Connections build mission partners, says IMB missionary to Panama

NASHVILLE (BP) – Tim Louderback sees connections as a key means to taking the gospel throughout the world. For 12 years, the International Mission Board missionary and his wife, Tina, have been serving in Panama to tell others about Christ and see them grow in a relationship with Him.

The Louderbacks have also worked toward that end through America’s Connect, an effort that helps American churches become more familiar with missionary opportunities in Panama. Potentially, those short-term opportunities can result in long-term commitments to the region.

Louderback recently shared one story illustrating those possibilities in an interview with Baptist Press editor Brandon Porter.

“Three years ago, a pastor led his team to serve alongside us,” he said. “Now, he’s on the field with us in the Americas, all because he stepped out and was obedient to take his church and serve on the mission field. He walked through the doors as God led [him].”

Every bit of assistance helps in sharing the gospel with the 1.6 million people in the Louderbacks’ ministry area. The family was featured on Day 1 of the Week of Prayer for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and is extremely appreciative of Southern Baptists support for their work.

“Thank you for giving,” he said. “Whether that is through your praying or giving as an individual, family or church, thank you.”

Those contributions helped support the Louderback family in raising their four children on the mission field. Three of them are grown and living back in the U.S., while their youngest, at 17 years old, still serves with them on the mission field.

America’s Connect, he said, can be beneficial for those wanting to ease into a missions experience. Going on an international trip can be difficult, depending on the location. Panama, however, is a place where many of those challenges don’t factor.

There is always some level of culture shock with international travel. But in Panama, there are no worries about parasites in the drinking water, according to Louderback. Also, commerce takes place with U.S. money. Close proximity to the U.S. also helps.

“We can take a volunteer team that arrives on a Saturday and flies out on [the following] Saturday and engage in seven or eight different ministries in that week,” Louderback pointed out. “Taking in the culture means they utilize what they’ve learned and plug it back into their own neighborhood, into their own backyard and into their own ministries.”

Missions brings a reciprocal benefit for those taking part, he added.

“When we go and serve, we leave the four walls of our church … and always look at how we can make an impact. But it really comes down to [that] we are impacted as well.”

Louderback has witnessed tremendous results when Southern Baptist groups have connected with local Christians, such as the 42 new believers he saw come forward in a week’s time. Stateside Christians have already scheduled trips to the country in 2022.

Teams that serve alongside the Louderbacks will get an opportunity to take part in various ministries during their time in Panama City. At the end of the week, Louderback has asked for members to write down the one that connected with them most. Typically, the answers vary greatly.

“One ministry may impact a person in a certain way,” he said. “Another impacts someone else differently. That’s God working in our lives. As we step out of our four walls and say, ‘Hey, let’s go serve,’ we get in on what He’s doing.”

Scott Barkley
National Correspondent
Scott Barkley
Baptist Press
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