Sam James, longtime missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB), has received a 2022 Heritage Award from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

The award recognizes individuals and couples who have made unique contributions to Baptist life and ministry through exemplary service and giving to organizations associated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Todd Unzicker, executive director of the state convention, presented the award to James during a luncheon held Tuesday, April 5, at the Grandover Resort and Conference Center in Greensboro, N.C. The event was co-sponsored by the state convention and the N.C. Baptist Foundation.

A native of Liberty, N.C., James and his wife, Rachel, were appointed IMB missionaries to Vietnam in 1962. They served in Vietnam throughout the Vietnam War, but were forced to leave when communist forces seized control of the country in 1975 with the fall of Saigon. Later, James returned to Vietnam where he served extensively for 25 more years.

During his more than 50 years of service with the IMB, James served in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Throughout his ministry, James has been a missionary, church planter, administrator and trainer.

I have always felt like I am a part of the North Carolina Baptist convention.

Sam James

Prior to departing for the mission field, James planted Homestead Heights Baptist Church in Durham, which years later became the Summit Church. Today, the Summit Church commissions and sends numerous missionaries and church planters each year in fulfillment of James’ original vision to plant a church that would equip and send missionaries.

Prior to Unzicker’s election as executive director of the state convention, he served on staff at the Summit Church, which included a stint as the pastor of sending. In presenting the Heritage Award to James, Unzicker called it a privilege to serve at the church James planted.

“Your impact is still being felt today,” Unzicker said. “It is a joy and a privilege to present you with this award for the impact that you not only made in Vietnam, but also in our lives as North Carolina Baptists, as well as for what you still continue to do in the world today.”

Although formally retired from the IMB, James continues to serve as a missionary ambassador and statesman.

James has authored two books about his missionary service that has taken him around the world and to nearly 100 different countries. Throughout his ministry, James said he never forgot his North Carolina roots.

“I left North Carolina to go to the mission field, and I have had the prayers and support of North Carolina Baptists for all of these years,” James said. “I have always felt like I am a part of the North Carolina Baptist convention.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is a complete list of the 2022 Heritage Award recipients and the organizations they represent.

  • 2022 N.C. Baptist Heritage Award Recipients
  • Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina: Lenuel and Sandy Chamberlain
  • Baptists on Mission: Stephen and Nellene Carter
  • Baptist State Convention of North Carolina: Sam James
  • Campbell University: Dennis N. Bazemore
  • Chowan University: R.A. “Bob” and Jane E. Newsome
  • Mars Hill University: Cheryl B. Pappas
  • N.C. Baptist Foundation: C. Allen and Joanne Overton
  • Wingate University: Mary Lynn Moss
  • Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina: Charlotte Cook Smith