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Lemuel Nelson Bell

Medical missionary to China
Born July 30, 1894
Longdale, Virginia, USA
Died August 2, 1973
Montreat, North Carolina, USA
Spouse(s) Virginia Leftwich Bell

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.

Bell was 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.[4] Bell received seven awards from the conservative Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania for articles and editorials.[5] He 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.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Shavit, David (1990). The United States in Asia: A Historical Dictionary. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 39. ISBN 031326788X.  
  2. ^ The Billy Graham Museum; Wheaton, Illinois
  3. ^ Decision Today - Special Commemorative Issue - Ruth Bell Graham, 2007, p.6
  4. ^ Graham, B., Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, 1997, p.288, HarperCollins Worldwide, ISBN 0-06-063387-5
  5. ^ Papers of Lemuel Nelson Bell - Collection 318
  6. ^ Pollock, John Charles. A Foreign Devil in China: The Story of Dr. L. Nelson Bell. (World Wide Publications, 1989.)

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