The tug of the ministry came early to Chris Bell, but she chose not to heed it for many years.
When Bell took over as pastor at Rochester and Brighton Methodist churches in June, she concluded a winding path to the pulpit that started when, as a child, she worked alongside her mother, a former traveling evangelist who settled down to raise a family but never gave up ministerial work.
Bell said she heard God speak the word "missions" to her at 16 but ignored that call and instead pursued a master`s degree in accounting from Ashland University. She also studied law for a year at Oral Roberts University.
"I knew God had given me this relationship with him, but I just couldn`t see how he could use me as a minister," she said.
But after years of number-crunching, she heard God speak again. This time, she heeded his direction to turn to the ministry as a friend invited her to work with youth at United Methodist Korean Church in Mansfield.
Eventually, Bell was appointed the church`s English pastor. She oversaw a culturally diverse weekly service and began attending Methodist Theological Seminary in Delaware, Ohio.
Upon completing her studies, Bell was assigned to pastor three churches in Bucyrus and continued to work as an accountant. It wasn`t until moving to Brighton that she began to work exclusively as a pastor.
"Very content, very peaceful,`` is how she describes her move, adding, "The heart of the people is very kind and very sincere. They would do anything for anyone.``
Bell said she has many things to offer the churches as their pastor, such as biblical expertise.
"My knowledge of the word of God, and my teaching and my preaching, because of the passion that I have for it,`` she said. "I enjoy sitting and studying."
She also explained that her age is a benefit.
"I`m 46, but I can relate to each age group," she said. "I love working with children.Â I have a passion for the youth to grow in Christ. And I also have a lot of compassion for the shut-ins and people in nursing homes."
Bell has very specific goals to accomplish during her time with the churches.
"I want to see the people discipled and come to a relationship with Jesus Christ," she said. "That`s my goal -- Christ`s goal, working through me."
She is enthusiastic about the community youth group, which is comprised of members of the Brighton and Rochester churches as well as two churches from Wellington. She`d like that to grow, she said.
And her third goal? "I want them to grow together in unity as a church."
Bell has goals for her own future, as well.
The Methodist Conference appoints pastors rather than working through a church search committee, which means pastors - who work on a renewable, yearly contract - might see brief stays in certain areas.
But that`s OK, she said, because Bell is an evangelist. She has been involved in mission trips to Appalachia, Granada, Russia and Korea.
"Also, I would one day like to live in a foreign county and do evangelism and missions," she said. "I have a passion for Britain, Scotland, Ireland and the island of Granada. And Australia, New Zealand. Those are the countries God has put on my heart."
But for now, Bell is content where she is and completely devoted and passionate.
"I want to get to know the people in this community and be kind to them and share the love of Jesus Christ with them," she said.
Contact Dale Sheffield at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.