When Jamie Baldwin was a teenager, his world fell apart. His parents divorced, his sister and brother-in-law divorced and his girlfriend broke up with him.
“It was a very tough time for me,” he said. “I would sit on my bed at night thinking about committing suicide.”
‘She saved my life’
But one thought kept him from it, and it wasn’t what his parents, his friends or even his pastor might think.
It was what Mrs. Betty Stowe might think — she was his Sunday School teacher at Tates Chapel Baptist Church, Centre.
“I couldn’t do it because I knew there was a faithful Sunday School teacher who loved me and cared about me,” Baldwin said. “She didn’t realize what she was doing at that time; she was just doing her job. But she saved my life.”
That’s been the driving force behind his ministry as an adult — the personal knowledge that a Sunday School teacher can make a difference. He’s carried that with him as he’s served as a minister of education and youth at several churches, as an associational Vacation Bible School director and as a state missionary in the office of Sunday School and discipleship at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
During his more than 23 years, Baldwin — who retired Jan. 15 — went all over the state making leader training accessible for churches of all sizes and locations.
Rick Lance, SBOM executive director, called him a “beyond-the-call-of-duty type of state missionary” who “embodies the servant-minded attitude in an exemplary way.”
Work of excellence
“He is a godly man who relates to pastors well and other church leaders, as well as church members across our state,” Lance said. “He has carried out his ministry assignments with excellence.”
Baldwin said he believes that there are “Jamies of all ages” all over the state who need to know someone loves them, and Sunday School teachers can step into that gap.
Making a difference
“We have got to have faithful Sunday School teachers, teachers who love people and love what they’re doing,” he said. “A Sunday School teacher helped me as a teenager, and I’ve had senior adults tell me that they come to Sunday School because of the hugs. Whether you’re 9 or 99, Sunday School is vital. Teachers make a difference. Mrs. Stowe gave me that passion.”
Baldwin said he’s retiring so that someone with “fresh eyes, a fresh heart and fresh ideas” can step into his role. But he says he will continue to do ministry — he’s planning to spend his first six months as a retiree serving at a church in Alaska.
“It’s been a tremendous honor for me to serve at the State Board,” he said.