Samantha Bell recently moved to Miami from Kansas City, Mo., to help plant The Brook Miami Church. Between volunteering as children’s director and working at His House Children’s Home, Bell takes every opportunity to invite people to church and share the Gospel with them. Reporter Keila Diaz recently caught up with Bell at the Starbucks in North Miami that Bell has come to view as her office. An edited version of their conversation follows.
Keila Diaz: You mentioned your mom was an alcoholic who came to Christ. How did that influence you?
Samantha Bell: I grew up with my mom and my two sisters. My mom is an alcoholic, and they say once you are you never aren’t. We moved from house to house, and the lifestyle of that was really ugly. Later, I moved in with my dad. And he was the same, except he had money, so he could afford for us to live. When he picked us up, it was crazy. My mom had gone to rehab, and there was no change, and it was just the same, you know. She was sneaking things in. But later she decided to do this halfway house and around the corner was this church. Someone invited her and she kept going. We didn’t talk with her a whole lot because we were just really angry and upset with her. Then she started to come around more, and she wasn’t smoking and drinking. She was the longest-staying resident at the halfway house, and all the ladies there saw her change. She hasn’t been the same since. My younger sister would go home on weekends more, and she would come back and talk about it. Eventually the three of us would go and we would go, “Wow! What is happening?” So if someone could do something like that to her, then He could do anything.
KD: When did you make a decision to follow Christ?
SB: I was very much a doer because I thought that’s what it was all about. I loved serving. I probably didn’t really become my own until leaving my mom’s house. When you don’t know Christ for yourself, He doesn’t make sense. It seems like foolishness. So to not really fully know of Him, there comes a lot of anger and confusion. When I left my mom’s house and went to college, I was surrounded by Christians and believers all the time. So that was naturally who I was around there and it was through that I started to know Him better. It wasn’t the religious part of it anymore; the “I go to church, I’m at all the services and I’m serving” and things like that. It was the genuine “OK, these are believers that I’m around that I started to see the realness of who God was.” I met Him at 13, but I knew Him later, and it was just different then.
KD: How were you led to get involved in a church plant in Miami?
SB: I’m from Kansas City, and I attended Koinonia Bible Church. When our pastor moved to Atlanta, he told us about an internship. My friend Mau did it first, and the internship was actually with [church planter] Muche [Ukegbu]. I was the person Mau talked to back home when she was going through the internship process—an accountability-type deal. We stayed close through her internship and when she got to Atlanta she [called] me and said, “Hey, we’re actually moving and planting in Miami” and would I pray for her through this and would I consider coming? So I started working through the process of that and met Muche. Then I met with my pastor and talked with him through it and asked him if I was ready for this and what is it going to look like? He said that as long as I’m glorifying God in all that I say and do, I’m walking in His will. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Kansas City or Miami, as long as God is being glorified and I’m intentional in glorifying Him and seeking His face through these decisions.
KD: How did your family take it when you told them you were moving to Miami?
SB: First, my mom was like, “Whatever you’re wanting to do there, you can do here, you know that, right?” You know moms. She didn’t want me to leave at first. But when I got closer to making the final decision, she supported me. My sisters came and moved me in and they loved it, but they said, “Yeah, this is just a visiting spot. I’m never moving here.” They didn’t like the traffic, and for them it’s just a place to visit, but hopefully that will change.
KD: What are some of the biggest challenges you faced switching cities?
SB: Relationships. Hurting people. It’s hard leaving everyone that you know and then desiring to stay connected with them because you care so much for those people, but then having to create new relationships and not being able to have both lives completely. Working through what it is to only talk to someone you used to see three to four times a week, only once a week. What does that look like? And then here not immediately having those relationships because you’re literally meeting everybody for the first time. Even Muche and [his wife], Diamone, it was only my second time seeing them. But the connection with them is wonderful. Then finding a job here is hard. Not losing hope in searching.
KD: What do you enjoy most about working with children?
SB: Watching them grow and seeing this excitement that they have for the little things. Their innocence and the sense of adventure that they bring to everything. They just think, “Oh! I get to do something!” So that excitement is the best part.
KD: What do you do at His House Children’s Home?
SB: I am a lead childcare professional. I am the shift lead and I come in, work 2 to 10 all but Wednesday and Sunday and I’m like their mom. I try to make a house of 10 girls be normal, I guess. I do laundry with them, make dinner with them, do homework with them, go to the store with them, take them to the beach to get away, talk and work out with them. The youngest is 13 and the oldest is 17. The oldest will be aging out in May.
KD: What would you say to someone who is thinking about moving to help start a church in another city?
SB: Be willing to sacrifice and serve. If you’re not serving where you’re at, it’s not going to be easy to come and all of a sudden start serving somewhere. Make sure you’re ready for that; that’s a big part of it. If you’re wanting to leave and go serve or plant, then do what you’re wanting to do where you’re at now and become accustomed to that. Because [church planting] will become your life. The Brook is my sole purpose for being in Miami. I love Miami, and I don’t see myself leaving, but I am here for the Brook and everything that I do is for the Brook. Even just sitting and talking with people, the Brook comes up. It’s one thing to say, “I would love to go serve” when you’re in a comfortable spot, but another to turn into the one where you’re the one that’s spiritually feeding others.
KD: What kind of opportunities do you have to share the Gospel outside of church and work?
SB: All the time. People see me and they ask me what my ethnicity is and where I’m from, and when I tell them they ask about what brought me here and I say, “Well, I’m actually here to start a church,” and some type of conversation is sparked and it allows me to go into the Gospel.
KD: What do you think is the biggest hurdle keeping young Christians from sharing the Gospel with their friends?
SB: I would say that God is a perfect God, and we’re imperfect trying to represent Him, so the people that you go and share with see the imperfections and wonder how you can represent Him. I would say that self-condemnation is huge. Sometimes you let your past become an obstacle.