Lela Steel
In 1986, after her husband’s death, Lela Steel dedicated herself to the Lord in this new era of her life. She went on several mission trips over the next few years, and knew that God had captured her heart for missions.
In 1997, Lela went to Odessa, Ukraine, and at the invitation of a Baptist evangelical pastor, she visited a children’s prison. God broke Lela’s heart for those homeless and abandoned street children.
Consequently, at the age of 70, Lela left America and moved to Odessa to begin her work as a missionary with Harvest International. The Lord placed within her a compelling desire to establish a home for these children—a home where they could receive physical and spiritual food, much-needed love, and a warm bed. The House Of Hope (formerly known as the Heritage House) was established in 1998.
Danny Thomas, Director of Harvest International, grew to have a deep friendship with this “amazing woman” known to many as Babushka Lela. On the several trips that Danny made to Odessa, He was able to see Lela in action. “Everywhere we went children ran and clambered to be near her.” These children knew they were loved, not only by being showered with love and hugs, but as Lela took care of their physical needs by providing clothes, food, medicine, dental care, special teachers at the orphanage, field trips, birthday celebrations at McDonalds, sleepovers, and dinner at her home—the list goes on.
Over time, Lela became concerned about what would happen to these children when they had to leave the orphanage at the age of sixteen. She began to have a vision of providing a home where the boys could go to live that would be a safe and nurturing alternative to the government-run, unsupervised dormitories. That vision and dream is now a reality—House Of Hope. The House of Hope is up and running with house parents, and and room for twenty young men.
Sadly, Lela was not able to witness this first hand. In April of 2009, she fell and broke her hip and was flown to the States for surgery. Although her recovery was lengthy, her recooperation time did not hinder her joy in the Lord and her tender, loving spirit.
On Thursday, August 19, 2010, Lela was admitted to the hospital in Ocala, Florida. As Danny reflected, "I received a call from Jimmy [Lela's son] at around 9:00 pm. I needed to come. As I stood next to her bed and held Lela's hand, she looked me in the eyes and said 'Danny Thomas, I love you' and smiled. At 3:18 the next morning, Jimmy called me to tell me that Lela had gone home to be with the Lord. I am going to miss her—along with countless hundreds!"

Harvest International is a non-denominational Christian-based ministry whose purpose is to “Empower people to fulfil the call of God in their lives.”


Harvest International | P.O. Box 6690 | Ocala, Florida 34478-6690 | 352.622.1818