HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - When First Baptist Church Pastor Travis Collins heard the alleged comments President Trump made about several countries in Africa. "It felt a little personal," said Collins.
That`s because he and his family have close ties to one country in particular. "We were missionaries in Nigeria and some of our closest friends on the planet are Nigerian people."
Collins, his wife, and their three children lived in Nigeria for 5 years. He says to this day, he has nothing but positive memories surrounding that country and its people. "They mentored us, welcomed us, loved us when we were on their soil. Some of them are now on American soil baring advanced degrees and making great contributions to our country," said Collins. "For it to be at least alleged that someone has referred in such disparaging terms to those people who are so dear to us is a very personal thing."
First Baptist Church has a long history of having a heavy heart for missions dating back to the 1800s. “[The church was] kicked out of the Baptist association when we were 10 years old because we were so passionately missionary. That runs deep at First Baptist,” said Collins.
To this day, they have connections all over the world and continue to dispatch short-term crews to places like the Dominican Republic and Haiti. But Collins says he’s now worried what the future of missions will look like. “When American missionaries are in a country we rely on national leaders for our very presence in the country, we rely on Christian leaders to partner with us and we simply rely on the goodwill of the people of the country to host us. If this is true, it could do real damage to American missionary work. If it appears Americans look on African countries in disdain then we’re not nearly going to be as welcomed, as embraced as we have been.”
Collins says missionaries have fought against stereotypes for years that all Americans are rude and arrogant and hopes these alleged comments don’t add merit to it so the church can continue to do the work they’re called to do. “The American and European church in developing countries in the past 500 years have been the main sources of hospitals, schools, good cultural change, and important to me- helping people become followers of Jesus. And if that were to be affected negatively, that would be a big blow as to what I see a good direction in which those countries are heading in," said Collins.