Monday, December 31, 2007

December 25-31

This year for Christmas Eve we went down to Elche and spent the evening with my in-laws. We got together with Lorenzo and Ana Maria on Christmas day and had a wonderful time together. They asked me to dress up like Santa Clause for their 3 year-old daughter. She was supposed to recite a poem to get her gift. But when I asked her for her poem, she started balling. We went straight to the gifts!

We were able to visit all of our neighbors this last week to leave them a Christmas card and a small calendar with daily Scripture readings. Several of them opened up the topic of the gospel. The lady who lives directly next door to us commented that many times she hears us singing on Sundays and enjoys it. She told us that one Sunday she would stop by. Another neighbor told us that she had visited the Jehovah's Witnesses before and that she has some questions. We are thankful for these doors that the Lord is opening up for us to witness.

Much of my time this week has been spent preparing the classes on Jeremiah that I will be giving in Madrid in two weeks. It has been a blessing to work with this book and understand it a little better. Yesterday I preached from Jeremiah 45. The book has a number of passages where Jeremiah complains to God, and God answers the prophet's complaints. In this chapter, God talks to the prophet's helper and helps him see the big picture. Instead of seeking great things for himself, he must understand that God is doing His work and that He will protect his servants, but not necessarily make them "great" in other's eyes. I thought this was an appropriate message for the end of the year. As we think about plans for the new year, we must be careful that our own ideas of "great things" do not subtilely replace God's will! Maria Eugenia and Sergio were out of town this week, but a family came up from Alicante to visit us. After the service we all went down to Alicante to enjoy a Christmas/New Year's meal with the Alicante church. In the evening we met with Lorenzo, Ana Maria and Maria and spent some time singing, sharing blessing from the past year, and reading the Scriptures together.

Monday, December 24, 2007

December 17-24

This last week we were able to finish all the classes before Christmas. The kids finished their school work, and I finished up all of my classes. On Friday we had a very special time at the house with Chris Bixby and his wife. We invited some of the people he knew when he lived here with his parents 15 years ago and had a nice time together remembering times. The big activity of the weekend involved the cantata again. We presented it in Alicante in the morning and then again in Elche in the evening. We were especially glad in the morning to see our former neighbor at the cantata with her two daughters. She postponed her trip to visit her parents to be able to come to the cantata. There were many visitors both in the morning and evening. All of us from Petrer sang except Maria Eugenia. Her daughter had to be in the hospital for an operation, so she stayed with her. This is the same daughter who came to the cantata last week in Petrer. We are praying with her that throughout this time she will be able to witness clearly to her again.

Another important activity for us is distributing our Christmas cards. As in other years, I have made up a Christmas card with our family portrait and a verse. We have been giving them out to church people, but they also go to many unsaved neighbors, friends and family members. I also sent it electronically to all my students at the university with a short message about Christmas. We pray that the Lord would use this testimony to open further doors of witness.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December 11-16

This was our big week. It was our final push into our big evangelistic push for Christmas. It started with the distribution of 4000 invitations. I spent about six hours (with the help of several others) walking all over the city putting invitations on cars for the Christmas concert on Saturday night. It was nice to see later on in the week as we spoke to people about the concert, many of them already knew about it because they had seen the invitation. Many people responded positively to the concert, although others told us that they already had plans since this is such a busy time of year. Our final push for the concert was a brass quartet playing Christmas carols at the local mall. From 7:30 to 8:30 we played a repertoire of about 15 Christmas hymns. We had a large poster announcing the concert up, and many stopped to listen to the music and received an invitation.
The concert itself that night went well. The combined choirs from Elche and Alicante, as well as the five of us from here presented the cantata in public auditorium in Petrer. We were thrilled to see Maria Eugenia's adult children come. There were also a few people who received invitations. The program for the concert had a short presentation of the gospel and the cantata itself presented the gospel. We trust that the Lord is working in hearts, even though we do not always see the direct result of our efforts.
On Sunday we had a special day to celebrate Christmas as a congregation. We met for our normal service in the morning. I preached on John 1:14b: we beheld his glory. I spoke of the glory of Christ that John mentions here: his grace and truth. After the service we had a Christmas dinner together and then we spent some time in the afternoon singing carols and sharing different Christmas traditions. Next week we will all be involved in presenting the same cantata we did here in Alicante and in Elche.

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 4-10

This week we had two holidays, so it seemed a little bit longer. I was able to take advantage of the holidays and do some painting in the house. Preparations are going full steam for the Christmas cantata this weekend. On Wednesday I got the confirmation call from the Shopping Center for our brass quartet to be able to play Christmas hymns and pas out invitations. So on Saturday evening before the concert, we will play there for an hour. Then we will head over to the cultural center and prepare for the concert. We will be distributing invitations throughout the town on Tuesday, as well as mailing them to our contacts. Please pray with us about this effort. We desire for the Lord to bless and work through us.

Yesterday I started a two part Christmas message from John. Obviously, John does not tell the Christmas story, but in 1:14 he makes a significant statement which forms a beautiful backdrop for Christmas. Yesterday I dealt with the phrase, "the Word ... dwelt among us." I talked about the importance throughout the Bible of God dwelling with His people. Yet Christ dwelling among us is far superior to God's presence in the Tabernacle or the Temple. I ended with three implications of the incarnation: 1. because of the incarnation we have salvation; 2. because of the incarnation we have representation (a High Priest); and 3. because of the incarnation we have an example.

Monday, December 03, 2007

November 28-December 3

It seems hard to believe that December is already here. Today is Daniel's birthday! We had a very full weekend. On Saturday morning, I had a brass quartet rehursal. Several years ago I asked the Lord for some others to play my trombone with. And this is the answer to that prayer. We are practicing a selection of Christmas hymns that we would like to play the night of the cantata here as we pass out invitations. The group is off to a good start! In the afternoon we got together with Lorenzo and Ana Maria and Maria Eugenia for a picnic. It was a nice informal afternoon spent together. The kids had a lot of fun together as we hiked up to the castle in Petrer.

On Sunday morning we met together early to celebrate the Lord's supper. It was a special time as we prayed and read the scriptures together and then joined in partaking of the elements. Then in our service I preached from the final "I am" passage in the series: I am the resurrection. I looked at Martha's expression of her faith in John 11, and how Jesus gently encouraged her to deepen that faith by seeing that the resurrection is not something that just will happen: it is intimately related to the person of Christ. If in the other images we see Christ as Savior and Sanctifier, here we see Him involved in the process of glorification. After the service we all traveled down to Alicante for lunch and an all afternoon rehearsal for the cantata. And then we stayed there for the evening service.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 20-26

On Monday I went and spent some special time with Lorenzo and Ana Maria. They are encouraged to trust in the Lord. I am excited to see their faith, but it is certainly not easy for them. They are fighting with the feeling that God brought them this far just to drop them unexpectedly. The truth is, I have seen enough in my own life in the past few years to be able to assure them that God has not dropped them. They will come out of this strengthened in their faith if they will just trust.

On Wednesday we celebrated Thanksgiving. I have a heavy teaching load on Thursdays, so it was better for us to celebrate early. We had 13 guests at the house, so that made for a very exciting day, especially since 11 of the 18 gathered were children! We had a wonderful meal and then a good time of singing and sharing our gratefulness.

On Saturday we had a special meal: Luciana, who worked with Lorenzo and Ana Maria up in Gandia several years ago, came down for a visit. Also, Ruben Pineda, the Mexican professor who is here working on his doctorate, will be going back to Mexico next week, so he came and ate with us. We spent the evening with Juan and Cristina from Alicante. It was a very full day, but a wonderful blessing to be with other believers.

We had a good service on Sunday. A family came up from Alicante to encourage us. Maria Eugenia and Sergio were not here for the weekend because it was her daughter's birthday, so they spent the weekend in Torrevieja, about 45 min. away. I preached the second to the last sermon in my "I am" series. I preached about Christ as the vine and the importance of our bearing fruit. In the evening I preached the last service of the 20th anniversary service in Alicante.

November 13-19

The big event of the week was a special prayer meeting in the Madrid area for men. It began on Friday evening, but I had to teach a class. So as soon as I finished (around 8:00), Maribel and I jumped in the car and headed out for Madrid. We ended up giving Ana Maria's brother a ride, since he lives in Madrid and was going to take the bus. On the trip I had a good opportunity to witness to him very clearly. I trust that the Lord will touch his heart and bring him to a point of repentance. The meetings in Madrid were a blessing. I preached on Saturday, but being able to spend time in prayer and fellowship with other men in the ministry was a special blessing. I preached a message about Jehu, the only king of Israel that really seemed to want to follow the Lord. I looked at his mission, his motivation and his methods. He did not follow the Lord whole-heartedly in those three areas. But those are the same areas that we need to examine in our own lives.

On Sunday morning we stayed in Alcalá and I preached there in the church. Back in Petrer, Lorenzo and Ana Maria met with Maria Eugenia and Sergio. I had recorded a sermon for them, so they spent some time in prayer and praise and then listened to the sermon. They all said that the service had gone very well. On Sunday afternoon, Maribel and I traveled back to Petrer, and in the evening we met together for a special time. It turns out that Lorenzo's boss decided that he did not have work for Lorenzo after only two weeks of being here. This was a huge blow to them, as you can imagine. But they are determined to trust in the Lord.

November 6-12

On Saturday we ate lunch with a family in Alicante. Then in the evening we participated in the special anniversary service in Alicante. Lorenzo and I played another duet. On Sunday I preached about Christ as the good Shepherd. I compared it to Psalm 23 from the week before: here the shepherd not only protects and guides, but also he knows the sheep and is known by them. This relational aspect (intimate) is what makes this figure so special. We can enjoy a personal relationship with Christ.

October 30-November 5

We had a few holidays this week, so it was not a "normal" week. Lorenzo and Ana Maria finished their move on Wednesday. I picked them up in Alicante with the rest of their things left over from the move on Saturday and brought them up to Elda. It is exciting for us to see them living here. The Lord is good! On Wednesday night we had a few other friends over with kids the same age as ours. It was like a huge slumber party for kids and adults. The kids had a ball, and we grown ups enjoyed the time as well. We watched two Christian movies with them and were able to go out for a picnic up on the mountain.

There are special meetings in Alicante this month for the 20th anniversary of the church. On Saturday night they had a concert of sacred music. Lorenzo and I played a duet (baritone-trombone). It was a blessing to see the young people from Elche and Alicante participate in the music. Yesterday here in Petrer we celebrated the Lord's table. We had one slight interruption. On her way to church, Maria Eugenia met a girl who asked her about her Bible. So she brought her to church! She seems to be on rather heavy medication, and she kept asking if she could talk to me throughout communion. Finally, when it was time to partake of the elements, I took her aside and talked with her. Please pray that the Lord will do a work in Maricarmen's life. We had a special speaker for our worship service. Ruben Pineda is the Mexican gentleman that I have mentioned a few times in the past. He came here to work on a doctorate in Biology two years ago. He and his family were very faithful in the church during their year here. He is now back to present the first stage of his research. So we asked him to come up and spend the day with us and preach. He spoke about Peter's walking on water, encouraging us to trust the Lord even when we find ourselves in difficult situations.

Monday, October 29, 2007

October 23-29

On Saturday we helped Lorenzo and Ana Maria with their move. They are renting a flat about a 5 minutes' walk from our house. The flat is very nice and has good size rooms. The place they were living in Alicante had a very small living room/dining room. It was impossible to do Bible studies there, but this place can comfortably accommodate more people. I trust that some day we will be able to have a Bible study at their house. It was also a busy weekend because Maria Eugenia had to go to Torrevieja to be with her daughter who will be operated on. She left Sergio with us for a few days. The Lord is working here to put together the beginnings of a congregation. We are excited to see how the Lord will continue to build on this core.
On Sunday I preached another message in my series of Christ's "I am" teachings. This Sunday we began to look at Christ as the Shepherd. To set the background, we looked at Psalm 23. There we find that Jehovah God is our shepherd because he supplies our needs, leads us and protects us. These points of comparison are important then in the way Jesus uses the image of the shepherd. We had good attendance because besides our normal group we had the Abellan family visiting with us from Elche. It was a wonderful weekend spent with God's people.

October 16-22

One of the big highlights this week was the renewal of vows by a couple in Alicante who celebrated 45 years of marriage. They asked if we could organize a "wedding" for them to renew their vows before family and friends. It was a blessing from the beginning to see their desire to be a testimony to many of their unsaved friends, and there were many first time visitors at church on Saturday night for the ceremony. They asked me to preach the message, so I preached about marriage and presented the gospel. One unsaved man commented that he was interested in reading more of the Bible. It was a beautiful evening to celebrate with this couple.
We had a good service this week. We had two families from Alicante come up to encourage us this weekend. I preached another sermon in my series about Christ's "I am" teachings. This week I spoke about the fact that Christ is the gate to the sheepfold. We have been practicing every Sunday for a Christmas cantata that we will be singing in along with the Elche and Alicante churches. I was especially happy that this week Maria Eugenia asked if she could sing as well. It is great that she is getting involved!

Monday, October 15, 2007

October 9-15

We were able to spend some time passing out tracts this weekend. Some of the young people from Alicante came up and helped out as well. It was, however, one of the hardest evenings I have ever experienced. In the past, if people have not been open, they have at least not been closed and hostile. Many have been very friendly, but that is not what we experienced the other night! I thought it was just where I was, but when we got back to the house, everyone seemed a bit rattled. But we were able to give the gospel to a few, and we continue to pray for the Lord to work in hearts. Sergio and I had our Bible study this week. David sat in on it too. I am pleased with Sergio's attitude in the studies. He seems to be learning. He claims to be saved, but I know that he has not had a lot of teaching. Lorenzo and Ana Maria put down a deposit for an apartment here. They will be moving in two weeks. It is wonderful to see how God continues to open doors for them.

Our service yesterday morning went very well. I preached my second sermon in the "I am" series. I spoke from John 9 about Christ as the light of the world. He illumines us (John 1.9) and then sends us out into the world to be light! After the sermon we had a short discussion time which went well. And there was a good spirit of participation as well.

Monday, October 08, 2007

October 1-8

This week I continued my Bible study with Sergio. Lorenzo and Ana Maria came up on Friday evening again and spent hours walking around town looking for an apartment to rent. At the end of the morning on Saturday, they finally found a place they liked that fits into their budget! Everything seems to be set for them to make the move at the end of the month. Saturday was a busy day for us. I caught the early bus down to Elche for a mens' prayer breakfast, and Maribel took the kids to Alicante for the children's club (after David's first soccer game!). In the afternoon we were able to have some nice family time together with Lorenzo's family as well.

Yesterday I began a new series of sermons. I will be preaching through the 7 "I am" statements in John's gospel. In the morning I preached about Christ as the Way, the only, true path to life. In the evening we went down to Elche for choir practice and the service. There I preached about John 8 when Jesus told the pharisees, "before Abraham was, I am." I made a strong emphasis on the gospel, as well as applying the passage to believers. After the service I found out that one of the ladies had brought a visitor who just left the Jehovah's witnesses. It was his first time in church! I know that God obviously worked to put that passage on my heart for that special occasion!

David's soccer game on Saturday morning was his first game with the team. He was thrilled with the game, but especially happy because he was able to score a goal!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bible Institute meal

Bible Institute meal
Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
These are the students from Bible Institute who came to our house for a meal to kick off the new year of classes.

9 years in Spain!

Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
This is my family on the day, nine years ago when we moved to Spain. I feel a bit like Jacob. We came almost empty handed and the Lord has blessed us in so many ways that it is impossible to number them all.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

September 24-30

This past week I began a Bible study with Sergio, the 12 year-old son of Maríá Eugenia. I was not too sure if he was very excited about the study, but his mother mentioned that he made some positive comments about the study to her! I want to take advantage of this situation, and work with him as much as we can. He has been coming over to our house several times a week to play with the kids.

This weekend was an exciting time for our little body of believers. Lorenzo and Ana María have been praying about moving here. Lorenzo made a few phone calls several weeks ago, but it seemed that nobody needed workers. Then, last week he got a call from a different business. They told him that they had heard a lot of good things about him and wanted him to come for an interview. At first he wondered if we had given someone his phone number, but it was obviously the Lord's doing! He went for the interview on Saturday morning, and it looks like he will start work here just as soon as he can bring his family up. They are hoping that by the end of the month of October they can be living up here. It is such a blessing to see their faith and how God is working out one detail after another.

On Sunday morning I finished up my series on Ecclesiastes. The sermon was a general overview of the book and all of the lessons we have been learning throughout this series. Unfortunately, Maria Eugenia was not able to be there, but we were able to go and spend several hours with her in her home on Sunday afternoon. We had a good time of prayer with her. Her situation with her husband continues to be difficult, but she is trusting in the Lord to bring her through.

Monday, September 24, 2007

September 18-24

We are starting to fall into the schedule of the academic year which means that we are ready to start up another year of Bible Institute. On Friday we invited all the students from last year and those signed up for this year to our house for a party. It was a blessing to see some new students this year. I was especially pleased to be able to announce three students who have finished their second certificate of Bible studies. They have completed more than 350 hours of studies. This year Mike Dodgens will be teaching counseling, Dennis Flower will be teaching Church History, and then I will finish out the year with the second year of NT Introduction.

Yesterday we had a good service here in Petrer. Lorenzo and Ana Maria were up, and Maria Eugenia came. She didn't bring her son Sergio with her. I want to start having Bible studies with Sergio. He has just started high school here and could use some good encouragement. I preached another message in my series on Ecclesiastes. I preached from chapter 11 about giving liberally and industriousness. I made the application to our personal witness. We need to work hard at giving the gospel to all we can. We are looking forward to some new evangelistic efforts this month as a church, but I want individuals to feel the importance of witnessing too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September 10-17

The big activity of this week was my trip up to northern Spain to teach an intensive Bible institute on the book of Ezekiel. In the end, Maribel and the kids had to stay home, so I rode the bus up. The Lord gave me a good weekend as I shared the teaching from this special book with the believers there. I taught five sessions all day Saturday on the book. Many commented that they were looking forward to reading the book again, now that they understood it a little bit better. On Sunday I preached once again from Ezekiel in the church in Beasain, and then in the evening I caught the bus back home. The weekend was also very special because of the times of fellowship with the Bonikowskies and other missionaries there.

Here in Petrer, the service went very well, too. I invited Josué Cerdán from the church in Alicante to come up and preach. Lorenzo and Ana María were here, as well as Maria Eugenia and her son Sergio. But it turns out that my sister and brother-in-law came as well as Josué's parents and brother. In all, there almost 20 people at the service, by far the biggest attendance we have ever had!

On Friday when I called Maribel, she informed me that they had had a huge hail storm. When I got home, they showed me some of the balls of ice which they had stored in the freezer to show me. They were by far the largest hail stones I had ever seen. Unfortunately it did some damage to our gutters, as well as the car.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
We invited the church in Alicante to some up to Petrer to participate in a special service of dedication for the work here.

baptismal service

Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
Here is a picture from our baptismal service on Saturday night.

August 27-September 9

The last two weeks came to a climax on Sunday morning. Let me explain. Two weeks ago, after our Sunday morning service, Lorenzo talked to me again about baptism. He and Ana Maria had asked about the subject before, but at that moment I was not in any position to do more than take them through several passages to explain to them what Biblical baptism is all about. Now, however, with their ever increasing commitment to the work here in Petrer, I felt that it was the time for them to be baptised. We were able to coordinate it with an event that I had wanted to have for some time. We invited the entire church from Alicante to come up on Saturday night. Lorenzo and Ana Maria gave their testimonies, and then I had the privilege of baptising them before more than 35 people. Then we had a special service of dedication for the work here. Jose Bernabeu preached a message, and then Flay Allen led a time of prayer for God's blessing upon the work. On Sunday morning in our service, Lorenzo and Ana Maria participated in the Lord's supper for the first time (and our first time here in Petrer). Maria Eugenia was able to come with her son. Maribel's aunt and uncle (both unsaved) even visited us that morning and witnessed our communion service. We praise the Lord for these experiences. These are special days as we hold these intimate services with this tiny body of believers in whom the Lord is working.

Last week Mike Dodgens came up one evening, and we were able to spend some time out in a park witnessing. We continued our survey about the Bible, and once again the Lord opened doors for us to share the gospel very clearly. I was particularly excited about some of these very personal conversations now that we live here. In fact, the other day, Maribel noticed two older ladies who walked by our house, stopped, and pointed. I suspect that they were two ladies I spoke with in the park. I mentioned that we were meeting with believers in our house, and that seemed to catch their attention. In a culture where the church is so cold and formalistic, many seem surprised by something as natural as true believers meeting together in a house to worship the Lord together. We pray that God would continue to work in hearts and raise up true believers who worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Monday, August 27, 2007

August 20-26

This week we went up to a family camp in Guadalajara. The kids really enjoyed the time with other children, and it was a blessing for us to share with other Christians. The theme of the week was placing your eyes on Jesus. I taught one of the morning classes on the theme of dealing with disillusion. I appreciated the opportunity to preach, but most of all, I needed that study for myself! There have been several situations which have been difficult for me to take. I worked from the passage about Elijah in 1 Kings 19 to talk about how the vision of faith can carry us through those low moments when it seems like nothing makes sense.

Our service this morning went well. Lorenzo and Ana María were here, along with Luciana, a lady who worked with them when they lived in Gandía. I preached from Ecclesiastes 7 about the balance in life that a correct attitude towards the Lord brings. In the evening we attended the service in Alicante. Lorenzo and I rode the bus down since we did not all fit in the car. It was a blessing to be able to talk with him more. He feels very clearly that God wants them to serve here in Petrer and help us begin this work. They are continuing to look for a house and work in this area. He also told me that they would like to be baptized. We have talked before about this topic, but now seems to be the right time. Lord willing we will be having a baptismal service sometime within the next two weeks!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Heart Surgery

Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
This is one day after open heart surgery to replace a valve and a section of the aorta.

A Heart Story of God's Love

In January, 2007 I went to see my cardiologist for a routine visit. For the last several years, I have been ever six months so that he can monitor the degeneration of my congenital heart valve problem. My visit in January was not much different other times. As on previous occasions, he informed me that my condition was slightly worse than the last visit, but he asked me to have an ultrasound at the hospital to get a second opinion and to be able to make more precise measurements of the valve and the aorta. The hospital called me to schedule the appointment for March 15th.

Thursday, March 15th began like any other day. At noon I went in to the hospital for the ultrasound. The actual ultrasound was very normal; however, when the doctor finished, he turned to me and told me point blank that I was in pretty bad shape. The diameter of my aorta was within the risk zone. It had been stretched to the point that it was in danger of rupture. He told me that I needed surgery soon. The following morning, my heart specialist called me at home to let me know that he was going to be talking to the surgeons that morning and would try to schedule the surgery for as soon as possible. I assumed that there would be a significant amount of time between the diagnosis and the surgery, but he suggested that it would be best to have the surgery within a month's time. He sent me immediately to begin all of the tests that would be necessary before the operation and scheduled me to talk to the surgeon two weeks from that Friday. The next two weeks were very difficult weeks. We had just purchased a house in Petrer and were trying to paint so that we could move over the Easter holiday. All of the sudden, all of our planning came to a screeching halt. But until I talked to the surgeon to find out the date that he was planning on, I didn't want to tell everybody.

Finally, Friday, March 30 rolled around. I was ready to talk to my surgeon. I had downloaded and watched a live video of the operation that I would be having. I had done some reading up about the surgery and the recovery and was ready with all of my questions. What I was not ready for was the date! My doctor, complaining that he had not received the results of my CAT scans yet, turned to the nurse and asked, "How am I supposed to operate on Monday if I don't even have the CAT scans yet?" I reluctantly asked him which Monday he was talking about, and he informed me that he was talking about that Monday, in three days. He sat down with us and explained the procedure to us and all of the risks involved. A bypass, he told us, was a bit easier: the heart would be stopped for 15 to 30 minutes. A normal valve replacement would mean stopping the heart between 30 minutes and one hour. But since they had to replace the section of my aorta which had been stretched (and that involved fooling with the coronary arteries), my heart would be stopped anywhere from one hour to an hour and a half. There was always a danger that for some reason my heart would not start back up or that some of the other organs could shut down since the heart was not functioning. My only thought was that I was completely in the Lord's hands. The surgeon was very confident about his part of the surgery. The major risk was out of man's hands. And so they then scheduled me to come in on Sunday morning. I managed to get permission to sing in the Easter cantata at church on Sunday morning as long as I made it to the hospital by 1:00. So I spent my Sunday morning in church and Sunday afternoon preparing for open heart surgery. I wrote two letters to my wife, only one of which would be read. But I wanted to be prepared for the worst. And the Lord gave me a peace about what would happen the next day. I did not feel an absolute confidence that I would come through the surgery without problems. But I was ready to accept whatever the Lord had in store for me. Psalm 23:5 was a great comfort to me: I could count on God's presence, even in the valley of the shadow of death.

Nearly Perfect Surgery

Monday, April 2 began early with all the preparations for surgery. By 8:30 I was in the operating room with the anesthesiologist. My next memory was a strange sensation that I couldn't open my eyes or breath. And then I opened my eyes and saw my wife and my surgeon (and a student of mine who works in post-op). The doctor later informed me that my heart was stopped for 71 minutes while they worked on the valve and the aorta. They found that the portion of the aorta that was stretched out was above the coronaries so they were able to save some time and not have to re-implant the coronaries in the synthetic aorta. Everything had gone better than planned. Monday and Tuesday were full of discomfort and, at times, pain. The worst part was probably the severed sternum. Any movement in my upper body, including breathing, was painful. After slightly more than 24 hours, they moved me back up to a normal room to continue my recovery there. By the following day, my doctor got me out of bed for the first time, and I took my first steps. Everything was exhausting at that point. I remember feeling completely worn out after eating a bowl of soup. Sleeping was complicated by the fact that I had to lie on my back, and the plasticized mattress cover made me to sweat a lot. But every test I had seemed to indicate that I was experiencing a better-than-normal recovery. On Saturday, my surgeon offered to let me go home one day early, but I decided to stay the full week and go home after they had changed my bandages the next morning. When I arrived home on Sunday afternoon, I felt decent. It was just nice to be back home after what had seemed (at that time) like a long time in the hospital.

On Monday afternoon we learned that Vicente, a dear man from our congregation, had gone home to be with the Lord that morning. Maribel and I ended up going to the funeral home that afternoon and plans were made for the funeral the following morning. And so, on Tuesday, a week and a day after my surgery, I stood up before a group of mostly unsaved family and friends and preached a funeral message. But for as much as people told me that I looked great, I did not feel great. Every night that week I woke up in a cold sweat. And my temperature was almost constantly slightly higher than normal. However, my doctor had told me that a low fever was normal, especially in younger patients. He had told me not to worry about it as long as it was not a high fever. Finally, after nine days at home, my temperature started to rise, so we returned to the hospital for what I assumed would be a little bit of blood work.


I realized how wrong I was when the nurse brought me my pajamas, the uniform I would wear every day for the next 51 days! A new doctor explained to me how serious my situation was. The fact that there was no apparent reason for the fever which I had been experiencing over the last week and a half led them to assume that I had an infection in my blood stream which was attacking the new heart valve, and since the valve was made of non-organic material, the body was not defending it. I began an aggressive antibiotic treatment immediately, and over the next few days the doctors began to eliminate other possible causes for my fever. During one of the tests, the same doctor who had seen me just a month earlier when all of this began examined my new valve with an ultrasound, and then asked me a question which really surprised me. "Did they tell you that your valve has a slight leak?" Of course they hadn't told me anything like that. When I went home everything was in perfect shape. "Well," he continued, "you've got a leak now, and there appear to be small nodules on the valve's outer ring." My surgeon came to visit me immediately when he received the results. It was the worst possible news. The nodules appeared to be the encrustation of the infection, and the leak meant that something had already destroyed enough of the valve that there was a slight flow of blood around the valve instead of through it. Everything was still pretty sketchy, but they had the first solid evidence for a plausible cause for my fever. At that point I was still upset about the thought of having to spend more time in the hospital, and I feared that this might mean I would have to spend all six weeks that the antibiotic treatment would take. The surgeon, however, informed me that there was little to no hope that the antibiotics would do anything to kill the infection that was already attacking the valve. Since it had already encrusted itself on the valve, the antibiotics would not be effective. The only solution was to repeat the operation. The following day, another doctor discovered an abnormality in my right eye. The diagnosis was that microscopic pieces from the valve had flowed through the blood stream and formed a clot in the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye. When my doctor came to see me on Wednesday, he was no longer tentative. I had an endocarditis, and the only solution was to operate. He had already cleared a slot for me the following Thursday in the operating room and was ready to perform the surgery again. I asked him if there was not another option, but he told me that it was the only way. What was more, he informed me that this operation was much more complicated and dangerous than the first. In that operation, they had been dealing with a strong heart with a valve problem. Now, however, they would be operating on a heart that had just been through major trauma, with the added complication that the area around the valve had been under attack by a virus. The risk factor was now six times higher. And if we waited any longer it could jump to double that.

That was a very low moment for us. It was very hard to understand why God had allowed me to come through the first surgery just to go through it all again. At that moment, some 25 days after open heart surgery, I felt that I did not have the strength to go through it again. I was sure that if I had to go back into the operating room, I would not come out alive. I told a friend that night, that I saw only two options for myself: I could get bitter at God for allowing me to go through a situation that was really unfair, or I could accept this too as part of his "good and perfect" plan for my life (James 1:17). I knew the second was the only option that could really help me, but it was strangely difficult to accept. I also had to realize that when I gave my life to the Lord years ago, submitting myself to His will, it was not just for that which I approved of. My surrender was for whatever God wanted to do with my life. And now, if He had a purpose in taking me to heaven "early", even though it seemed that it would have been easier in the first operation, I had to accept that as part of His plan. Maribel and I cried and claimed the victory. We knew once again that we were in the Lord's hands.
God's doings

But that is when things started to change! Friday I suffered through another ultrasound, this time from inside the esophagus (yes, swallowing that wand was not comfortable). The same doctor who had done my other two ultrasounds spent 15 minutes examining the valve from every possible angle (even from within the stomach looking back up toward the heart) and finally gave the verdict: no infection. I almost skipped back to my room (even though I was far from being able to skip, physically speaking!). And then came my surgeon with the best news: no operation! God had answered our prayers. Just two days before, my surgeon had assured me that surgery was the only option; the same man was now standing in front of me, telling me that I no longer needed the operation. The slight leak was still there, but it was not a problem as long as the infection was not continuing to eat away at the valve.

The only bad news was that I would have to finish out the six week antibiotic treatment that I had already started. But compared to going through the surgery again, six weeks in the hospital was nothing. In fact, there was even the possibility that I could go home and finish my antibiotics at home. As the weeks dragged on, however, and I could not go home because of a conflict between the antibiotics and the anticoagulant, it became harder and harder for me to stay in the hospital. One of the most difficult things was when the kids came to visit and I began to realize that after spending so much time away from them, I was no longer the same part of their lives that I had always been. I felt like I was just a person they visited, but I was no longer their daddy. But the hospital was full of other opportunities for me. I was able to read quite a bit, and the Lord gave me many opportunities to be a witness and a testimony for Him.

Coming Down the Final Stretch

Finally, Wednesday May 30th came when I received my last antibiotic treatment through the i.v. All that was left at that point was for the oral anticoagulant I had been taking for weeks (the one that was canceled out by the antibiotics) to start taking effect so that they could unplug me from the anticoagulant i.v. My doctor promised me that I would be home by the weekend. But it did not happen. On Sunday, however, my levels were slightly better so they disconnected me for two hours and let me leave the hospital with Maribel and the kids. But after two hours I was back and hooked up again. But that time was so special. I cannot describe the emotions I felt to wear something other than pajamas, feel the sun on my skin again, and best of all, spend time with my family outside of the hospital! Back in the hospital though time kept dragging on. And then came the big scare again. On Wednesday night I felt my temperature rising. It was the first time I had had a fever since late April when the antibiotics had kicked in and controlled the fever that had returned me to the hospital. That night I lay in my bed shivering and thinking about what this would mean. Many days when my doctor had come to see me, she had asked me if I had had a fever. That could be the sign that the infection had hidden somewhere in my body, and now it was back. That night I cried again as I prayed to the Lord. Could it be that I would still have to face that surgery? When my doctor came to see me in the morning, I asked if this meant more time in the hospital and more antibiotics. "No," she told me. "If the antibiotics didn't kill it before, they won't work now." But the Lord did not leave me in that valley for long. As it turned out, it seemed to be an infection of the i.v. They moved the i.v. to the other arm, and the fever never returned. In fact, on Thursday June 7th, my anticoagulant levels came into range and they sent me home.


"Why did all this happen to you?" is a question that some have asked (and perhaps many have thought). And to be truthful, I asked it as well. All I can say is that God is much greater than we are. We tend to think in terms of a single purpose, but of course God can control a much greater area than we can imagine. I suspect that God did not have one single purpose in this whole situation. Rather, God was doing multiple things in many lives. I know in my own life He did many things. There is nothing like having to face death to remind us how to live. There were also lessons of faith and surrender. I was reminded like never before that my life was not my own. And I was tested, as I had not been in years, about whether or not I would accept God's will no matter what. God gave me the opportunity to witness to many people through this situation. I even had many special opportunities with believers. Several church people opened up to me about problems, and I was able to give Biblical counsel from my hospital bed. But I know that God has done and is doing things that are beyond what I can even imagine. All I can say is that God is truly good, and I praise Him for His infinite love that never abandoned me.

David Bell, Petrer, Spain 2007

August 19

We have been living here in Petrer for a month and a half. There have been so many things to do to get settled and to prepare for the ministry that the Lord has called us to. We have had services here at the house during this time, and we praise the Lord for the wonderful times of worship and fellowship. Lorenzo and Ana María have come up every week from Alicante and are hoping to be able to move here sometime before the end of the year. We have had several other visitors from the Alicante church that have encouraged us greatly by their visit. We continue to work with María Eugenia, a lady we met here. Her situation, however, has gone through a rather drastic change. She and her unsaved husband came over last month and spent the morning with us. Everything looked very encouraging. That evening, however, he informed her that he wants a divorce. She has been to several of our Sunday services and come by the house a number of times to talk. But if the situation continues as it is, she will probably end up moving away from Petrer. We continue to pray for her and trust that the Lord will work His will out.

At the end of July, I went up to Guadalajara to speak in a youth camp. The Lord gave me to opportunity to share with the teens some messages from the book of Ecclesiastes. I felt a special freedom as I spoke, and the Lord moved hearts. It was truly a special opportunity to see the Lord work. This coming week we will be headed back up to camp for a week of family camp. Then, Lord willing, we will be headed up north to visit a former neighbor of ours. Felisa came to services in Alicante on several occasions, so we trust that this visit will give new opportunities for witness.

We have been preparing several projects for this new ministry in Petrer. One is the legal organization of an association through which we will be able to organize various aspects of the ministry such as open bank accounts, rent buildings, print literature, etc. We are also working to prepare an evangelistic website to back all of the tracts that we will be handing out.

Finally, preparation is on for an Intensive Bible Institute in the Basque region of Spain. Lord willing, the second week of September we will be headed up that way to give a series of lectures on the book of Ezekiel. We trust that the Lord will use these messages to touch hearts and encourage believers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

July 10

After so long, it is hard to know where to start. My life was abruptly interrupted in March with the news of heart surgery. Just when I seemed to be over the worst of it, a new phase began that I had never imagined. It seems that I managed to catch a virus during the operation that threatened the new new valve. I went back into the hospital and wasn't able to come back home for almost two months. The Lord was very good to us in answering our prayer and in the end a second operation was not necessary, even though it seemed immanent. While in the hospital I was able to read a lot and do some thinking. I was also able to witness to quite a few people. It was even a profitable time to minster to church people. Many of the ones who came to visit me really opened up about problems.

When I finally did get out of the hospital, the group of students from BJU was here already and waiting for me. We had a good month of classes with them. I did some of the teaching along with Maribel, and I gave the majority of the daily challenges from the Bible. This year was special because we took a longer trip with the group up to Toledo and Madrid. We were able to spend Sunday in Madrid, and we all participated in the services. We sang as a group, and a good number of the students gave testimonies. It was a blessing to get to know these students, and many of them had a very strong impact on the Spanish families they stayed with.

Just two days after we finished classes with the students, the Musical Mission Team from BJU came to visit us. The highlight of the visit for us was a concert here in Petrer. This was the first public evangelistic activity we have had here. We have distributed tracts and done some witnessing on the streets, but this was our first opportunity to share the gospel to a group of people. The town hall allowed us to use a very nice auditorium (and even printed posters of the group) and there was a good turn out from the town (along with many believers from both Elche and Alicante). We are so thankful for the seed sown in people's lives through the music and testimonies. The group also participated in the services in both Elche and Alicante on Sunday and were a blessing to church people and visitors there as well.

The day the choir left, Maribel left for camp with David and Andrea. I ended up staying at home with Daniel. The Lord gave them a good week at camp and helped us out at home as we tried to survive on our own! The Sunday after camp was a very special one for us because we held our first service here in Petrer. We will be meeting in our house at the moment. Lorenzo and Ana Maria, the couple who is taking steps to move to this city to help us with the planting of this church, came up along with two other families from the church in Alicante. We had a very simple but nice service. We are excited to see how the Lord has been working to build His church. We have several contacts that we pray the Lord will touch, and we plan to continue our work with evangelism, trusting that the Lord will give us more fruit. Please pray for us as we labor here!

The months I was in the hospital were very hard on Maribel and the kids. I praise the Lord that He helped them through those months. Since I got out of the hospital, things have been kind of wild for all of us. The kids finished school, we taught the BJU students, we took 14 college students on a five day trip, we organized a concert for the BJU choir team, we moved from Alicante to Petrer and we held our first service! It has been a busy month, but one that has been full of blessing! Thank you so much for your prayers for us.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

First Service

Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
This is our first service. We are meeting in our garage right now. There were several families from Alicante who came up to be with us this Sunday.

BJU Musical Mission Team

Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
Here is the BJU Musical Mission Team singing in Petrer. We had good attendance for this first public evangelistic outreach in our new city.

El Cid

Originally uploaded by David_B_Bell
This is the view from our front door. Here the clouds are coming up from behind and flowing over the top of the mountain.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

February 27-March 5

        On Tuesday, Feb. 27 we signed on the house in Petrer. We rejoiced as we considered all that the Lord has done to try our faith and strengthen us through this situation. It truly has been a miracle. On Saturday we had the young people from Elche and Alicante over to the house for their weekly meeting. It was a blessing to be able to meet with them and challenge them in this new house. We want it to be a place that God continually uses to gather believers and encourage them in their walk with Him. We have a beautiful view of a local mountain out the front door, so I spoke to the young people from Zachariah 4.7-8 about God's ability to move mountains. But in order to move mountains, first there must be a mountain, and many times we see that God allows a mountain in our life to teach us many lessons.

        On Sunday I preached in the evening in Alicante. I spoke from Matthew 15 about the gentile lady who came to ask Jesus to heal her daughter. It seemed as if Jesus ignored her at first. Then his answer was very direct and could even have been interpreted as insulting. But all this seems to have been a test of her faith which caused her to exercise that faith even more. Many times the Lord does not give us what we ask for immediately, but it is not because He ignores us. Rather He brings us to the point of exercising our faith so as to increase our faith. As I mention this, I continue to think about the sale of our apartment here in Alicante. I have prayed fervently about this matter and am continuing to trust in the Lord that He will give us the buyer that we need.

Monday, February 26, 2007

February 12-26

        I think I just realized on Friday that I had not written the update last week. It was kind of a crazy week with lots of ups and downs. We thought everything was settled about the loan, but then they gave us a new option that is better than the previous one. There were some tense moments there as it seemed that the real estate agent was not cooperating with the bank, but, praise the Lord, it is all coming together. Lord willing, we will sign on the house Tuesday morning. This Saturday, the young people from Elche and Alicante will come up and we'll have our first official church activity in the house!

        Last week I preached in Alicante from 1 John. It was also a special week because the man from Mexico who was here last year working on his doctorate came back for three weeks for a short course and is staying at our house. It has been a blessing to be in contact with him and now to have him in our house. Their family was a real blessing during the year they were living in Alicante. And it has been neat to see how the Lord has really worked in them. On Saturday I had a Bible study with Lorenzo and Ana María to talk about baptism. They have been saved for several years now, but have never been baptized. Lord willing, when the weather gets a bit warmer, they want to be baptized. It is exciting to see the progress in their lives.

Monday, February 12, 2007

February 6-11

        The Lord has been working and we finally have a favorable response from the bank about our loan. This week we should be finalizing details, and we should be signing for the new house sometime in the next two weeks. We are looking forward to making the move and starting to make more contacts as we live there and get to know more people. This weekend we were able to take the young people from Elche and Alicante up to Petrer to pass out tracts. We are trying to systematically cover the city with tracts, and these young people have helped us once again with that effort. We trust that the Lord will continue to give us contacts in this way.
        Yesterday I preached in a church down in Murcia for a missionary who is back in the States now. We had good services both in the morning and the evening. It was a special blessing to spend time with one of Maribel's friends who got saved in Elche but now lives in Murcia. We were able to spend the afternoon with her and her two girls. In the morning I preached on two passages from 1 John that describe how we can call God a liar with our actions (1.10 and 5.10). Then in the evening I preached about when God calls us a liar because our actions do not match our confession (1.6, 2.4, 4.20).

Monday, February 05, 2007

January 30-February 5

        We still have no movement on our . . . [the phone just rang and it was someone asking about our apartment]. We are still waiting on the Lord and trusting Him. This weekend I preached in the church in Elche on Sunday morning. They had asked me to come and share a little about how things are going with our plans to move. I preached from Isaiah 28.16: he that believes shall not make haste. It was a passage that the Lord has been using in my own heart to calm me and keep me trusting in Him as we wait. But the Lord used it to touch other hearts too! In the evening I preached in Alicante on walking by faith, not by sight. After the service, the church had planned a special gathering to recognize the eight years that I have served as pastor in this church. We had a very good crowd and many people shared parts of our ministry that had touched their lives. It was a blessing to hear how God has used us here in Alicante and a challenge to remain faithful to the Lord and allow him to continue to use us in this new ministry.
        One interesting thing of the weekend was a wedding we attended on Saturday. The daughter of my parents-in-law's best friends got married, so we went to the wedding. After the ceremony we went to the banquet, but the mother of the bride came to me and told me that we didn't fit at the table with my parents-in-law and that she wasn't sure where to put us. So she put us at the table with the two catholic priests because she thought that we would fit in ok there. One of the priests asked me what I did for a living, so I told him that my profession was teaching but my vocation was preaching the gospel. He wasn't interesting in going too much further, but the other priest's mother was sitting right next to me, and we had much more opportunity to talk.

Monday, January 29, 2007

January 23-29

        We waited all week to see what the Lord would do with the sale of our apartment. But in the end, it looks like the Lord has a different plan. The couple that wanted to negotiate a price was not in the position to do so yet, so we are going to have to begin to move our other options with the bank that will allow us to buy the house in Petrer and then sell the apartment in Alicante. It is a good option, but it is a little bit more expensive in the long run. But we are trusting in the Lord.
        This week I finished up the Bible study with the young couple about raising children. But they are excited to continue! So we are going to talk some about Bible study and other topics they have questions about. They have also expressed interest in moving to Petrer with us. We are waiting on the Lord to do that. I want to make sure that it is really His moving in their lives.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

January 16-22

        This week we were able to get back to our Bible study with Lorenzo and Ana María. They continue to grow spiritually and ask good questions. It was also an encouraging week for us about our house. As we have mentioned before, we are waiting on the Lord to sell our house so that we can make this move and begin to have a presence in Petrer (and continue the work, of course). On Friday I was a bit down because it seemed that there was no movement. I asked the Lord for something, and not two hours later, the phone rang. It was a lady who wanted to come see the house. She came on Saturday and really liked it. She will return this next Saturday to sit down and negotiate a price with us. We are praying that all will go well.
        On Sunday I preached here in Alicante. I spoke from Philippians 2 about the humble attitude of Christ which can bring unity in the church. But the fleshly attitudes that are native in us will ruin that unity. Paul tells the believers that nothing in the church is to be done with strife or vain glory. These are diametrically opposed to humility and to unity.

Monday, January 15, 2007

January 8-15

        Much of our activity this last week revolved around an intensive Bible institute class up in the Madrid area. A missionary there asked me to come up and teach on the book of Ezekiel. This book has been a very special book to me, so I was excited to work on it again and take of the challenge of trying to give an overview of the book in a one day class. We traveled up to Móstoles on Friday afternoon. Saturday was an extremely full day. Breakfast was served at the church at 8:00. The class started at 9:00 and we did not finish until 5:00. We had a few breaks of course during the day, including about an hour and half for a wonderful lunch. But the group listened careful and asked good questions. I focused my study of the book on the concept of glory. It begins with a vision of God's glory and a call to the prophet to minister so that people will know that God's prophet was among them. As he preaches, we see that the people reject God's glory, but that there is a constant theme running underneath all of the judgement that God will one day restore his people for his own glory. And finally the last section gives Ezekiel a vision of a new and glorious temple.
        On Sunday I preached in the church in Móstoles on Ezekiel 24: God took away the delight of Ezekiel's eyes, his wife, as a sign to the nation, and yet the death of his wife did not embitter him or cause him to sink into depression [as the fall of Jerusalem did to the exiles in captivity], for obviously the prophet had a greater "delight." He had seen God, and nothing could move him. This passage is a challenge to all of us to place our eyes on the Lord and run the race with patience.

Monday, January 08, 2007

January 1-7

        My parents left on Thursday so we have been working to get back into our routine after the holidays. Last Sunday was my last official day as pastor in the church in Alicante which was very emotional for me. But now I can focus my efforts on starting the new work in Petrer. The first big step, however, is for us to move. Once we are living there, we will be much more effective making contacts and we will have a place to meet with those contacts.
        I had a meeting with the real estate agents on Thursday, and we are going to extend the contract for two months so that we can sell our apartment. This is a major matter of prayer for us! As soon as we have a buyer, we can start setting up the move. The Lord encouraged us because while I was in the meeting with the real estate agent, someone called about our apartment. We are trusting in the Lord that He will sell our apartment.
        Much of my study this week has been devoted to Ezekiel. I will be teaching an intensive Bible institute in the Madrid area this Saturday on the book. When that is over, I need to return to my studies on the Church which are preparing us for the work that we are going to begin in Petrer.

Friday, January 05, 2007

December 18-31

        With my parents here and all of the special activities, I got away from writing my Monday reports. So once again I find myself trying to catch up! We had a great visit with my parents and enjoyed our time together as a family. We also had a good end to the year. The Sunday before Christmas we had a very special day with a church lunch after the morning service. We had good attendance and then we followed it up with a mid-afternoon service. Different members read portions from the Christmas story in Luke and we sung appropriate hymns between readings. It was a very nice time to spend together as a church family. Last Sunday, my father was asked to preach in Elche for the morning service, so we all went and I translated for him. In the evening we finished out our year with a celebration of the Lord's supper. It was a very special celebration for me because it was my last official service as pastor here in Alicante. I have communicated to the church my desire to withdraw from Alicante so that I can focus my efforts on starting a new work in Petrer, about 30 minutes away from Alicante. As we celebrated the Lord's new covenant through the symbolism of that special meal, we recalled all of His blessings to us and the ways in which we all desired to be more faithful in the coming year. It was a beautiful way to finish out a year.
        For our prayer services this month I have been speaking on the prayers/psalms that we find in the first chapters of Luke. It has been a blessing to study Zechariah's, Mary's and Simeon's prayers to see what Christ's birth meant to them. I have also been continuing on with our Bible studies with Lorenzo and Ana María. We are constantly encouraged by their desire to learn and do what is right. They have even expressed the desire to move with us to Petrer to help out with the new ministry. We are praying that the Lord would do His will in giving us the people that He wants us to have.