IMB Journeyman from Arizona sees we’re in it together

By Robin Talley* | May 16, 2023

When Southern Baptists send out church members to serve in faraway places, they don’t send them alone. While the community surrounding sent-out ones may take a different form, each member of the community has an important role.

When Levi Thomason* was sent out by an Arizona Southern Baptist church through the International Mission Board as a Journeyman two years ago, he did not go alone. Community, as he had experienced it, was about to expand.

“I had taken for granted the community of believers that was available to me before I left on this assignment,” Thomason said. “We didn’t have the familiar potluck fellowships, Bible studies and corporate worship times once I arrived on the field.”

The community Thomason experienced during his two-year term grew to include new team members, local believers, as well as his Arizona home church.

Team Members

The first community that formed was the other Journeymen that Thomason went with on assignment in South Asia. These people were the most physically present community.

They provided mutual support as they carried out the work of their assignment. Through shared experiences, struggles and victories, as well as intentional debrief sessions, the team-member community was critical.

Local Partners

The community of local believers became some of the closest relationships that Thomason experienced. Although language and culture could have caused separation, their mutual purpose in reaching a large unreached people group created meaningful friendships.

“Even though, for the safety of our local partners, we could not be seen together sharing the gospel, the time spent planning, coordinating and supporting a common strategy brought us closer together,” Thomason said.

Home Church

While geographically the farthest away, Thomason’s home church in Arizona was his biggest source of community support. Even though they couldn’t physically be present for Thomason, their faithful prayers gave him a sense of not being alone.

Because of the security threats in the place where Thomason served, gospel sharing opportunities were limited. However, he took the opportunity to share when possible as he went about his daily activities.

One person he shared with seemed interested but didn’t immediately respond. He continued to befriend Thomason, but spiritual matters weren’t always a priority. Thomason regularly asked his home church to pray for this young man.

“Honestly, I had lost hope that my friend would ever believe, but I kept asking my home church to pray,” Thomason said. “I trusted them to pray when I couldn’t.”

Thomason knew his church was praying as a few individuals would respond to each newsletter with a comment that they were praying. What he didn’t know was how many people were praying.

Then, one day, Thomason received a picture of his friend being baptized.

“Prayer is never wasted,” Thomason said. “God gives us the experience of seeing the power of prayer as an encouragement.”

The ways Arizona Southern Baptists engage in the sharing of the gospel takes many forms.

“The church back home is called to the Great Commission. Whether you are the one going, praying, giving, or discipling the next ones who will go by leading small groups or teaching Sunday School, everyone plays a part,” Thomason said.

Working together as a community, Arizona Southern Baptists can do more to reach a world that desperately needs the good news of the gospel.

*name changed for security

Robin Talley, longtime Arizona Southern Baptist, is a former Last Frontier missionary with the International Mission Board.

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