Peter Bell with his wife Florence
Peter Bell's testimony starts when he was 21 years of age, when, following a bad parachute drop, in which he miraculously escaped serious injury, he clearly heard the voice of God speaking to him. It would be another 19 years before he yielded himself to God's call on his life, although His hand was clearly upon him during this period. Peter now leads the worship at a prayer group that Dorothy and I attend in Liverpool.
On 1st July 1972 when I was 21 years of age I lay on my back on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire unable to move my legs and thinking that I was paralysed.
I was a part-time soldier in The Parachute Regiment on an exercise, which included a battalion drop. On leaving the aircraft I collided with another soldier resulting in an entangled 'chute and subsequent heavy landing, which snapped the canvas strap on my steel helmet; such was the impact. At first I felt sever pain and then numbness, and then a quiet peace through which a voice spoke, "I've spared your life, because I've got work for you to do." I knew it was God, without any doubt whatsoever. He was calling me to serve. I've never heard a voice like it before or since. Some men approached. They were new recruits invited to watch the drop and one of them said, "the way you hit the ground, we thought you were dead!" Another one gave me a piece of chocolate which I later brought up on the x-ray table. The Medical Officer arrived to examine me and tied my legs together so as to indicate a suspected broken back. A field ambulance took me to Tidworth Military Hospital where I was found to have abdominal injuries and a bruised spine, but no fractures.
I only spent a week in hospital where my treatment was very hot baths with intensive physiotherapy. I was discharged with a slight limp and told I would not be able to rejoin my unit until I could run. Only six weeks later I was airborne again, a night descent over Otterburn, Northumberland. It was cloudy with no moonlight so the ground was invisible, like jumping into a bottomless pit. On moonlit nights the ground would be visible but the height couldn't be measured. Trees couldn't be distinguished from bushes. We jumped from 1,000 feet at night and 800 feet in the day.
Later that year I was introduced to a young lady who worked as a dental nurse and she was totally in love with Jesus. She talked about nothing else and we dated for a few weeks. However, her Pastor said that she shouldn't have a boyfriend who's not saved and I respected her decision to stop seeing me (2 Cori.6: 14-16). On Christmas Eve I wrecked my car in the Birkenhead Tunnel and escaped with minor injuries, jacket and shirt ripped by flying glass. After all that, it took me 19 years to answer God's calling and I thank Him for His patience (2 Peter 3:9).
I worked in a car factory for 15 years where I was an obnoxious character, and one day I threatened a colleague who, years later, knocked on my front door. He was as surprised to see me, as I was he, because he was looking for someone who lived in my street and had knocked on the wrong door. Glad to see me he asked what I was now doing and I told him that I was a driving instructor. He said that I could teach his children when they're old enough. Immediately, a heavy conviction hit me. Here was a man who'd forgiven the unforgivable. After my atrocious behaviour he was trusting me to teach his children. Forgiveness is a powerful weapon in the fight against evil and my former workmate used it well to cut me down to size. (Proverbs 25: 21,22).
As promised, I taught four of his children. The other two weren't old enough by the time I moved on from driving tuition. These four young people were born again Spirit-filled Christians, and as such were a pleasure to teach. Nothing got the better of them. If they struggled with anything, they persevered until it was conquered. Their manners were impeccable, living for Jesus, a life that is true. One lovely summer's evening one of them wanted to finish the lesson where the Bible teacher lived, which showed commitment to studying the Word. I was so impressed with these young saints, I wanted my children to be like them. Then came another message from God. This time it was inaudible but clear in my mind: "If you want your children to be like them you must follow me so as to be an example. You can't continue to live a sinful life and expect your children to be Christ-like." Message understood; I could delay no longer. The time had come for me to repent and be saved. I was 40 years of age and a new life beckoned. I gave my life to Jesus, lover of the dental nurse's soul, and now mine too! I didn't know He'd always loved me until I began to read the Bible.
Now in 2011 I'm 60 years of age and still marvel at the amazing grace that saved a wretch like John Newton, and of course me! I thank God for everyone who prayed for me over the years and am now in the business of praying for others.