1913

Birth

August 22, 1913
Timelines: Life & Family Birth
August 22, 1913

Jim Downing was born August 22, 1913, in Oak Grove, Missouri, a small community on the eastern outskirts of Kansas City. While his family moved around frequently during Jim’s early years, he spent most of his childhood in Plevna, Missouri, where his father owned the local hardware store. “At the time I left home in 1932, I had never lived in a house with indoor plumbing or electricity,” Jim said.

1935

Jim Accepts Christ

January 1, 1935
Timelines: Life & Family Jim Accepts Christ
January 1, 1935

As he began his career in the military, Jim didn’t know that bigger things were in store for him. Jim’s shipmates introduced him to Dawson Trotman, who was just beginning to work among a small group of sailors in southern California, a ministry that would become known as The Navigators. “Through the combined influence of the five shipmates of mine whom Dawson had trained, I gave my life to Christ in April 1935,” Jim said, making him Navigator #6. This would go on to impact the way that his entire life was oriented from his ministry to the way he raised his family.

1941

Jim Marries Wife, Morena

July 11, 1941
Timelines: Life & Family Jim Marries Wife, Morena
July 11, 1941

The Hawaii marriage license was purchased and they planned to have the wedding on the north shore of Oahu at a Christian conference center. When Jim picked up the license he discovered that it was good only in the Honolulu district. The clerk suggested they have two weddings. The city boundary nearest Kokakahi was the Pali–a mountain pass on a narrow winding road, where the wind from the sea is so strong it creates an upside down waterfall. Morena met Jim, Harold DeGroff, and best man Marvin Lokkesmoe there, and under the stare of curious tourists in gale force winds, they were married. At the follow-up ceremony at Kokokahi, they repeated their vows.

1941

Pearl Harbor Attacked

December 6, 1941
Timelines: Life & Family
December 6, 1941

On Dec. 6, Jim and Morena (who were still newly married) awoke to the shock of a lifetime. At 7:55 AM on Sunday, December 7, 1941, they heard on the radio, “The island of Oahu is under enemy attack,” which explained the vibrating ground and black smoke. They were with friends, and the men hurriedly pulled on their uniforms and caught a ride to Pearl Harbor. As they rushed to the car Morena quoted, “The eternal God is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.” They didn’t know whether they would see each other again in this life. The West Virginia had been sunk and burned, along with all of the Downings’ money. The war was on and their lives were changed forever. Even in the midst of tragedy, they knew that their faith in Christ would be an anchor to their souls.

1942

A New Perspective

January 1, 1942
Timelines: Life & Family A New Perspective
January 1, 1942

Jim’s survival at Pearl Harbor changed his spiritual life permanently. For the next six months he held Bible studies every night in an underground air raid shelter. Morena returned to Little Rock, Arkansas to live with her parents. While in Arkansas she held Bible studies in the Women’s State Prison of Arkansas. Jim and Morena were separated during the entire year of 1942. When the West Virginia was sufficiently seaworthy, it limped its way to Bremerton, Washington where Morena was able to meet the ship when it docked.

1946

A Season Apart

January 1, 1946
Timelines: Life & Family
January 1, 1946

After the war ended, Jim wrote a letter resigning his commission and requesting discharge. The seasons had been hard for the young family. But the Lord had other plans. Jim, as a gunnery expert, was asked to go to Venezuela after a military coup, so he canceled his request for discharge and took a crash course in Spanish. He knew this would be different than anything they had done and it would be especially hard to be away from his family. Another change of plans took place and he ended up in Brazil, half a world away from his family.

1956

A New Role With The Navigators

June 5, 1956
Timelines: Life & Family, Military Experience A New Role With The Navigators
June 5, 1956

On her way to Schroon Lake to meet Dawson, Lila Trotman made a visit to the Downing’s Virginia home on June 15, 1956. Jim told Lila to tell Daws that he would be coming to Schroon Lake to talk with him, but did not tell her why he wanted to see him. Jim’s plan was to tell Daws that they had decided the Lord wanted them to accept his invitation to come to Colorado Springs.

Jim took a week’s leave, and drove all night, arriving at Schroon Lake at 6:30 a.m. on June 18 and learned that Daws had drowned 15 hours before. The next day, Lorne Sanny arrived and stayed the rest of the week. Jim and Lorne rode together for six hours to New York City, and Lorne commented, “I have known for some time I would eventually inherit the responsibility for The Navigators. I have already decided that instead of a one man operation it would be a team operation. The Lord has given me the names of the men He wants to help me. You are one of them. How soon can you get out of the Navy and move to Colorado?” Lorne wanted Jim to take Glen Eyrie off his hands. He referred to Jim as the “utility fielder” who fills the most urgent needs. About four months later Jim was officially retired and the family headed for Colorado to serve as Lorne Sanny’s right hand man.

For 22 years, Jim served as Lorne Sanny’s deputy and also financial Vice President of The Navigators. He worked alongside other early Navigator leaders such as Bob Foster, Jerry Bridges, Rod Sargent, Doug Sparks, Waldron Scott, and Roy Robertson. And later he teamed with, among others, Jim Peterson, Jack Mayhall, LeRoy Eims, Skip Gray, and George Sanchez.

1978

Leadership Abroad

January 1, 1978
Timelines: Life & Family
January 1, 1978

In 1978, the Downings moved to London to head up the Europe, Middle East, and Africa regions for The Navigators for three years. This international trip was one that would expose the family to the ins and outs of international Christianity. He worked as a liaison, visiting the mission fields to encourage missionaries and exhort those in the trenches of ministry. This took the family into a new, fascinating season that gave them plenty of memories to last a lifetime.

1981

Washington, D.C. Ministry

January 1, 1981
Timelines: Life & Family
January 1, 1981

From 1981-84 Jim was the area Navigator representative in the Washington, D.C. region. While in D.C., Jim was the impetus behind a ministry to servicemen at the Central Union Mission. He was also instrumental in the organization of Officers Christian Fellowship, House and Senate weekly prayer meetings, and the annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast, which still continues today. Morena was also active in ministry to women during this time.

1983

Jim’s “Retirement” from The Navigators

January 1, 1983
Timelines: Life & Family
January 1, 1983

In 1983 Jim officially retired from The Navigators. Since then he has been the Collegiate Minister-at-Large and has ministered in Africa, Indonesia, Asia, Mexico, and many college campuses and military bases. Jim has noted that his longest term in any position is his “job” since he retired–34 years and counting! He served as the Collegiate Minister-at-Large until 2009, but continues to be part of The Navigators family, even today.

2010

Morena Downing’s Passing

February 9, 2010
Timelines: Life & Family Morena Downing’s Passing
February 9, 2010

Morena Downing went to be with the Lord February 9, 2010. Jim and Morena had been married 69 years.

2013

Ministry Among College Students

April 1, 2013
Timelines: Life & Family Ministry Among College Students
April 1, 2013

Jim frequently speaks to groups of Navigator college students challenging them to discover, dedicated, develop, and deploy their gifts to advance the Kingdom.

2013

100th Birthday

August 22, 2013
Timelines: Life & Family, Military Experience 100th Birthday
August 22, 2013

In celebrating Jim’s 100th birthday, The Navigators presented him with this caricature by Colorado cartoonist Chuck Asay.

2016

Published “The Other Side of Infamy”

November 3, 2016
Timelines: Life & Family, Military Experience Published “The Other Side of Infamy”
November 3, 2016

In his latest book, The Other Side of Infamy, Jim reflects on his illustrious military career, including his experience during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to show how we can be people of faith during troubled times. Available at NavPress.com.

2017

Celebrating Jim’s 104th Birthday

August 22, 2017
Timelines: Life & Family, Military Experience Celebrating Jim’s 104th Birthday
August 22, 2017

August 22, 2017