Betty’s Parents – David and Wijtske (Wyn) Bell

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David & Wijtske Bell had three children, Samuel was born in Mundubbera Queensland, Elizabeth was born in Thursday Island North Queensland and John was born in Bundaberg Queensland.

David & Wijtske (Wyn) Bell were pioneer Assemblies of God home missionaries to North Queensland, Australia. They were a dedicated couple committed to the course of Christ in the early days of Pentecost in this country. They supported themselves wherever they went and were instrumental in the pioneering of churches in Thursday Island where Betty was born, Innisfail, Bowen & Murray Upper.  Wijtske (Wyn) Spoor has her earliest memories in Holland where she lived in two very different social circles. This difference in her young mind was symbolised by footwear! In her own environment, she wore the wooden clogs of a farmers daughter, which was her fathers background, but on holidays, she visited the halls of the affluent, which in her mind was synonymous with pretty leather shoes. Her father, it seems, was employed by this wealthy family to be the tutor for the invalided daughter of the family. Tutor and student fell in love and married against the desires of the girls family. Four children followed:-Bob, Lena, Wijtske and Con. As my grandmothers health was poor, the couple were advised that another child would be very detrimental to her health. My Mother said that a happy party, a little too much wine, resulted in the pregnancy that caused Joanna’s death. The baby, Jo, however survived and was given to the maternal family as the replacement for the daughter they lost.  Grandfather remarried a farmers daughter who became Wijtskes much-loved stepmother. Wijtske was in her early teens when the family was sponsored to move to Australia. Jo remained in Holland.

On finally reaching the Australian destination, Grandfather declared that they would no longer speak Dutch as a family, but now all conversation would be in English. Mother remembers this as very trying for her stepmother. The early years of rural pioneering in the Mundubbera district was extremely frugal, physically taxing and emotionally exclusive, compared to all that the family had known in Holland. I believe that school was many miles away in Monagaruby. Mother was very close to her younger brother Con who often carried her across the streams so that she kept her feet dry.

In Holland, the family were staunch Dutch Reformed Church followers, and in Australia they became part of the Gospel Brethren community. Mum and Con entertained at Methodist church functions in song and in comic drama. Mother loved animals, was known to nurse sick species, and even had success at splinting bones. She also was an accomplished equestrian showing the cattle from the now Mundubbera stud farm in the Brisbane exhibition. She also rode in dressage at the show.

About the time of her fathers death, my Mother got sick. Her father practised homeopathic medicine, which was unsuccessful. He took her to Brisbane where the surgeon removed her appendix. On her return, the pain persisted. She could not work and was often in bed for weeks at a time.

My Mother and Con were attending the local Methodist church at this time, but they both had a deep spiritual longing for more of God. Con was travelling the show circuit with the cattle. In Rockhampton, he found a hall full of people-so full he could not fit in. Outside he was told that Pastor Van Eke was preaching and that there was a similar church in Townsville. Continuing his travels to Townsville, he met up with old brother Enticknap who talked to him at length about water baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and healing for the sick. He gave him some “tracts” on these subjects. Con was very interested in healing for his sick sister who was in Proserpine at the time. They met at the railway station and Con gave Wijtske the tracts. He so wanted to be water baptised before his return to Mundubbera and prayed earnestly to that end. When he arrived in Maryborough while spelling the cattle he found a church and they were filling the water font for a baptism. .The workers said the Pastor would be around shortly. After discussion, Con was included in the baptism service. What an answer to prayer! Baptisms were always scheduled for Sunday night but this was Friday and held as a special for a man who had requested he be baptised on his 21st birthday. It was Friday night! Two old women prayed for the candidates that night. One was Mrs Hetherington (a missionary from England who spent her life serving God especially at the AOG Daintree mission). Con was greatly blessed. After settling the cattle back on the train, and himself on the port rack, Con prayed for clear sight to read Gods word. He suffered a childhood injury to one eye which when he read would water so badly that the words blurred. There on the port rack he was instantly healed and never had a recurrence of that malady again.

Shortly afterwards a pamphlet advertising a healing crusade in Biggended was found in the family’s cream can. Con was excited. I want to take you, he said to his sister. These people pray for the sick. My Mum was excited. She said to her Mother who had been such a darling to her during her sickness, when I come home Ill do the washing! Her Mother admonished her, dont mock about it dear. O Mother, I mean it, I mean it. Wijtske said. The meeting took place in a hall and the Maryborough pastor was there with his family, together with two old missionaries who had been travelling with horse and buggy around the back-blocks bringing the gospel message.

After prayer, Mother felt good – no ill effects from the trip -nothing! Just to prove to her and others that she was healed she climbed the mountain at the back of the town.

She walked, and climbed and jumped from rock to rock I was like a young calf let off a chain! Now and then, the pain caught her but she called out, Lord, my trust is in you. She jumped on the sore side and the pain left- Wonderful Jesus! That night she shared her healing testimony with the people in the hall. What followed back at her home was the beginning of the Assembly of God church at Mundubbera.

While attending her pre wedding party,a week before her wedding to a young German man,Wijtske made the shocking decision that she was not ready for marriage and fled her home leaving a note for her Mother. She was in service in domestic work and laundry for some time and later began her church ministry to South Sea islanders at Bowen with Mrs. Dennis, formally of Mackay. I would say Mrs Dennis was probably one of our first women to be in full time ministry and she was a divorced woman as well!

Being a trainee missionary with Mrs. Dennis involved a rigorous regime. All trainees wore black crepe dresses with detachable white satin collars and cuffs, black stockings and lace up shoes.  Many hours were spent in prayer and all outside activity had to involve evangelism. Mother satisfied this criteria and her longing for outdoor life by painting gospel texts on the rocks of Queen’s beach and Horse Shoe bay. I saw some of these in my adult life life-maybe some are still standing!

In answer to a missionary vision David Bell, a convert of a few years and a Sydney church member of Pastor P.B Duncan  arrived in Bowen. My mother and he had separate ministries that involved places like Bowen Halifax, Ingham, Innisfail etc. These congregations gathered together for fellowship periodically. Each group provided musical items. David Bell, my father is pretty much tone deaf. It was my Mother’s laughing confession that she married Dad to be his song leader! They married in Cairns, and moved into their first home- a tent sewn by my Mother out of Parachute silk.It was erected across  the crocodile infested Johnson River which was traversed by dingy to pioneer the Innisfail church. Fifty years later my mother now in her 90s returned to the Innisfail Assembly which is now known as Radiant Life and officially opened the new Innisfail church complex.

The list penned by my parents outline some places where they ministered. Down the list is Thursday Island, and that is where I entered the picture, following my older brother. a younger brother was later added to the family.

My Dad had a burning desire to visit Murray Island with the pentecostal message. Murray was a restricted Anglican Island and after being refused several attempts dad bought his own boat (Cape Kimberly) to make passage to the Island. However all efforts were thwarted with the evacuation of all expatriates from Thursday Island because of the inroads of the war.

My Mother was the backbone of my father’s ministry. She told me that the lord had spoken into her heart that “she had been given to Dad to bring him to glory.” She was a woman of gentle discretion, humility, wisdom, godliness and and would put up with any hardship if it was for the kingdom of God and His glory. She provided the music, and quietly directed proceedings in a way that everyone thought it was my Dad! The Bells supported themselves financially. In Bowen the tomato farm provided for the family needs, with as much as could be spared going into the Lord’s work. They were instrumental in the building of the AOG church at Queens beach Bowen. My father also gave advice to the families in the congregation to purchase their own properties. Home ownership is still a feature that continues today.

My parents prayers for Murray Islanders were realised when we moved to Aloomba (Dad worked as a fetler on the railway line) and found that all around us were cane fields and many of the cane cutters were Murray Islanders. Every weekend we had our house full of these wonderful men and their harmonies would ring through the house. Many found the Lord and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

At my Mother’s insistence the family moved to Mackay when I entered my teens. It was to fulfil her ministry of “Mother. ”  We had sold the tomato farm at Bowen and bought a “nice” house where she endeavoured to teach me the art of house work.

There was a correct way to scrub a floor and a table, how to polish furniture, care for a saucepan, cook and sew. It was not until I had moved into my career as a nurse and lived in the nurses’ quarters that she and dad hit the road again. This time they had heard that there was a Murray Island community working on the railway line at Nundah so that is where they went.

They continued in ministry until they retired in Bowen and later into Eventide home at charter’s towers. Here my father died aged 92, and Mum moved to Rockingham Home in Cardwell to be close to her two sons. She died aged 92. Wyn Bell is loved and admired by all who had the pleasure of knowing her. She was a lady in a humpy, a tent, or high society. Most of all she was her heavenly father’s child and she has reached her finally goal to see Him face to face.

Post Script As the son in law who married the Bells only daughter Elizabeth, I would like to place on record my enormous admiration for this pioneer couple who gave of their all to plant churches in North Queensland. Wyn Bell (Mum) was a lady of wonderful character and a true saint of the church. I have met few women who compare to her inner beauty. David Bell (Dad) was a rugged pioneer totally committed to the cause of Christ. I honour them as heroes of the faith. Fred Evans




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