When Angelus Temple was dedicated in 1923, Leland Edwards, then 3 years old, was in attendance. Five years later his parents, Arthur and Edith, pioneered the Foursquare work in Panama, and Leland learned a new language so he could communicate the gospel of Christ with others.
He began preaching in fluent Spanish by age 15 and was officially appointed as a Foursquare missionary when he was 17. Panama was Leland’s home for 32 years. Along with Barbara, 87, to whom he has been married for 69 years, he has become somewhat of a legend in the country, not to mention in the Foursquare movement as a whole.
Today, Leland and Barbara have learned another method of communication—using modern technology—that allows them to minister to pastors and leaders throughout the U.S. and around the world without ever leaving their home in Newhall, Calif.
“The Lord definitely told us to be encouragers,” says Leland, and this is just what the couple does. A visiting missionary helped Leland download Skype, and ever since he and Barbara use it to spend time with individual leaders and their families around the world. They also have an active presence on Facebook, where they interact with anyone who contacts them. The couple currently has 316 friends on the social networking site.
“The church is composed of people,” Leland says, noting that many people need Christ and everyone needs prayer. “God has given us many open doors to minister to people in the U.S. and in many foreign countries, and our fluency in Spanish is a real help.”
It helps, too, that the couple is open to using technology to connect with people. Leland says he and Barbara enjoy meeting with leaders, as well as sharing the history of The Foursquare Church with individuals and groups.
When Foursquare Panama convenes for conferences or celebrations, Leland and Barbara are frequently invited, and they attend every few years, as they are able. Their participation is only fitting, seeing as they once pastored the Panama City Foursquare Church—which then was the largest evangelical church in Panama. Additionally, beginning in 1947, they served as supervisors of the 150 Foursquare churches in the country at that time.
Their ministry in Panama is chronicled in Leland’s book, Chasing the Vision, published in English and Spanish by Foursquare Media. Before their retirement in 1988, Leland served as director of Foursquare Missions International (FMI) for 23 years.
At age 91, Leland could have chosen to live in the past, resting on the legacy of a full and successful ministry. Instead, he looks for new ways to share Jesus with the world. He encourages other retired people and says they, too, can still influence others and help build the church.
“First, make it a matter of prayer and ask God for His direction,” Leland asserts. “Be creative, and expect God to give you a ministry that you can handle at your age and ability.”
These are not just empty words. Leland and Barbara are living examples of how retired people can learn new methods of communicating and serving, and that their work really can make a difference.
Family is also very important to the couple. They have five grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Much of their retirement is spent attending soccer games, football games and track meets in support of these and others in their extended family.
They are deeply concerned for the next generation, and Leland says they pray every day for the young people who are being brought up in a world that has lost its way. The couple produces an e-mail newsletter called Patriarch News that encourages fathers and mothers to raise their children to live for Jesus Christ and shows practical ways families can serve the Lord in daily life.
God has given Leland and Barbara favor as they encourage people around the world using e-mail, Skype and Facebook. But they haven’t given up all their old habits. They still like to witness face-to-face with neighbors and people they meet in their travels. They especially enjoy sharing Christ with servers in restaurants, says Leland. Even then, they have found an effective way of communicating the love of God with others in a language they understand.
“I never leave a gospel tract without leaving a good tip,” Leland shares emphatically.