A Missionary’s Story:Nathan Williams – 1



Even before time began God had a plan.  His plan was that His name would be glorified throughoutthe earth and that we, His most prized creation, would walk in fellowship with Him.  From the beginning, God’s plan included the islands of Japan and that the people who live here would know and love Him.  My family and I are but a speck in that plan but are grateful for the opportunity to be used by Him and partner with many wonderful people to achieve His purposes.

History is an ocean of dates, events, people, and places and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the vastness of the details.  However, looking back we can see the hand of God at work in people’s lives achieving His purposes.  During our time together first we’ll explore what God has done in the American side of our family followed by His acts here in Japan.  However, identifying His handiwork will be the focus of our time together.  As you read our story I hope you will be challenged to consider your own story and what God has done.  I also hope you’ll be encouraged to believe God for greater things in your own life and ministry.

Nathan Williams

National Director
Global University Japan

Spiritual Awakening

Even though my maternal family tree has been clearly traced back to the year 1028 and there are many really interesting people (and not a few wicked ones too), to best understand our small part of God’s plan we should go back about 150 years to the year 1886.  This is what I consider the spiritual awakening of my maternal family tree.  It began with my great-great-grandfather Everson Ryder MacKinney, a wonderful man whose early years were not easy.  His father died when he was 1 year old, then his mother remarried when he was 9 years old, but she died when he was 12 years old.  The loss of his second natural parent devastated him and he wrote, “When I saw my mother buried, I thought the sun would never shine again.”  His step-father remarried a year later resulting in Everson being raised by his step-parents.  In 1874 Everson became a Christian but he had many questions, fears, and anxieties as he struggled to establish himself in life.  He wrote that on a particular day in 1886 he decided to take all his burdens to the Lord and described it in his memoir “Milestones” as follows:

I went to my room at 5 p.m. and locked the door.  Kneeling by my bed, I made a heap of all my possessions, ambitions, desires for success, marriage, etc., until ALL WAS GIVEN and NOTHING LEFT.  Then I literally picked up MYSELF and put that on top.  Like a FLASH OF LIGHT I WAS FILLED WITH GLORY.  The Holy Spirit came and filled my whole being.  It was my ‘personal Pentecost.’  But soon a voice came over my left shoulder saying, ‘There’s nothing to it, nothing to it.’  Waves of doubt seemed rising to drown out all blessing.  I jumped to my feet and walked across the floor with head upraised to prevent the waters of doubt from submerging me.  They subsided.  Praise God, I WAS HIS AND HE WAS MINE!!!

Three years later he accepted a request to pastor a Methodist church.  Everson married in 1890 and he and his wife Jennie invested their lifetime in Christian ministry first pastoring in the Methodist church and later joining the Baptists.  Together they pastored churches, established the Union Gospel Mission (St. Paul, MN) ministering to indigents, and engaged in evangelistic work for three years.  They also had six children.  Christian belief and practice were central to their home, there was lots of love, high expectations, and firm discipline.

Everson & Jennie MacKinney


At one point in his life Everson became very concerned for the spiritual condition of his descendants.  One day he read Isaiah 59:21 and believed that this was God’s answer to his concern.  So he prayed earnestly asking God to make that promise true for his own descendants.  After praying and praying Everson felt that God granted his request.  Everson believed that God assured him that his next four generations would be Christians.  Those next four generations are almost exclusively Christian and many of those people were or are pastors and/or missionaries.  (I am in that fourth generation and am praying Isaiah 59:21 for my descendants!)

Everson & Jennie MacKinneys Family

Their oldest son, Paul MacKinney was a Baptist pastor who turned to carpentering to support himself and the family.  He and his wife Rena had eight children whom they loved dearly.  They nurtured them with family worship, Bible study, and a consistent Christian lifestyle.  Paul was adamant that he would not raise children who would populate hell!  So he and Rena regularly prayed (out loud) asking God that if He saw that their children were going astray from the truth that He should take them before it was too late.  During World War II Paul took US Government jobs building in remote places like Alaska and Newfoundland (Canada).  In addition to his day job of building physical buildings, he worked on nights and weekends to build the church.  As he raised up an ecclesia he would also build a physical meeting place with the intention that when his daytime construction contract was completed and he had to leave that area there would also be a church – people and a building.

By now you (the reader) might be thinking, “This is interesting but so far it’s only some family history and a few notes about ministry in the Methodist and Baptist churches.  What about the Assemblies of God?”  Your question is appropriate and timely.  Here’s how my family became connected with the Assemblies of God.


Paul & Rena MacKinney

Paul MacKinney, my grand-father, had been through college and was pastoring a church.  As the story goes, one Sunday he preached a sermon on the subject of Salvation.  As is appropriate, at the end of his sermon he gave an altar call and said that anyone who needed salvation should leave their seat, come forward, and stand in front of the pulpit where the pastor would lead them in the Sinner’s Prayer.  As soon as he said that he was shocked by a revelation: He had been raised in a Christian home and was even pastoring a Christian church but, he had not yet confessed his sins and asked Jesus to forgive him of his sins!  He was not a Christian!!  Immediately he walked away from the pulpit, walked down a few steps from off the platform, and stood in front of the pulpit.  He led himself in the Sinners Prayer and then rejoiced because finally his “name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!”  Now he wasn’t just doing a job, he was working to please his Savior.

Soon thereafter Paul received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues.  That and a few other doctrinal issues led Paul to sever ties with the Baptist church but that was not the end of ministry, in fact it was the beginning of ministry with a new missions emphasis.  It was around this time that his work took him to Labrador, Canada.  He lived a bi-vocational life: carpenter by day and pastor on nights and weekends.  Partnering with his wife and their three youngest children, who were young adults, they invested evenings and weekends in ministry which resulted in the establishment of Zion Pentecostal Church.  In addition to a new church they also established the first library in that area with the intent of raising up the next generation of Christians by providing Christian books and other educational materials.  Both the church and library are valuable resources to the community even now.


Paul & Rena MacKinney Family
Paul & Rena MacKinney – Missionaries

Many victories have been won for the Kingdom of God but some have cost my family dearly.  One example is Paul and Rena’s sixth son Danny.  From an early age he loved mechanics and machines which helped him pay for Bible college.  He began study at North Central Institute (now University) and later transferred to Central Bible Institute (now University) in Springfield, Missouri.  During those years he grew increasingly close to the Lord and felt the call of God to serve as a missionary.  After graduating from Bible college he joined his parents in Labrador, Canada.  He contributed to their ministry by teaching school in a very remote village.  It was so remote that it was accessible only by boat in the summer and dog sled or snowmobile in the winter.  After working one year in this isolated village he realized that in order to effectively evangelize other remote villages along the sea coast he needed an airplane that could be fitted with pontoons in summer and skis in winter.  So he returned to the US, worked at his brother’s company so that he could get a pilot’s license and fly for his brother’s company, and used that opportunity to raise support to buy an airplane for missionary work.  Eventually he raised the necessary funds, purchased an airplane, and returned to missionary work in Labrador.  This was the beginning of many wonderful adventures sharing the gospel with the indigenous people of that area. 

Danny MacKinney

Christmas Eve, 1955, was going to be very different.  Danny flew to a nearby village to hold services at a hospital and orphanage.  In addition to pastoral ministry he also served as an informal postman.  Adventuresome, caring, pastoral, and postman – all of these qualities made him well liked wherever he went.  His day was filled with the joys of Christmas-time ministry and passing out cards and letters.  As the afternoon wore on he finalized his plans to fly home to be with his mother and youngest sister.  A light snow was falling but he was confident that he could complete the 20 minute flight well before dark.  However, shortly after takeoff the weather suddenly worsened turning into a sudden whiteout.  When he didn’t arrive at Goose Bay Air Base according to his flight plan a Search and Rescue Team was sent out.  The next day they found his plane where it had crashed on the ice of Goose Bay and his body was laying on the ice some distance away.  Christmas Day, 1955, was very difficult for Danny’s mother and his youngest sister.  Paul had died of cancer in August that year and suddenly it was just the mother and daughter, celebrating the birth of their Savior while grieving their recent losses.

However, Danny was well known and loved on Goose Bay Air Base and many young airmen were deeply impacted by his death.  HIs example of sacrificial love compelled many people to surrender their lives to Christian service.  In fact, so many people committed themselves to Christian service that a military chaplain likened his death to a seed falling to the ground and bringing forth fruit.  My uncle Danny is buried in Labrador next to his father in a cemetery next to the library that his family established.


Yes, history is an ocean of dates, events, people, and places but if we look closely we can see the hand of God at work in people’s lives achieving His purposes.  Some of us have a long lasting role to play and others may be short-lived.  The important thing to remember is that, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24).

I’m looking forward to sharing more about what God has done and how He has led us to engage in missions work here in Japan.  Between now and then please prayerfully ponder the seven questions below.  You might consider talking with someone in your family or a close friend about these questions and pray about them together.

1) How do you fit into God’s plan to glorify His name?

2) How and when did the Christian spiritual awakening begin in your family line?

3) Are you the first Christian in your family or did someone else begin that legacy?

4) Who contributed to that spiritual awakening and what did they do?

5) What can you do to pass on a Christian heritage to the generations that will follow you?

6) What if you asked God to fulfill Isaiah 59:21 in your life?

7) What can you do to help make that a reality?


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