A Phone Call Led Les and Karen Bell to Donate a House to ANM

Les and Karen BellLes and Karen Bell had never heard of Advancing Native Missions when they got a phone call one night asking them to host an ANM missionary from Bangladesh named Mabud. Since that fateful phone call, the Bells have helped provide materials to Mabud to build two churches and a training center; have visited and supported ANM programs in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia; and are currently in the process of giving ANM a house from which they were receiving rental income.

“It was almost like the Lord at one point just said to me, ‘Les, I brought this guy to your house. Help him,’ ” Les says.

The Bells’ offer of the real estate gift has triggered ANM to begin setting up a foundation to more easily accept gifts of assets other than cash.

“I had a desire to have a way to give an asset that you're not really sure what to do with without having to sell and pay the taxes and then donate,” explains Les, who has had a long career as an entrepreneur. “Everybody has different circumstances. Some people have no assets, but they have earnings. But there are a lot of people our age who get to a point where they realize: ‘We can give it to our children, or we can hold on to it, or we can give it to the Lord, or a combination.’ It's just a question of asking somebody, what do you have? It's an asset that you may have thought you needed. But maybe it's just for a time like this for fulfilling the Great Commission and giving it to a ministry that could do that the best. The asset can be given, and then all the proceeds go to the ministry. It actually increases the amount you can give, and it simplifies the process.”

Les has a master’s degree in business and for most of his career was a government contractor. The Bells have three adult children and live in Northern Virginia. They are Christ-followers. Les says that he sees the choice of which charities to support as a cost-benefit issue.

“I'm a finance guy, so I ask the question, ‘What is really the best cost benefit?’ ” he says. “I really do believe that giving materials to the army of people who are already there is the best benefit for fulfilling Matthew 28:18–20 in the next few years. ANM is really good at that—prioritizing where the funds need to go, where the needs are. So I'm excited about that.”

On the night the Bells hosted Mabud, Les was quite impressed with what he was hearing in conversation with their guest.

“He mostly had his ministry based on businesses that he had built; he is a good businessman,” Les says. “That’s how our relationship started. It was an individual relationship with a person that ANM happens to support. We didn't even know what ANM was at the beginning. We helped Mabud build a couple of churches and support some of his pastors. What also impressed me was that they build the church and they do the planning and they buy the land—and they just need money for materials. So these are cooperative ventures that I like because it's not like you're just giving somebody everything—you're partnering with them. And you're allowing them to do what God's asked them to do. You're just there to come alongside and give them some support and encouragement, which we did.”

Mabud invited the Bells to come see the new church they helped build, and they met ANM President Oliver Asher on the trip

“We just had a wonderful time,” Les says. “And as we were there, on the streets of Bangladesh, I learned a lot about the ministry through Oliver and Mabud. We were able to actually speak at their pastor's conference and meet with their annual convention and go into the refugee camps and actually meet with a small church, about 20 pastors. And so it really touched our hearts.”

The refugee camps in Bangladesh hold more than a million people. Mabud showed the Bells an acre of land that he had bought by the Bay of Bengal. The land is just outside the camps, where people can literally walk to it.

“It was very touching because he just said, ‘I have a dream that I can build a training center here,’ ” Les says. “Sometimes it's hard to train and disciple people and meet with them in the camps because there is persecution. So my wife and I partnered with them on part of the training center project. What really impressed me was that the place was built in months. They move fast. If it happened here, it would be a two-year project and a lot of red tape. So we let them do what they do well. And ANM is really good at that—prioritizing where the funds need to go, where the needs are. So that really impressed me, and that’s just one story.”

Les and Karen made trips to several other countries, seeking to fulfill the needs of pastors. In Vietnam the greatest need was for gasoline for the pastors’ motorcycles. In Indonesia the greatest need was for more motorcycles so the pastors could get around.

“We were able to help, and other people did too, and then there was a publication that came out from ANM showing a picture of them on their motorcycles,” Les says. “I mean, literally snap your finger and they're out there—it's equipping them to go out further than they can go walking in the mud.”

One pastor in Indonesia named Gunar is a “church planter” who establishes new churches on the country’s many small islands.

“Indonesia has seventeen hundred islands, and Gunar and I have a goal together: We want to touch one hundred islands for Christ in Indonesia,” Les says. “He's found young Christians and brought them back to Jakarta where he has this school. It's a college where he trains and teaches and equips them to go back to their homes. I was just fascinated. I said, ‘How do you do this?’ He says, ‘We let the Lord do it. Sometimes we don't even have enough money for rice to feed the students. But we can equip these young people and send them back and they'll be on the mission field when we're gone.'

“And I thought this was such an incredible thing. I got to meet a bunch of the kids—actually got to speak at the commencement address for the kids, which was really touching. They have, I think, 120 students. And I asked him how we could help, and he says, ‘Well, we have room for twenty more students, but we don't have funds.’ So find out where the projects are and get involved.”

“I think the heart ANM has for the mission is so important. With 10,000 missionaries, ANM has an army of people that are already there, both in areas where there's opportunity to grow and also on the frontiers where there aren't as many Christians. We don't need to send additional people to do that. That wouldn't be as productive as to encourage or support those who are already there. ANM is really one of the few mission organizations that does that.”

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