Part 3: Developing Communities

Serving coffees at the Cape Town Coffee Festival with my friend, 2-time South African Barista Champion, Winston Thomas

Look at that! Three weeks went by quick! This is the last installment of a series of three updates specifically addressing our passions and prayers for our ministry here as we had shared them with so many of you. In case you missed the previous week’s update regarding disciple-making and church-planting, no stress! Just scroll down below this post or locate the “Part 1: Making Disciples” and “Part 2: Planting Churches” link on the righthand side of this page. 

  • Making Disciples
  • Planting Churches
  • Developing Communities

We are so excited to have a core group assembling already weekly in our home to study God’s Word. There is no limit to what the Lord may have in mind and what He can do with people submitting to His will, being transformed by His Spirit, and obeying His Word. In addition to this Bible study group in our community and pursuing church-planting opportunities here, we have been tasked with some objectives for Mountain View Baptist Church. Two major tasks include developing an intentional and church-wide discipleship program and expanding the home small group ministry. In addition to these, the church has a great desire to reach their own community in new ways. A coffeeshop has been suggested as the first vehicle to serve, connect, and build more relationships with their community.  We are pleased to explore the potential and take leadership in this goal in light of our background and passions.

Developing coffee recipes with Innocent Chakanyuka, Head Barista at Truth Coffee

Already, we have made great relationships with different industry professionals and leaders that can help guide us through this process which places as far ahead of anywhere we dreamed to be right now. Even last night, we shared with one of our small groups, how blessed we feel that God has put so many pieces together and before us. We do not deserve to see the plan God has for us, but He has graciously shown us several parts and we are greatly encouraged by it. There has been so much confirmation from the Word and His church. This is all overwhelming and very exciting as we had no great plans to be this far along at this time. Praise God for churches, committed to the Gospel, getting creative with ways to share it with the world! 

Chatting coffee opportunities with David Bassett of non-profit organization, Woza Coffee and Training School

A “Little Bit” from Lauren

The Bell Bunch at Camp’s Bay

I have a “little bit” to add about the kids. We have lots of people asking how the kids are adjusting to life here. I’m so glad they have learned to go with the flow. They had a lot of practice in the States before we left as we traveled often. But they are troopers, love adventures and most of the time know no strangers. They love when we have people over and think that our friends are their friends haha! We managed to talk a few into being babysitters also!!

P.S. We will be giving you a break on the updates. But only for a little while, because something is brewing…But, seriously! Keep praying please. There are more exciting updates to come! God is good. All the time.

Part 2: Planting Churches

So here we go! The second installment of a series of updates on our passions and prayers for our ministry here in South Africa. In case you missed it, find last week’s update regarding disciple-making by just scrolling below or locate the “Part 1: Making Disciples” link on the righthand side of this page.

  • Making Disciples
  • Planting Churches
  • Developing Communities

We, as the followers (disciples) of Christ, have been called to the mission of making disciples of all nations. In doing so, we must baptize them and teach them to obey all of God’s commandments. A group of Christ’s disciples, agreeing to meet together for fellowship, prayer, baptism, sharing of the Lord’s Supper and studying the Bible is a Biblical local church. Under pastoral leadership, obedience to God’s Word leads them to worship and service. And ultimately right back to producing faithful disciple-makers, Lord willing, leading to more disciples and churches in all the nations.

Nate preaching with Henry at Mountain View Baptist Church on Father’s Day (16 June)

And so, planting churches begins with disciple-making. And each is a process of learning. We learn while also taking steps of obedience in faith. Learning to live in South Africa. Learning about other people and how they live in South Africa. Learning about the communities, needs and opportunities around us now. Learning by time spent with local pastors, missionaries and church planters, hearing how God has worked in their lives and ministries here. Spending time studying God’s Word with South Africans helps us learn how God is working in them. 

Nate preaching 23 June at Simanyene Bible Church

At the same time, we are opening our home to many and having lots of conversations over coffee and meals together with South Africans. For example, last week we had people over at our home, sharing meals and studying the Word together five of the seven evenings. Adding it up, we had over 30 people come through our house just last week. Praise God! In addition, we have visiting other churches and seeing the different ministry opportunities and needs in the area. 

We praise God that we have launched a bible study of our own here in our community and home as churches are few in this new and developing area. The opportunities are great and many here. Mountain View Baptist Church has supported us as we explore open doors in this area. Our first couple bible study gatherings, hosted in our home, have brought about fifteen individuals, including a new couple in our neighborhood, with no church home. Praise the Lord! We are praying for more of these relationships to be established with our neighbors and community, and they might lead to more glory for Jesus’ name.

Mark & Valentia, Nate & Lauren, Kyle & Simoné, Julio (kneeling), Angela & Russel (seated), Mike & Tracey (holding Henry and Lola), Warren, Kyle (seated and holding Lennon)
Not pictured: Bronwyn (taking photo)

A “Little Bit” from Lauren

We have been getting lots of questions about what a typical week looks like for us right now in this season of “orientation”. So here’s the short of it-

Mondays – Study day for Nate, get organized for the week and run some errands

Tuesdays – Family Fun Day, I spoke about this last week, but we usually take part of the day to go explore something fun around the area with the kids

Wednesdays – Nate and I usually slip away for a coffee date then he’s off to study / staff meeting and then we have life group in the evening

Thursdays – Discipleship meetings, mom group and then young adult life group

Fridays – Discipleship meetings then Nate has worship practice in the evening

Saturdays – There is a mens bible study and a ladies bible study once a month, but otherwise family time

Sundays – Ministry, church visits, soon Nate will begin teaching NT courses at the ministry training center 2 hours in the evenings and we host a pizza night with some friends. 

That’s a typical week along with a few play dates, hosting dinners and other meetings. Oh and parentings THREE little kids!

Part 1: Making Disciples

Julio, Nate, Luke, Martin, Antonio and JP

My head is swirling as I sort through how to share all that HE is doing here. It truly is too long, our last update coming in April. I wish I had strived harder, but will continue to do so, and get out more frequent updates. It is our goal for these to be monthly, not quarterly updates, as God is up to so much! And we treasure and thrive on your prayers. That is where the work is done. Once we, as partners in HIS Gospel, surrender in prayer to HIS will, then HE can do HIS work! This reminds me of my home pastor, who often prays from Zechariah (4.6) before our Sunday morning service, “’Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord who rules over all.” 

We are breaking this upcoming series of updates into our core passions and prayers for our ministry here;

  • Making Disciples
  • Planting Churches
  • Developing Communities

I have been praying for six men to disciple and several to disciple me. I have been able to sit down with a number of young men in different stages of life from high school, to university, and working in careers. I praise God for a young man at Mountain View Baptist Church, who heard me speaking about my passion for discipleship, approached and requested me to disciple him. Martin is German and studying exercise and sport science at Stellenbosch University. We have been working through Ecclesiastes as he is seeking a lot of wisdom with all the upcoming life decisions of a university student preparing for the next phase of his life. Julio is another young man I have been blessed to spend a lot of time. Five years ago, I discipled Julio while teaching him to play drums. I would say he plays better than me now and is currently studying to be a filmmaker. What an opportunity to jump back, five years later, and keep walking the Way with Julio! Also five years ago, Luke was figuring out his post-high school direction. Praise God for his call into full-time ministry. Luke has now finished seminary and was called by Mountain View Baptist Church to join Pastor Mark in full-time ministry in April. I have the privilege to walk with Luke through life and work with both of these South African pastors to serve and seek new opportunities disciple our own and reach the lost with the Gospel. We are working through My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Kyle is a young man that is sorting through life and feels so familiar to me. He is seeking direction and purpose and we are just discussing biblical perspectives. The Lord has presented a few other men who have expressed interested in spending some time together discussing life and faith. So grateful for the 4 men the Lord has already brought to encourage and sharpen me as I, Lord willing, do the same for them. 

Julio, Nate and Kyle

Pastor Dave Drullinger, fellow ABWE missionary, and I have been meeting for discipleship since shortly after our landing. I have treasured his help in adjusting to life here and learning from him about ministry in South Africa. One of his ministries includes the Ministry Training Centre which I am pleased to be participating. 

Beginning this upcoming term, I will be teaching in the Ministry Training Centre at Mountain View. This is a free four-year training program running Sunday evenings for two hours. I will be teaching Survey of the New Testament this term, beginning the 21stof July and Survey of Christian Doctrine in term four. I am very excited to wrestle through the truths of God’s Word and how this applies to the lives of believers. 

And now introducing your new favorite part of these updates. Many of you ask about how Lauren and the family our doing, so we’re going to hear from the source herself. She has agreed to write a “little bit” of a family and ministry update from her own point of view…

A “Little Bit” from Lauren

Lauren with Henry

Even though my ministry is first and foremost to my family, I crave time with other mothers and my kids crave time with other kids their age. We were very used to having playdates, attending a play café, going to mom groups and just being around other kids. That has been one of the hardest adjustments- finding other mom friends, who “stay at home”, and have kids around my kids’ age. I have a good friend who we met when we were here 5 years ago who has 1 year old twin girls. She invited me to a “mommy bible study”. I’ve been going for about 2 months now and it has been such a breath of fresh air. We gather, drink coffee, watch the kids run around and discuss a chapter of a book we are reading, (Parenting- by Paul David Tripp). We’ve been able to make some good relationships and organize some play dates, so God is blessing that time. It been good also to pick the brains of mothers and help me with things like schooling in the future, places to take the kids and just all kids raising children in South Africa. 

Lola playing at Mom’s Group

The kids are adjusting well. In the beginning they were missing friends and family and things like the zoo, museums and play cafes. So we tried to have “family fun day” on Tuesdays to show them other fun things around us. And they definitely don’t disappoint! So we try to get them excited about things and I think it working because NO ONE in Ohio can hand feed and pet giraffes or live 10 minutes from the beach. But they are champions and really thrive in all situations. We visit other churches and they can’t wait to go to the kids class. Sometimes I wish they were shy but in this season of life it’s just perfect. Henry will turn 1 in a month, Lennon will turn 4 a week later, and Miss Lola is living up the 2 ½ year old life! God is good!

Lennon meeting Gerry the Giraffe

Watch your inboxes for the notice next week about Part 2: Planting Churches! So much more to share! Don’t mean to abuse it, but something’s brewing…

“‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord who rules over all.” Zechariah 4.6

Hello (from the other side)

I couldn’t say it any better than Adele. Hello from the other side. Thank you for your faithful prayers. We have many reasons to praise the Lord, so lets get started!

The Bell Bunch arrived in Cape Town on 11 February even better than we prayed. While we did leave Columbus on 9 Feb with difficult goodbyes, and Henry missing a boarding pass, which caused us to be the last to board before gates closed; we were showered with grace upon grace as we traveled. Here are a few highlights of the journey over…

Chapter 1 : Grace Upon Grace in the Going

We praise God for a quick and unremarkable flight from Columbus to Washington, DC. Lola made friends with our Lufthansa crew who allowed us to store our 10 pieces of carry-ons or backpacks for the 6-hour layover in their lounge. They also volunteered to move our seats around, that we might have two entire rows for the kids to lay down on the way to Munich. We kept the kids up and moving in a great kids play area in the airport before our 10p departure. As soon as we boarded, very helpful crewmates were serving the kids juice and helping with our bags and children. The kids slept through most of this 8-hour flight.

Lennon, Henry and Lola on their “shuttle”

In Munich, we spent about 7 hours in the airport, mostly in a kids play center. We took brief naps and had help from strangers to move all that luggage as we wrangled kids through lines and through the gates. Again, the kids slept much of this overnighter from Munich to Cape Town. But it was nearly 12 hours. Nate sat between Lennon and Lola, while Lauren and Henry shared a seat, due to our voluntarily moving so a father could sit next to his young son. Anyhow, as hectic and miserable as it was at certain points on this flight, we made it and rejoiced as we met with teammates after landing. We tracked all our baggage and walked through Customs with all our 10 carry-ons, 11 suitcases, and 3 carseats and a stroller without being stopped. God is good.

Chapter 2 : Grace Upon Grace in Getting Settled

The team met us and helped us sort out SIM cards for our phones and a van rental before we left the airport. Feel free to contact us (Reach Nate at +27 079 831 5679 and Lauren at +27 071 490 2144). We are on WhatsApp, Telegram, FB and Instagram. We were ready to crash in our AirBnb after lunch after the 8a landing. Praise God, we (and kids included) experienced no effects of jet lag as they hopped into their usual nap schedules in the afternoon and even went down for full night sleeps right on schedule. Amazing!

Remarkably, we were able to open a bank account here within a few weeks. Even with all of our temporary details, the bank was able to open our account and even got us an upgrade. Incredible!

As it is difficult to get a lot of work done in a day in a new country and culture with 3 children three and under, we have had some moments of frustration. We extended our van rental by 2 weeks in order to find vehicles for us. God provided us a low-mileage and hard-to-find mini van (named Miss Foxy) which comfortably fits our family and spare room for luggage or other people. While we never dreamed of owning a mini-van, it’s absolutely perfect for us here. He also provided us a small low-mileage manual transmission hatchback (named Marco). These vehicles are such an answer to prayer and a huge blessing and relief as we think about the long t0-do list that is settling in. And praise Him  for how quickly we jumped right back into driving the manual after 5 years in automatics.

Our AirBnB
 

We also extended our stay a few weeks at our AirBNB due to our difficulty finding a long-term rental. We restricted our home search to two different areas as Mountain View Church is praying over a church plant in these areas this year.  One door closed late in the application process due to our lack of financial history here in South Africa. However, while He closed a door there, God opened a door for a home in the other community. As our move-in was delayed due to public holidays and other issues, a family from Mountain View opened their home to us and we stayed over a week until our new home was ready. This new community is still being developed and happens to have land designated for a religious entity next to land designated for a coffee shop… Interesting.

Chapter 3 : Grace Upon Grace in Growing

Speaking of God’s body, one of our greatest adjustments has been leaving our local church and settling into another. We’ve spent our entire lives at Memorial Baptist Church. I would say we knew our role and what part of the body we served. Growing up there, with many of our brothers and sisters, we knew much of where people had come from and where they are going. We were connected with the life of that body. Continuing with Paul’s illustration from his first letter to the Corinthian church, this transition has felt surgical. We have been dismembered from one local body, and surgically reattached to another. An operation like this takes time before it feels natural. Its uncomfortable. Its less than fully functional. It feels a bit awkward. It hurts sometimes. Pray for us as we desire to immerse and serve and be used by God through this new local body, Mountain View Church.

We have already been blessed to serve in areas of discipleship, leadership,
praise and worship, bible study, participating in life groups, and preaching this past Sunday. We have been able to join the vision and strategy of reaching neighbors with Mountain View as we work through a time of orientation to the country, God’s work here, and opportunities to get involved in it. During this time, we are overjoyed to serve with Mountain View and its national leadership we have missed greatly. We have so loved catching up with friends we haven’t seen in 5 years. Still praising God!

 

Please pray as we settle into our home, meet and love our neighbors and Lord willing, see God use us to bless and share His gospel of reconciliation and hope here.

Please pray as we grow into our new body, Mountain View, and serve them well.

Please pray for our discipleship and evangelistic relationships. May the Spirit guide and use us.

Please pray for wisdom and obedience. We have a time of orientation and survey of opportunities here in South Africa. May we discern God’s leading, plan our course, and have Him guide our steps forward.

And please pray for South Africa. A simple Google search will reveal the recent rise in tensions and rioting leading up to our elections. Roads have been closed, ministries cancelled and safety precautions taken. May the brilliance of the Light of the World and His gospel of hope, peace and love – shine through us in these days, exposing the darkness, and drawing many to repentance and reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4.11)

Say Bon Voyage to the Bell Bunch (Lord willing!)

25 JAN UPDATE and SPOILER ALERT:

Thanks for the prayers, certainly God listened. And He answered! Just a bit differently and for the better! We are not en route to Cape Town. I am on a couch in Columbus.

We held out as long as we could before having to call and rebook our tickets to Cape Town. Our travel agency required 24 hours notice before penalty. We worked through some new options, shared and prayed over these, and selected Saturday, 9 February as our new departure day.

Within a few hours, around 430p on Wednesday, I received a call from Chicago. Our visas had been processed and were ready for pick up. Yesterday, I left at 4am, drove to Chicago, entered the Consulate, received our visas, made it home before 4pm.

We are praising God! In many ways, this is a relief. A relief we no longer have to scramble to try to accomplish everything and pack. A relief that we can heal as most of us have colds we did not want to travel with for 30+ hours. And we are relieved that we are holding our passports and plane tickets! We are relieved again to serve a living God who knows what is best for us. Praise Him!

Please pray as we prepare and move towards a Saturday, 9 Feb departure!

_________________________________________

10 JAN ORIGINAL POST:

This is a sincere apology. We have not shared an update in too long. It has always been our intention to produce a monthly update. We have failed. This update is long in the making as we have been adjusting to many changes. No more excuses. Forgive us. Let’s catch up.

Pastors, and representatives of supporting churches surrounding us in prayer

In September, we had our Commissioning Celebration at our home church, Memorial Baptist in Columbus. It was a special time of celebrating the faithfulness of God in Jesus Christ’s death, his resurrection, and that he is alive today! This Gospel requires a response. It has transformed our lives and we have been called to live it out and share it with others both here and in South Africa. Many family, friends, pastors and partners overwhelmed us with reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness. For those who could not make, it was recorded and the video can be found on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thebellbunch).

In November, we celebrated. We celebrated lots of birthdays (Nate – 5th, Lauren – 9th, and Lola – 16th)! We were able to serve and celebrate God’s faithfulness on Thanksgiving weekend with local church partners at Journey Church in Columbus. And I tried to quit working. I did go part-time to free me up for preparations to leave and finish well at work. This has been our prayer from the beginning. We know the Lord has blessed us in my work and placed us there to be His faithful witness until He is ready to move us. I have great opportunities to share the Gospel in that space and pray for obedience and for the Spirit to guide me. So, while I did not quit working in November, we set a date in December!

And that brings us to last month, December. I did finish up working at Crimson Cup Coffee (honestly!). I praise God for the relationships I continue to treasure with my co-workers there. We have been abundantly blessed to share life and ministry in our local church, Memorial Baptist, where we’ve both been our entire lives! We have prayed to hand off and transition well to new ministries and relationships, and adjust well to changes in old ministries and relationships. I was able to finish my preaching assignments with a two-part series on God’s presence both in the opening and closing of Matthew’s Gospel. Those messages can be heard at Memorial’s 2018 Sermon page.

…This all happened so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Look! The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call him Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” Matthew 1.22,23

Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew28.18-20

To close 2018, after weeks of work, we were able to finish up the long list of requirements for our volunteer visa application for South Africa. With tickets purchased and departing on 24 January, plans and reservations were made to head to the Consulate General of South Africa in Chicago on 1 January in order to be in the office on the 2nd. On the 31stof December, Lauren comes down with strep throat and Lennon starts vomiting. With Lauren in “quarantine” for the day, trying to comfort an aching Lennon and keeping Lola and Henry away from both, I am on the phone calling doctor’s and pharmacies before they close on New Year’s Eve. Then Henry pukes on me…

Maybe it is because this moment is so fresh, but I think this is the low point of my 2018. I began contact our host and cancel reservations. Trying to keep my composure, I reached out to some requesting prayer. This trip to Chicago is a milestone. We are required to go the Consulate, and submit our visa applications in person. Afterwards, it can take several weeks for processing… Defeated, I go down to sleep, begging God to work mightily in 2019.

It’s New Year’s Day. Everyone feels great. We pack the car and head to Chicago. On Wednesday, we enter the Consulate and discover our applications aren’t quite right. Applications are only accepted from 9a-12p, but we hustle to get our passport copies notarized and return the same day. Still not quite right. Thursday morning at 9a and I am one of the first in the Consulate. I submit our visa applications. Relief overwhelms. So not to cry in the office, I decide to walk 30 minutes to our residence and praise God the whole way.

In Chicago applying for our South African visas!

Feeling the pressure of life with 3 kids, work responsibilities, local church ministries and preparations for our big move, we continue to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and presence with us in it all. We’ve been meditating on this concept for month’s now and I love how Matthew bookends his gospel with these very reminders. God’s promise, prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before, would be fulfilled. He would be found faithful, another promise kept. And then, after Jesus Christ had completed his Father’s work here on earth, he reminded us again before he left to be with the Father, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So now we pray for God to work in the processing of our visas. Would you please join us in prayer over these visas? 

Beside us is a list of about 100 things we need to consider or do before we leave. We love checking things off the list, but this is still a bit intimidating. We pray for wise use of our time as we deal with these different legal, financial, health, travel, ministry, moving and every other detail. Pray for God to lead the way and that we would not become burdened and stressed over these matters.

Our new niece Gwen arrived three weeks early so we could get lots of snuggles in before we leave!

It is our prayer, if the Lord’s will, to depart on 24 January 2019.

If you are able, all are invited to a farewell fling, a Say Bon Voyage to the Bells! The event will be hosted at The Innovation Lab by Crimson Cup on 19 January from 9a-12p. Come by for good brews and goodbyes. We would love to see as many of you as possible! Please reach out for more details if you would like to join us!

Pray with us as we say many difficult goodbyes to our loved ones during these next few weeks. 

Nate’s family

Lauren’s family

We would love to hear from you. As you reflect on your holiday season over, may you become more conscious of the many blessings we have in Christ. I am convinced that perhaps the greatest gift from the Father is His presence (Emmanuel). When you think of “God with us,” what comes to your mind?

Not One. Not Two. Not Three. Yes, Actually Three.

What a summer! As we wind it down, we have some big updates to share! God has been so good to us! We will try to squeeze at least two very exciting announcements into this update, maybe the third, if possible. So much happening, let’s get on with it! 

First, we welcomed our third child, Henry Graham Bell, into the world on August 4th. Our precious boy weighed 6lbs and 7oz and was 19 inches long. The labor and delivery was quick and mom and baby are healthy. He is a great sleeper and eater and his siblings are quite smitten by him. We are so thankful for this sweet gift from God and newest member of the Bell Bunch!  

Second, you (yes, you!) are invited to our commissioning celebration happening September 8th at our home/sending church, Memorial Baptist at 10:00am. This will be a celebration of God’s faithfulness throughout this journey, the gospel and His love for the lost, and our call to make His name known. This will be a time to pray together, worship together, be challenged together and, of course, drink coffee together. There will be a brunch to follow and childcare is also provided. Please let us know if you are interested in celebrating with us and we will provide more information.

As you pray, please remember the following…

  • Praise God for a healthy baby boy and mom and our wonderful support system of family, friends and church!
  • Pray for our commissioning celebration on September 8th and that God would be so glorified and receive the praise He deserves.
  • Pray as we transition from two kids to three. We are exploring options for a vehicle that will fit all three kids comfortably. Our current car is too small to fit all three car seats across the back row. If you have a van or SUV with captain seats and are willing to trade for our 2013 Ford Escape until we leave, let’s chat! 
  • With this transition comes many others and much to do in order to prepare ourselves to leave. Our great desire to finish well and begin well,  we made the tough decision to leave early 2019. Pray we would finish well here. 
  • Praise God who continues to prove His faithfulness in meeting all our needs! 

Please share how God is at work in your life and how we can pray with you as partners in life and ministry.

That’s enough for now…

Ok, Fine. We won’t sign off now and make you wait for the third big announcement. We will tell you right now that God has provided all we need to meet our minimum financial support requirements! Praise God for His great faithfulness! What an incredible journey and we’re so excited to follow Him through the next steps!  Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

 

“Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

“The martyr’s remains were just shipped back to Egypt recently.”

“It’s all on YouTube. You can find the video there,” Maged explains.

“I don’t think I want to see that.”

Earlier this week, our Uber driver has just finished telling us about the twenty-one Christians from his city in Egypt who were beheaded by ISIS in Libya back in 2015. This is at the end of a conversation during a twenty-minute ride in Tampa where Lauren and I were blessed to get away for four nights to be refreshed and pray (thanks to our incredibly gracious parents).

As is my custom, I enjoy sitting in the front seat, so I can better converse with my driver. This was no different and before long, I had discovered he was from Egypt and soon we were talking about our faith. We had shared that the Lord was calling us to mission work in Africa, and Maged then disclosed that he too, is a Christian. Our questions turned to life as a Christian in Egypt, where his family still lives and he often visits. He opened up about the many hardships and persecutions Christians face daily, some of which factored into his transition from his family and home to settle in America. Then, he reminds me of the Christians he knew from his community, who moved from Egypt to Libya for better opportunities. As he recalls this event, he talks about the chance they were given to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ and be freed from their persecutors. Encouraged, I share how this is evidence of the Holy Spirit. For who would choose certain death over life unless empowered by the Holy Spirit through hope-filled faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

I get his number and send him links to a few resources he may find encouraging and share a blessing and our gratitude as we arrive at our destination.

In contrast, this conversation occurred two days before Independence Day, the Fourth of July. As we celebrate the many blessings of living in the United States of America, I think about Maged and his family. I think about the many brothers and sisters in Christ around the world that do not share the freedoms I have to exercise my faith without significant consequence.

Quickly, my mind turns to the opportunities I have because of this freedom, and then the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Each of these three servants knew the Master intimately and knew what He wanted from them. And each of these servants were given different resources, or opportunities, based on their abilities. Jesus shares that the first two, though given different resources, were faithful and rewarded by the Master upon his return. And the last, crippled by fear, buried his talent and did not do the will of his Master and is punished.

What am I doing with the opportunities God has given me? Am I sharing the love and peace and hope and faith I have with those around me who desperately need it? Or am I hiding that knowledge like the evil and lazy slave who buried his Master’s resources.

One day I will meet my Savior. I will stand and give an account of what I did with the resources and opportunities He gave me. I pray that with the Spirit working in me now, that day I will also hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

This season is filled with preparations for our third baby arriving in weeks, finishing up church visits, and taking the first steps to prepare for our move to South Africa. We cherish your prayers as we plan our course, committing each step to the Lord. We need His provision of our final 10% of committed monthly support. We need His guidance as we set dates for me to finish working. We need His hand as we compile our visa application. We pray for His favor and blessing as we must head to Chicago to complete our application and submit our application. And we seek His direction and timing as we have now chosen a departure date. We are humbled and excited to share that we are targeting November 1st as the beginning of the next step in God’s journey for us. God’s plan is best, and we submit to it in this process as well. Lord willing, if He chooses to establish these plans, we will board a series of long plane rides with our new family of five and continue the privilege of serving our Lord in Cape Town. We are still in awe that God has brought us this far. Oh, what a privilege and what a great opportunity! May we be good and faithful servants!

 

Broken Records (really BIG update!)

We know we may sound like a broken record, but…

Sometimes, what sounds like a broken record may not be broken. It is possible that the repetition heard is simply what was intended for you to hear. It is not broken at all. Maybe you hear the same thing over and over, not due to any mistake, but it is just the nature of the record.

So, we know we may sound like a broken record, but God is good.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isa. 55.9). He is sovereign and has the best for us.

We know we may sound like a broken record, but God answers prayers.

And sometimes, it may not be the timing WE think is best. But, the point was made above. He is good and his answers to our prayers are better than our “best case scenarios.” His answers to our prayers are the best for us and those for which we pray.

We know we may sound like a broken record, but God provides.

He is supplying our need and continues to work in His church and His people. He is bringing in our support both financially and spiritually.

Read on if you want to be encouraged that God is alive and that He works and is active in the lives of His people and His church.

 

We are compelled to share as witnesses of God’s actions and answers to prayer. Our last update shared a need with a deadline. We prayed for 6 partners in 6 days. God answered with 3 partners in 4 days to meet and exceed our need.

 

We were blessed and encouraged over our final two weeks of training out in Harrisburg, PA, at ABWE’s international headquarters. Still working through the realities of all we need to do before we are truly “ready” to depart family, friends, work, current ministries, etc. and the variety of emotions we can anticipate and expect here and in our first term in South Africa.

We finished training on Friday, May 4th. We spent Sunday, May 6th, celebrating God’s faithfulness and updating three of our partner churches in southern Ohio. Grace Community Church at Bigelow, Wheelersburg Baptist, and Temple Baptist came together Sunday night for a humbling time of encouragement and beautiful representation of the larger body of Christ. That evening, within minutes of finishing our update and enjoying refreshments with the brothers and sisters, I received a welcomed call from another church in the area. We are excited to partner with such a mission-minded church as Grace Baptist in Minford, Ohio. Praise God! Just three days later, Wednesday, I sat in a leadership team meeting with a local church in Columbus, Ohio, again sharing God’s goodness and faithfulness to us and our ministry. That same evening, I received yet another welcomed call. We are humbled and excited to partner in ministry with Journey Church here in our hometown. God’s lovingkindness surrounds us. It overwhelms me to the point of tears in my eyes as I recount this overwhelming grace.

So, we know we may sound like a broken record, but God doesn’t change. His promises are true. His character is good. He is sovereign. He is love. He is grace. He gives the best gifts.

And we cannot wait to see how He wraps up our pre-field, support raising ministry. We now stand with 89% of our committed monthly support. We need only 11% more committed monthly support!

Please pray as we have much to do. Many things to wrap up. Many visits and goodbyes to schedule. The list of things to accomplish in order to leave well seems daunting.

Please pray for God to providing our remaining need. And if I may ask of Him, that He would provide this remaining 11% quickly. Our new baby boy is due early August and it would be wonderful to focus our remaining time here in the States on all the other things besides this financial support.

God is doing wonders. Please, if you or your church want to hear more about our ministry and what God is doing, reach out to us (nlbell@abwe.cc). If you can’t tell, we love sharing God’s faithfulness, whether it sounds like a broken record or not.

With His words and His strength,

Nate and Lauren

 

 

Is the Resurrection Believable in Our World?

This is the question I was asked to answer and present this Easter morning at our home church, Memorial Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio.
This sent me on an investigative hunt not only through the most compelling evidence, the “many proofs” as Luke states (Acts1.3) in the Scriptures, but outside it. This question takes the resurrection out of the realm of philosophy and into the realm of history. We claim and put our all our faith in this event that we believe actually occurred in human history. That event, simply, either did or did not happen.
One convincing truth is the changed lives, and even more powerful, the deaths of those who saw the resurrected Jesus Christ.
These men were commanded by their risen Savior to go into all the world, preach and make disciples and teach them to obey His commands. And they did so. But, rather than deny the truth they knew and were spreading all over the world, they accepted the following consequences;
  • Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome.
  • James was beheaded in Judea.
  • John was exiled to Patmos and either died there or was beheaded.
  • Andrew was whipped and crucified in Greece.
  • Thomas was speared to death in India.
  • Philip was whipped and crucified in Egypt.
  • Bartholomew was skinned alive in Armenia.
  • Thaddaeus was crucified in Persia.
  • Matthew was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.
  • Simon was crucified in England.
  • James was beaten and stoned to death in Jerusalem.
  • Matthais was burned alive in Syria.
  • Paul was beheaded in Rome.
  • Stephen was stoned to death in Jerusalem.
To hear the rest click here
Before a crowd of angry opponents of the gospel, threatening to kill him, Stephen was granted a glimpse into heaven;
“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Acts7.55-56
Enraged, the crowd rushed at Stephen, dragged him away and murdered him. With courage and grace from the Spirit and glimpse of his Savior ready to receive him, Stephen, cried out for his murderers to be forgiven for this evil.
I wonder how a glimpse of our risen Savior would change our behavior. It turned the apostles for cowards hiding behind locked doors, to bold witnesses of the gospel throughout the world, enduring bearings, imprisonments and death from all sides.
How would it impact our conversations with neighbors, co-workers, family and friends?
How would it impact how we spend our short time in this life?
How would it impact our urgency to share what we know and have experienced?
We have been blessed to live in an age where we do not get to see Jesus physically. “Blessed are those that have not seen yet have believed (Jn20.29).” We get to experience the risen Christ in many other ways however. And this truth and gospel we know, because we have witnessed, compels us on. And still, God is commanding and sending his disciples all over the world. We take this same power and Spirit wherever God has us.
Father, thank you! Thank you for opening our eyes and rescuing us from our darkness. Thank you for grace and mercy from our wickedness. Thank you for your Holy Spirit filling us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Thank you that you are ever with us. Allow these truths and promises to give us courage to share you love with boldness. Amen. Amen.
—PRAYWITHUS—
“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16.9
Our heart and passion from God is to be in South Africa as soon as possible. We desire to share the love we have been shown and teach others to do the same. Ultimately, we want to see Christ known among all the nations and all the glory given to Him who is worthy! Amen. Yet, and as His plan is higher and better than ours, God directs our steps. We have full confidence in the why and what, while we depend on His how and when.
If He wills for us to arrive in SA as soon as possible according to our new timeline, our new target is September. We need training and financial clearance before we can leave. And to clear training, we need to attend a 2-week Field Prep Seminar at the end of this month. To attend, we must be at 85%. We are praying for 6 partners in 6 days that could meet this need. God provides. He always has. He will glorify Himself in all circumstances and we praise Him because no matter what, we know He is good and His plans are better than ours.
Would you pray for his glory to be known here and now and in South Africa?
Would you pray for the impact of the reality Christ has risen to change how you talk and act with urgency where God has placed you right now?
Pray with us that God might provide for us as only He can.
6 partners in 6 days.
South Africa in September. Cleared not by financial requirements or training requirements, but cleared and sent by God and His Church.
6 partners in 6 days.
Amen. May it be so. All glory to God.

Grace Upon Grace.

She told me that she prays to God, but I know she doesn’t really know Him. I know she doesn’t know Jesus,” expressed my concerned friend in regards to his wife’s salvation.

He himself is only beginning to grasp the power in the gospel, but I’ve already seen change in his life. We had started meeting over God’s word one year ago. My friend had little interest initially in studying the Bible, and far more interest in other religions and I obliged. We studied and talked through other philosophies and religions before he agreed to examine the Bible. The study lasted for months and now the impact is eternal. My friend understands the truth of the gospel and has accepted it. Now, he wants his wife to discover what he has found. Praise God! Pray the Spirit continues to work in his life as I continue to disciple my new brother and we take steps forward in finding a good church home for them.

This is the highlight of the past month by far, though God has been very busy. We are excited to announce several new partners that have catapulted us to 75%! We need God to provide just another 10% in order to make our upcoming training in April! We have successfully moved out and sold our home and moved in with family. And recently we were privileged to help lead worship at a youth retreat with our brothers and sisters at Scioto Hills Camp and Retreat Center in Wheelersburg, Ohio. God continues to challenge us in our growing small group and discipleship groups. We praise God also as He has provided an opportunity for a friend in our group to lead a bible study in his workplace as well! May the name of Christ be known everywhere!

We cherish your prayers and beg you to continue! I have been reminded of this power and the heart of our God while studying in the first letter to Timothy.

First of all, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time.” 1 Timothy 2.1-6

We are praying that if it is God’s will, we might reach our next bench mark of 85% in the next several weeks. This will get us to our final training for our mission organization. Stay tuned for more updates as we do believe God will provide and we pray confidently as we hope do as well. Specifically, we are praying for five new partners that might help us reach this goal. May it be so!

And….we announce joyfully, we are expecting another addition to the Bell Bunch, due to arrive in August! Baby number three is on the way. Please pray for the Lauren’s health (and sanity) along with the development of our new child. Thanks for all the prayers to date. We treasure and are desperate for them.