AMAZING SAINTS

(Excerpted from the book by Phil Saint, Logos International, 1972)

Introduction:
The scene is a big circus-type tent on a vacant lot in a dusty rural pueblo far out on the vast Argentina pampa. It’s a hot summer night in January. A thousand or more spectators are gathered to watch a blond high-foreheaded artist drawing rapidly with chalk on a large illuminated easel.
His hand moves quickly, changing chalks, filling in background, working up highlights. As he sketches, he tells the onlookers about a Jesus whose name they have often heard, but about whom they know almost nothing—a Jesus who is both Savior and Lord, who lives today, who loves them right now with a perfect love and has been waiting all their lives for them to realize it. He drives home the glorious truths about One who can take all the fear, anxiety, and loneliness out of their hearts, and, with a single divine touch, replace them with His love. A Jesus who will come and live inside them, and wholly renew them from within, if they will but submit themselves unconditionally to Him.
As appropriate music and words are sung, a forest scene with the good shepherd tending his flock by a still creek takes shape on the easel, the colors so vivid that the picture seems almost alive. At the close of the message, an invitation is given to come forward for prayer, and dozens of earnest villagers silently move out of their seats.
This is Phil Saint in action—in countless South American towns and hamlets, spreading the Good news of a Risen Christ. How he got there is a heart-warming nostalgic story of a tumultuous Christian family crammed full of the sort of cheerful go-getiveness that was more fashionable in an earlier era, and of a man’s unadorned willingness to be a wholly yielded instrument of the Lord, when and wherever He needed him.
With famed stained-glass artisan Lawrence Saint as their father, Phil and his brothers and sister were exposed from earliest childhood to the most exciting Christian crusaders of their day, yet, as Phil tells it, it was still a surprise that three of them wound up on the mission field—one never to return.
There are his mad-cap college days, his courtship and marriage to Ruth, the hard and happy years on the tent and pick-up truck circuit, the martyrdom of Nate (his brother), and the loss of his daughter. But perhaps the most moving chapter of all is the last, in which he comes face to face with the global charismatic renewal, brought home to him (literally) by his own son David.

Early Years The Roots and the Buds

Grandfather Saint, J.A. Saint, with his enchanting tales of the wild frontier, had the wholehearted admiration of all the Saint kids. We listened with rapt attention as this medium-sized twinkle-eyes artist recounted tales of the Far West. He was versatile in art as he was in storytelling. He was a silhouette cutter of well-deserved fame, going to all the old-time expositions, where he set up his little booth, with the catchy sign, “Your Face Cut Without Pain!” My other grandfather died when I was about six years old, where we lived in a cottage that Grandfather Proctor had built behind his own large, almost palatial home in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. He could well afford these things, for he was a successful businessman, an inventive genius, and founder of the large Proctor and Schwartz Company of  Philadelphia.
Thus while Dad, the son a self-taught, peripatetic artist, was selling newspapers on the street, Mother, called “K-Ma” as we later nicknamed her, and her sister Jane grew up surrounded by Victorian elegance. She attended Wellesley College near Boston. Little by little Mother lost her faith in the things of God. She seldom went to church, and her enthusiasm turned to writing, poetry and art. But one day a preacher Ralph Connor, pointed directly at Mother and asked, “Young lady, are you doing what you know God wants you to do?” After a conversation with the preacher, Mother went to her room, knelt by her bed in the darkness, and faith came to her like a flood.
Then K-Ma fell in love with a young man destined to be one of the great poets of the century who was tutoring her at home. Although returning Katherine’s affection, Ezra Pound stubbornly refused to accept her Lord. He said flatly that God’s will would be allowed to interfere with his life. K-Ma’s reply was equally definite: she must break off their relationship. Preferring his own will to the Lord’s, Pound went on to poetic fame. But during World War II, while living in Italy, he turned traitor to his country. Brought to trial in the United States for this capital offense, he pleaded insanity; and instead of being executed, he was placed in a mental institution. Eventually, Pound was released and returned to Italy.
To complete the curious circumstance, while Dad was an art student, and before he met my mother, he dated a non-Christian poetess named Hilda Doolittle. He broke with her because of the claims of Jesus Christ on his life. Years later, in Italy, Hilda Doolittle became Ezra Pound’s lover!
Dad had quit school after the fourth grade, and had gone to work. When finally he was able to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, he still had to work in an art studio for a living six months of the year, working on stained glass. The other six months he spent in art school, living in a garret under a tin roof, broiling in summer and freezing in winter. Dad had sat under inspired preaching. Dwight L. Moody, the bushy-bearded, stout shoe-clerk-turned-evangelist, was shaking two continents for God.
Dad won a traveling scholarship to Europe’s great art centers. One day, as he stood in an old cathedral, tears of rapture began coursing down his cheeks. He knew in that moment that God was calling him to his life’s work—to revive this inspired medieval art in glorious colored glass. And the love burning in his heart led him through the filthy slums to the same rescue mission where pretty Katherine Proctor was trying to instruct little bootblacks and pickpockets in the Word of God. Dad’s radiant spirit and his unusual talent drew her strongly. When Dad won his next scholarship to Europe, Katherine asked to go along. Dad said she oughtn’t to consider such a thing unless they were married; so, on June 10, 1910, there was a hurried wedding in the Proctor mansion. His published study, Stained Glass of the Middle Ages, is still the master work of that field.
In after years, Dad served as a stained-glass designer in the Pitcairn studio for eleven years; and his windows in the Bryn Athyn Cathedral outside of Philadelphia are still seen by art lovers. Later he was commissioned to make windows for the National Cathedral at Mt. St. Albans, in the nation’s capital. He did the Last Judgment Rose Window, and three smaller windows depicting Moses.
Sam was the eldest son. I came second. We were all about two years apart, and always together. When we went to church, we looked like an orphanage trooping in, filling an entire pew. My only sister Rachel, among seven boys, even then, was being toughened up for the mission field.
I was still a teenager when God raised up a fiery young seminary student by the name of Percy Crawford. His preaching stirred me mightily, as it did thousands of other young people.
With youthful enthusiasm, I went to the altar on several other occasions, and then, at Pine Brooks Bible Conference, I was once again stirred.
But people, knowing my background and becoming a missionary, would ask me, “But what led you to combine preaching with art?” The answer is that I’ve always liked to draw. Dad taught me the fundamentals of art. But one day Dad made a nearly tragic discovery: I was partly color-blind!
“From now on,” he counseled sadly, “you must work only in black and white—charcoal, pen and ink, and pencil.”
For some time I followed Dad’s advice; but several years later, I had to use colors! Furthermore, I liked cartooning! When Dad learned of my interest in chalk work, he was heart-broken. He thought it a quick, cheap device which would keep me from mastering any fine art.  When I graduated from high school, Dad took me to see Herbert Johnson, a famous cartoonist, who had a big estate just a few miles out of town. He promised me a job—on the condition I went to business college, where I went, for eight months. From business college I went straight to my promised job, commuting daily from home in my antique Model-T Ford. The pay was meager—twelve dollars a week—but the glory, oh the glory! of driving the long sleek limousine and watching the great artist work every day. Herbert Johnson drew weekly cartoons for the Saturday Evening Post. I believe he was the highest-paid cartoonist in the country at that time.
Looking back, I wonder how Mother ever carried on through the long, hard years when the children were growing up—years when Dad was too ill to work steadily, and was often sick in bed. Yet she gallantly kept up with her endless chores, raising eight lively youngsters. Mother lived for her family, but, more than that, she shared our individual enthusiasms and encouraged each of us to try new ventures.
When my elder brother Sam suddenly decided to take flight training, Mother instantly backed him up. Sam was not the only one interested in flying. Little tow-headed Nate, number seven of the Saint “tribe”, was beginning to glue up model airplanes and take old clocks apart. Nobody dreamed that “Thanny” (short for Nathanael) would one day become a daring bush pilot in the jungles of South America.
To one particular friend I owed a great deal in those fledgling years. He was Jack Wyrtzen, whom I had met at Percy Crawford’s Bible Conference in the Poconos. With his fast-growing Christian outreach, Jack and his group began using the old Missionary Alliance Auditorium in new York, later called Word of Life. Three Word of Life camps, huge youth rallies, bookstores, radio and television programs, overseas conference centers and a Bible institute—I find it hard to believe that he was ever a green youth, just beginning his public witness for Christ.

Preacher in Love and College years

Eventually I found myself running out of preaching material. In plain fact, I needed more education, and I knew it. Frankly, I didn’t want to go to college, after being seven years out of high school. Dr. Wilbur Smith advised me to try it for one year. I registered at Wheaton. It was at Wheaton College that I met my vivacious and sweet wife, Ruth.
The Wheaton of 1937 caught me in a new world of studies, friendships and extracurricular activities. All freshmen took Bible courses under a tall, plain woman who wore her hair in a fat bun atop her head. Her name was Miss Edith Torrey, the daughter of Reuben A. Torrey, who had so deeply influenced my Dad years before. I remember how disappointed she was to learn that I had no thought of becoming a missionary.
A professor, Dr. Alexander Grigolia, professor of anthropology, asked me for the list of probable candidates. When I came to Ruth Brooker, he brightened visible. “She is execkly fitted for your life. You must get her,” he said. I owe this brilliant scholar an eternal debt of gratitude. In just four dates I was completely and wildly in love with Ruth’s spirit, her sparkling humor…. Pastor Evan Walsh married us that fall in the college church. He had led Ruth to the Lord at Bethany Camp on Winona Lake.
In our first year we traveled a great deal, holding meetings through the South and East. Soon our first child was on the way, and I had signed on to work in army camps with the Pocket Testament League. A war was on!
Ruth Ellyn was born, while I was in Plainfield, New Jersey, about an hour away. I was stunned to learn that our little daughter was a “blue baby” and might not live. She did live seventeen years, but with the heartbreaking condition called cystic fibrosis. Yet she was a happy child, and unusually bright. Every year that we had her to cherish was a special gift from the God she loved.
In the army camps, we were working among tough men of the world. Our second daughter, Martha, arrived two years after Ruth Ellyn. Traveling constantly year in and year out was something else again. The only thing that drives me from Ruth and the children is the deep awareness that it is God’s will for me.
When our son David was born, I was back in itinerant chalk-talk church evangelist, and two hundred miles from the hospital. Three years passed and I was at a children’s camp, in western Virginia, and I received the phone call that announced, “Twin boys!”

Incredible Japan and the calling to Latin America

Not long after the end of the war, one of the organizers of the Pocket Testament League was telling how desperately the people of conquered Japan needed the Word of God. General MacArthur, he said, had opened the door wide to the gospel, calling for a thousand missionaries. After the meeting I asked if I might be of service in Japan. It worked out and soon I was on my way to war-ravaged Japan! While actual destruction had been confined to the great cities, we saw on every side the cruel impoverishment of a once-thriving nation. I had been slated to be in Japan for three and a half months, but I had been there only a short time when I knew the Lord wanted me to return for a second stretch of at least six months. Could I take another separation, for six months? Could Ruth? But the more I moved about Japan, the more I felt the acute hunger of a people for spiritual truth—hunger that only the gospel could satisfy. I knew Ruth and I must find strength to carry on for Him Who said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
It seemed as if I had barely returned home, when I was off again on my second tour of duty in Japan. For over a month, with our accordionist and our interpreter, we lived on a shoestring. Unable to afford hotels, we drove out of town and slept in the truck beside some country road. We would distribute large quantities of scripture portions in the towns, setting up meetings. I drew gospel scenes in chalk and preached. Nambu San interpreted with skill and wonderful patience.
On one occasion we were traveling with Mabel Francis, one of the most radiant saints of God I have ever known. She was at that time seventy six years of age, and still riding her bicycle over all kinds of roads on the Master’s business. How she loved the Japanese people!
In Tokyo and in other large cities we held some tremendous rallies. Gil Dodds, the world champion miler, came over to help us. Wherever we went, he ran against the best Japanese runners. Gil finished away out ahead of the nearest competition. At the close of each event he would come to the rally platform, still breathing hard, and give his personal testimony to Christ’s saving power.
My next assignment was in the islands of the Caribbean. The Windward Islands were more spectacular than anything I had imagined. The people were as warm and friendly as their land, despite the prevalent sickness and grinding poverty. I was teamed with Latin American missions. Back from the second Caribbean tour, I was again on the road in the states, holding church campaigns and youth rallies.
While I was still following a busy schedule of meetings, there came an invitation from the Latin American missions to go to Argentina and Uruguay as guest artist. Despite my two years of  Spanish at Wheaton College, I found it difficult to follow rapid Spanish in conversation or preaching. However, my job was to draw, and sometimes sing in English. When I did quick sketches, it was explained by interpretation. After campaigning for several weeks in Uruguay, we held our first Argentine meeting in the large auditorium of the church of Villa Real, where Don José Bongarrá was the spiritual leader. Then we were in Rosario, planning for meetings in Cordoba, five hours away, where some people said it wouldn’t be safe for me to go. I did go to Cordoba, and what did happen was that God called me to be a full-time missionary to live in that city, making it my permanent base of operations on the mission field. I was forty-two, rather too old for a missionary board to consider. Because of the overthrow of the dictator, Juan Perón, we went to language school in Costa Rica, and there mastered Spanish. We left our home in Greensboro, NC, and flew to San José, Costa Rica.

More than conquerors! Nate Saint’s story

We were still in language school when the first rumors of trouble in Ecuador began to reach us. Then came the blow, the bare, grim facts. Nate, with four more young missionaries, had been killed by the Auca Indians. Thoughts of my kid brother, the finest of us all, kept crowding my most determined efforts to study. Vivid memories of his childhood, his growing-up years, his youthful struggles and victories, swept over me, day and night. Soon after big brother Sam got his pilot’s license, he took Nate up for his first flight. During the Second World War II he was servicing planes in a huger hangar-factory. He fretted at the confinement of shop work, but this was a God-oriented preparation for the time when, as a jungle pilot, he would have to be his own mechanic. When the change to try out for Air Force Flight training, Nate registered. Suddenly, just before he was due to leave for training in Texas, an old bone infection which had plagued him in childhood recurred. Instead of going to flight school, Nate went to the hospital.
There, suffering intense pain, and a worse agony of disappointment, my kid brother began fighting the hardest spiritual battle for his life. The battle continued after he had left the hospital, the struggle between despair and his love for God. One winter night he prayed, “Lord, it it’s Your will that I never fly again, it’s okay with me.” Flying set aside, Nate was soon enrolled at Wheaton College, preparing for full-time Christian work. But soon God, who had demanded that Nate Saint surrender the great desire of his life, to be a flyer, all at once gave it back to him.
He learned of a missionary organization, the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, which used small places in the foreign field. Without waiting to finish college, he entered the Moody Bible Institute flight training school. Soon he would be carrying the life-giving Good News of his Savior to forgotten savage tribesmen..
How Nate met and married Mark, his talented, gracious wife, has been told in the book, Jungle Pilot. Nate lived with danger every day for seven years in Ecuador. Marj mothered and taught their three small children in the wilderness, and she fully shared Nate’s sense of mission.
When the first news of the massacre reached us, we could only guess what had brought the five young missionaries together on that fatal beach. “Operation Auca” had been kept secret from everybody but the martyrs wives. These Aucas had attacked every stranger that who had dared to enter their forests. From September till January, Nate Saint made flight after flight over the little Auca village that he had discovered in a clearing of the Curaray River. By January 8, 1956, they had made a camp, caught and cooked fish, broadcast their memorized Auca. Nate’s diary records that on January 6, they met their first Aucas face to face, a man and two women. On Sunday, Nate took a short flight over the Auca village and noted no men were in sight. A little after noon, he used his plane’s radio to call the base and say, “We’re hoping for visitors around 2:30. I’ll call you again at 4:35.”
At 4:35 there was silence. Marj waited in vain. When it became certain that something was very wrong, a plane was sent to investigate. It reported that the missionaries’ plane had been demolished, and that a body was floating in the river.
Several other missionaries, together with some guides and Ecuadorian soldiers, started afoot to the scene of the tragedy. The United States Air Force Rescue Service sent planes at once from Panama. Four bodies were recovered. As the remains were laid in the grave, the roar of a tropical rainstorm drowned out all sound. The missionaries hurried through a simple burial service. And the next morning, they started back.
Nate Saint and his friends knew from the start that the unexpected might happen—they might be killed. They took firearms along to frighten the savages, but they all determined never to fire at an Indian, not even in self-defense.
These men would accomplish more toward the salvation of priceless souls by dying as they did. The jolted the conscience of millions, around the world, as their story was blazed in newspapers and magazines, by radio and television. By their deaths God opened the way for Belly Elliot, little Valerie, and my sister Rachel to go in among the very Indians who did the killed. Rachel and Dayuma (the Auca girl who dared to guide her there in 1958) stayed on. They have continued to teach and train over seventy-five baptized Auca believers at this writing.

The Saints arrive in Argentina

In 1957, our family arrived by plane at the Ezeiza International Airport of Buenos Aires. Then we went by train to Córdoba, at the geographic center of the country, and met there by John Clifford, a prominent evangelical. The Lord led me on the very first day to the spacious old house where we were to live happily for many years. In a short time we had prayer meetings going in our living room, and despite my limited ability in Spanish, we had fifty neighbors crowding in to hear the gospel.
Not long after arriving in Argentina, I was invited to draw in meetings conducted by the famous evangelist, Dr. Oswald J. Smith, at Luna Park, the huge boxing stadium in Buenos Aires. This was one of the greatest opportunities to draw for Christ that I had ever had. At nights Luna Park was packed with twenty-five thousand. Dr. Smith preached with simplicity and power. Then Dr. Smith invited me to go with him to Santiago, Chile, in a tremendous open-air stadium. Then I also went with Dr. Smith to Lima, Perú.
But even though I was over forty-two years of age, with considerable experience in conducting gospel meetings, this did not make me a mature or capable missionaries. Some Argentine leaders who had seen me draw but had never hear me preach thought that teaming up with their national orators would be the ideal arrangement for me. But God had called me to preach as well as to draw. So, finally, I launched out on my own. The great circus tent in Lima had left a deep impression on me. Moving into a tent ministry took time as well as funds, but we reached hundreds of thousands of people in towns and pueblos all over Argentina.

Of Death and Life

I was preaching in Trenque Lauquen, when Evelyn, our youngest, was born. She was sent to bring us joy in the midst of deep affliction, for her big sister was soon to leave us. Ruth Ellyn, now seventeen, was visibly failing. Ruth found her, feebly gasping for breath, barely conscious. Finally she was taken to a large hospital. The night of her departure, many friends came to the simple, moving service.
In 1967 we decided to take a vacation, to some isolated spot, where could use a tent and cook our own meals for two whole weeks! Day after day I wanted the wide valley on the side of the Córdoba sierras. I found a hidden valley, where I sat down to think. The place just might have possibilities for a young people’s summer camp. So… I ended up buying the property. We planted hundreds of shade trees, and little by little, brick cabins and motels took shape. I called it Lake Valley, “Valle del Lago”. It became a spiritual and challenging center for the Argentines, where thousands have been saved, inspired and encouraged.

The Spiritual earthquake begins

After finishing high school, David, with my blessing, left for Buenos Aires to attend the Alliance Bible Institute, from which Martha, our eldest daughter, had graduated. Martha was still there, happy with her Argentine husband Sam Berberian. She played her accordion and taught Bible to children, while Sam preached. They amazed Ruth and me by the strength of their faith, traveling on a shoestring, going first to Chile, then to other South American countries, and finally to the United States and the Middle East, ending up living permanently in Guatemala city.
By then my life and my ministry needed a major work of renovation by the same Holy Spirit whose power had transformed Moody, Torrey, and yes, my own son David. Along with my spiritual earthquake and changed horizons had come God’s gift of inward quietness, a peace which continued in the face of strongly written letters and interviews threatening my future as a missionary. I did my best to explain to all that my basic doctrinal position had not changed, however, it was very important to some of my former friends, who began cutting off our missionary support.
Here in Argentina a new day brightens, a day of glorious revival, and I am inexpressibly grateful for the small share He was given me in it.  By god’s grace, the Lake Valley Bible Conference Center continues to grow. As for myself, I believe that the next years will be the most fruitful of my whole life. I feel younger at heart, even in body, than I did ten years ago. By God’s grace, until He calls me home, I shall continue to preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ”.

Note: My father Phil Saint passed away February 12th, 1993, right on my birthday, because of an accident on the tractor he was driving, as he did most afternoons to smooth the dirt country road that winded into Lake Valley. He was eighty years old. He had served in his beloved Argentina thirty-six years. My mother Ruth died in 1999, when her health declined from cancer. She was also eighty years old. As they both desired, they are buried here in Córdoba, Argentina, within sight of their much-loved mountains.
Evelyn Saint, Córdoba, Argentina