Jim Wellborn ’73 has more than 6,600 contacts on his phone. Having served five decades in ministry, Wellborn is known for being a connector. Whether he’s in Springfield, Missouri, traveling overseas, or attending a missions convention, he’s bound to run into someone he knows. Wellborn’s years in ministry span from leading thousands of youth on mission trips with Ambassadors in Mission (AIM) to connecting people with Builders International’s construction projects worldwide. Yet, life in ministry and missions wasn’t always what Wellborn had planned.
“I had my dreams and my vision for my life as a normal Christian with a normal job,” said Wellborn. “God had a better idea. God always has a better idea.” Wellborn can pinpoint the exact moment that changed his life. In the old chapel of what was then South-Eastern Bible College, with no air conditioning, Wellborn, dressed in a suit and tie, surrendered his future to God. “The altar at the chapel at SEU was so pivotal in my journey of faith. It’s where it all happened,” said Wellborn. “I said, ‘Okay God, I will do whatever you want me to do.’”
The Start of the Journey
As a pastor’s kid, Wellborn felt called into ministry at a young age. Wellborn’s father was a pastor in the West Florida District of the Assemblies of God (AG) when he was young, and then his family moved to Alabama to pastor a church. Wellborn spent his summers working in church youth camps in the state, and SEU groups would often frequent the camps and share about the college. This led Wellborn to enroll at SEU in 1969, where he pursued a degree in secondary education and a minor in Bible. Wellborn remembers pulling up to campus one year later and his friend, Dexter Lambert ’73, introducing him to Linda Nicholas.
“We started dating in November, and when we did, it kind of sealed it for me,” said Wellborn. The two were married in 1972. Following Wellborn’s graduation in 1973, the couple moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and were youth pastors for three years. During that time, his parents became AG US missionaries to Alaska. After Wellborn resigned from his position in Knoxville, he and Linda went to visit his parents with their one-month-old baby, Josh. An hour after being at his parent’s house in Bethel, Alaska, the phone rang. The AG church in Fairbanks (just over 500 miles away) needed a youth pastor, and within a week, Wellborn accepted the position.
Ministry in Alaska and Ohio
The Wellborns flew to Ohio, where Linda was from, to pack for the move. Linda took a flight to Alaska with their son, and Jim made the over 5,000-mile drive to bring their belongings. The Wellborns served as youth pastors in Fairbanks for one year before moving to pastor in Nikiski, Alaska, for two years. While in Alaska, Wellborn was elected as the district youth director (DYD) for the state in 1976. As a DYD, he helped host the first AIM trip to Honduras and the first youth convention in Alaska.
“Alaskan Eskimo villages are one of the toughest missionary fields I have ever experienced,” said Wellborn. During their time in Alaska, their second son, Jonathan, was born. Wellborn also produced his first Christian album where he sang with background music, something he said was not common at the time. “I started getting invitations to all kinds of events — district events and other Christian organizations,” said Wellborn. “I even sang at the governor’s prayer breakfast.”
Education and Evangelism
The Wellborns resigned from their position as pastors in 1978. They moved their now family of four to Ohio, close to Linda’s family, to become evangelists. While they were in Ohio, they had their daughter, Aimee, and Linda went back to college to earn an education degree and started teaching at a high school. “When Jim traveled in evangelism, it seemed like the right opportunity for me to enroll in Akron University to finish my secondary education degree in business education — thinking an education degree would enable me to have a schedule coinciding with our children,” said Linda.
For 10 years, Wellborn did music evangelism, singing and sharing the gospel across the country. He also preached at youth camps in the summers and made four albums. “We would do eight camps a summer from Nova Scotia to New Mexico to Florida, 8,000 miles in an Oldsmobile with the whole family. It was fun,” Wellborn said.
He recalled how, in his second year of college at SEU, he got involved in the traveling choir. “Traveling and being in front of audiences led me into music ministry and being an evangelist,” he said. Wellborn also had the opportunity to preach in Brazil and Indonesia. At the time, the couple started to feel called to missions, but every opportunity fell through. Then, in 1988, Wellborn received a phone call from Terry Raburn ’08 (MAML), ’20 (DMin), who was the national youth director at AG headquarters at the time, asking him to become the student director for AIM.
Wellborn brought their family of five to Springfield, Missouri, and served in that position for 26 years. In his role, Wellborn coordinated and facilitated student missions trips all over the world and traveled to 71 countries. Two of these trips included ministering at the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992 and in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996.
“We did street evangelism for about two weeks in Barcelona. We had well over 500 students. In Atlanta, we had over 3,000 students in the Olympic outreach,” said Wellborn. Mike Ennis ’84 helped Wellborn coordinate the events. Wellborn recalled leading the first AIM trip to Russia and East Berlin after the wall fell. The students evangelized on the streets of Germany and Siberia. Then, they held a youth camp in Russia.
“I saw the power that a missions experience can give to a student,” said Wellborn. “I believe every young person in the Assemblies of God should have the opportunity to serve on a trip before they go to college, during college or after college.” In one AIM trip to India, where they held a youth convention for over 600 people, Wellborn had the opportunity to meet and pray with Mother Teresa.
Some of Wellborn’s favorite trips were to Argentina, Egypt and Greece. While in Egypt, he ministered in Cairo and then traveled to Assiout to minister at the Lillian Thrasher Orphanage, which has cared for more than 20,000 children since it opened in the early 1900s. Linda was a part of that trip and conducted a girls’ retreat in Alexandria. His family often took part in the trips he led.
“As our three children became teens, they were able to participate in AIM trips both internationally and stateside,” said Linda. “The impact of AIM and missions has been instrumental in their lives.” All three of their children now serve in ministry. Josh is the national youth director for the AG, Jonathan is a missionary to Argentina, and Aimee is the Kansas district KidMin director.
While Wellborn served with AIM, Linda earned her master’s and doctoral degrees. She started teaching at Evangel University in Springfield in 1993, and she became the first full-time director of the master’s and adult education programs in 2000.
“My years at SEU were formative ones,” said Linda. “While I didn’t finish my baccalaureate degree there, my learning and experiences shaped my life and calling to serve young adults seeking to find their place of service in the kingdom. I often reflect on those years when I stand before a class or meet individually with students.”
In 2014, Wellborn transitioned to work with Builders International. With a role in builder relations, Wellborn networks with churches, organizations and volunteers to connect them to projects that Builders International is working on worldwide. Wellborn also helps with events and fundraising.
Builders International’s mission is to connect volunteers and donors with community leaders around the world to build places where people can find hope. Some of their more recent projects include building churches in Uruguay, Panama and Honduras. In 2022, the organization built a refugee center in Poland that serves 60 Ukrainian refugees. The organization also helped open a dental and medical clinic at Home of Hope in Bangladesh that serves over 130 orphans.
“He always looks for connections and trusts the Lord to guide him as he connects churches, teams and individuals with opportunities for service to the kingdom,” said Linda. “His heart is always to serve the missionaries, whether through the many years of AIM leadership, connecting teams with missionaries or now, with Builders International’s connections — finding the right fit for a team desiring to serve on a project.”
Stepping Back and Reflecting
While Wellborn doesn’t take as many trips overseas anymore, he finds joy in being at the front office of Builders International to welcome guests and connect them to the mission of the organization. Linda still serves at Evangel and is the director of institutional effectiveness and a faculty member.
“Our life has been more fulfilling than I could have dreamed — my love of serving young people has only grown
through the years,” said Linda. “In the early years, it was helping students find their place of service in the kingdom. In these latest years, I find unbelievable joy in having visits and emails from past students sharing how God has directed
As Wellborn reflects on his years in ministry, he’s always reminded of the importance of following God’s plan. “If you are called, you can’t get away from it. We all have things that we have to lay on the altar. If God takes anything good from your life, He restores it back to you 100 times better. You just have to trust Him. God always has a better idea.”