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Lester Hamilton

Ministry Coordinator
"I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

Who would have thought that God would use a kid from Kansas who liked to build things to start a growing movement of bringing the message of Jesus Christ to thousands of children in India?

Lester was born in Newton, Kansas, into a Christian family that nurtured his spiritual growth. He met Mary while pursuing graduate degrees at Asbury Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and they were married in 1946. They were appointed as missionaries with World Gospel Mission and traveled to India in 1951. Lester wrote that he and Mary walked in confident assurance because of God’s promise in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Lester and Mary served at South India Bible Institute (now South India Biblical Seminary). While teaching a variety of subjects, they also accompanied students on ministry trips to surrounding villages, mentoring students as they practiced sharing the message of Jesus Christ.

Lester served as dean of men, vice principal, and administrator of the health and rural development project. Lester also oversaw building projects and served as WGM’s field treasurer. Mary served as a homemaker, a hostess, a counselor, and a teacher with specialization in Christian education. They also raised three children: Joy, Paul, and Becky, who were educated at boarding schools.

Students at SIBI began looking for an outlet to reach out to children, and with Lester and Mary’s assistance, the Vacation Bible School ministry was founded in India. In 1952, the first VBS program was held for 75 children. Lester and Mary became responsible for training more VBS teachers, writing curriculum, and preparing materials. The trained VBS teachers led VBS in their own villages and trained more leaders throughout India. As the ministry grew, the city of Bangalore was established as the ministry’s headquarters.

Lester and Mary began to sense God calling them to work full time with VBS. After 10 years of service at SIBI, the Hamiltons moved to Bangalore. Mary developed VBS curriculum, while Lester designed VBS centers and constructed new ministry buildings in Bangalore. In a 1971 Call to Prayer article, Mary wrote: “The development of Vacation Bible School students into steady Christian leaders is one of the sweet rewards of this ministry.” Just 14 years after the first VBS was held on SIBI’s campus, over 50,000 children were regularly participating in VBS programs.

The ministry exploded beyond what anyone could have imagined, and today, over two million children are being reached annually, in 13 different languages, throughout India and surrounding countries. Thousands of children have come to know the Lord through VBS.

In 1978, Lester and Mary turned VBS over to Indian leadership and returned to serve at SIBS. For eight years, they taught classes, helped in construction, and maintained their involvement with VBS. Lester and Mary officially retired in 1986 after 35 years of service in India with WGM. Lester passed away on December 29, 2009, at the age of 88.

WGM is extremely grateful for Lester’s years of service and tireless devotion to leading people to Jesus Christ.

“So we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV). Lester truly fixed his eyes on the eternal, and we rejoice that he is in God’s presence today.

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