Troubled teen-turned-medical missionary aims to inspire others to trust God in new book chronicling her adventures in faith
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—A reformed rebel with a taste for adventure is looking to inspire others to step out and make a difference in the world.
Sharing some hair-raising stories from more than 35 years’ missionary service in a new book, Sheila Leech hopes others may be challenged to follow in her footsteps, helping take the gospel to those who have yet to hear about Jesus.
Vice president of international healthcare for missions agency Reach Beyond, Leech tells of being held up at gunpoint by an armed rebel in Ecuador, living in a tribal community as a single woman, and leading medical teams into disaster zones around the world in God Knows What I’m Doing Here.
Founded in 1931 as broadcasting ministry, Reach Beyond later expanded into healthcare and leadership development and now has a major focus on unreached peoples—those lives where the gospel hasn’t been proclaimed.
That emphasis means “we are asking people to go to some difficult and sometimes dangerous areas of the world,” Leech acknowledges. “But if we are really serious about reaching the unreached, we need to sit down and consider what that might mean.”
Tracing her journey from her drug-using teenage years to long-term service with Reach Beyond, Leech tells how “God took this broken life of a very rebellious, lost young woman and did something with it—and if He can do that with someone like me, what could He do with you?”
After nine years in Ecuador, Leech returned to her native England to train as a nurse so she could be part of Reach Beyond’s medical and health ministry back in South America. Later she was appointed to oversee the multiplication of similar programs with Reach Beyond partners in other parts of the world.
Leech has led medical teams in the aftermath of earthquakes in Pakistan and Haiti, a tsunami in Indonesia and civil war in the Middle East. Three years ago, she relocated to Spain to be better situated for her international role.
Providing healthcare and clean water as a practical demonstration of God’s love opens doors for the gospel in communities that otherwise might be resistant, she says. “People are more than simply souls to be saved; meeting their physical and emotional needs creates a platform for sharing the gospel.”
Recounting how God has led and protected her, Leech quotes the late missionary author Elisabeth Elliot, who said that “the safest place is the center of God’s will for you.” Still, she recognizes the seriousness of following God to hard places in the world, saying, “I would never ask anyone to do something I have not done or would not do.
“I’m not suggesting people should be foolhardy or careless, but sometimes God calls us to take what seem to be risks and to trust Him—and I have found Him to be faithful in that.”
Published in England by Authentic Media, God Knows What I’m Doing Here is also available in the U.S. and elsewhere.
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Reach Beyond (reachbeyond.org) is a media- and medical-based evangelical ministry with operations on five continents. It spreads the message of Jesus in places that are primarily unreached or unengaged in the gospel. Reach Beyond uses media, including radio broadcasts, webcasts, social media and the distribution of solar-powered, fixed-tuned radios. It also reaches out to the needy throughout its growing network of healthcare services.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Sheila Leech tells how she went from being a teenage rebel to vice president of international healthcare for missions agency Reach Beyond in her new book, God Knows What I’m Doing Here.