LIBERTY — Liberty native and long-time Baptist missionary Sam James is returning to his hometown Saturday, June 16, to talk about his new book, “The Making of a Servant, Anchored in Vietnam.” The free program is sponsored by the Liberty library.


James, whose mother was a popular music teacher in Liberty, graduated from Wake Forest and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and after a tour in the U.S. Navy, served as pastor of Liberty’s Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.


After planting the Homestead Heights Baptist Church in Durham in 1961, the Foreign Mission Board appointed him as a Southern Baptist missionary to Vietnam. In 1962, James, his wife Rachel and their three children boarded a ship bound for Hong Kong, finally arriving in Saigon on Nov. 3, 1962.


Thus began a 51-year career in international missions. James began pastoring Grace Baptist Church, Southern Baptists’ first church in Vietnam. Rachel ran medical clinics in rural villages on the outskirts of Vietnam. James founded the Vietnam Baptist Theological Seminary and planted seven churches in and around Saigon.


As war came to Vietnam, James was nearly killed three times between 1965 and 1970, including a miraculous escape from a Viet Cong firefight. In April 1975, with the communists closing in on Saigon, Rachel and the children were evacuated to Thailand. James stayed behind to help care for the tens of thousands of refugees flooding into the city. Finally, he was forced to flee the country, just five days before Saigon fell.


In 1980, he was tasked with overseeing the construction and development of a new missionary training center in Richmond, Va. The center opened in 1984 and more than 10,000 missionaries have received their training there.


After serving as area director for East Asia and vice president for Europe, Sam and Rachel were able to return to their first love, Vietnam, in 2002. Although the couple could not live in the country, they were permitted to make trips there several times a year. Once in Saigon, they returned to the Grace Baptist Church which had survived the Communist takeover and reunite with some of their former students.


James will appear in the Council Room (the old courtroom) at the Liberty Town Hall, 239 S. Fayetteville St., adjacent to the library. The program will begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 16. He will talk about growing up in Liberty and his experiences in Vietnam and will sign his new book. Books will be available for sale afterwards. Checks and cash will be accepted. Light refreshments will be served and the public is invited to this free program.