Interview with Nate and Lauren Bell
Audio Transcript [Abridged]
Jared Raby: I’m on the line with Nate and Lauren Bell. They are in Columbus, Ohio, and are headed as missionaries to South Africa with ABWE, Association of Baptists for World Evangelism.
Introduce us to the Bell family
LB: I’m Lauren, and we are waiting on our third child. We have Lennon who will be 3 in just two weeks. We have Lola who is a year and a half, and little baby Bell boy that could arrive any time!
NB: Yeah, we’re hoping that’s sooner than later. The baby is due on the 12th, but the others have been early, so we’re hoping this one is the same way. I’m Nate, and that’s our family.
[Update: Henry Graham Bell was born on 8/4. Lauren and baby are doing well.]
How did God lead you to global missions?
NB: Both Lauren and I felt God beginning to put a passion on our hearts way back in high school. It’s been a long journey of obedience and faithfulness in the presence of God and walking through open doors. For me, there have been a lot of open doors like visiting different countries. I pursued a degree in Bible with an emphasis in missions and spent time studying what missions has historically looked like.
LB: I knew I always wanted to be a teacher, but I never pictured myself being in Columbus, Ohio. I could never see being in the States as part of my future. I knew then that God might have me overseas teaching.
NB: I’ve heard someone say that the greatest ability that God looks for is availability. That’s been our story and how he’s led us to global missions. We have kept our eyes out for opportunities to serve both locally and globally.
How did the Lord lead you to South Africa?
LB: We didn’t really have South Africa in mind. A year after we were married we said, “Okay do the married life for at least a year and then see what door God opens.” After a year and a half, a missionary couple, Tom and Nancy Wolfe, needed help with the youth at their church in South Africa. They asked us to come and fill in while they looked for a full time youth pastor. We were very familiar with these missionaries, and were intrigued. We thought, “Let’s do this and see if this may be the place.” It was very evident that South Africa was a home we could see ourselves coming back to.
NB: This was in a season where the Lord was developing in us a heart to serve wherever the door was open. At the time, I had just wrapped up serving as the interim youth pastor at our home church when the call came from Tom that their youth pastor had just resigned. They shared the same need and passion for youth we had. God used the heart of service He was developing in us and opened an opportunity to serve in another local church. This time in South Africa.
JR: How long did you spend in South Africa that first stint?
LB: It was almost four months. We were then invited back to meet the team over greater South Africa, not just in Cape Town, and lead a Children’s Missions conference. We were able to have more serious conversations about what it would look like if we could come back full time.
Will you be serving in Cape Town?
NB: It’s a central location for the team with church plants and other works going on around the western cape. One of the greatest needs, though, is just outside that area. We’ll settle into Somerset West which is about an hour from Cape Town. This will position us in a place where we can be a helping hand to our first term while still seeking where the Lord will settle us and what ministries he’ll settle us into.
What are the biggest needs in the area?
LB: One of the biggest things we noticed is that people do not open their Bibles. These people are so desperate for truth, and they have it. They just don’t know how to read it and understand it. The churches there don’t really preach from it at all. In one of our first meetings with the new church plant, I remember this woman crying and saying she had been praying for thirty years for a Bible preaching church. The desperate need is Bible preaching ministries and discipleship in churches.
NB: This is not any different than the needs elsewhere for the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to take an effect. There are racial tensions from apartheid and what that did to South Africa. It’s not institutionalized any more, but there are still lingering tensions, protesting, rioting, violence, and lives lost due to the aftermath of these class divisions among people. They need reconciliation between people; the things the Gospel is capable of doing in people that are being transformed by the Spirit.
There is also a massive need in discipleship and understanding how to read and interpret the Bible. Our team is addressing some of these, especially in the area of training with the ministry training center. They are taking some “self-proclaimed” pastors of churches in the slums and providing them with their first opportunities to study and understand how to interpret and teach the Bible. We are excited to jump into that and meet that great need there.
How would you describe your upcoming ministry in South Africa?
NB: There is a lot for God to reveal to us. We are very passionate about the training aspect for South Africa. South Africa has been open to the Gospel for some time, yet if you went over there you would fail to see the transforming power or churches. The ministry training center is something we are very excited about. The team is excited to have an additional teacher too. Right now it’s a two year certificate program. It’s very basic things, but that’s the spiritual milk that’s needed right now in this community. We’ll jump into that. There are several other works in place. We’ll settle into Somerset West, and there’s a church there that’s not been in the hands of a national pastor for a year.
LB: This was the church that we were working with when we were there the first time.
NB: That’s right. It was being led by missionaries who have now moved on to another work. This fall, we’ll be able to assist and support the new national pastor during until we feel exactly where and how the Lord wants us to work. There is additional work less than an hour from Somerset West in Hermanus which is still in the planting phase. We’ll be able to jump in to help serve and disciple the fruit of that ministry. We imagine what we see in our lives right now and what the Lord has gifted us with is the same thing we expect Him to do when we head over to South Africa. And maybe coffee! Maybe coffee.
What are some of your dreams for your ministry in South Africa?
NB: Several dreams and visions have been in the area of coffee. South Africa is very much getting into coffee. They have full on coffee bars. From the print shops to the garage where we got our car repaired, it’s become such a custom for them. We were visiting a non-profit that that operated this technical training school and had a number of different programs for folks in the slum to find work and gain training. The branch manager pitched a vision of wanting to start a barista training school. This is exactly what I do now, as I manage a barista training school in the states and help people open up and manage coffee shops. This is one completely unexpected opportunity, but we are excited.
Of course, we love youth and there are orphanages with opportunities to share love. There are opportunities for mothers’ schools that work with mothers and young children. There are many opportunities for discipleship and mentorship as we talked about. Additionally, there might be some crazy opportunities to do other things. Like open a coffee shop and provide jobs for people in the slums and do discipleship side by side with them.
As a church, how can we be praying for you?
NB: We need to start thinking about how we phase out well. We lead a Bible study. Lauren leads a discipleship group, and I lead a discipleship group. We have other relationships God has given us. This weighs heavily on our hearts thinking about how we transition well and hand over the souls the Lord has allowed us to care for in this season. Transition from this is a great request, and something we need wisdom for as we are talking with our church about how this will look. We are asking the Lord for more faith because He loves those souls more than we do. He’s going to take care of those, so pray we have the faith to trust Him in that.
There are the logistics and details, and the child is coming. We are waiting on the child to arrive, because the child needs a passport before we can purchase plane tickets and apply for a visa. South Africa isn’t throwing visas out, and we’ve had friends and teammates have their visa applications rejected. We know that God is sovereign and works things out, but it’s not a guarantee right now that the visa application comes in for us and everything is a smooth ride. We also have some remaining support to raise. We’re asking Him to provide and finish the support raising and partnership development we’ve been on these last two years. It’s not a lot, so it’s not something we think about often, but it is another one of our needs.
LB: ABWE doesn’t let us pursue the plane tickets and visas until we are at one hundred percent. We are praying that God can provide those partners before November 1st. Obviously though the Lord’s timing is perfect, and we are relying on Him.
Want to find out more?
NB: We have a website, thebellbunch.com. We are using @thebellbunch as our Facebook and Instagram handle. We have a newsletter, and folks can reach us by email, nlbell[at]abwe.cc. There’s a subscribe here option at the bottom of those emails for folks to get it.
JR: Well Nate and Lauren, thank you for taking time out of a busy schedule at a critical time in your family’s life to update us and inform us on your ministry and all that God’s doing. Thank you for this time, and we will certainly be praying for the Bell bunch.
NB: Thanks! We want to say the same in return. We’ve had a list of people that have been following and keeping up with us, and we know that we’ve got a number of people praying. That’s where the work is done, and Immanuel has been doing that for us. We are grateful for it!