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(12/4/2018)

On Dec. 4, 1916, Dr. Nelson Bell (钟爱华) and his wife Virginia arrived in Shanghai to begin 25 years of missionary service in Huaiyin (then Tsingkiangpu), Jiangsu. Nelson was just 21 when he began his career as a missionary surgeon, and his sense of adventure included driving his Harley-Davidson on rural roads. He often encountered medical problems for which he had no remedy or training. Kala-azar (black fever) was a particular scourge in northern Jiangsu. Nelson and a Chinese colleague developed a cure; soon the kala-azar clinic was the world’s largest, and their hospital became the world’s largest Southern Presbyterian mission hospital. Though these achievements were impressive, Bell always saw medicine as a means to save souls. For him there was no separation between his “secular” work in the hospital and his “sacred” work as a missionary. Jesus was Lord of all. His passion for souls included inviting leading Chinese evangelists like Ji Zhiwen (计志文牧师-Andrew Gih) and Wang Zai (王载-Leland Wang) to conduct revival meetings. Like Wang Mingdao (王明道先生), Bell was a man who stood firm in his convictions without losing his love for his opponents. He supported closing missions schools rather than accepting government registration that would require an end to their Christian curriculum. He criticized an influential report that wanted missionaries to focus on social gospel activities and ignore evangelism. He sent his children to school in Korea rather than enroll them in the school in nearby Shanghai that he saw as tainted with liberal theology. When Virginia developed malaria, they knew it was time to leave Japanese-occupied China. They left in May 1941, and God never opened a door for them to return. The Bells had buried their first son in China, but God gave them four other children. Daughter Ruth grew up wanting to be a missionary to Tibet and nearly broke her engagement to Billy Graham over the issue. Nelson became a trusted advisor for his new son-in-law and practiced medicine until his second heart attack in 1955. Thereafter, he devoted himself to promoting orthodox evangelicalism by founding and writing for The Southern Presbyterian Journal and Christianity Today. He once wrote, “I am often overwhelmed with the goodness of our Father. How He will do through us if we but let Him. The hard thing often is being willing to be led by Him.” Pray for Christian doctors in Jiangsu to let the Lord be their stronghold and so glorify Him with surrendered lives. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1