20/20 Vision

Trust in the Lord and do what is right! Settle in the land and maintain your integrity! Then you will take delight in the Lord, and he will answer your prayers. Commit your future to the Lord! Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.

Psalm 37:3-5

Not long ago, I laid in bed, reflecting on God’s faithfulness to us. These words came to my mind. Actually, only the last verse, “Commit your future to the Lord! Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.” Only in the morning, when I searched for these words, did I read the first few verses of the psalm. Without necessarily being aware of these particular step-by-step-like instructions, we feel like we have obediently followed them and been blessed by our gracious God acting for us.

  1. Trust in the Lord. Long before we left the States, the Lord pressed it on us that we must trust and hand these things over to Him. We must not force support and finances to come together. We must not attempt to use clever technique and persuasive attempts to expediate the process. 
  2. Do what is right. As ministry opportunities increased for us stateside, we found ourselves having a conversation about whether we could continue to be faithful in “doing our part” in support raising and partner development, making phone calls and setting up meetings. We had growing discipleship and evangelistic relationships, multiple bible studies and couples counseling and we no longer could do both with excellence. We decided to be faithful to our local church and our ministries. We stopped applying our time and energy to support raising and partner development, giving it to the Lord. “Lord, if you want us in South Africa, we trust you will make it happen. We see you are working all around us, we will be faithful here. Glorify yourself. Your will be done.”
  3. Settle in the land. For us, I am not sure that transition could have possibly been smoother. But as we followed the above two steps, the way was prepared and the time to leave in February came quickly. The “settling” and establishment of our new “normal” felt fairly unremarkable. We were quickly able to sort out phones, open bank accounts, and purchase vehicles with lots of help from our missionary and local church family here. We were told acclimation and adjustments to culture and life could take as long as a year, and one should accept that it may be this long before you are serving and participating in ministry. God puts many things in place for us, much quicker than we anticipated.  
  4. Maintain your integrity. Perhaps one of the first times our integrity was tested was when we were driving through a very busy, and unfamiliar area. With cars parked on each side of the road, and attempting to reverse out of a tight space, I backed into and dented a car on the side of the road. The car guard “helping” to guide me quickly came to my window. “Look, no one saw it, give me fifty rand and go.” I paused. Temptation. Just weeks into a new country and culture. At this point, no proper car insurance. Uncertainty and a bit of fear regarding the process of legally sorting through the implications of this accident. I glance around. Now more of the many people walking the busy streets nearby are looking our direction. The guard tries to reassure and asks again for a bribe and he won’t say anything and we can be on our way. “I can’t. I need to do what’s right.” He refused to help as I sought a pen and paper and wrote a note apologizing and leaving my contact information on the windscreen. From an instance like this and others, we have committed on the Lord’s timing and praying that we would not force our desires from where we lived to what ministries we have invested in.
  5. Then you will take delight in the Lord. This isn’t an instruction, it is the result of the instruction. And the Lord has made this abundantly true. He has brought us such delight and joy as we have watched Him unfold His plans before us and take all the glory He desires for them.
  6. He will answer your prayers. We prayed for Him to lead and open the doors, make it obvious where He wanted us to go and what He wanted us to do. We had one house application, of many, accepted. We were asked to join in areas of ministry in which we happen to be both passionate and gifted by God. Thank you, Lord!
  7. Commit your future to the Lord. After the truth in the first 6 points, why would you do anything otherwise. He is the Faithful One. He is committed to glorifying Himself and working everything together for the good of those who love Him. His devotion, love and power has been displayed through the atoning work of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection 3 days later. If you haven’t surrendered to the One who created all, cares deeply for you, offers you a gift of peace with God through salvation regardless of what you’ve done, and promises you hope and blessings abundant as His child, please repent and come home to the Father!
  8. Trust in Him. Louder for the people in the back! One more time the psalmist reminds us to trust. It’s a reiteration but feels like even more than repetition. These last two almost act as summary statements. If one trusts in the Lord; you will obey Him, doing what is right in each situation. One’s obedience will produce joy and delight in God and His good instruction for us. This makes it all the easier for us to put further trust in Him as He answers prayers and acts for us. It’s like continuing the cycle of trust, obedient action, joy and God’s work. 
  9. He will act on your behalf. All the true desires and needs of humans cannot be fully met without God. We thirst for unconditional love. We need to connect with the Source of Life that created us. We may only be wholly fulfilled and wholly satisfied in relationship, function, meaning and purpose when we have repented and returned to the embrace of Father through the sacrifice of the Son on the cross and have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to live the life He made us for. It is all the work of God and has always been. Both for our salvation, justification and for our daily sanctification. He can be trusted and He can handle every weight we carry. Jesus reminds us that our good Father in Heaven knows what we need. Therefore, pursue his kingdom and his righteousness, and all the other things will be given to us as well (Matthew6.25-34).

Now, while trusting in the Lord and being obedient to His commands, we commit our future to him. Here are a few ways you can pray with us as we make our plans and surrender to the Lord’s direction…

Planting Churches

Our Wednesday Bible study

As we wrap up one year in South Africa, we have formed some great and growing relationships with neighbors in our community. As we currently live to the west of Somerset West and nearer to the village of Macassar and Croydon, we are in a quickly developing area with thousands of homes and thousands more being built. As far as we know, there are less than five churches ministering in this area. In partnership locally with Mountain View Baptist Church, we hope to gather a new group, evangelistic in nature, in our home to study the Word of God. We pray to see a new church planted and we hand over all these efforts and relationships to the Lord for His glory. 

Making Disciples

Lauren and friends at Mountain View Ladies’ event

Even in this past year, between intentionally seeking discipleship relationships and simply being asked directly to disciple some, we have our lives full of the rich privilege to continue the Great Commission. That being said, we can always be more intentional and more invested in this great work. 

We plan to continue leading our home bible studies, while seeking to create a campus ministry of Mountain View to Stellenbosch, home to Stellenbosch University and its 30,000 students. Mountain View has a number of students on campus and we would love to encourage and sharpen them to reach their friends. 

This year in the Ministry Training Centre, I will be teaching through Christian Disciplines, The Local Church, Biblical Leadership and Intro to Missions with the second-year students. 

It is also our hope and prayer this year, to develop a trade and ministry school. This would bring together the program of the Ministry Training Centre with a skills development program. Initially, we could launch this program with a barista training course (my stateside background) because of our coffee shop. Due to the great need for skills development and job creation, this could be an incredible opportunity to provide employable skills and equip disciples to minister wherever God leads them. 

Developing Communities

Preparing to open up Summit Coffee Culture at Mountain View Baptist Church

At the moment, we manage and run a coffee shop which has provided us great opportunities to connect with our neighbors within the reach of Mountain View Baptist Church. This year, we hope to train others to manage this space while opening it further for reaching the community. Lauren would love to develop a ministry to mothers in the form of a “play café,” and we would love to host monthly events, free for the community to enjoy a film, board games, a concert or any number of other ideas and services. 

It happens to be that our neighborhood is seeking to build a coffee shop for the community. If it’s the Lord’s will, we may just be planting a church and opening another coffee shop on the other side of town! 


We commit all of it to the Lord, trusting that He knows better than us and that He loves our community and these people more than us! May He guide and direct our every effort for His glory!

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. (1Peter4.11)

P.S. Link to my sermon from 29 December at Mountain View is here. Thank you to the many who prayed. Myself and many others were challenged deeply. 

Merry Christmas from the Bell Bunch!

Greetings Friends and Family,

We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a merry Christmas celebrating the faithfulness of our Lord in the sending of our Saviour. Our first Christmas in South Africa was very different, but definitely in a good way, as we adjusted to celebrating with our “adopted” family and culture here. Unlike the States, Christmas decorations are not overdone. You could drive a few miles without realizing it was the Christmas season with the absence of lit up houses, Rudolph noses and antlers on cars and of course, no snow. It is summer here so we got to trade in our hats and gloves for our swimming suits! Aside from all the “extras” Christmas brings, it was a much slower pace here and quite a switch from what we are used to. Though we missed being with friends and family from the States over this season we didn’t have to rush all over town, stressing about times and gifts and just got to be still. Well, as still as you can be with three toddlers!! But we had a wonderful Christmas Eve candlelight service with about 300 people praising God for sending baby Jesus to be the Saviour of the world. Then we were invited to a special Christmas Eve dinner with some friends who feel like family. They had a whole evening planned with a 4-course meal and shared with us what a “typical” South African Christmas might look like for most. Christmas Day was a quiet morning with our little family and then we had some friends from Nigeria and Zimbabwe, join us for lunch. We don’t have family close and they don’t have family close so why not celebrate together! We look forward to creating new traditions here. 

Our Carols by Candlelight Christmas Eve service at Mountain View, Somerset West

Here are a some more highlights from the past few weeks before we send out an end of year blog listing God’s faithfulness over the course of 10 months. 

  • In November, we opened Summit Coffee Culture inside Mountain View Baptist Church, Somerset West. We heard it would be a slow season especially since school was ending and the holiday season beginning so we didn’t do much to advertise. It was a “soft open” so we could work out the loose ends before our grand opening events in early 2020. We will share more about the coffee shop later but we have already seen several families at our Sunday worship gathering and others participate in other ministries because of this opportunity. Praise the Lord.
  • Schooling here is done very different than what we are used to. Nothing is free and we were told “you basically have to register them when you’re pregnant so you can get them in a decent school.” So we are a little behind, haha. We did some research, school visits, asked many questions and talked to some friends who are in the education system for advise and suggestions. Our community has a school just minutes from us and we plan to start the kids there after the holiday break, Lord willing. Lennon will be 5 next year so he will start pre-kindergarten and Lola will be 4 so she will be in group 4 class. I guess this is also a prayer request because we didn’t know the urgency of getting our children registered for school. Not only do we not have the funds for school (it may be several hundred dollars a month per child), they will need to get student visas and we don’t know what kind of process that will be. So be praying for the Lord’s provision and a quick visa processing because school starts mid January. 
  • After wrapping up Survey of the New Testament in Term 3, Nate taught Survey of Christian Doctrine in the Ministry Training Centre for the fourth term. They are on holiday break now and he will begin teaching Christian Discipline for the first term of the second year of the program. Please continue to pray for this special ministry. It’s one of Nate’s favorites!
  • Over the Thanksgiving holiday we had my (Lauren) family visiting and got to treat them to a South African themed Thanksgiving meal- complete with chicken and ostrich cooked on the braai. No turkey here, but our visitors brought cranberries, canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie, and Nestle chocolate chips, YUM! Even though it was a short visit, we got to show my parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and grandparents some of our favorite spots and the beauty of this country. It was very special to show them our new life here and walk the steps of ministry we walk daily. Also very excited to do the same with Nate’s parents who are visiting end of January!
  • Both of the Mountain View churches in Somerset West and Hermanus have been going through the same teaching series called, Anticipation, for the month of December. Nate has been privileged to preach at each church this month and preach once more this upcoming Sunday in Somerset West. Please remember him in prayer, that he may speak clearly the word of God and His gospel of grace in Jesus Christ.
Lauren’s family atop Table Mountain

Again, we hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a happy new year. God is so good. We are so overwhelmed with the love and support from our partners and friends. Just recently we had a few friends (who we don’t talk to often) say how they pray for us often. It’s always encouraging and we sometimes stand in awe of people whom God laid on their hearts to help and pray for us. This God we serve, is the only One that can change hearts to love and commit their lives to Himself. AMEN!

Expect a reflection of God’s faithfulness and a more detailed (and lengthy) ministry update next week!

Love to you all!

Lauren, Nate, Lennon, Lola and Henry! 

Six Months in South Africa

Remember that time I sent you 3 updates in 3 weeks? Me too. And you were probably hoping you wouldn’t hear from me for awhile…Well, I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is here we are, updating you again. But the good news is that I have asked a guest to share with you. So its not really us. But we thought, since it has been six (6) months (yeah, you read that right. S-I-X. Praise God!), maybe it’d be nice for you to hear from a partner in ministry on this side. And not just that, but quite a close one. Enjoy this perspective from our South African pastor and friend!…

Guest Writer: Pastor Mark Osborne

Good day from Sunny South Africa,

I’m honoured to contribute to the Bell Bunch letter as a guest this month. My name is Mark Osborne and I’m a Pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church, where the Bell’s are serving. Today I’d like to let you know how this precious family, that you support in various ways, is doing. When a friend travels overseas for an extended time, it can be hard to tell how they’re really doing when the only perspective you get is theirs – are they really doing that well, or should we be concerned about something? Nate thought that it might be good to hear from a local about their adventures… or misadventures. Having given me almost zero requirements for this update, hopefully this will be as unbiased as you could get. At the end, I’d ask you to simply pray for something – I’ll get to that in a bit.

Time has flown. It’s been just over 6 months since Nate, Lauren, Lennon, Lola, and Henry arrived on our shores. What have they been up to?

Serving One on One

Nate is incredibly passionate about discipleship. I’d even go so far as to say that he is inspirational in this regard. He even has our leadership team going through some material to do with discipleship and it’s been a joy to watch him do this. Both he and Lauren have formed close bonds with several individuals within the church and are doing a great job discipling them. As a result of their ministry I know of several others who have begun one on one discipleship relationships.

Serving One to Many

At Mountain View, small group ministry is incredibly important. It’s within this context that we seek to “Do Life Together God’s Way”. The Bells immediately slotted into our Young Adults group, although Nate is pushing the upper age limit :). Not satisfied with only one group, Nate and Lauren chose to form their own group, which opened space for more people within the church to be a part of this very important part of church life. They’ve taken the lead in organising social gatherings within these life groups as well. Apart from these smaller gatherings, both Nate and Lauren have  become involved in our larger men’s and women’s ministry groups respectively.

Young Adult Volleyball at Mountain View

Serving in Church Life

Both the Bells have joined various ministries. Nate is involved in the worship team, has preached twice in our local body, and has helped out with the preaching in our church plant in Hermanus over the last two weeks. Until recently, they were seeing other churches on a regular basis, but, now that they are more settled, Lauren is going to be involved in our children’s ministry, helping in the creche. Nate has also been instrumental in getting a coffee shop up and running. We will be opening the doors in early November – this is very exciting!

Woman at the Ladies Bible Study at Mountain View

OK, great, but how are they doing? I’m certain that they miss friends and family back home. I’m confident that there are days when they long to see each and every one of you. I’m equally sure that they are resting in God, trusting Him for their future, and finding joy in Him. Spiritually, they are doing well – I accidentally caught a glimpse of Nate’s calendar and the only thing in there was three appointments daily, simply labeled “Pray”. They are a huge encouragement to us and I’m grateful that they are here!

So, what can you pray for? They are involved in so many lives. Pray that this ministry bears much fruit for the gospel as Christ builds His church in this part of the vineyard.

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!