In Memoriam: Les Collins, ABWE Missionary

A faithful servant of Christ has entered into glory.

Lester “Les” Collins, 66, a devoted missionary with ABWE in South Asia, entered the presence of his Savior on February 14 after finishing his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Les and his beloved wife Debbie were appointed as missionaries to South Asia in 2005, sent by Woodside Bible Church in Troy, Michigan, after serving short-term with ABWE from 1999-2000. Most recently, the Collins have been based in Melbourne, Florida, engaged in ministry focused on South Asia while Les received cancer treatments, until he recently entered hospice care.

During their time in South Asia, Les served as the Director of Facilities. He oversaw about 100 national workers in his daily responsibility to care for a 45-acre campus, including the Memorial Christian Hospital physical plant, 10 homes, six apartments, a guesthouse, and other buildings housing various outreaches of the team. In addition to maintaining those facilities, Les participated in new construction projects. Les supervised workers and made day-to-day decisions that kept the ministry running, transforming lives with the love of Christ.

His wife Debbie assisted the business office director of Memorial Christian Hospital by providing financial accountability for the hospital’s cashiers. She was also the director of Heart House, a handicraft ministry that helps widowed, abandoned, and handicapped women by teaching them sewing skills to provide for their families.

Les and Debbie had a passion for church planting. Les learned how to share God’s word in the local language from a dedicated pastor. He and the pastor continued a partnership over the past decade, with a concerted effort on visiting, helping, preaching, and forming groups of believers. They established a system of compassion, visiting villages where no churches existed and offering whatever help was needed, from food to supplies. As trust was built, they established preaching centers, and then continued to visit and build up those who came to faith.

Les and Debbie’s impact on the people of South Asia—particularly the marginalized and vulnerable—was immeasurable. Heart House, in particular, has been sharing the love of Christ for over 40 years. Thanks to Les and Debbie’s commitment to furthering this ministry, more than 30 women currently work at Heart House, producing cultural dolls and uniforms for a nearby hospital.

Les and Debbie’s compassion and dedication were evident in their outreach to women like Asha (name changed for security), a widow with no means of supporting her children after her husband’s tragic accident. When Asha initially refused to work at Heart House, Les and Debbie continued to show her love and support. Asha attempted to earn a living by her own means, but one day she was viciously attacked while illegally cutting and selling wood from a nearby forest.

God put Les and Debbie in Asha’s path at the right time. They took her to Heart House, where Debbie took her under her wing and began teaching her a new trade. Despite Asha’s initial struggles, Debbie worked with her every day, even discovering that some of her difficulties came from an eyesight issue and purchasing her a pair of glasses. Through Heart House, Asha was able to provide for her family and regained hope and faith.

Les will be remembered for his kindness, humility, and unwavering commitment to serving others, both in his work at the hospital and at Heart House. His legacy will live on through the countless lives he touched and the love he showed to those who needed it most. He is survived by his wife Debbie, whom he was married to for over 41 years, and their family.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)