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Retired AG Missionary Still Ministering at 89 Years Old

Octogenarian Nada Dates is just as active in ministry as she has ever been.
Editor’s Note: This story is part of a new story series called “I AM AG”. This series will feature articles on men and women who are using their God-given gifts and talents to share the love of Jesus in extraordinary ways. To nominate someone for an “I AM AG” spotlight, please email [email protected]

Given a unique name by her parents, which in Spanish, translates to “nothing,” Nada Dates has refused to do “nothing” for nearly 90 years.

Born in Akron, Ohio, Dates recalls lying on the floor of her church at just three years old and memorizing hymns, a gift that she would share with others through her ministry for the next eight decades.

Dates gave her heart to Jesus at the tender age of nine years old and when she was 13, she surrendered her life to missionary service. Unsure of where the Lord would have her go first, she enrolled at Wheaton College where she obtained a college degree in piano and music education.

In her sophomore year, the Holy Spirit led her to read Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah 6:8 stood out “in neon lights”, and she knew she had a call to international missions.

Following her graduation, Dates joined the Christian Missionary Alliance and attended their school of missions where she met her husband, Charles, who had a clear call from the Lord to Indonesia. Within three years, the couple had married and moved around the world to one of the most primitive places known to man.

“When we arrived in Indonesia,” Dates says, “it took a seven-day trip up the river just to reach the rainforest where we would be living and ministering.”

After one year of language study on Java, they moved to Borneo.

This remote corner of the globe, without running water or electricity and nearly an entire day’s journey by boat to the nearest town, is where Dates and her husband would live for the next eight-and-a-half years.

Dates states that the lifestyle and climate of the rainforest were not easy to get used to. “There were times I was scared, especially scared of getting sick and not being able to get to a doctor,” she says.

River rapids were dangerous for travels, even when medical intervention was needed.

But one day, after watching the Lord heal their 18-month-old little girl from malaria before their very eyes, Dates was reminded that if the Lord had called her, He would sustain her and protect her and her family.

After their second furlough, the Dates’ took a leave of absence from the mission field for seven years but found themselves headed back to Indonesia in 1978 as Assemblies of God missionaries.

“When we were in the States, we started attending an Assemblies of God church and got baptized in the Spirit, so we applied with the AG and were welcomed with open arms,” she shares.

When they returned to Indonesia, the couple spent the next 27 years ministering in the villages and planting churches in more populated parts of the country, and Dates was able to be part of a church’s ministry through music again.

“Our last project was planting a church in Balikpapan. The building permit was denied for 6 years but in God’s time, we sold the land for six times more than the purchase price and constructed ‘glory building’ which offered housing, church offices, a Bible school, and a pastor’s apartment,” she says.

Ready for retirement after 35 total years in ministry, Dates and her husband returned to the United States in 2005 and moved permanently to Silver City, New Mexico, in 2008. There, Dates continued to serve at her local church by way of music ministry and occasionally speaking on missions or preaching during a service.

The couple continued to serve together however they could until, in 2020, the Lord called Charles Dates home to Heaven.

Even in light of her husband’s death, Dates has continued to serve the Lord through her gift of music and never says no to an opportunity to minister through song.

Today, at 89 years old, Dates plays the piano for three to four Sunday services a week, each at a different church.

“I start Sundays by playing the piano for the 8 a.m. Catholic Mass,” she says. “Then I play for the Methodist church and sometimes I play at the Episcopal church.”

Dates plays at her home church, Cross Point Assembly of God in Silver City, New Mexico, as well.

Sundays aren’t her only busy day, though. Throughout the week, Dates leads a weekly Bible study and serves as the director for a women’s chorus for retired women.

“It’s a secular chorus but I always pray and ask God what songs He wants me to put into our concerts and I always bring at least two spiritual songs or hymns into it,” she says.

One of Dates’ favorite weekly meetings is a lunch group that she attends made up entirely of women who are struggling with same sex attraction. What started with a simple conversation at a local restaurant has led to a weekly time of being salt and light for Dates.

Consistent to show up and just “be Jesus” to these women, God has allowed Dates to form what she calls a “deep friendship” with the women and, just this past week, finally saw a glimpse of the magnitude of her impact.

“This past Friday, I had some of the group over to my home for dinner,” she says. “While we were there, I was sharing part of my ministry and testimony like I always do, and they asked if we could all sing some of my favorite hymns together.”

Having been wounded by “Christian churches” in the past, Dates was surprised by their request but knows that this door would not have been opened without God.

With nearly nine decades spent with a heart full of hymns, Dates has no plans of slowing down her ministry through music.

“She’s as active as active can be,” says Cross Point AG’s associate pastor, Linda Fischer. “It’s so inspiring to see someone still going so strong in the ministry.”

Ashley B. Grant

Ashley B. Grant has a master's degree in Human Services Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University and is a credentialed Christian counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. Grant also holds certifications in crisis pregnancy counseling and advanced life coaching. Ashley is a fourth generation Assemblies of God preacher’s kid and has one daughter and three sons.