Sam Lloyd Sarvis, Sr. of Loris, S.C., passed away on February 28 after a long illness. Times Examiner readers may remember a 2006 series of articles about his incredible Christian testimony and may have seen his subsequent appearance on Channel 16’s Nightline, when he was interviewed by Greta Campbell. A very humble man, he held two doctorates but insisted upon being addressed as “Mr.” His life was a unique and inspirational witness to the incredible power of God, as he spread the Gospel for virtually his entire life. Mr. Sarvis leaves behind a son Samuel, daughter Sheila, and brother Dave. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends.
He was born to parents Ezra Oscar Sarvis and Addie Powell Sarvis in 1929. His mother would read the Bible to him and inspired him to become a preacher from an early age, and she sadly died later in his youth. Mr. Sarvis stated in his 2006 interview, “When I was born my mother started taking me to church when I was probably maybe less than a month old. And always had me in church. And I always enjoyed the singing as long ago as I can remember…
“And then my mother would not only take me to church but every day she would read to me. She had a big old rocking chair and I’d stand beside it with my arms on the rocker, and she’d read out of a big old Bible, and then she would explain to me so that I could understand what she had read. And by the time I was three years old she had taught me how to read and write.
“And then, I had a birthday and I was seven years old and we came out of worship one morning, and I told my mother, ‘I’m going to be an evangelist. I’m going to be a preacher.’ And she was excited about this, and then tears came into her eyes, and I thought, “Gee whiz, if I’d known it would make my mother cry, I wouldn’t have told her.’ But then as I got older I realized those were tears of joy and her prayers were answered.”
Ever since childhood, Mr. Sarvis told me that he only needed a few hours of sleep, so his parents instructed him to just sit by the fire and read at night and not wake them up. Consequently, he was an incredibly well-educated man. He left high school and enrolled in Wingate University’s theological program. He also received a pilot’s license with the goal of becoming a missionary pilot. He left school and served in WWII in the U.S. Army Air Corp. He had a courageous military career and sacrificed greatly for America, including being a POW. He later graduated from Coker College, Furman University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary College, earning doctoral degrees in psychology and theology. He later pastored numerous churches and counseled as a chaplain at various facilities including the Loris Extended Care Facility.
As if that was not enough, Mr. Sarvis also operated his own business, Sarvis Aviation, as a crop duster and airplane mechanic for over fifty years, with facilities at the Loris Twin Cities Airport. He always said he was protected by guardian angels, having gone down in a plane 27 times but never hurt, while accumulating approximately 35,000 flight hours.
Mr. Sarvis was a true Southern gentleman, one of the last of his kind from the old South. His life is a witness to the importance of a strong Christian parental upbringing, which was once typical of Southern society. He was extremely knowledgeable of the area’s history and loved to tell stories. His great-great-grandfather had immigrated to America from Greece, working as an industrious ship’s steward on an 1849 gold ship from San Francisco, where he accumulated gold dust in the corners of the ship as he cleaned. He later jumped ship in Little River, S.C., bought sizeable land holdings in the area and then freed all his slaves. Mr. Sarvis told me the story of how he was in a hospital one time and a young black man came up and gave him a big hug, thanking him because Mr. Sarvis’ ancestor had freed his. Mr. Sarvis grew up working in the tobacco fields on the family farm, which his father would manage from horseback, and would tell many stories of life in those days. He grew up in an era of hard work, and would tell chilling stories of the difficulties of the Great Depression, and how we are facing similar times. He loved to work with his hands and would plant a big garden to give away vegetables, and make useful items like bird boxes as gifts.
Mr. Sarvis served and honored God his entire life, making the most of every moment in sacrificing for others. He once told me that he had studied theology to have a thorough knowledge of the Bible to present the Gospel, psychology to understand the best presentation of the Gospel to different people, and English to best communicate the Gospel. As a reward God blessed him with a long, healthy life. Until his illness, he walked up and down his airstrip daily for four miles, and his doctor said he had the body of a twenty-year old. Given his need of so little sleep, he actually lived the equivalent of about 100 years when measured in waking hours. Even in the hospital, he talked about all the work he had to do and wrote letters to friends to encourage them.
Having sacrificed so much of himself to God and country, Mr. Sarvis was discouraged to see the rampant apathy and sin in America. But his mother had prepared him for that from childhood. He once told me:
“[My mother] would read all through the Bible to me, but one of the books that I was deeply impressed with was the prophecy… And the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation tell the same story. It talks about troubles in the world, when nation would rise up against nation, and kingdoms against kingdoms. There would be troubles, and wars, and talking about wars. There would be famines. There would be earthquakes in different places. And then as she carefully explained to me that this is the beginning of sorrow, when people will be against people, households against households, neighbors against neighbors, children against parents. And there will be trouble in the land, that the land had never experienced before.
“I believe that prophecy has told us that we are coming to one of the saddest times in the history of civilization. And God has a solution. He simply told us very carefully, ‘If my people, that are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, that I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sins, and heal their land.’ If we will repent of our sins and turn to God He will heal our world, our civilization. But unless we do, unless we turn to God, and love God and love our fellow man as we do ourselves, we are facing eternal doom. I believe that with all my heart…
“And then we, with the ability to reason, the ability of choice, choose where [our] soul will spent eternity. God said in His Word, it’s not His will that any of us should spiritually perish, but all come to the saving knowledge of the truth. And so, after God had breathed the breath of life into each of us, then one day this body must go back to the mother’s earth, and after that physical death is coming to all of us, we will stand before the judgment bar of God and give an account of the deeds done in our body whether good or bad. So then with our ability of choice, Christ’s shed blood is available. His power to save is available. It is a gift from God and we accept it by faith. But if we reject it, then we send ourselves to Hell.”
We can thank God for sending us such a tremendous Christian warrior as Mr. Sarvis to serve as an example of faith and service. We can look at the life of Sam Sarvis to see how wonderful it will be to live a faithful Christian life. Knowing his time was short, he quoted me the words of the Apostle Paul in 2nd Timothy 4:7: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Let us be inspired to live extraordinary lives like those before us such as Sam Sarvis, who continually sacrificed to protect America’s Christian heritage and to spread the Gospel for future generations, so that ours is not remembered for extinguishing the flame of Christianity and liberty, that they would have lived and died in vain.