In Loving Memory of James Davis
Vice President Africa West
November 1, 1974 – January 3, 2021
The mission lost one of our best and brightest on Sunday, January 3, 2021 as James Saydah Davis II went to be with Jesus. As the first vice president of Africa West, he was an extraordinary leader and friend to the many staff and volunteers under his care. He faithfully oversaw the work in Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Senegal and Liberia.
James was also a visionary who helped start Young Life in Liberia in 2003 and helped lead his people through the Ebola crisis in 2015. Among his many accomplishments, James also sat on the board of trustees at the University of Liberia. Thanks to his influence there are now more than 100 Young Life ministries in Liberia and 1,234 ministries throughout Africa West. James’ personal story is an epic one:
In 1992, 18-year-old James Davis found himself in a scene reminiscent of David in the Old Testament: hiding from enemies trying to kill him and waiting on the Lord. A violent civil war was raging in Monrovia, and James had already seen too much. In a moment, James prayed a prayer that changed his life.
“I experienced some terrible things during our civil war,” James said. “Several friends were killed and things went very bad with me. During my hideout, I made a promise to God that if He rescued me during the war, I would work for Him. The Lord answered my prayer, and I committed my life to Him.”
Soon after, James joined a church and, under the direction of an American missionary, started a Joy Club for the kids in his neighborhood. In 2002, James was practicing a skit. His role included a prop — a magazine. As he began to flip through the pages, what he discovered changed his life again. “As I read through the magazine, I came across many youth ministries and what they are involved with around the world, but Young Life caught my heart because it was similar to what I had started with high school and neighborhood kids,” James recalls. “Immediately, I began to pray … that if it was the will of God, I would do all I can to start Young Life in Liberia. I later shared with Rancy Barsaye, one of my senior staff, and we began to pray. Our prayers were answered, and we started a relationship with Young Life. After months of interaction and meetings with Steve Larmey, we officially started Young Life in Liberia in 2003.”
Alexis Kwamy, vice president of Africa South, who became involved with Young Life about the same time as James and was promoted to vice president alongside James and Martin Wamalwa, remembered his dear friend. “My heart is broken, but one thing I know is you are being welcomed by angels in heaven, and our Lord Jesus is saying to you, ‘Well done, faithful servant.’ You have led all of us courageously, and we will miss you.”
“I’m mourning the loss of a great leader and inspiration,” said Diana Nkhoma, metro director in Blantyre, Malawi. “Watching J.D.’s leadership taught me how to love well the people you serve, especially in their time of need.”
Dyan Larmey, staff development director and women’s leadership coordinator, recalled a man who lived life to the full. “He was a water-carrying, selfie-taking, drum-playing, leader-making, vision-casting, loud-laughing, family-loving, team-building man of God who relentlessly lived for others. In the 17 years I’ve known him, he was a loyal friend, an advocate for women in leadership, a sacrificial minister of the gospel and a reconciler of racism. He knew how to forgive and be forgiven. He knew how to demonstrate God’s love and be loved. His life brought glory to God and thousands of kids know the hope of Jesus because of his faithfulness. I know Jesus better because of him, too.”
- Please pray for James’ wife, Gloria, their daughter, Praise (19), niece, Prayer (7), and their extended family.
- Pray for the Liberian staff and leaders, many of whom are like family. Pray for them as they support Gloria and the girls, as they look ahead to continuing ministry, and as they grieve their brother.
- Pray for comfort along with wisdom and vision for the leadership in Africa West and divisional leadership of Africa/Middle East.
Donate in Tribute to James
Give toward assisting James’ family (Gloria, Prayer and Praise) during this difficult time
and/or toward the advancement of Young Life ministry in West Africa in James’ honor.
Want to stay connected?
Get involved and find out what's happening in Young Life Africa