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Leona Powell

Reaching Hondurans with the love of Christ
"She never missed a chance to share the plan of salvation. "
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, 2012

With deep appreciation, World Gospel Mission honors the memory of Leona Powell, who spent 35 years reaching Hondurans with the love of Christ.

Leona Powell’s journey to becoming a missionary in Honduras took more than a few unexpected turns. She was born on September 16, 1916, on her family’s farm in Lawrence County, Illinois. Her father passed away during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that claimed over 50 million lives worldwide, and her mother died the following year. Leona was then raised by her maternal grandmother, affectionately called “Mom.”

Although she first felt a desire to serve the Lord at age 12, she did not fully understand the meaning of salvation. After graduating from high school, she attended Indiana Business College in Vincennes, Indiana. For eight years, she worked as a bookkeeper and typist at several different businesses in the area. After claiming salvation at the age of 26 and then attending an “old-fashioned” revival meeting several months later, Leona felt God calling her to missions. She moved to Wilmore, Kentucky, to attend Asbury College and heard about World Gospel Mission for the first time.

Leona completed her education at Vennard College (Iowa), where she received a Master of Sacred Literature degree. In 1949 she started working at the WGM home office, which was in Chicago at that time. Within a few months, she was appointed to Honduras as a missionary. Although she was more than ready to follow God’s leading, she admitted, “When I heard I’d been assigned to Honduras, I didn’t even know where it was!”

Leona arrived in Honduras in 1951 and became the first teacher at Escuela El Sembrador (School of the Sower), a school for underprivileged boys. She also taught at the Evangelical Grade School, now not affiliated with WGM, in the town of Juticalpa.

Eunice Coffman, retired missionary from Honduras, said, “Leona was very connected with people; she was always visiting people in their homes, praying for them, and encouraging them.”

A significant amount of her time in Honduras was spent training lay leaders. Leona held countless Bible studies and Vacation Bible School and literature programs. She even went into a prison to do a VBS with prisoners’ children, who were often forced to live with a parent in prison. Toward the end of her career, Leona returned to Escuela El Sembrador to teach in the Bible school.

“She never missed a chance to share the plan of salvation. I thank God for lives like hers that are totally committed to God’s service,” said Ella Castro, a Honduran pastor’s wife who lived with Leona before her marriage.

Leona retired in 1987 at the age of 70 after serving faithfully for 35 years. She moved back to her roots in rural Illinois and later lived in an assisted living center in Vincennes, Indiana. She passed away on August 28, 2009, at the age of 92.

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