Buffalo native Russell Bell is an example of how personal motivation and education can lead to a life of service and impact.
“It was extremely hard to sum up my experience at Houghton, because it was so life changing,” states Russell Bell, 2010 Houghton Adult Education graduate, on his role as honorary speaker for the grand opening of the West Seneca Campus.
In his speech, Bell quoted Helen Keller, a well-known hero for overcoming obstacles and limitations, to emphasize what he believes Houghton Adult Ed, and often, many trials of life, represent: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Overcoming the rigors of a college curriculum did more than develop the skills needed to succeed professionally. Bell gained knowledge across all domains, learning how to foster deep relationships, communicate in crisis, and minister in a small group setting. Bell was foremost inspired by Houghton professors, whom he viewed both as teachers and ministers. By the time of his graduation, Bell was amazed at the professional and practical knowledge gained, challenges overcome, and friendships formed. Yet the growth experienced in those two years only hinted at what was to come.
As Bell closed the chapter on his Houghton education, he began a new one at North Buffalo Community Church, serving as discipleship pastor. Bell’s passion for discipleship and his experience working in small groups allowed him to minister to people effectively. He found great joy using his gifts in this way, and concluded his two-year term just as a new opportunity arose.
Bell was asked to join the board team at Jericho Road, a Buffalo-based ministry that serves refugee and low-income community members by addressing health, education, and economic barriers. After about a year, he accepted a financial advising position on the East Side.
As Bell’s involvement deepened, a need arose for greater community sustainability. Jericho Road began a collaboration with several ministries, including Restoration Church, New Generation Church and CRUCIAL Human Services, to create a holistic program that would address health, financial and employment needs throughout Buffalo.
Bell’s place in the sustainability program has been to financially advise and mentor struggling individuals and families, and help them rise out of poverty.
“Sadly, so many young men and women are thrown by the wayside; so our goal as a collaborative group is to help the poor and marginalized, counteract the prevalence of gangs and dropouts, and provide a stronger defense in the community,” Bell shares.
The holistic program continues to grow today, as does Bell’s involvement in the Buffalo community. He senses a calling to the area, reminded of Jesus’ spoken words, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2)
As Bell continues an unpredictable journey of faith, he fondly remembers his time spent at Houghton. "When the kids saw Daddy doing homework, they knew they must also do homework!" Bell laughs, reminded of the impact his education had on his family. He is married to his greatest supporter, Tammy, and has seven children, including Malcolm, a sophomore music major at Houghton; Akeem, a Houghton Adult Ed prospect; and three young ones in charter school, Mark, Fina and Sirmanuel.
For Bell, Houghton has filled in the missing pieces necessary to move forward with God’s calling. Bell is pursuing a deeper form of ministry by studying God’s word at Northeastern Seminary. “My experience at Houghton was extraordinary and has prepared me for the next leg of the journey,” he gleams. “I am looking forward to what God will do in the near future.”