Kindness Opens Doors

How God used unlikely missionary Doug Nichols for the Gospel

Kindness Opens Doors

How God used unlikely missionary Doug Nichols for the Gospel

If you had met Doug Nichols around 1960, when he was a teenager in the desert town of Indio, California, you probably wouldn’t have pegged him as a future missionary who would be known for his compassionate care of the poor.

“I wasted my school years fighting, drinking and gambling,” Doug says. “I had never even read a whole book. Because of my constant disruptions at school, at Christmas of my senior year, they asked me to leave. They said if I left right away, they would give me my diploma. So I guess you could say I graduated early!”

He moved to Riverside, about an hour and a half away, and continued his wild ways—until one night at 1 a.m., when he came home to his apartment, drunk.

“Several of the residents were Christians,” Doug says. “One of them heard me in the hallway, opened the door and invited me in for coffee. For three hours, he kept pouring coffee and sharing the Gospel. By 4 a.m., I was sober, full of coffee, and I understood my need for Jesus Christ. I fell to my knees and trusted Christ as my Savior.” 

Doug began reading the Bible, but he found it hard to understand because of his poor reading skills. At the encouragement of the man who led him to Christ, he enrolled in Bible school, but the first semester, he failed most of his classes. He was packing up to leave the school when a retired missionary came to his room and encouraged him to stick with it. He tutored Doug for the rest of that year.

At the school, Doug met a young woman named Margaret, the daughter of missionaries to China. Doug and Margaret married in 1968 and have served the Lord together ever since. Early in their marriage, they worked at a Union Gospel Mission in Seattle while they applied to become missionaries overseas. But Doug’s past caught up with him. “I applied to about 12 missions, but none of them would take me because I was not intellectually up to par, and because of my background,” he said. 

Only one organization, Operation Mobilization (OM), accepted him. Doug jokes, “In those days, OM would take anybody!” As Margaret finished Bible school, Doug was sent to India, and there much of the foundation was laid for the decades of ministry that have followed. 

“It was the Indians who trained me in ministry,” he says. 

But almost immediately, it was obvious that Doug was ill—he could only say a few words without coughing. It was tuberculosis, most likely contracted during the voyage to India, which had included several days on a crowded cargo ship. The mission couldn’t afford to send him to a private hospital, so he went to a free TB sanitarium.

“They said, ‘Somebody just died; we’ll put you in his bed,’” Doug recalls. “They didn’t even change the sheets.”

Doug, who didn’t speak the local language, was well enough to try giving out Gospel tracts and Scripture portions to other patients. 

“They’d tear them up and throw them on the floor,” he says. “They didn’t like me because to them, I was a rich American taking a poor Indian’s bed.”

Then something happened that changed everything. Doug tells the story: 

“I woke up coughing in the middle of the night, and I saw a man trying to get out of bed. He kept trying, but he’d fall back because he was so weak. I didn’t know what he was doing; I just remember that he fell back in his bed, crying. I wondered what was going on.

“The next morning, I found out vividly. He had been trying to get to the bathroom. He had soiled his bed, and the stench was terrible. One of the nurses slapped him on the head as she came to change his sheets. Other patients were upset, too.

“The next night, I woke up coughing again, and the man was trying to get out of bed again. I believe it was the Lord who woke me up. I thought of every reason why I shouldn’t get involved, but I knew what God was telling me to do. 

“I went over and picked him up; he was just skin and bones. I carried him to the bathroom. It was just a hole in the floor, so I held him up until he was finished. I carried him back, and as I laid him in his bed, he kissed my cheek.

“That morning, another patient woke me with a steaming cup of special tea. He motioned with his hands that he wanted one of the Gospel booklets. I was so excited; I almost fell out of bed!

“That whole day, patients who had heard about my taking the man to the bathroom kept coming and asking for booklets. Weeks later, an Indian evangelist visited, and as he talked with other patients, he found that several had put their faith in Christ as a result of reading that literature.

“What did it take to reach them? Not health, knowing the language or speaking persuasively. I simply took a trip to the bathroom. Anyone could have done it.”

Doug and Margaret went on to serve as missionaries for 21 years in the Philippines, founding Action International Ministries in 1994. Today they serve as worldwide missions advocates from their home in South Carolina. Through Commission to Every Nation, they help provide the Gospel and compassionate care to some of the 200,000 street children in the Philippines, and encouragement and training for some of the 51,000 untrained pastors there.  ©2024 BGEA

For more information about the Nichols’ ministry, go to or

Above: Margaret and Doug Nichols. Photo: courtesy of Doug Nichols

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