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.
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.
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.
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.
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?