My Family's Legacy: Returning to My Great Grandpa's Mission Field Nearly 100 Years Later

Will Graham • Christian Post • February 22, 2015

American missionary doctor L. Nelson Bell and his wife in Huai'an, China in early 20th century. Nelson Bell was a Presbyterian medical missionary and the father of Ruth Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, and great-grandfather of Will Graham.

My Familys LegacyOver the course of their quarter-century in China, the Bells would bear four children: Rosa, Virginia, Clayton, and my grandmother, Ruth.

My great-grandfather spent years sowing the seeds of the Gospel in China, but – frankly – did not get the opportunity to see much of a harvest. Despite his years in missionary service there, precious few found their eternal hope in Jesus through his efforts.

However, his sacrificial work cultivated the ground and he is still warmly remembered in that city. Many in Huai'an still consider my grandmother, who was born there, to be Chinese; to be family.

My great-grandparents and my grandmother are all in Heaven now, but they would be thrilled to know that I will be returning to Huai'an next week, not just to visit the place of my grandmother's birth, but to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pictured above, American medical missionary L. Nelson Bell, his wife, and their four children: Rose, Virginia, Clayton, and Ruth in Huai'an China in the early 20th century. Ruth became the wife of evangelist Billy Graham.

In addition, I'll also hold a pair of Gospel celebrations in the city of Wuxi.

The Christian faith is growing quickly now in China, and doors are opening for the Gospel. I'm visiting at the invitation of the Jiangsu Province Christian Council with the approval of the Chinese government. They've been very hospitable, kind and easy to work with.

I anticipate that this trip will be a blessing, but also a very emotional time. To visit a grandparent's place of birth in a foreign land is an amazing opportunity as it is, but to carry on the legacy of my family is an even greater honor. My great-grandparents and my grandmother loved – dearly loved – the people of China, and now I will be able to share with them how they can find their hope and purpose in Jesus.

Please pray with me that the work begun by my great-grandparents nearly 100 years ago would bear amazing fruit over the coming days. Pray that the children and grandchildren of those same people to whom my great-grandfather ministered would hear clearly the call of the Holy Spirit on their lives. Above all, pray that Jesus Christ would glorified and many would surrender to Him!

Will Graham is the executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove and Vice President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.


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