Celebrating Asian American/Pacific Islander History Month in the WNCC: Rev. Samuel Om
May 4, 2023
By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian
Rev. Samuel Om
The Rev. Samuel Om was born and raised in Cambodia and grew up Buddhist. As a young man he was a soldier in Cambodia’s Civil War and was sentenced to a slow death in a Cambodian work cam run by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Rebels. Remarkably, he survived that ordeal. In late 1978, when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, Sam, his mother, and his sisters went to a refugee camp in Thailand. While there Sam’s sister visited a Christian church and brought back a Bible, translated into the Khmer language. “One passage in the Gospel of John changed him. ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. . .’ This God loved me, Sam thought. He loved not just humanity, but me. At a Baptist service months later in the Philippines, Sam stepped forward to accept Christ.” (“Tough Test Became His Testimony,” The Charlotte Observer, April 4, 2010)
“After he immigrated to the United States in 1981, an inner voice began to whisper to him, ‘I have brought you here for a reason. Tell your people how much I have done for you.’ Sam sensed the voice leading him to Bible school; to Syvany, his wife; to the ministry.” (Ibid.) Sam received his B.A. from Nyack Bible College in 1987 and his M. Div. from Gordon-Conwell Seminary in 2002. Previously ordained in the Cambodian Evangelical Church, Sam transferred his credentials to the Western North Carolina Conference of the UMC in 2004. His appointments have included Charlotte Cambodian Mission 2002-10; St. John’s (Charlotte 2010-14); GBGM Missionary to Cambodia 2014-17; GBGM Director of Resource Development in Cambodia 2017-20. Sam entered the retired relationship in 2020.
The Rev. Samuel Om was received into the WNC Conference as a Provisional Member in 2004 and into Full Connection in 2007. He served on the Committee on Asian American Ministries from 2005-12, serving as Chair from 2008-12.
Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:
Lucy Henderson Owen Robertson, the first president of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the WNC Conference.
Juanita "Nita" Tillman Henderson, the first woman to Chair the WNC Conference Council on Ministries, a position which she held from 1980 to 1988.
Rev. Dr. Nancy Burgis Rankin, the first woman in our conference to serve as Senior Pastor of a church with more than 1000 members.
Roberta Blackwell, served in the Charlotte District were as District Director of Church and Society 1979-84, member of the District Committee on the District Superintendent 1980-93, and as a member of the Charlotte District Trustees 2010-12.
Rev. Dr. Arnetta E. Beverly, the first African-American woman to serve as Director of Nurture and Ethnic Ministries, to serve as a District Superintendent in the WNC Conference, and to serve as a Director of Connectional Ministries in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.
Rev. Dr. James Walter Ferree, Sr., involved in realigning the North Carolina-Virginia Conference into what is now the three separate North Carolina, Western North Carolina, and Virginia Conferences.
Rev. Cecil Harvey Marcellus, Jr., the first African-American elected to the Reidsville City Council, where he served for three full terms and part of a fourth term.
Dr. David Dallas Jones, the president of Bennett College from 1926-1955.
Rev. William Hornbuckle, a Native American ordained Deacon in 1928 and Elder in 1931.
Daphine Strickland, part of the Task Force that led to the organization of Triad Native American Church, the first Native American congregation in our Conference outside of Cherokee.
Thomas Queen, the Director of the Cherokee Mission from 1973 until his death in 1992.
Jeremiah Wolfe, the first Native American to be elected a delegate to General Conference from the WNCC in 1976.