‘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

How the church can fight for unity that honors God

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory...

George Floyd and racial reconciliation in the church

The death of George Floyd has brought about tension, protests and upheaval in an already volatile period in our nation. In these times, we must take every thought captive and search the Scriptures for discernment, wisdom and guidance. Walter Strickland, associate vice president...

Comforts, convictions & considerations for coming out of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered us into a new frontier of pastoral leadership. Over the past few months pastors have learned how to lead churches during a pandemic. Now, pastors are learning how to lead a congregation out of this pandemic. The challenge of this moment should...

Southern Baptist leaders issue joint statement on the death of George Floyd

Southern Baptist leaders have published a statement grieving the recent death of George Floyd and calling for the end of "racial inequity in the distribution of justice in our country." The statement, co-authored by SBC president J.D. Greear and New Orleans Baptist Theological...

6 new rhythms and new normals for your summer

COVID-19 turned our spring upside down and forced us to create new ways to offer discipleship training to our families. Hopefully, parents have embraced the call to disciple their children at home. As summer arrives and teachers no longer send school work home, parents may have...

6 questions to reframe your ministry vision after COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all into new rhythms. Stay-at-home orders for all but the most essential of professionals, caregivers and service providers have dramatically impacted families, businesses and government.Churches are not immune from this impact. Social...

Top 5 resources for June 2020

Every month, we spotlight five helpful resources for you as you seek to walk closely with the Lord and make disciples. Many of these resources are created by the staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) to help meet the ministry needs of pastors and lay...

Fort Caswell adjusts summer operations amid COVID-19

Due to ongoing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) officials announced Friday, May 29, that no large group gatherings will take place at Fort Caswell this summer. Instead, Caswell is providing camp and retreat options for...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

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

Stay connected by signing up for our monthly newsletter and events email.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!