Born in Liberty , North Carolina, Sam James was educated at Wake Forest University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, with further graduate studies at the University of North Carolina. Sam has exhibited a lifetime of service to the Lord. In 1957 he married Rachel Kerr, a native of Durham, North Carolina. They have four children and eight grandchildren. Two of their children also served the Lord through the International Mission Board (IMB), one family in Japan and one family in the United Kingdom.
Sam and Rachel were appointed in March 1962, by the IMB, to serve in the Republic of South Vietnam. They were forced to leave in 1975 when communists assumed control of the country. But Sam didn’t go far. He moved only as far as Taipei, Taiwan, where he became Associate Area Director for East Asia.
In 1980, he returned to the United States in order to work with the architects and leave his indelible stamp on the philosophy and programs of the International Learning Center outside Richmond, Virginia. Yes, Sam has influenced an entire generation of international Christian workers in how they are trained and orientated for cross-cultural work.
In 1985, Sam again returned to the field when he was elected Area Director for East Asia. From his headquarters in Hong Kong, he directed the work in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and the beginnings of work in the People’s Republic of China.
Seven years later, Sam was elected regional vice president for Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. As the war in Lebanon was at its height, the war in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia was raging, and communism was collapsing throughout Eastern Europe. In the Soviet Union the door was opening for broad new opportunities throughout the region. Once again Sam answered the call to serve.
By 1995, the IMB was in the midst of vast organizational changes, and Sam was asked to serve as Vice President for Leadership Development. This included supervising the training programs at the Learning Center complex, doubling the size of the facilities, and providing supervision for all the IMBs training programs. In addition, he supervised strategy studies in 70 countries around the world. During that time he served a key role in the formation of the International Centre for Excellence in Leadership.
In 2001, Sam retired from the staff of the IMB, but that did not stop him from serving. He and Rachel were immediately commissioned to serve the Vietnamese once again.
In 2003, numerous tragic deaths in the Middle East precipitated an urgent need for special work among personnel in these high risk areas. Again Sam was called upon to transfer from Vietnam to the Middle East to meet the member care needs of the personnel who serve in that region.
In 2005, while still under commission from the IMB, Sam and Rachel moved to Midlothian, Virginia. Sam continued to make frequent trips to Northern Africa and the Middle East and to meet certain needs in Vietnam. The author of a number of articles, Sam also published his first book, “Servant on the Edge of History,” in 2005. The book, which documented his vast experience on the mission field, sold more than 20,000 copies and continues to impact generations of Christ-followers.
His second book, “The Making of a Servant,” focuses on the decisions and experiences that led Sam to the mission field in the first place and helps readers understand that the Lord guides the steps of all who seek Him in both big and small decisions.