83-Year-Old Travels Around the World to Do His Part for the Great Commission

Jim Nicolls of First Baptist Church, Arnold, Okla, sits amid a crowd in a West African village as they listen to stories from God’s Word via an electronic audio device called a MegaVoice.
Photo courtesy of Jim Nicolls

Jim Nicolls thought he’d just been called to help the people of northern Mexico. Surely, that’s why he wept through the night during his first mission trip in 2000, when he led a construction crew in building houses at a squatter’s camp along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“That first night, I just laid there all night, weeping,” he recalled. “God broke me. I kept saying, ‘Why, God, am I here, and they’re there?'”

More than the spiritual lostness, it was the “abject poverty” that existed along these borderlands that shocked him: “people literally scavenging,” he recalled, “for what they could find — a piece of cardboard to cover a crack in their cardboard shanty, cans that they could use, food and clothing that they could find in the dump. … Little kids were in the dump with their mothers, finding what they could find. If they could pick up a little toy that was thrown away, they were happy.”

But God was working more deeply in Nicolls’ heart than he realized at the time.

Although he was indeed broken for the poor people of northern Mexico, God was soon to give the now 83-year-old missions coordinator at First Baptist Church, Arnold, a completely new calling in life. Beginning that night, his desire in life began to shift to the single purpose of taking God’s Word to lost people around the globe.

Nicolls had volunteered only hesitantly to go on that first mission trip to Mexico in September of 2000. But when it was over he was eager to return. That December, he went back to the country. And the following year, he led six teams to the area.

By 2002, Nicolls closed down his small IT business and devoted himself to missions. And in 2005, First Arnold invited him to help lead the growing missions program at the church. Shortly before joining the church staff, he started going deeper into Mexico. At the time, he began learning from Henry Blackaby’s ‘Experiencing God’ how to “find where God is working and join Him.”

He didn’t realize that only a few years later, he would be joining God in West Africa.

“The level of lostness was greater there,” he said. “The culture was different.” Though Islam was prominent in the region, individuals from an unreached people group there would tell him, “We’re not Catholic. We’re not Muslim. We’re nothing, and we need to be something.”

The people were animistic, fearing and worshipping demons. They were also illiterate — and at the time, they had no written language whatsoever.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press; Missouri Pathway, Ben Hawkins