She was known for her smile and vivacious love of life. Her laughter was infectious, and when she danced you couldn’t help but join her. Deaconess Nazgul William, “Naz” to her friends, dedicated her life to ministries of care and compassion and was looking forward to sharing what she had learned about women’s issues and gender inequality in Asia having just completed a two-month course in the Philippines.
Her life abruptly ended July 17, 2013, in Beijing, China. While out for an afternoon walk near a shopping center, she was one of two people stabbed by a young man in what was reported as a random act of violence due to mental illness. She was visiting Beijing after attending the World Diakonia conference in Berlin, Germany.
Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Ms. William became the first Pakistani deaconess of The United Methodist Church at her commissioning in 2005. From a young age she felt God’s call to dedicate her life to love, justice and service. Her call was affirmed through encounters she had with American missionaries to Pakistan and later in the relationships she built with deaconesses in the United States. Quoted in a 2006 issue of response magazine, Ms. William said of her call, “I wanted to do something until the day I die. In Pakistan, if you say to someone, ‘You are my brother or sister,’ then it’s for your lifetime.”
Her deaconess ministries included working at the Brooks-Howell Home in Asheville, N.C., and translating materials from the United Methodist Women’s Bible Women Program into Urdu, the native language of Pakistan.
Most recently, she was on a leave of absence from active service while she sought additional educational and professional development opportunities. She graduated from a two-month intercultural course on women and society at St. Scholastica College’s Institute of Women’s Studies in Manila, Philippines, in early June 2013. As a participant in this course, Ms. William learned about issues facing women in Asia and the Pacific and developed practical skills to address gender concerns on personal and organizational levels. She was looking forward to sharing her new skills and knowledge through workshops and volunteering with Chosen Ministry in Haiti, where she promoted a women’s prison ministry and micro-commodities program.
Ms. William was a member of Christ Church United Methodist in New York, N.Y., where she held the office of president of United Methodist Women. She was also social action coordinator for the New York Conference United Methodist Women.
She is preceded in death by her mother and father and survived by a brother and seven sisters. She was close to the Prudente family of New York, N.Y., who are assisting Ms. William’s birth family with arrangements. Memorial services are being planned in Pakistan, New York, and at the Brooks-Howell Home in Asheville, N.C.
View a set of photos of Nazgul William on Flickr.
Myka Kennedy Stephens is a United Methodist deaconess appointed as an independent information professional in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference.