SHELDON—Nicole Sims has felt the call of God since she sat in the pews of Sheldon United Methodist Church as a teenager.
The 1991 graduate, who was then Nicole Haack, was back at United Methodist in July to help deliver the sermon and update the congregation on her next adventure.
Sims followed that call she felt all those years ago and it took her to two different continents besides North America – Africa and Europe. Now Sims and her husband Kirk, along with their son, are in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, on their next mission.
“I often joke with people who knew me when I was little that I’m just proof that God’s grace can help anyone,” Nicole said with a laugh. “Because they know I was a squirrel when I was a kid, so who would have ever thought she would be a preacher?” Coming home to your church keeps you grounded.
Nicole graduated from Northwestern College in Orange City in 1995 with a ministerial degree in Christian education. She then went straight to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. Nicole was first ordained in 1998. She received her second ordination in 2001.
It was at seminary that Nicole first met Kirk and the two hit it off right away as they both shared the same passion for ministry. The couple have been married for 24 years. The couple have two sons – Eli, who joins the couple in Prague, and Aidan, who attends college at North Park University in Chicago.
“Our first conversation was about missions and ministry and filling a heart to reach out to the world and be multicultural,” Nicole said. “When we graduated from seminary, we were pastors and found ourselves mobilizing a lot of people for mission. One day we looked at each other and said to ourselves that we had mobilized a lot of people, so in 2005 we went to Ghana.
Ghana is a West African country and this was the first stop for both of them. They would later move to the UK and then Germany before returning to the US before this trip to Prague.
But the five years in Ghana gave Sims their first taste of missionary work and it has gone on ever since.
“The church in Africa was growing exponentially and we felt the Lord was leading us to be missionary mobilizers in Ghana,” Kirk said.
While in Ghana, it caused them to take a step back when Kirk started a doctoral program studying how Ghanaians understand mission.
This led to the couple moving to Britain, England for the program.
“These doors have opened to engage with migrants in the European context,” Kirk said. “Where the church has been in decline for the past few generations.”
The Sims spent two years in Britain and it was two precious years.
“The research there kind of opened the doors to ministry to migrants in Europe,” Kirk said. “When we were in England, Nicole was asked to pastor an international church in Hamburg, Germany.”
So the Sims headed for their third-place finish outside the United States to Germany.
Pastoral work in Hamburg allowed Sims to continue working with migrants from all over Europe.
It is interesting for us to see that migrants move for various reasons,” said Nicole. “Sometimes it’s more crisis, sometimes it’s better work and Christians take their faith with them to another setting. We were witnessing in quite a secular Europe, so it’s something we’ve kind of been a part of and plan to be a part of again in the Czech Republic.
The Sims spent four years in Hamburg before returning to the United States
They have spent the past six years in Asbury where Nicole served as the seminary community pastor and Kirk served as pastor.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused the largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II.
The Sims have recently arrived in Prague and are adjusting to their new life, which will see them once again helping migrants, many of whom are expected to come from war-torn Ukraine.
Nicole said the goal was to learn the culture each time they went to a new place.
“We want to go with the layout of where God is already moving and looking for the spirits that lead,” Sims said. “The Czech Republic is a very secular country. It is considered one of the most irreligious countries in the world. So we don’t anticipate an easy setting, but we want to meet people where they are and hopefully share the love of Christ.
The Sims have signed up for three years in Prague and it could be longer.
Nicole said they would take it one step at a time in Prague.
“Every place of service is a bit like a wedding,” Nicole said. “Do we really know what we are getting into? Until you’re in. I think we are leaving with faith and hope and I’m sure there will be surprises along the way. We would like prayer.