In my Father’s Footsteps

24 Apr 2023

by Emily Ferguson


Jess Collins was 12 when she first heard God’s call to serve Him alongside her father in global mission. Then, when she was 18, her father passed away.

Jess’s parents and grandparents had served as missionaries in Thailand, planted the first church on Hong Kong’s Lamma Island, and served alongside British missionary Jackie Pullinger in a drug rehabilitation clinic in the early days of ministry in the Kowloon Walled City.

Even though she looked up to her dad and had witnessed many miracles, she was disappointed to be called into mission. After all, being a missionary meant regularly uprooting your life – and going to a lot of meetings.

“I was born in Hong Kong, and then I moved to Thailand because my parents became missionaries back to Thailand,” she shared. “Most of my early life was actually straddling three countries: Thailand, Hong Kong and Australia.

“When I was 12, we watched a video about missions in the youth ministry at our church in Newcastle,” she remembers.

“I remember being so stirred in my heart – butterflies, tingling, and that prompting you feel when the Holy Spirit speaks to you.”

“Even though I was upset about it at the time, I just knew I was called to missions, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve known He’s wanted me to be in mission, and that’s what I’ve based my whole life around.”

As the Collins family travelled around, Jess’s father David noticed that missionaries would often come in for a “hit and run” – they would share the gospel, lead people to faith in Christ, and then depart. The new Christians would be left with no discipleship or resources to support them, so they’d blend local religion and culture with Christianity.

Burdened to help meet this need, David founded Online Bible College in 1998 to resource Christians who might not otherwise have access to theological education due to a lack of funding or proximity to a physical campus.

“He really understood the heart and the transformation power of the gospel, and he had this immense gift to take these complicated concepts and write about it in a way that’s easy for people to grasp. And it started changing people and communities.

“But then in 2006 he passed away. We all believed in a healing that didn’t happen. I remember thinking, ‘God, I must have heard you wrong. If my journey into ministry and mission was based on the fact that I was to do it with my dad and my dad’s not here anymore, I must have heard wrong.’ It made me question all the times I thought I had heard from God. If this major thing I didn’t hear right, maybe I hadn’t been hearing right all along.

“What’s really moving is that my husband Peter and I took up the mantle of leading Online Bible College in 2015. In many ways, it’s so touching to me because I do feel I’m working with him. He had the dream so many years ago that this would be a reality and now because of technology, it is. And I feel like I’m furthering that.

“We have over 60,000 registered students globally, and we get stories every single day of people who have been blessed. It’s a result of equipping people with the word of God.”

Jess has found a spiritual home at Epping Church of Christ with her husband Peter and young children Alexandra and River. She has been serving as Associate Pastor with a focus on missions since 2016.

After years of moving around, Jess says she felt an immediate sense of peace when she walked into Epping.

“It is in Epping I found home for the first time; it is in Epping I was not only serving but had people feeding back into my life and supporting me as well. There’s a lot of healing that’s happened there.”

Read more stories from churches of Christ in NSW & ACT HERE