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Laura Lea Sims

Missionary to USA: Southwest Ministries

“It is a strange thing,” wrote Laura Lea Sims in 1995. “My life on this earth began in Marion, Indiana, and my life’s work may begin in Marion as well.”

Laura Lea wrote those sentences on a World Gospel Mission missionary application, and she was right: her life’s work truly was to serve the Native American population in Arizona. 

But the fruit of her life’s work spread beyond Marion and Phoenix, growing in every person she impacted across three decades of ministry.

In 1991, Laura Lea started as a teacher at Southwest Indian School, serving a demographic in which the teen suicide rate is three times higher than the rest of the country. After a few years in the classroom, the Lord encouraged Laura Lea to “comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:2-3 NIV).

So, she enrolled at Western Kentucky University and got a master's degree in counseling before returning to Southwest Indian School as a counselor through WGM.

“As I reflect on my life, I can see how the Lord led me to my life and ministries with USA: Southwest Ministries,” Laura Lea wrote. “It is thrilling to see how He guided me through His Word. On my part, it took a willing spirit and steps of faith. God’s calling was sure, and He is faithful in His continual confirmation.”

While she was growing up, Laura Lea’s family lived in Canton, Ohio, and Wilmore, Kentucky. She graduated from Asbury College in 1988 and soon moved to the desert. Laura Lea later graduated from Liberty University with a second master’s degree. In 2010, she became an adjunct history professor at the American Indian College in Phoenix.

Laura Lea credited her upbringing by Charles and Shirley (Smith) Sims as the inspiration for her lifelong walk with Jesus, mentioning that there was never a day that she didn’t know the Lord.

Part of that faith-filled childhood included attending Hollow Rock Campmeeting in eastern Ohio, where she first heard about WGM and Southwest Indian School at a young age. It was on her way to that beloved camp that Laura Lea passed away in a car accident in southern Missouri on July 16, 2022.

“In the midst of crisis and change, I have learned that when you are walking in obedience, He gives you a peace and contentment lodged in the heart,” wrote Laura Lea in August 2000. Laura Lea’s friends and family can seek the peace and contentment found by walking in obedience, even while mourning her loss.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion.” Isaiah 61:1-3a (NIV)

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