December 30, 1922 – November 7, 2015
Born in a country home near Rising City, Nebraska, Gordon remembers praying as a young boy, “God, show me your purpose for my life.” Gordon explored a call to missions while he studied at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana. During this time, he met Lola Kelley who was also interested in missionary service. They were married August 22, 1944.
After the birth of four sons, the Bell family set sail in November 1951 for their first missions appointment under International Missions, Inc. They ministered among the Telgugu people of Central India. Learning the language and village evangelism ministries took much of their time.
During a furlough, the family attended the Free Methodist church in Hillsdale, Michigan. Eventually the Lord led the Bells to serve as Free Methodist missionaries, again in India.
Gordon and Lola began their appointment in 1960. At times over the next 20-some years, they were the only resident missionaries in India. Considered pioneer missionaries, their responsibilities involved evangelism training, as well as serving in a variety of administrative and educational roles. Village evangelism often meant pitching a tent in a shady mango grove to be close enough to visit a village or to gather interested groups.
In 1968 the Bells’ youngest son was to begin college. The family felt led to return to the U.S. Gordon accepted a pastorate in the Southern Michigan Conference where they were able to care for Lola’s mother who was ill. Gordon and Lola received a letter in 1974 from the Asia area secretary telling of large groups of people responding to the Lord in India. These new believers needed to be discipled. Another letter specifically invited Gordon to return to teach at Union Biblical Seminary in Yavatmal. While awaiting their visas, Gordon began to work on a Master of Arts degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He had earlier studied at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.
Upon the Bells’ return to India, Gordon served as mission chairman, part-time teacher at Union Biblical Seminary and director of tribal evangelism. At the time missions was a very popular topic at the seminary; Gordon had as many as 75 students in his Missionary Anthropology and Church Growth Strategy classes. His heavy administrative duties included serving as chairman of the Board of Directors of Umri Mission Hospital and member of the Board of Governors of the seminary, in addition to advisor to the national coordinator of International Child Care Ministries. He also helped develop plans for the Free Methodist English Primary School and the Central India Bible College, both in Yavatmal.
Yavatmal, the area of ministry assigned by the Indian government to the Free Methodist mission, embraces more than one million people. Many different tribes, each with its distinctive culture and language, live in this part of the country. Gordon directed nationals to translate scriptures into languages spoken by new tribal converts. The gospel of Luke in the Kolami language was the first to be completed.
In 1983 Gordon and Lola took an early furlough for health reasons; they made their home in Michigan. In answer to their prayers, a new team of promising national leaders were in place just before their return to the U.S.
The Bells continued to serve through deputation ministry until 1986. They gave more than 31 years of service to the people of India – 26 of those years through Free Methodist World Missions. Gordon also served pastorates in Kentucky, Indiana, North Dakota, Michigan and Washington. In retirement Gordon was chaplain in two nursing homes in Washington State.
Gordon’s Colleagues Write
“Gordon was quite an influence on my life,” writes missionary to Asia David Yardy, “and planted seeds that have been a part of the flourishing Indian church we see today. He was a missionary in the order of St. Paul.”