by Pastor David Nelson, ret.
His step-father told him he was “worthless.” His three brothers died in prison. His sisters have been married five or six times. His own life was headed for destruction. But then, a Christian classmate in college befriended him one night when he came into the dorm drunk, sat him down, gave him enough coffee to get him sober and began sharing the “Good News” about Jesus’ love and forgiveness and he prayed to receive Christ. That same classmate then went to Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, and invited him to come join him there, which though a brand-new Christian, he decided to do.
He struggled at Prairie and had to have special tutoring. Some told him he was wasting their time and his money. He said he wanted to be a missionary. They said, “You’ll never make it as a missionary!” With great concentrated effort, he managed to make it through Prairie and applied to some thirty different missions and was rejected by all of them. Finally “Operation Mobilization” accepted him. (He said, “They would accept anyone!”). He thought he was headed to France, but ended up in India, where he found out he, as a white American, was very much disliked.
But, he has now been a very effective missionary for almost 48 years, and we had the privilege and joy of having Doug Nichols and his wife Margaret (“Margi”) in our home this past weekend and having them share at three services at Faith Bible Church here in Libby, Montana. Margaret came from quite a different background than did Doug. Her folks were for many years missionaries in China. Doug met her at PBI. He heard her sing a solo in the big choir concert and thought, “If God ever lets me have a wife, I want it to be that one!” After a Doug’s couple years in India, they were married and have served together for 21 years in the Philippines and 24 years in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Doug, the “worthless” step-son, the one who would “never make it as a missionary,” serves as founder of ACTION and Global Missions Advocate/Mobilizer assisting with Global Diaspora Network, Filipino International Network, Christian Growth Ministries in the Philippines, advocate for needy children, and in leadership development. He travels extensively throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin and North America speaking on behalf of the glory of God in missions. Not bad for a “drunk from a dysfunctional family!”
We were so blessed to have the Nichols stay with us this weekend, and to listen to all his stories of the faithfulness of God was such an encouragement to us personally and to the folks at Faith Bible. I trust that each of us was challenged by what he shared, and realize that all God needs for us to be used by Him is a willing heart. When I introduced Doug and Margaret at church, I shared briefly about his interesting background and asked the congregation if they felt qualified to be a missionary. Then I read from I Cor. 1:26-31 which says, “For consider your calling, brethren that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no one should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that just as it is written, ‘Let Him who boasts, boast in the LORD.'” God doesn’t require great intellect, years of education, a charismatic personality, solid family background. God is looking rather for “FAT” Christians, i.e., those who are “Faithful, Available, and Teachable.”
Another key to Doug and Margaret’s effectiveness as missionaries has been the heart they have for the needs of others, and their practice of reaching out in love to meet those needs. In Sunday School, Doug taught from the Book of Titus about good deeds, which are mentioned six times: “worthless” 1:16; “example” in 2:14; “zealous” 2:14; “ready” in 3:1,2; “careful” (“thoughtful”) in 3:8; and “learn” in 3:14. He pointed out that “Good works do not justify–they glorify.” Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). Good deeds are the fruit of our lives in Christ.
Doug shared many examples of how doing simple things for others such as opening car doors, or helping folks on an airplane with their overhead luggage have opened doors for sharing the Gospel. In India, Doug contracted TB and had to go to a hospital for TB patients. There he tried to hand out gospel tracts but had the Indians tear them up and throw them back in his face. They didn’t want a white man taking the place of an Indian in their hospital! But then one night he helped another patient get to the bathroom at two in the morning so he could relieve himself. The man was too weak to get out of bed to get there. Doug himself was weakened with TB but managed to carry the emaciated man to the bathroom and back. The next morning he was awakened by a tap on the shoulder and an Indian asked for one of his Gospel tracts and then another came, and another until everyone in the ward had received one. All because of Doug’s helping an old man get to the bathroom!
Doug’s challenge to us was “Don’t waste your geography!” That is, no matter where you are, make a difference to someone. Be ready to meet a need, no matter how simple. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is heaven” (Mt. 5:16). Doug and Margaret have been doing that for close to half a century and have impacted thousands of lives for Christ. Each of us can do the same. If you are “Faithful,” and “Available,” and “Teachable,” you qualify as a missionary, no matter what others may say.
Pastor Dave Nelson