USA (MNN) — The end of this week is a new beginning for Sam
Vinton, executive director of Grace Ministries International.
After 22 years at the helm of the ministry, Vinton is
retiring. Looking back at his tenure with GMI, he says that his greatest achievements were set into motion BEFORE he
began directing the goings on at GMI, stemming back to his days as a teacher at
the Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "Many of the students that I thought
at Grace Bible College became missionaries. So that is always a great
satisfaction, knowing that the people that you were teaching have sort of
picked up the mantle and have taken an interest."
Since he's already set it into motion, the drive it takes to
give leaders the tools they need to nurture a church will move forward. "One of the areas that I've encouraged very
strongly is internationalizing our staff and being involved with key men and
women from other parts of the world that we are working with to get involved
The results? Vinton
says, "I think that the greatest thing that moved my heart was the opening
of the field in Zambia, the vision that our missionaries in Tanzania had about
that and spearheaded that ministry which moved into Malawi, Mozambique and
From there, Vinton and his son, Bill Vinton, launched an
evangelistic campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "We'd
be able to go into the schools, with the 40,000 students that we have in
the schools run by our church." The response? Easily five
or six times the biggest numbers they dared to hope for. "The Lord just had His timing. To be
able to be involved with the literate and contacting people to help us…that, to
me, was one of the most exciting things in my life."
All those believers meant churches needed to be ready to
disciple–and fast. "Often, these people don't have the
financial ability for literature and the finances for that. That's where we step in and make that
possible, and yet turn them loose to do the work of the Lord."
The timing of his retirement is not an accident. As Vinton steps aside this week, Jeremy Clark
will step in. Clark has been a GMI
missionary in Costa Rica for eight years. "His life has always been involved in
the ministry and serving the Lord. We live in a world where planning and looking
ahead to where we're going and being able put things together [are vital]. I think that as
a young person, he will do an excellent job, so I see the mission moving
Different styles of leadership, different ways of
accomplishing vision, mission and goals. However, Vinton says sharing Jesus stays the same. "It's still
relationships, it's still getting the Gospel out one-on-one and challenging
people to reproduce the ministry to other areas of the world as they see what
God has done for them."
The Clark family is already beginning their transition from
field service in Costa Rica to serving stateside in the GMI office. Jeremy assumes his duties as Executive Director
beginning August 2012. Vinton says, "Pray that God will cause Jeremy Clark
to be involved in empowering others to do the work."
What will be Vinton's first project in retirement? He plans on writing a systematic theology book…in
Swahili. He'll get around to it when his
ministry engagements clear by mid-December.