Lester Sumrall: God shows people how to build a life

Lester Sumrall (1913–1996) was a pastor and evangelist who served the Lord for sixty-five years in 110 countries, including the Soviet Union and China and wrote 130 books. He began evangelizing during the Great Depression in the United States.

“I definitely don’t want to be an evangelist!”

Lester Frank Sumrall was born on February 15, 1913 in New Orleans, Louisiana to George and Betty Sumrall. His mother was a Christian, she dedicated the child to God before he was born and prayed that he would become a preacher. He was the sixth of eight children of the Sumrall family.

Lester Sumrall recalled:

“My mother decided before I was born that I would be a preacher. She prayed fervently for me while I was in her womb—when there was nothing I could do about it but kick a little! I was born at home, baby number six and totally unplanned.”

Betty invited traveling evangelists to stay at their home. This often meant extra hassle. Lester didn’t like them and decided he didn’t like evangelists and certainly didn’t want to be one.

Betty Sumrall was a prayer woman and constantly prayed for her family. Lester saw wonderful events taking place in her life. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she surrounded herself with women who constantly prayed for her. One night, in the midst of this spiritual battle, Jesus entered the room and touched her. She was healed.

When Lester’s grandfather had a stroke, he became incapacitated. He could not eat or dress by himself. His parents moved him into their home and Betty asked the women’s prayer group to pray for him. They first brought him to repentance and began to pray. Grandfather sat in a wheelchair, did not move his legs or arms. But when the power of God literally fell on him, he got up from his wheelchair, began to walk and move his arms. After that, he returned to his home and lived another fifteen years alone, without any help.

At 16, Lester got into bad company and dropped out of school. Shortly thereafter, he began to have health problems: he coughed up blood. The doctors diagnosed him with tuberculosis – a death sentence. His health was deteriorating, he weighed 42 kg and did not get out of bed. Once again, his mother called her prayer group to pray regularly for Lester. On his seventeenth birthday, the doctor announced that he would soon die and even issued a death certificate. That night God gave Lester a vision. On one side of the bed he saw a coffin and on the other a Bible. The choice was clear: either preach the gospel or die of tuberculosis that same night! He decided to preach the gospel. He was immediately healed and the next morning he ate breakfast for the first time in a long time. For the next three weeks, he was already packing his suitcase to go on his journey to preach the gospel.

Skinny guy preaching to farmers

The beginning was difficult. Lester and his friend, who together went with him as a vocalist, went to the remote settlements in the south. There lived rough and harsh people, but they listened to Lester’s sermons. And their hearts must have resonated, ’cause everywhere he went there was big groups of new converts, enough to start churches. Each time, Lester wrote to his denomination leadership to send a pastor for the new church. Hundreds were saved. Seeing his success, he was ordained.

From the memoirs of Lester Sumrall about that time:

“For the first eighteen months away from home, I was introduced to the evangelistic school. I didn’t look much like a preacher, a skinny city kid. But I somehow managed to convince the farmers to open rural schools and allow us to hold revival meetings.

Sometimes I was arrogant, harsh and negative. Often people just laughed at me, which annoyed me to no end. One evening I was so depressed that I didn’t even try to collect a donation and I didn’t ask anyone if they wanted to pray the prayer of repentance. The next morning the owner-farmer said: “Kid, who does not work does not eat. If you plan to stay here, you have to feed the pigs.” Then he thrust two large buckets of slop into my hands.

Feed the pigs?! As I dragged the heavy buckets, the shit-smelling contents splashed onto my clothes and into my shoes. I felt like a prodigal son. I was lying in the middle of a cornfield, it didn’t matter to me that my clothes were dirty and I was crying: “Oh, God, maybe I should go home and die?!”. But the Lord comforted me and said: “If you’ll be faithful to Me in a little, Lester, I’ll give you much more.”

Like Paul and Timothy

One day Sumrall decided to preach the Gospel in order to save his life, but he did not show much concern for people. Another day God gave him a vision that a huge number of people in different countries were going to hell. That night God broke his heart and called him to preach the gospel throughout the world.

Eighteen months later, God connected Lester with a Bible teacher Howard Carte, and they began to travel the world together. They went to Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Java, the Dutch East Indies, Tibet, Manchuria, Japan, Korea, Germany, Brazil, Bolivia, France, Spain, Portugal and England. In the same country, they preached in two different places to preach the message of Christ to more people. Healings and deliverances began to occur at the Leicester meetings. People were healed and saved by the thousands.

Here is how their meeting happened, according to Lester’s memoirs:

“December 18, 1931, the night God gave me the second vision, far away in England, Howard Carter was praying. God spoke these words to him, which he wrote down: “I have found a companion for you; I called for a worker to stand beside you. He has already been chosen and called and must join you. He will come from afar to help you bear the burden and you will enjoy fellowship and service with him.”

Lester Sumrall was that companion. The relationship between Howard and Lester was similar to that between Paul and Timothy. Together they grew in the grace and knowledge of God. Meeting with pioneers of the faith such as Smith Wigglesworth also helped.

Lester Sumrall founded three churches in England. But World War II separated him from his friends. Before leaving England, he met again with Smith Wigglesworth, who prayed: “God, let the faith that is in my heart be poured out into the heart of this young man.”

Fortunately, the war connected him with the woman with whom he spent most of his life.

Happy family

During the war in the 40s, Lester returned to the United States. He traveled to Mexico, Central and South America. In Argentina, Lester met a missionary named Louise Leiman. They married two years later, in 1944. They started serving together in Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico. When Louise fell ill with malaria, God healed her in answer to Lester’s prayers. They continued to evangelize in Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Panama. They only stopped when Louise became pregnant and they returned to the United States. The couple settled in South Bend, Indiana, for several years.

In 1950, God called the Sumrall family to Manila in the Philippines. The work was difficult until a demon-possessed girl was released. God asked Lester to pray for her. The deliverance and healing was so public and dramatic that newspapers spread the story throughout the country. The country was now open to the gospel. For six weeks, Lester held revival meetings. They gathered up to sixty thousand people. Preacher Clifton Erickson came from the United States to help in the meetings. One hundred and fifty thousand were saved in those weeks. A famous actor who could not walk was healed – this attracted even more attention from the press. The lawyer, who had been on crutches for twelve years, came out holding crutches in his hands, he was completely healed.

World harvest

God called the family back to the US in the late 1950s to start pioneering television work. In 1957, Lester Sumrall, with the help of family and friends, founded LeSEA (Lester Sumrall Evangelical Association), a ministry that has produced over a hundred books and teaching aids, eleven television stations, a satellite ministry, three FM radio stations, five shortwave radio stations covering over ninety percent of the world’s population, and a quarterly magazine. In 2018, LeSEA Broadcasting changed its name to Family Broadcasting Corporation (FBC). Lester Sumrall’s sermons were heard in all countries of the world.

At the age of 74, he founded LeSEA Global Feed The Hungry, whose mission was to eliminate hunger among those struggling to survive in poverty, disaster and war. He began this ministry after God gave him a vision to care for the dying.

Lester remained faithful to the end to the visions and revelations that God gave him, on April 28, 1996 he went home to be with the Lord.

Lester Sumrall was a man who threw himself at the feet of Jesus Christ and served Him with a zeal and devotion that still amaze those who knew Him.

“God shows people how to build a life and instructs and guides them. He has a special plan for every intelligent being who is destined to live on the planet. If a person wisely follows the divine plan, then a strong character will be formed in him, which will lead to a successful and happy life. Analyze the life of any good person and you will see that it cannot be explained by chance or luck, but it was a life in obedience to the will of God.” Lester Sumrall.

Source and photos: Лестер Самралл: Бог показывает людям, как строить жизнь | Статьи на inVictory


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