He is Alive! (And so are we!)

Happy Good Friday and even Happier Resurrection Sunday!

This is always a wonderful week in ministry as we remember and celebrate the immense grace and love of God through the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. This past Wednesday for life group we had a great discussion on God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. We discussed God’s will of decree and his will of desire and what it all means for salvation, our justification and sanctification. While we will continue to discuss these truths through Scripture it made for a good preparation leading to the cross and why Jesus had to die to be our Redeemer. Looking forward to the next few weeks with our life group. They clearly have lots of questions and its been a fascinating discussion so far! All praise to the Lord for the greatest display of love man could ever know! All glory to His name as there is no other by which man can be saved (Acts4.12)! All honor to the One who made salvation possible to us by the gospel of Jesus Christ, he power to save all who believe (Rom1.16)!

Happy Resurrection Day from the Bell Bunch!

By God’s grace alone, we remain faithful. It has been a tough few months in ministry and we can certainly say the “honeymoon phase” is over. It has been rewarding, but more challenging than we have ever experienced. The Lord of the Harvest has been working mightily over the past year and we are now preparing to welcome thirty or so new members into the fellowship at Mountain View. Hallelujah! At this same time, we have had some challenges, from resignations from membership to church discipline. We have had our both our lead pastor and wife hospitalized in the last few months, a family battling with demonic oppression, counseling through issues of divorce and even having to work through filing criminal charges. Through it all the Lord has been allowing us to see so much fruit, including salvation and growth in maturity in Christ, yet at the same time, shadowed at times by all this darkness and sin. We are heartbroken and we plead for you to pray for us and for your own selves, your church leadership, elders and pastors. If you have forgotten the sort of battle we as Christians fight, hopefully, this is a wake-up call (Ephesians6.10-20)

It is when we are weak, we are made strong (1Corinthians1.26-31; 2Corinthians12.5-10). Our all-sufficient God sustains, carries, and lifts us up so we can strengthen, encourage, pray and weep with the afflicted in Christ. It has definitely taken a toll on us as well. After weeks of restless nights and these burdens, Nate struggled with shingles yet again. By God’s grace, we managed to catch and treat it early and it was much less severe than last year’s case. Fortunately, we have planned a little holiday this week while the kids are on a term break from school to slip away to refocus and reenergize for the next few months of ministry. We’ll be spending some time mesmerized by God’s beauty in the mountains over the next few days.

In the midst of this, Lauren is into the last trimester with our baby boy. The whole family is very excited to welcome him. First baby born here in SA, so learning and experiencing new things in this process unlike the other three. Please be praying for mama and baby, the birth, and then all the paperwork and logistics that come after as we navigate this system between two countries. 

On top of all this, we have started communication with our immigration specialist to begin RENEWING our visas! Crazy it’s that time again! We have been here over 2 years on our 3-year visa! It is recommended to begin this process 8 months before our visa expiration. Ours expire January 2022. We will keep you updated on the progression, but ask for your prayers even now.

Nate preached a doctrinal study two Sundays ago on the Bible. A message we need to hear over and over again in this world. The Bible is the verbally-inspired, infallible and inerrant Word of God. He has not left us alone. We have His presence in the Spirit, and His Word by His divine providence. We have been overwhelmed by His grace and mercy. In Christ, we have everything we need to complete the good works He has prepared for us – to do the mission and make disciples of all nations! Hallelujah! And we cannot fail! The Gospel IS the power to save all who believe!

A buzzing day at Summit Coffee

In other news, coffee shop is doing well. Nate just had the opportunity to talk to two students and a teacher from the school across the street about the Lord. They were all remarkably receptive! And the teacher was particularly interested in picking up our conversation again. They were cut short and Nate had only shared the bad news regarding our human condition of sin, God’s wrath towards it, and our inability to do anything to save ourselves. So Nate is desperate to share the actual good news of Jesus Christ, who came to save sinners, when they meet next! Our discipleship relationships are growing deeper and more plentiful. We just finished up the first term of the Ministry Training Centre. Nate just finished instructing a course on biblical interpretation. This class just grew and grew with more folks joining in. It was a joy to watch some finally getting to connect dots in the Bible they could never understand. The focus of the course is train disciples to study their Bible and interpret it accurately in context. So great to see so many non-church members coming and getting interested in God’s Word. We are doing some marriage prep counseling with another couple after just finishing up with others. Nate was asked to marry the first couple in January- who were also our first disciples here! What a blessing! Finally, we just returned last week from a ministry trip to George in the Garden Route. We have missionary teammates and ministry partners on that side we were able to see. Such great opportunities to expand evangelism and discipleship ministries over there from sports outreach to coffee shops, to counseling and more! If that speaks to you, get in touch (nlbell@abwe.cc)!

The Bell Bunch with Mr and Mrs Finsterbusch!

Praise the Lord for such grace and the privilege to be a part of His work here in Cape Town. I think Paul summed up everything we’re experiencing in Colossians 1.24-29. That’s us right now and we are so grateful of your prayers and encouragement. We are together in this mission. We are a body of which Christ is our head. When one of us is afflicted, Christ is afflicted and the body suffers. Brothers and sisters, we are hurting here but we know we are not alone. Our Risen Lord is with us to the end, our body and family in Christ carries us, and the hope of Christ reminds us of glory to come. We can know, because Christ rose, so too, will we rise. And our Victor will lead us home where there will be no more sin, no more pain, no more tears. And finally, the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God, will receive all the glory, honor, and praise He is due! Amen!

And until then, we press on (Philippians3.8-16) and we fight the good fight (1Timothy6.11-16), holding fast to the gospel which saves and resurrects us (1Corinthians15.1-11)!

Now that is good news! Praise the Risen One! HE IS ALIVE!

**Bonus Content for scrolling all the way down here! A few of Nate’s recent sermons through a doctrinal series called “What We Teach”:

Hindsight 2020. A Look Back at a Special Year of Grace.

A Short Summary of our Ministry Emphasis this Year…

We are currently partnering with and leading the flock with our national pastors at Mountain View Baptist Church in Somerset West, Cape Town. We also teach and train disciples in the Ministry Training Centre’s four-year Bible and ministry program. We lead a Bible study at our home and disciple a number of individuals. We also manage a coffee shop inside the church facility and are actively connecting with community members in several ways, including a play café for mothers and young children. If the Lord wills, we will be assisting Mountain View in the effort of beginning to plant a new church this year! 

Some Highlights in our Ministry in 2020…

Over the past year, we served 5,000+ coffees at Summit Coffee, celebrating it’s one year anniversary in November. This provided lots of gospel conversations and opportunities for building into relationships in our community. One great relationship forged was with Helderberg International School across the street from the coffee shop. We now are able to minister daily to teachers, tutors and parents and have seen a number of them join us for church gatherings and ministries, not to mention lots of evangelism!

Celebrating the One Year Anniversary of Summit Coffee Culture in November.

The ups and downs of this year for so many allowed us loads of opportunities to build deeper relationships with our neighbors, spending time with them in our houses and theirs. We have been able to share the gospel with almost all our nearest neighbors on multiple occasions and have had a number of them join us for church on different occasions. Marlene, as far as we know, is the first convert of our ministry in 2020, by God’s grace, which has been primarily equipping and building up the saints through intentional discipleship. During the peak of the COVID pandemic here, she found herself with serious doubts regarding her faith and what she had been taught about God and her salvation. She spent a week calling churches, attempting to meet with pastors before she found us on Facebook and gave us a call. I met with her in the café at Summit later that day to open up God’s Word and share the Way of salvation, Jesus Christ. She embraced Him by faith and has consistently joined our Sunday gatherings, followed her profession of faith in baptism, joined our midweek Bible study in our home and attended MV’s women’s ministry. She is thirsty to learn and Lauren has been discipling her all along. Such a joy and testimony of the grace of our Lord!

Some of the Challenges and Difficulties in our Ministry in 2020…

Earlier in the year, we discovered some support shortages, yet as always, the Lord provided. We are still under-supported, but have always had what we needed each month. By God’s grace, we applied for and received financial assistance to have the children’s school fees reduced. Praise the Lord that Lennon and Lola have begun school and love it thus far! 

This year, we had to be additionally flexible and creative as we continued to be obedient to our calling. Of course, the mission never changed (make disciples), but our means and methods changed. It was challenging to adapt many of our ministries to online or Zoom. It was difficult observing different responses to all that was happening and being unable to be physically present with many of those suffering through hardships. As our partner put it, this lockdown and pandemic served as a true spiritual barometer for the church. We discovered the extent of the work we have yet to do among our people within the church.  

Ministry Goals for this Upcoming Year… 

  1. Summit Coffee Culture and MV Play Café: Grow the ministry of Summit and the play café ministry and organize community events to serve and bless Heritage Park, connecting them with Mountain View Baptist Church, but most importantly with the Truth of the gospel. Hand over complete management of coffee shop and play café to competent disciples. Praise the Lord that both Summit and the MV Play Café can operate in our absence, but there is still some dependency on us there. Lord willing, we will hand over these ministries this year.
  2. Life Groups: Grow and hand over our current small group to other competent disciples and start another. We would like to explore opportunities to reach the campus of Stellenbosch University, perhaps beginning with a Bible study up there.
  3. If the Lord wills, we would like to begin the process of planting a church this year in our community in partnership with MVBC. 
  4. BTIM: This is an acronym for an idea at the moment, “By Trade Institute of Ministry.” We would like to build and launch a skills development/trade program to pair with the Ministry Training Centre’s Bible and ministry program. The goal would be to provide employable job skills and equip people to share the gospel and make disciples wherever God takes them.

Personal Development Goals…

Nate: I have a goal of reading and studying through a number of books this year for my own personal and ministry development. A number of these I will be reading with other disciples. Apart from the Bible, this list includes the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The Valley of Vision, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition), Heroes by Murray, Spiritual Parenting by Spurgeon, Let the Nations Be Glad by Piper, The Holiness of God by Sproul, Grace Alone by Trueman and Christ Alone by Wellum, Puritan Piety by Haykin, Preaching and Preachers by Lloyd-Jones, Calvin on the Christian Life by Horton, Beyond the 95 Theses by Nichols, Some Pastors and Teachers by Ferguson and 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy by Piper for starters. 

Lauren: I also have a number of books I plan to read through this year. One particularly having to do with “kitchen table counseling”. I have found myself in many situations over the last two years of feeling a bit under-equipped for some of these situations and wanting to know a better way to encourage these women. I would like to add some more in-depth study to counseling though a course or seminar. 

Henry (2), Lennon (5), and Lola (4)

Specific Evangelism and Discipleship Relationships…

  • Evangelizing:

Our final gospel conversation of 2020 was an exciting one! Neighbors we do not regularly see, Brad and Lindsay, invited us and the other neighbors over for a New Year’s Eve braai. Later in the evening, Brad was curious as to why we were here and what we do. As we shared our faith and what compels us, we was fascinated. Admittedly, he is an atheist and usually does not want to talk about these things. He confessed however, he felt very comfortable talking to me and has many questions he would like ask and continue the conversation another time. 

Continuing gospel conversations with our neighbors in our complex, residents in the Park around MV, parents and teachers of the school next door to Summit.

  • Discipling:

Lauren and I have been invested in several couples (dating, engaged, and married) throughout 2020. We see these couples usually twice a month or more for counseling and discipleship.

Nate: I meet in varying frequencies with James, Martin, Warren, Ps. Mark, Ps. Dave, Blaq, Julio and Nivan for discipling relationships. We are also making more intentional discipleship opportunities available for others so this list will likely grow, Lord willing. 

Lauren: I meet with Marlene biweekly to work through a bible study of how to better study the Bible. I also meet with Jade biweekly for bible study where we discuss biblical motherhood/wife. I continue to meet with Bianca, Mercy, Leonorah and Summer.

And how can you help us this year?

Be certain, there is nothing better or more effective and helpful than prayer. We have faced many challenges and difficulties this past year, and we do not expect anything different in this new one. 

As the apostle Paul explained the afflictions experienced in his ministry to the church in Corinth, he revealed why we encounter trials in this life…

“…But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

2 Corinthians 1:9b-11

We encounter hardship in teach us to trust in our trustworthy God. We serve a God who can RAISE THE DEAD! What affliction could we face, that He cannot handle? No. He will deliver us again. But YOU MUST HELP US BY PRAYER. Why? So many will give God the praise He deserves for the many blessings He grants us. 

And we know you are tired, run down and afflicted. And we also pray for you, brothers and sisters. Christian, stand firm! Hold fast! Take heart! Our Saviour is coming! So be alert! Be busy with the Master’s business as his return is near and he will settle accounts with his servants. Do not be ashamed of the gospel! It is the power to save all who believe!

So please, please pray to the Lord of the Harvest to wake the dead. And pray that He would raise up more servants for His work. Maybe even consider joining us for a ministry experience. Could the Lord be asking you to spend a few weeks, months or years in His service in South Africa? Shoot us an email and let’s talk (nlbell@abwe.cc)! 

Some of you also ITCH for ways to tangibly help and get involved in the Lord’s work here. Here are a few ideas for ways to bless some of our ministries

  • A bicycle for my disciple and Summit Coffee barista, Black = $200 USD
  • A television for the children’s ministry at Mountain View = $300 USD
  • A basketball hoop (or two) to teach basketball in our community = $400 USD per hoop
  • A jungle gym for Mountain View and Heritage Park community = $500 USD

Or consider becoming a financial partner and supporting the Lord’s ministry through us here with a monthly gift. The Lord does not call all of us to cross the world to proclaim his Name, but He does call all of us to the same mission of making disciples of all nations. Some are called to go, others called to equip and support. What is your role? 

“[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyonemature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

Colossians 1:28-29

Grace and Peace in Christ,
Nate and Lauren Bell

Sermons and An Magazine Interview about Summit…

And another blessing from our Lord…

…Joining up with the rest of the Bell Bunch late June 2021!

Good News, Bad News, and More Good News

She had tears in her eyes.

“Well, I have good news and bad news…,” I gently informed her. 

2 hours before, my phone was ringing. It’s Pastor Mark, our lead pastor at Mountain View. A woman has just reached out to us, looking for a pastor to speak to regarding salvation, he tells me. Am I still at Summit and available to meet with her? Yes, and absolutely!

I wrap up making drinks for a couple other guests and finally, a cappuccino for her. Sitting across from her, she chokes up several times, unsuccessfully holding back tears and reaches for another tissue. She continues to share her story and I listen, praying and submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Like so many of you, including myself, this woman grew up in the church and knew all the answers. As the figurative rains, flood, and winds of this pandemic came beating against the walls of her universe, it came crashing down. Shaken, she searched her contact list for whom she might speak to regarding matters of faith. There was only one – “my brother.” Unfortunately, her brother is deep into the Word of Faith movement and directed her to Kenneth Copeland. As she began to accept these false teachings, God kept knocking down walls. She had several health issues arise throughout the past weeks and months and started becoming furious with God. This didn’t match the God she was hearing about. Where is the health and wealth? What about all the promises of prosperity? Where is the healing? Why isn’t He doing anything for me?…

I’m uncomfortable. This is heart-wrenching. I feel the pain, the confusion, the anger. I hurt for her. Now, there are tears in my eyes.

Eventually, she heard him say something that didn’t sound right. It didn’t line up with what she knew and had been reading in the Scriptures. He said something about no longer struggling with sin anymore, that he had dealt with that long ago. “I thought, no, you can’t do that,” she commented. With no one else to help, she hopped online to search out where to find strong, biblical teaching. Concluding her research and considering her options, she decided to “find a Baptist church.” The previous two weeks had been spent trying to locate Baptist churches and connect with a pastor. I am only aware of six Baptist churches among a population around 150,000+ between ours and the neighboring municipality. Just hours before this conversation, she discovered Mountain View Baptist Church on Facebook and sent a message to request a meeting. 

Expressing great doubt of her own salvation, intense conviction of her sin, and general confusion regarding truth and its source, she wrapped up her explanation of what had brought her here before me now.

I am wrestling a range of thoughts and emotions. I feel great compassion, physical discomfort from the pain and lostness she has felt, and now I, in some lesser degree also feel the hurt. Like Christ’s own description, I see before me a bewildered and helpless sheep without a shepherd (Matthew9.35-38). But that’s not all I feel. Is it anger? I am starting to identify with Paul’s fierce opposition to false teachers to the point of wishing they might castrate themselves and suffer condemnation (Galatians 5.1-12). I might not be at that level, but I am mad at the wolves in sheep’s clothing who have deceived and lead this sheep astray. As she finished, I collected myself, saying a quiet prayer of submission and wisdom. 

“Well, I have good news and bad news…,” I gently informed her. “I can’t tell you if you are saved. Only God knows that. But I can tell you how to be saved and assure you if you simply confess Jesus is Lord, truly believe God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” We continued to speak about this beautiful gospel in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15.1-11), God’s promise to perfect the good work He has started (Philippians 1.6), and the Holy Spirit’s gracious work of sanctification (Colossians 3, Ephesians 5, Galatians 5-6) for over an hour. As our time closed, I advised her to continue praying and reading the Word, and get into a gospel-preaching, biblical church. 

Now it is Sunday morning, we are wrapping up our praise practice, and there she is – one of the first to arrive. 

Praise God as we continue to disciple and equip this beloved daughter of His into the service for the glory of His Name!

Got some sun on one of the warmer days of our winter season while hiking

In addition to the good news that God has been so busy working in people’s hearts (and I have more stories to share!), we have some bad news, from a human perspective. We have lost a significant amount of financial support, while it is obvious by this gospel work that we haven’t lost an ounce of prayer support! Our financial reality is due to an increase in our insurance costs, which hit not long after we landed in South Africa; the realization that school fees for the children was missing from our support requirement, and a variety of reasons why some of our financial partners have been unable to maintain their support over time. Not to mention recently, poor Lola, while sitting on Lauren’s lap, vomited on Lauren’s laptop and according to the authorized Apple pro’s here, killed the MacBook completely. All of this to say, the bad news, from a human perspective, is that our financial shortage is about $2,000/month. 

If the Lord has put it on your heart to talk more about this need and our ministry, or if you would like to connect us with your pastor and church, please just send us an email (nlbell@abwe.cc) and we would be happy to share more.

But to end with good news because, thanks to the gospel, there is always good news! In addition to the best of good news, the gospel, we also know the Lord will supply all our needs as has always been the case! And that’s good news! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

The Wait Is Over….

The wait is over…Introducing Summit Coffee Culture!

This new ministry is very special to us and has been a long time in the making. The church we serve in here in Cape Town, South Africa, received a generous donation years ago with a suggestion it be used to open a café to serve the local community. When we landed last year, this vision was shared with us by the church leadership as we sought opportunities to serve. Well, that being right up Nate’s alley, he didn’t waste any time chatting with and getting to know people in the specialty coffee industry to educate him on how to get started and what it takes to run a coffee shop here. He knows how it’s done in the States, but wanted to know how to do it well in South Africa to meet the expectations of people here. This also required, our favorite part, visiting coffee shops and getting to meet roasters and figure out which coffee we would want use at Summit. 

After the education, we still needed to figure out who would help us run the coffee shop. Nate would help, but would need another barista. But who? Crazy enough, one of the coffee shops we frequently visited who is now our roaster (Roast Wolff) at Summit, was closing their shop to focus on roasting. They employed a part-time barista and felt the responsibility to find work for him. He called Nate at the same time Nate was considering calling him to ask if he could offer their part-time barista a full-time position at Summit. This barista loves the Lord and wants to be involved in ministry. What an opportunity to invest and disciple another brother behind an espresso machine! Another consideration was a very gifted local barista from a recently closed restaurant, but this friend does not know the Lord. We needed a barista who could serve a delicious cup of coffee but would primarily show are share the love of Jesus. The Lord directed us to the first option as a better fit for the ministry and so we hired Uché, a sweet Nigerian man. He has been the perfect addition with a teachable spirit, and a heart for the Lord. When Nate and Black aren’t making espressos, they are studying the Word, sharpening and discipling each other and seeking the glory of God in our community. 

We landed on South African soil in February 2019 and by God’s grace, Summit opened in the middle of November! We dreamed, if God would bless, we might participate in something like this in five years time. But God certainly had other plans. It has been such a fun project to experience, watching God put everything together. Oh the stories we could tell! We worked with member of the church who were designer/architects to configure a café inside the church lobby. We kept all the original seating and did several small renovations and updates to better suit a café, using a fraction of the gift previously provided.  

It was best to have a “soft” open where we could work out some kinks before we threw a GRAND OPENING celebration. So after some time of working/changing a few things, training, getting signage/marketing materials, and organizing a menu we planned a grand opening celebration the March 6-8. Complete with kiddie activities, coffee demonstrations, drink specials, and giveaways, it was a great way to reach the community and kick off the coffee ministry. We met a number of new members of our community and there was a lot of excitement around the community, at last, having a space to gather and be together. Two weeks later, we had to close our doors as the nation went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After a long 102 days of lockdown, under strict regulations, we could open again and serve our community. Uncertain, but trusting God to continue all the work He had done to get us this far we did reopen Tuesday, 7 July. It has really been encouraging and surprising how many people and new faces have made their ways back into our doors again!

Lauren does most of the baking for the shop. She drags the 3 kids to the shop at 6:30 am to make muffins every other day. Other days, the kids are very excited to visit. We have a couple other vendors that provide meal options also. The parking lot is shared with a school with no cafeteria, so we see many parents, teachers and even students that come in for coffee or a bite to eat. There has been a demand for more food options so we are figuring out how we can manage the kitchen and the coffee bar.

Before lockdown, the Lord had already blessed us with fruit come from the coffee shop. The church was hoping to come up with more ways to reach the neighborhoods around it. The school next door also extends our reach further to people from outside the direct communities. The vision was to create a space for the community to gather and for Mountain View members to invite neighbors and friends for coffee and conversations around the gospel. Between our relationship with the school, offering specials to teachers, and working with the neighborhoods to send messages to over 1,000 residents, and printing 1500 invitations to the Grand Opening (with invitations to church on the back), we developed a decent flow of customers. The people in the community are grateful to have a coffee shop and cafe so close to home. We’ve seen three families start attending church, others participate in other ministries and a few others expressed interest in coming. So within several months God has been busy working in hearts!

The dream for this ministry is to see it become a trade and ministry school. For example, people could receive barista training and skills development alongside being equipped with theology and ministry training. The coffee industry is growing immensely here and there are many jobs available to those who have decent barista training. But providing skills and jobs is not the primary purpose. Rather, equipping those, like Nate has received, to minister to whomever the Lord brings across their path. We are hoping to begin that phase beginning of 2021 but the lockdown will most likely push that back. May the Lord’s will be done. We’re excited to see what God has planned with the coffee shop ministry in the months and years to come!

There are a few ways you can be praying for the work at Summit and for the Bell Bunch. 

  1. Pray for the reopening of church and Summit. It’s been a very slow recovery after more than 100 days of lockdown. Many people are still very scared to be in public places. As of 15 July, South Africa as a whole had 298,292 positive Covid-19 cases. We are in a level 3 lockdown which means most businesses are back to work but with many regulations in place and wearing a mask is mandatory nationwide. These regulations may include a limited number of people in a shop, getting your temperature taken at the entrance, filling in your personal details at the door, and answering a series of questions about symptoms. 
  2. Pray for Black, his wife Mercy and their children Jonathan, Enoch, and new baby girl Anita.
  3. Pray for the future planning of the next phase for the trade and ministry training school.
  4. We always hate to mention this, but its what keeps us here showing the love of Jesus to those in need. We have dropped to 87% support for a variety of reasons from increases in our insurance and the imaginable inability to continue giving for this season for others. Pray God will provide just what we need as we know He will. Contact us if you or someone you know would consider being a financial partner of the ministry in South Africa as you already are a prayer partner.
  5. Pray for our ongoing ministries such as life group and discipleship meetings as we continue to abide by the lockdown rules but also try to meet the needs of our neighbors.
  6. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to send workers. We foresee needing help in ministering to university students on campus to seeking experts of various fields that could draw up curriculum for additional skills in the trade and ministry school. We’d love to have conversations with those interested in church planting, theological training, or any other skills or gifts one might have and where God could perhaps put them to use in South Africa!

Coronacation in South Africa

Hi friends, Lauren here- We want to give an update on how things are going in South Africa during this pandemic. On 26 March, the president of South Africa ordered a very strict, 3-week lockdown. At that time there was only 927 positive cases. Two weeks into the lockdown the President, Cyril Ramaphosa, issued another 2 week extension so we had three more weeks to go. Today, 3,465 people have been infected resulting in 58 deaths. Many in the country applauded the president for his concern and early strict lockdown, though the restrictions are producing increasing civil unrest. The lockdown in South Africa means you are only allowed to leave your house for groceries, gas, or pharmaceuticals. We aren’t even allowed to take walks. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and we can’t take a coastal drive to get the kids out of the house. In fact, you may be pulled over at one of the many road blocks to check for proof of where and why you are on the road. 

Playing chutes and ladders on our “rock garden”

How are we staying sane you ask, with three toddlers cooped up in the house?! The kids thrive on a schedule. We have pictures posted of our schedule each day so they know things like what will happen, how many snacks they get, and what special thing they have to look forward to that day. I will share some photos of our “coronacation”. It’s working like a charm and the days are flying by, which is a little bittersweet for this mama! Our Bible time part of the day (which often stretches to dinner time) has become so precious to us. The kids understand we can’t leave the house and they are only allowed to play in our tiny “rock garden”, but they think they are sick. They say “mommy I feel better” or “how much longer till I’m not sick”. Henry (1) especially has tried to escape the house and few times as he reaches for the sky and Lola (3) just misses her social life. But Lennon (4) has been asking some good questions and as much a these social butterflies miss the outside world, we are cherishing these precious moments with our little ones. We know this isn’t true for everyone but we are so blessed to have this sweet time with our kids to play games, read bible stories, bake, and make so many memories. 

Bingo! Even playing with our friends and family virtually

However this country is struggling with hunger because if you aren’t working in the healthcare system or grocery store you aren’t going to work. While some businesses are able to work from home or able to still pay their employees, some are not receiving an income or won’t for much longer. We received a message from our dear friends in the township that shared they don’t have any more food in the house. This is the same family who is due to have a baby any day. She will have to deliver alone because no one is allowed to enter the hospital besides the patient. There is another family who we have also been supplying groceries for but it’s getting very desperate and dangerous. Riots and looting have started even a few miles away where we could hear gun shots from our home. Would you risk you and your families health to provide essential goods to your starving friends? We have to be careful but we know we are called to take care of the poor. So we covet your prayers as we maneuver our efforts to help our neighbors.  

Road blocks with traffic police and military personnel
pulling EVERY PERSON over for checks

God has been teaching us many things during this time. Beginning with having faith over fear, I know Christ is greater than Coronavirus and He’s not surprised by this awful disease but sometimes I fall into the trap of fear. Lennon and Lola struggle with asthma at times so fear took over knowing they would be more susceptible to contracting the virus. I was fearful for the last month as I began to have breathing problems at night, only after being tested for Covid-19 and getting a negative result and my doctor now thinking it’s just a new allergy since moving to the Cape. Praise Jesus! I keep finding myself in the book of Psalms and reading verses on fear and worry. Whenever I start to get fearful I pray and read scripture to remind myself that God’s got this! Psalm 90:14 says “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

Some people assume that because we live in a “developing country” it must be worse. That’s not the case yet, as our numbers are still low and we have a decent healthcare system. We check in on our friends and family often, especially in Ohio, to see how everyone is managing. We are surprised with the “freedom” Americans have during their “stay at home order”.  And as we see each day the number of positive cases climb in the States we are thankful to be here! We do pray for all our friends and family in the States that they stay healthy, but most of all draw close to Jesus during this time. Even though ministry looks different right now, we know He wants us here, showing His grace and love to our neighbors. We’ll share more how we’re doing that in our next blog 😉 

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!