The son of missionary parents, James Gleaves spent many years in Latin America, where his experiences among a nomadic tribe in the deep jungle gave him the desire to work with unreached people groups as an adult. After finishing missionary training in the USA, James married and returned with his wife, Diane, to Latin America. They had been serving there for 10 years, when an attack by rebel soldiers changed the face of what USA citizens could do in Colombia.
Holding the missionary team at gunpoint, the rebels told James and another missionary that they would be taken hostage. Upon seeing that Diane was pregnant, the rebels released James and took another co-worker in his place. (The rebels later killed both kidnapped missionaries, Tim VanDyke and Steve Welsh.) The Gleaves moved to Bogota for two more years, until the majority of US NTM missionaries left Colombia due to security concerns.
Changing ministries, the Gleaves counseled and helped college-aged missionary children in the USA without their parents. Now they serve in the St. Louis, Missouri, area as representatives for New Tribes Mission. Speaking in churches and colleges, they seek to inform Christians in the Midwest about the needs and opportunities in missions. Their focus is mobilizing Christians to get involved in reaching unreached people groups with the Gospel. They have been members of New Tribes Mission since 1984.