Bells leave West for New Zealand

Farewells offered by territorial leaders and THQ staff.

by Karen Gleason –

Commissioners Pat and Philip Swyers applaud Lt. Colonels Don and Debi Bell.

On the eve of their departure to New Zealand, Lt. Colonels Don and Debi Bell—the Western Territory’s chief secretary and secretary for women’s ministries, respectively— received a fond farewell from officers and employees at THQ. The Bells have served in these roles since 2000, and will assume these responsibilities in the New Zealand Territory.

In his welcome, Commissioner Philip Swyers, territorial commander, commended the Bells for their ministry to the Western Territory. He noted that Lt. Colonel Don Bell just missed—by only two months—setting a new record for longest-running chief secretary in the territory. Colonel Vernon Post set the current record in 1930.

Employees and officers shared their appreciation of the Bells. Anne Calvo (director, Child Safety) gave a “Top Ten List” of Debi’s attributes, including her friendly, approachable and generous personality, and describing her as an encourager and a prayerful woman of God. After some helpful hints about life in New Zealand, she read Philippians 4:4-7.

Fulton Hawk (Youth department) presented a hilarious roast of Lt. Col. Don Bell. Fulton’s brother Lincoln (Long Beach Citadel Corps) performed a special song he had written for Bell, “Farewell Colonel Bell.” Fulton concluded with heartfelt appreciation to Lt. Colonel Bell for his service to the Western Territory, which “is a better place because of you.”

Lt. Colonels Don and Isa McDougald spoke to both Don and Debi, first reminiscing on some of the unusual and funny episodes from their past. The two couples’ paths have often crossed over the years, ever since the McDougalds first met Debi at the College for Officer Training in 1975. Isa then spoke about how women’s ministry in the West has grown under Debi’s leadership, and of her instrumental role in the WOW (Win One Woman) program. Again Debi was described as an encourager and a woman of prayer, who has a great love for all those she meets. In describing Don Bell, Don McDougald noted his integrity and honesty, finding him a forthright man who handles everything in an appropriate manner and is concerned about the details. “He is a sincere Salvationist, a man of God who wants to achieve the best of the Lord’s kingdom.”

Finally, Major Allie Niles spoke about Debi and Major Ron Strickland about Don. Besides being resourceful, creative, intelligent, positive and an encourager, Allie noted that Debi is friendly and fun: “There’s always a party around Debi.”

Remembering Don from his days as a cadet—they were session mates—Strickland described Bell as generous, intelligent and straightforward, a principled man of integrity. “Because he cares about this Army, he has striven to make the Army better.”

The Bells then had a chance to respond. Debi thanked those who spoke, and read the Scripture she and Don had chosen, Philippians 4:4-13. Don thanked Swyers—the West’s third territorial commander since he became chief secretary—recalling Swyers’ words at his welcome service: “I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we work to make this Army better.” Bell said he plans to use these same words in New Zealand, when he addresses an audience full of faces that he doesn’t recognize.

He then shared some words of wisdom from the devotion “What I learned from Noah’s Ark,” before focusing on each line of the Scripture from Philippians, and the wisdom therein that he will carry forward. New Zealand, he said, has for some reason been on his mind and heart for years: “This is God’s appointment. He has gone before and paved the way.”

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