By The Foursquare Church
Dr. Leland B. Edwards, who served as the director of Foursquare Missions International (FMI) for 23 years, went to be with the Lord on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, at age 93. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Barbara Noyes Edwards; their two sons, Arthur (wife Beverly) and Loren (wife Cheilon); five grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren.
The son of pioneer missionaries to Panama, Arthur and Edith Edwards, Dr. Edwards first went to that nation in 1928 when he was 8 years old. He was appointed as a Foursquare Crusader missionary in 1937, when he was a 17-year-old high school senior. He became the supervisor of the Foursquare work in Panama in 1941, the same year that he married, and he held that position for 18 years. During that time, he emphasized training both children and adults so that they could one day preach the gospel in their own country.
Thousands of people throughout Panama made decisions for Christ and many were healed during evangelistic campaigns that Dr. Edwards held in major cities. He started Christian youth camps, had an extensive radio ministry, and served as chairman of the Billy Graham Crusade in Panama in 1958. He also served as the supervisor of the Foursquare works in Chile and Argentina in 1958–1959. During that time, the national church of Chile was established and began to operate with its own board and bylaws.
Dr. Edwards was asked to serve as the assistant director of foreign missions in 1959. He served in that role until 1965, when he was asked to become the director. He served as FMI director for 23 years, and he filled a dual role for 13 of those years when he was the corporate secretary.
During the time that Dr. Edwards led FMI, the number of fields with Foursquare works increased from 27 to 63. The Edwardses traveled extensively and endeared themselves to missionary families around the world, forging relationships that last to this day. In 1988, Dr. Edwards retired from his position as FMI director and became director emeritus.
“Dr. Edwards was the consummate missionary-statesman,” affirms Jim Scott, director of FMI and vice president of global operations. “He embodied the passion, intellect, love, gifts and dedication that have defined generations of pioneering missionaries. As the director of FMI, he led with great integrity of heart and skillful hands to the glory of God (see Ps. 78:72). Jesus’ ministry in and through this humble man remains the prayerful goal and standard for excellence for us today.”
Glenn Burris Jr., president of The Foursquare Church, echoes Jim’s sentiments.
"Rarely have I met a person who was so passionate about the mission of the church, so focused on his particular assignment, so confident of God's call on his life, so tender toward the people he served and led, and so committed to the tribe that the Lord had placed him in," adds Glenn. "Dr. Leland Edwards never attempted to be someone other than himself. And what he became was exactly the person that God intended for him to be."
Please pray for the Edwards family during this season of loss. Details regarding the memorial service and information for sending condolences will be posted as updates to this article, as they become available.
Learn more about the faithful service of the Edwards family in the recent article “From Generation to Generation.”
Read about Dr. Leland Edwards’ book, Chasing the Vision, which tells the fascinating story of the first Foursquare missionaries to Panama.