Born to Betty and George Sumrall of New Orleans on February 15, 1913, Lester Frank Sumrall showed early in life the resourcefulness which characterized his life and activity in the ministry of the gospel. Much of his schooling was at Laurel, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama.
Lester lived the normal life of boys his age, attended church but did not pay much attention to religion . . . until his seventeenth year. At the age of sixteen he was afflicted with tuberculosis in both lungs and for six months lay in bed. One somber day in the fall of 1930 the doctor declared he would soon die. That night, Lester saw a vision of an open casket on one side of his bed and an open Bible on the other. A voice warned him, “You must choose.” He responded, “God, if the only way for me to live is to preach—I’ll preach.” Almost immediately he fell asleep and when he awakened in the morning he was perfectly well. It was only three weeks later that Lester left home to begin the preaching ministry that would take him to more than 110 countries of the world and lead him to write more than 100 books and study guides.
Early in his ministry Lester Sumrall preached primarily in the southeastern United States, his first sermon being in a little country school house just fifty miles from home. One evening at a church in the Tennessee countryside Lester had a second vision. Suddenly becoming unaware of his surroundings, Lester saw before him the people of the world. They were wearing their native clothing and were of every shade of humanity. The people were walking down a long and wide highway, one that ended abruptly at a precipice towering above a bottomless inferno. In Lester’s own words: “As they neared the pit and saw the fate that awaited them, I could see their desperate but vain struggle to push back against the unrelenting pressure of those to the rear. The great surging river of humanity swept them ever forward. God opened my ears to hear the screams of damned souls sinking into hell . . . their hands flailed wildly clawing at the air.”
It was then that God spoke. “You are responsible for these who are lost.” “No, not me, Lord,” Lester replied. “I do not know these people. I have never been to Japan, or China, or India; I am not to blame.” Quoting Ezekiel 3:18, God assured him that he would be held accountable. When the vision was over he realized that the church service had ended and everyone had left. But Lester’s heart would be changed forever. Having a newfound love for the lost, it became his mission to preach the gospel message to the nations of the world. He went to many countries as a missionary, even recognizing some of the faces he saw in the vision.
Dr. Lester Sumrall went home to be with the Lord on April 28, 1996, but he left behind a legacy and ministry that reach forward with the gospel more than ever. With the desire to reach a million souls for Christ everyday, he founded the Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association (LeSEA) in 1957, LeSEA Broadcasting in 1968 (in 2018, LeSEA Broadcasting changed its name to Family Broadcasting Corporation), and LeSEA Global Feed The Hungry® in 1987. These ministries are still thriving today.