Nate Saint

by Avery Foley on September 12, 2017

Nate Saint was born in 1923 to a Christian family dedicated to serving the Lord and living for him. Nate was a curious boy who loved airplanes and wanted to be a pilot, like his older brother. When he was 19 Nate signed up for the US Army to serve in World War II and learn to fly airplanes. But when a previous infection in his leg flared up, he was not allowed to fly. However, in his three years in the Army, he did learn a lot about airplanes and how to fix them.

After he left the Army, a missionary asked Nate to come to Mexico to fix a badly damaged airplane. Nate went and decided to serve Christ by being a missionary pilot. He married his girlfriend, Marjorie, and headed for the South American country of Ecuador to open a new Missionary Aviation Fellowship station. Nate’s job was to fly missionaries into remote jungle villages and bring them supplies. This was a very dangerous job. But when a crash left Nate with a broken back and badly sprained ankle, he recovered and got right back to flying.

The supplies that Nate dropped off would often get caught in trees or broken as they fell from the airplane. So Nate invented a bucket drop system. By flying in tight circles a bucket containing supplies could be lowered from the airplane and the bucket would remain still so the missionaries could easily unload it. He also invented a dual injection engine to make flying safer. His inventions are still being used today.

Nate and four of his friends had a burden to reach a remote people group called the Aucas. These people were very dangerous, known for killing anyone who dared come into their territory. Using Nate’s bucket system, the missionaries spent three months sending gifts to the Aucas in an expression of friendliness. The Aucas started sending gifts back. The missionaries decided to land the plane on a sand bar and make contact with the Aucas. This would be Nate’s last flight. He and his friends were all killed by the Aucas’ spears.

Nate died serving the Lord and taking the gospel where it had never been taken before. But that’s not the end of the story. Nate’s sister, Rachel, along with Elisabeth Elliot, whose husband had also been killed by the Aucas, went back to the Aucas and shared the gospel with them. Because of the love they showed the tribal people, many believed in Jesus and were saved—including some of the very people who had killed Nate and his friends.

Nate Saint's Plane

By Mission Aviation Fellowship, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the reconstructed frame of Nate Saint's plane used in missionary work in Ecuador. It is currently on display at Mission Aviation Fellowship headquarters.

Nate’s son, Steve, joined his Aunt Rachel each summer in the jungle among the tribe that killed his dad. But because he understands the love and grace of God, Steve is friends with the very men who killed his dad and who are now his brothers in Christ. Steve and his sister were even baptized by several Auca believers in the river beside the place where their father died. Steve still lives among these people.

Nate’s death was not a waste. God used his and his friends’ deaths to help the gospel grow among the Aucas—the people they loved.

Fun Facts about Nate Saint

  • Nate had six brothers and one sister.
  • Nate’s grandfather was a successful inventor, just like Nate.
  • As a kid, Nate built an 8-foot sailboat and took apart a car engine just to put it back together again.

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