W. Rowland Bell (1927-2008)

A tribute by Jack Spiers on behalf of Portobello Baptist Church

We pay tribute to the life and memory of William Rowland Bell, a dear brother in the fellowship of this Church and beyond.

Rowland was brought up in the Cumbrian village of Brisco. He had a religious upbringing in the Anglican Church where he was an altar boy. When a new Minister came to the Methodist Church he committed his life to Christ. He became an itinerant preacher in the village churches around Cumbria. He also participated in home Bible studies. Rowland became conscious of a compelling interest in missionary service. After undertaking a course of studies at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow he was accepted for missionary service in Thailand by the China Inland Mission, later the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. That began, with Kathie whom he met in the B.T.I., a life of missionary service which lasted for 37 years. Embracing evangelism, translation work and lecturing in the Bangkok Bible College. The service he rendered was not without cost. He was attacked while on village work and virtually left for dead, the bones in his face broken.

In 1985, he returned home an ill man to be diagnosed with cancer. Two years later after numerous operations in the Edinburgh City Hospital he returned to Thailand to continue the work to which he was called.

On his retiral he and Kathie attended this Church (both having become members on the 27th May 1978) and brought the benefits of his experiences in Thailand, seeking to advance the Kingdom of God here.

Rowland Bell was a supreme example of faithfulness—supporting the services, midweek fellowship and other activities in the Church.

As a Deacon, he gave wise counsel and attended and cared for the members for which he was responsible. The words ‘servant of the Living God’ were most appropriate when applied to him for he was ready to serve in whatever way he could. Whether preaching, leading Bible studies, teaching the Scriptures, washing dishes or whatever for there was no service too menial for Rowland to do.

He maintained a keen and up to date interest in missionary work, not only in Thailand, but in all parts of the world.

He was an avid reader with a large library of all kinds of books.

Much more can be said, but it can be best summed up in saying he was a man of God and in many senses an amazing but but not in his estimation. His knowledge of the Bible, of theology, of history (Church and secular) was profound.

Despite it all Rowland was unassuming and the essence of humility, he was motivated in all he did by his faith in God and his great conception of the Triune God whom he loved, followed and served.

It could be said of him, as Paul to Timothy, “the time has come for his departure, (I have) he has fought the good fight, (I have) he has finished the race, (I have) he has kept the faith. Now there is in story for (me) him the crown of righteousness which the Lord of righteousness will award (me) him on that day.”

printed in Portobello Baptist Church Messenger, December 2008.