L. Nelson Bell

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Lemuel Nelson Bell
L Nelson Bell2.jpg
Medical missionary to China
Born July 30, 1894
Longdale, Virginia, USA
Died August 2, 1973(1973-08-02) (aged 79)
Montreat, North Carolina, USA
Religion Presbyterian
Spouse(s) Virginia Leftwich Bell
Children 5

Lemuel Nelson Bell (July 30, 1894 – August 2, 1973)[1] was a medical missionary in China and the father-in-law of famous evangelist Billy Graham. Few people had more influence on Billy Graham than Bell.[2]


Bell was born in Longdale, Virginia.[1] Bell and his wife, Virginia Leftwich Bell, served as Presbyterian medical missionaries in China from 1916-1941 with the American Southern Presbyterian Mission. They lived on the compound of Love and Mercy Hospital in Qingjiangpu, Jiangsu Province, 300 miles north of Shanghai. They had four children: Ruth, Rosa, Virginia, and Clayton.

Bell kept a busy schedule as surgical chief and administrative superintendent at the hospital. Although the hospital had a pastor on staff, Bell made the healing of souls a priority in his work, gently explaining the Gospel to his patients.[3] He never minimized the importance of addressing the spiritual needs of the people as well as their physical needs.

The Bells returned to the United States before Pearl Harbor in 1941 and retired in Montreat, North Carolina, across the street from their daughter Ruth and Billy Graham.

In 1942, Bell founded The Southern Presbyterian Journal, a publication which championed conservative Presbyterianism within the denomination that had sent Bell and his family to China as missionaries.[4] After Bell's death, and the subsequent founding of the Presbyterian Church in America, this publication would eventually evolve into the God's World News line of children's magazines, founded in 1981 under the direction of Joel Belz, and later lead to the 1986 founding of a parallel news publication for adults, WORLD Magazine.[4]

Bell was also the one who suggested to Billy Graham the idea of the periodical that would eventually be named "Christianity Today." He became its executive editor, commuting regularly to Washington from his home in Montreat and writing "A Layman and His Faith," a regular column in the magazine.[5] Bell received seven awards from the conservative Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania for articles and editorials.[6]

Nelson Bell died in Montreat, North Carolina.[1]

Bell's biography is entitled, "A Foreign Devil in China: The Story of Dr. L. Nelson Bell," by John Charles Pollock.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Shavit, David (1990). The United States in Asia: A Historical Dictionary. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 39. ISBN 0-313-26788-X. 
  2. ^ The Billy Graham Museum; Wheaton, Illinois
  3. ^ Decision Today - Special Commemorative Issue - Ruth Bell Graham, 2007, p.6
  4. ^ a b Belz, Joel (16 July 2011). "We're moving". WORLD Magazine 26 (14): 3. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Graham, B., Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, 1997, p.288, HarperCollins Worldwide, ISBN 0-06-063387-5
  6. ^ Papers of Lemuel Nelson Bell - Collection 318
  7. ^ Pollock, John Charles. A Foreign Devil in China: The Story of Dr. L. Nelson Bell. (World Wide Publications, 1989.)

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