to impact the Caribbean by rallies and lessons alone. Staff began praying and seeking God’s face as to where to expand.

As the story goes, one day, as Don was talking with a fisherman, he happened to notice that the man was straining to catch the weather forecast on a battery-powered radio. In a flash of insight, Don realized that there were no Christian radio stations anywhere in the entire Caribbean! That sparked the vision for WIVV, which went on the air later in 1956 as the first fulltime Christian radio station in the Caribbean. For more on the WIVV story, click here.

God continued expanding the radio ministry of CEM, Inc. In the 1980s, CEM purchased WBMJ in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Now known as The Rock Radio Network, the radio ministry of CEM moved to San Juan and took up residence in its present quarters on Avenida Ponce de León in Santurce.

Don and Ruth in the old WIVV studio.
Don and Ruth broadcasting from the old WIVV facilities on Vieques. The studio in Vieques has been moved to a modern steel Quonset hut on the same grounds. Today most of the Network’s programming originates in San Juan.

Today, CEM and The Rock Radio Network is aggressively meeting the new challenges and opportunities of serving God in the 21st century. The Bible Correspondence School of the Caribbean has expanded to reach the entire world. We now have satellite schools in places all the way from Bolivia to Burma, and we’re teaching and reaching students in locations like homes, hospital beds, prisons, and churches. We’re praying for God to give us additional radio stations to cover the rest of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. We’re expanding our online ministry as well.

Thank you for your interest in this ministry. Your prayers and financial support help to keep the vision that founded this work alive. As we seek to honor the legacy of those who have labored before us, we continue asking God to expand His work at CEM. You can help us meet that challenge!