Dr. Lester Sumrall (1913-1996)

Collage of black and white photos of Dr Lester Sumrall and his wife Louise at different ages of their lives.

The Making of a Champion

Lester Frank Sumrall was born to Betty and George Sumrall of New Orleans on February 15, 1913.

“My mother had decided, even before I was born, that I was going to be a preacher. She had prayed for me fervently while I was in her womb — back when I couldn’t do anything about it, except kick a little! I was born at home, child number six and completely unplanned.”

“My mother was a gentle, kind, and godly woman. I loved her and wanted to please her, but I didn’t want to be like her because that meant I had to be good. On the other hand, if I followed in my father’s footsteps, I could be my own boss and do whatever I pleased. While the inner battle raged, I dug in my heels, determined to be like my own daddy.”

Collage of black and white photos of crowds of people at church.

Courage to Conquer

Fortunately, God had other plans for Lester Sumrall. At the age of seventeen, he lay dying of tuberculosis without hope of recovery – at least according to his doctors. It was at this time that God gave him a choice of either preaching the gospel or dying an untimely death. He chose to serve God. Leaving his home in Panama City, Florida, he became a “brush arbor” preacher in the backwoods of Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

The first eighteen months away from home as a young preacher-boy were my introduction to the school of evangelism. I didn’t look much like a preacher in my ninety-two pounds of city-boy finery, but I did manage to convince farmers along the way to open up their schoolhouses and let us hold revival services.

“At times I was brash, abrupt, and negative. Often the people simply laughed at me, which irritated me to no end. One night I was so dejected that I didn’t even try to take up an offering, and I didn’t ask anyone if they wanted to be saved either. The next morning the host-farmer said, ‘Young man, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. If you plan to stay here any longer, you can feed the hogs.’ Then he shoved two big pails of slop into my hands.”

“‘Feed the hogs?!’ As I carried those heavy buckets, the foul-smelling slop washed over onto my clothes and into my shoes. After that I was really able to identify with the story of the Prodigal Son. I lay down in the middle of the corn field not caring if my clothes were getting dirty and cried out, ‘Oh, Lord, maybe I should go home and die!’ But the Lord calmed me saying, ‘If you will be faithful to Me, Lester, in these little things, I will give you much greater things.’”

Lester stayed with the “country folk” long enough to see them come around and respond to the move of the Holy Spirit. It was also during this time that God showed him, through a vision, the next step he was to take. The vision revealed multitudes, men and women of various nationalities, going to Hell – and their blood was on the young preacher’s hands. This vision, in much the same way as the first, took Lester’s life in an entirely new direction.

Collage of black and white photos of younger Dr Sumrall on his travels.

Faith Can Change Your World

On December 18, 1931, the night of my second vision, far away in London, England, Howard Carter was praying. He was so moved by what he sensed God telling him that he wrote the words of the message down:

‘I have found a companion for thee; I have called a worker to stand beside thee… He is called and chosen and shall join thee. Behold he cometh; he cometh from afar. He cometh to help thee to carry thy burden and be a strength at thy side, and thou shall find pleasure in his service and shall delight in his fellowship.’”

Lester Sumrall was that companion. What ensued was a relationship not unlike that of Paul and Timothy’s and a ministry that changed the course of the world. Together, the two men forged new territory in the arena of spiritual warfare as they cast out devils, won new converts, established churches, and instructed men and women of God from Australia to England. After growing in the grace and knowledge of God, and meeting pioneers of faith such as Smith Wigglesworth, World War II separated Lester from his friends in England. Fortunately, the war also served to unite him to a woman with whom he would spend the majority of his years.

God’s Blueprint for a Happy Home

“On my way home by train, I stopped for gospel meetings in British Columbia, speaking in the towns of Terrace, Smithers, and Prince George. In each, I kept hearing about this lovely Louise Layman, that pretty, young missionary from Argentina – and the rich blessing that she had been wherever she went.

“I became even more curious to meet her. She sounded like quite an intrepid missionary. What kind of courage had brought a young woman up into Canada during the winter? Normally, only zealous male missionaries brought the gospel here. “I wondered if I would ever get to meet her.”

Lester would indeed have the opportunity to meet “Miss Louisa” at – in the most appropriate of places – a wedding ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Their yes met, they smiled at each other, and the rest…is history.

Lester Sumrall and Louise Layman were married on September 30, 1944. Taking the “unconventional” route to honeymooning, the newlyweds began a fifty-thousand-mile missionary tour and life together that spanned over forty-nine years. Throughout the course of their marriage they ministered and lived in various foreign locales and, as Lester Sumrall so often and proudly stated, “never had a quarrel.” God, rewarding Lester’s faithfulness, blessed he and Louise with three industrious sons (Frank, Stephen, and Peter) and eleven grandchildren, all of whom have witnessed the goodness that one man’s life can bring.

Collage of black and white photos of an older Dr Sumrall on missionary trips.

World Harvest

Lester Sumrall, with the help and support of his family and many friends, founded LeSEA (Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association) in 1957: A ministry which has subsequently given birth to well over one hundred books and study guides, thirteen television stations, 2 satellite ministry, three FM radio stations, five shortwave stations reaching over ninety percent of the world’s population, and a quarterly magazine.

Perhaps the crowning glory of Lester Sumrall’s work is his ongoing ministry to feed the hungry around the world. Founded in 1987 at the age of 73, he dedicated his life to this simple charge from Jesus… “my church, my children are dying of hunger before I return and I want you to do something about it.”

Goodbye Planet Earth

“I am assured that this ministry will continue in the second generation, and I pray in the third as well, if Jesus tarries. We will experience success in our efforts to reach those million souls for Christ, if we continue to carry the same vision and consecration.

“God draws patterns for lives of men and woman to instruct and direct them. He creates a special design for each rational being that is destined to live on this planet. If the individual wisely follows this divine blueprint, he will build a strong, successful, and happy character. Take time to analyze the life of a good man, and see that it was not achieved by accident or good fortune, but was a life in submission to the will of God.”

What to do when you want to Quit

“I am not a person with unequalled abilities. My abilities seem equal to others. If there is a quality in me that is stronger than in others, it’s a determination like the apostle Paul to finish this course, to keep the faith, and simply not to quit!”

You have to look yourself in the mirror and say,

“I am not a quitter. I will never quit. In fact I hate quitting.

I will never quit, I’m going to finish my course!”

If you want to know what to do when you want to quit, the answer is simple: