IM invested personnel and resources over several decades to start a network of Free Will Baptist churches in Panama. With the work firmly established, IM no longer maintains resident missionaries in country. Local believers carry on the work, united by an Association of Free Will Baptist churches. Besides the churches, they also operate a Bible institute to train local leaders for various church ministries, including pastors. We have facilitated a partnership between the Seminary and Welch College to give their teachers advanced training.
This year, the association voted to sponsor three new church-plant projects. A number of people are involved in these efforts.
The Chitré church also sponsors a church-plant in Venezuela. A Venezuelan refugee who s attended the church in Chitré felt a real burden to return to his country to preach the gospel and start a church. The church in Chitré sponsors this new work, already in its second year. Several people have been saved and are ready for baptism. Despite the economic and political crisis the country is experiencing, the gospel continues to be announced, giving hope to the hopeless.
Earlier this year, while I was in Panama, I got to interview Emiliano and Carolaine, a couple from the Betania FWB Church in Panama City. Last year, they told me about spending 14 months in Nicaragua to complete an MBA program. While there, they initiated an on-campus Bible study with post-grad students from several Latin American countries. Many, who previously considered themselves agnostic, became very interested in Christianity. Others heard a clear presentation of the gospel for the first time and were saved. Several nominal Christians started growing in their faith.
In my interview, I asked them how they have kept in contact with these students since their return to Panama. This couple holds weekly Bible studies by Skype (an internet communications platform) with students from the countries of Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, Honduras and Venezuela (this student lives in Argentina). They have even restarted the series of studies with a new generation of students. How many Bible students do they teach in this manner? About 30! Two of these students, who are in Bolivia, made a profession of faith and later traveled to Panama City specifically to be baptized in the Betania FWB Church.
Several months ago, they initiated another Bible study with two unsaved couples in the home of a family in Panama City. God is using this educated couple to globalize the gospel, starting from home and spreading throughout Latin America.
At IM, we are glad to partner with the Association of FWB Churches in Panama to fulfill the Great Commission.