PraiseGate International Ministries

Going the extra mile!

Dale Collins has a fascinating story to tell. As a missionary in Nigeria he helped a student who just graduated from a mission school to come back to his village. Dale drove the extra (300!) mile to get him there.

Now today, almost 50 years later, the fruit of "going the extra mile" for a brother is 2000 churches, a Bible College and a friendship for life. Read this exciting missionary report from Dale.

How it all started 1956

My first mission trip anywhere was to Nigeria in 1956. While there I met a man 2 years younger than myself and befriended him in his time of need. He was without money, had a wife and infant son, and had finished training for ministry. He wanted to go back to his village and evangelize but nobody would help him financially. Everything this family owned was in 3 cardboard boxes. I drove him to his village 300 miles away. The road ended and Godwin said: "Now we have to walk." It was a hot afternoon and I didn't want to walk. I asked how far it was and he said about 5 miles. I looked around and asked if the land was like this all the way to the village. Godwin said "yes", and I said: "Then we will make our own road." We drove cross country right into his village. Mine was the first car ever to be seen in that village-and I was the first white person most of them had ever seen. You can imagine what a spectacle we were.

I gave Godwin the equivalent of $5 and promised to write the mission board asking them to support him with $15 or $20 a month. If they didn't, I promised to give him $5 out of my own allowance. I encouraged Godwin to teach the Bible, pray for the sick and trust the Lord with the outcome. A month went by and I got a letter from Godwin saying: "Come and see, I have one church." I didn't go. Another month and a second letter saying: "Come and see, now I have three churches". I didn't go. Another month went by and while we were eating breakfast there was a knock on the door. There stood Godwin and he said: "I have come to take you to my village to see the churches". It took me a day or so to arrange things and then I drove Godwin to his village. I visited the churches, greeted the people and preached a Sunday sermon.

2000 churches!

This is how my relationship with Godwin began 48 years ago. Today there are about 2000 branch churches throughout Nigeria and several neighboring countries. I revisited Nigeria in 1964 and again in 1975. For 48 years he has been telling the people all over the country that I am his best friend, his mentor, in fact his angel from the Lord. Part of my mission was to visit churches where the people could see and hear me-a friend of Godwin and the church from America. In every church he repeated all of these claims and added that I never failed to write him a letter every month for 48 years. He introduced me as the "father" of the church. Then he would turn, with tears in his eyes, and hug me. A couple of times he kissed me on the cheek. This is why the people I visited everywhere-one thousand or more in most of the churches-greeted me so warmly. The introduction gave me an opportunity to review how God looked down from Heaven and saw two poor boys-one in America and one in Nigeria-and guided their destiny to a lonely village road. I quoted Psalm 33:13-15 and pointed around the church and reminded them that God sees everyone of them and He can do great things through them.

Godwin started a Bible School which grew into a Theological College affiliated with a Nigerian University. They have between 350 - 400 students in all programs. Part of my mission was to speak to these students. It was a 1 hour drive each way and I spoke 3 hours a day for 6 days to all the students assembled together. All classes are taught in English to improve the English skill before graduation so I had no translator and this was nice. We ended the day with questions which gave me an opportunity to further explain some points, perhaps correct misunderstanding of what I really did say.

African time and african drivers...

Unknown to me until I arrived: the Sunday before the annual pastor's conference the village celebrated Godwin's 50th wedding anniversary. When I refer to village, it could be an undeveloped area with 5000 or more residents. Undeveloped means dirt roads, a mixture of mud and concrete buildings, probably no running water or electric power and a variety of farming. Such was Godwin's village, and the site for the Bible College. This celebration was an additional opportunity to experience the African culture and what an experience it was. It was attended by about 6000 - 8000 people including area chiefs, State officials and pastors of other denominations. Twenty or so canopies were arranged in a U-shape, opening toward the sheltered seating for dignitaries. And the overflow extended to the shelter of trees and buildings, as well as under an open sky.

With "African time" the program started late, which meant we sat around and perspired for about 3 hours. I will just close this segment with an aside: all of Godwin's clan did a family dance after cutting the cake. Godwin took the mike and insisted in front of the teeming crowd that I come down and join the family in dancing. Well, with reservations I went out on the field and tried to do the African shuffle. Before I really got going there was Godwin beside me. Then he reached over and placed both hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye, began to cry, pulled me into a hug and then kissed me on the cheek! Can you believe this? In front of 6000 to 8000 cheering friends and family members?

I think I have covered the heat and perspiration and "African time" so let me tell you about the crazy drivers. I asked and was told that they have traffic laws-but nobody observes them,
at least not all the time. And the police stop you for one reason-to intimidate you into giving them money. Back to the driving hazards. You can be driving down a city street or on an open highway and at anytime a car or truck can be approaching you going the wrong way in your lane. If the road for them is bad with potholes, they simply cross over and drive the wrong way to have a better road. Some drivers have never experienced slowing down to avoid a head on crash; they will pass a slower vehicle without slowing themselves. They lean on the horn and flash their headlights and expect anyone coming toward them to simply get out of the way. In this fashion we narrowly escaped serious crashes several times, and only because our driver was alert and able to make a last minute correction. Also-there are motorbike taxis everywhere and the drivers weave in and out of traffic in the cities and on open roads. Rules and safety are not in their vocabulary. I saw several cyclists catapult off their bikes into the windshield of a car making a turn in front of them. I saw a still-burning petrol tanker that had jackknifed and rolled. I saw some vehicles burned to a crisp and others badly mangled.

A final word about crazy drivers, and this one is on my own driver. Taking me to the airport for my journey home we heard a siren behind us. Then a police car passed us at top speed followed by some dignitary. Both cars' distress signals were flashing, so my driver turned on his distress lights and stepped on the gas. He followed the dignitary right into the airport entrance never stopping to pay the fee. Just as we got to the security check the officer saw the "missionary" placard in our windshield and yelled: "Pastor! Stop!" My driver kept right on going but he was watching the rear view mirror to see if any guns were aimed our way.

There are a lot of side stories I could tell, but they will have to wait until later. In spite of being a third world country with many inconveniences, it was rewarding to share basic principles for Christian living and inspire hope and faith that these believers can have a better future. At the pastors' conference a young man who graduated the year before was excited to meet me. As we talked I asked him what the Bible Students told him about my lessons. His face lit up and he said they were happy because I gave them hope for what they can do with the Lord's empowerment. Then I asked him what the teachers were saying. He said they commented how I shared many personal experiences to illustrate God's faithfulness. It was gratifying to know the Lord helped me choose the right subjects.

A word from God to Godwin.

Before the trip I was talking to a good friend and he told me that this would not be a routine mission trip, but a special time of ministry that would impact my life as well as those I ministered to. I did not expect to find my friend Godwin discouraged. He has had some health problems which gave rise to maneuvering for power among some of the leaders. And he was not feeling well from a cold and sinus infection. My coming brightened him a little, and my advice and prayer helped, but the discouragement continued. One morning about 5 a.m. I was praying and the thought came: "Lord, stand in the middle of the churches and separate the rebellious and greedy people". An hour later I began reading my daily devotions in the Psalms and there it was: "Oh Lord, stand in the congregation of the mighty"! I was stunned for a moment until I realized the Lord was confirming one of the problems facing Godwin.

Follow-up discussions and prayer with Godwin led to outlining a plan to set in place future church leadership now-while he is still living-so there will be no confusion or division when God calls him home. And it will remove much of the pressure that is contributing to Godwin's bad health and troubled mind. Now my prayer focus will be that Godwin and his Executive Officers will enact the plan. I have a deep sense that my purpose in going to Nigeria was timely, and I come home renewed in my spirit and ready for the next assignment.

God is good and He is faithful. I give Him the praise for any and all that has been accomplished during this mission trip. Again, I thank each and everyone who supported me in prayer.