‘Iconic’ missionary encourages NC Baptists to remember their call

February 15, 2019

Sam James, longtime missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB), encouraged Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) staff members to rest in God’s call on their lives and demonstrate the supernatural love of Christ as they serve in their respective ministries.

“The call of God is sufficient,” said James, who served 54 years with the IMB in places like Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. James has also held a variety of leadership roles with the IMB and has led trainings and conferences in 115 different countries. “There have been so many times when the only thing I had left in life was my call, but that has always been sufficient for me.”

James’ remarks came during a chapel service on Wednesday, Feb. 6 to the entire state convention staff as they gathered together for a series of meetings at the BSCNC offices in Cary.

“No matter what (your ministry) is here in this building, God has called you here, and you are working and serving Him,” James said.

James praised the work of N.C. Baptists, saying he tried to remain informed about the state convention’s various ministries while on the mission field.

A native of Liberty, N.C., James was educated at Wake Forest College in Wake Forest, N.C., and moved with the school to Winston-Salem when it eventually became Wake Forest University. He also studied at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which now occupies the former Wake Forest College campus, as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Prior to being commissioned as an international missionary, James helped found Homestead Heights Baptist Church in Durham, which is now known as The Summit Church and is pastored by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear.

“There have been so many times when the only thing I had left in life was my call, but that has always been sufficient for me.”

“Sam James had a vision of that church planting churches throughout the world, and that vision is still being lived out,” said BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr., who described James as an “icon” among SBC missionaries and leaders. “He is such a humble servant of God.”

During his message, James recounted several personal stories from his days as a missionary in South Vietnam which included anecdotes of how God spared his life and granted him mercy and grace. God’s hand was upon James’ life and ministry to the point that it resulted in communist leaders showing him favor and granting him unprecedented opportunities to minister to the Vietnamese people.

James and his wife, Rachel, served in South Vietnam beginning in 1962. They served there throughout the Vietnam War, but were ultimately forced to flee the country when communist forces conquered Saigon on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the war. James was able to return to Vietnam 14 years later in 1989.

Although he is officially retired from the IMB and living in Virginia, James continues to travel to Vietnam for ministry at age 86.

James said his heart for the Vietnamese people doesn’t come from anything inside himself, but rather it is a manifestation of God’s supernatural love. James recounted a time when God reminded him of that love when he was deeply discouraged in the early years of his ministry.

“That night, I knelt before God after six years in Vietnam,” James said. “God told me, ‘You’re not in Vietnam because you love the Vietnam people. You’re in Vietnam because I love them, and I want to love them through you.’”

James challenged N.C. Baptists to allow that same kind of love to flow through them.

“That means you are surrendering yourself to Him,” James said, referencing Galatians 2:20 about being crucified with Christ. “That’s the call. That’s the mission.”


by Chad Austin  
/  Communications  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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