‘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

6 ways to be a generous leader during the holidays

The holiday season is upon us. It is a time rooted in generosity, from God providing a bountiful harvest for the Pilgrims and Native Americans to God gifting us with His one and only Son. We celebrate because of the great gifts God has bestowed on us. Of course, the holiday season...

Will you pray and go?

I don’t remember much about that day, but one thing I do remember: it was hot — really hot. The temperature in Newton was near 100 degrees Fahrenheit that day. But we had committed to walk our neighborhood and pray for divine appointments. This was the third time in three weeks we...

A Christmas resource with families in mind

Why did Jesus need to come to Earth? This is just one of the thought-provoking questions included in the Advent family devotional surrounding the coming of Christ to the world. “Advent” means coming or arrival, and Family Advent Devotions, developed by the Faith at Home ministry...

California man comes cross country to plant multiethnic church in NC

Is God behind the North Carolina Baptist effort to plant new churches across the state? Gary Lee says yes. He says God called him from California to plant a new church in Raleigh. In fact, Lee is one of many church planters who have been called from other states and nations to...

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering exemplifies our work

The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) has supported missionaries to the unreached since 1888. Currently, Southern Baptists can celebrate having 3,640 missionaries serve and share the hope of Christ in the least-reached places across the world with the International Mission...

Hollifield exhorts NC Baptists to prioritize God, gospel & disciple-making

In his final address to messengers as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), Milton A. Hollifield Jr. challenged N.C. Baptists to devote themselves to the Lord and continue working together to fulfill the Great Commission....

4 keys to creating a spiritually vibrant home

The most-asked question I hear from parents is, “How do we raise kids who will love Jesus in adulthood?” One mom in our church phrased it like this, “What is the secret sauce for raising kids who love Jesus?” In our culture today, these are valid questions, and God left the...

Baptist Children’s Homes offer eternal hope to hurting families

One of the ministries in our state that tugs at my heartstrings is the Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) of North Carolina. I’m thankful for the long and rich partnership between Baptist Children’s Homes and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. North Carolina Baptists have...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!