Nate Saint was born August 30, 1923, the son of Lawrence and Katherine Saint and the 7th of 8 children (7 boys and 1 girl). Lawrence was an accomplished artist, a designer of stained glass. He directed and oversaw the stained glass work at the Washington Cathedral. He was well known for his work. Katherine was a Wellesley graduate, the daughter of an inventor and manufacturer. The two had met at a gospel mission which they volunteered at.
Nate grew up in a home that was unstructured, except for the sabbath. Meals were eaten on shifts and the children were often free to do as they wished. The family exhibited a free-spirited adventurousness. They were ingenious and willing to try new things. Katherine ran the household with little direction or input from Lawrence. When the children wanted to sleep outside in the warmer weather, so she had a carpenter come and build bunk beds on the roof of the back porch. One brother commented later how you weren't livin' if you hadn't been woken up by the start of ran on an early summer morning.
One of Nate's childhood prayers was that God would "show us the right way." Nate was quite creative, obviously a family trait. He was a "born" writer and also played the organ. As a child, probably imitating his grandfather, Nate would make schematic drawings of airplanes and automobiles with unique features and distinctive qualities.
In 1936, when Nate was 13 he made his public profession of faith. He had attended Percy Crawford's Pinebrook camp in the Pocono Mountains. Later that year he would gave a talk to a youth meeting that attested to his strong, developing faith. His faith was so strong that he eventually chose church attendance over his certain ability to make the basketball team, when a conflict arose.
When Nate was 18, he took his first flying lesson and by that time he was employed by the Flying Dutchman Air Service. His brother Sam was at that time an American Airlines pilot. Sam helped Nate get an apprenticeship at LaGuardia Airport as a mechanic for American.
Nate's work for the airlines gave him a draft deferment. However, when he was nineteen he renounced his draft-free status to list himself as "1-A, without appeal." This made his entrance into the war a certainty. His employers and family saw it as a bad decision, but Nate saw it as an opportunity. He hoped to receive $25,000 worth of free flight training, compliments of Uncle Sam. Upon his physical, Nate was given a qualified acceptance into the Army after doctors learned of an earlier leg injury. Nate's service experience influenced him greatly and was a formative period for him.
After the war in the Spring of 1946, Nate couldn't begin school, originally looking to go to Westmont. He had been encouraged to do some missions work as a pilot in Peru with Wycliffe and Christian Airmans Missionary Fellowship, the early name for Missionary Aviation Fellowship. However, he wanted to get some schooling in first. But an emergency request came from CAMF of a crashed plane in Mexico, "Could Nate help?" So, Nate went and over numerous weeks repaired the plane for service.
After the important experience in Mexico, Nate finally got to school. He had decided to enroll at Wheaton College and began his studies in January 1947. He would only stay for a year. While a student he worked with Sunday Schools among children on Chicago's South Side. Nate continued to do work for MAF as a student, which soon brought his true desires and responsibilities to the fore. MAF was in desperate need of a pilot and mechanic. Nate was their man.
Nate and Marj were married on Valentine's Day, 1948. After a honeymoon and some church visits on deputation, the Saints were in Ecuador. Helping establish a mission airbase in Shell Mera, Ecuador took much of Nate's time and energy, but work progressed well. Near the end of 1948 tragedy struck as the plane Nate was piloting crashed from a violent wind gust. Critically wounded, Saint recovered fully to resume his duties. His experiences caused great concern and effort at improving safety conditions on MAF aircraft.
Saint died January 8, 1956 in the jungles of Ecuador as he attempted to share the Gospel of Christ with the Waodani people.