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Judge finds missionary guilty in long-delayed Kenya trial

NAIROBI, Kenya (BP)–A Kenya judge found Southern Baptist missionary Terry Bell guilty of charges stemming from a June 10, 1995, accident in Nairobi in which a 16-year-old pedestrian was killed after she darted in front of Bell’s car.
Bell was convicted on Oct. 8 despite the fact no evidence was presented that he had broken any law. A civil suit brought by the girl’s parents against Bell’s insurance company now can proceed because of the verdict.
The judge’s decision came after multiple delays that dragged the case out for 17 months. Bell first received a summons in June 1997 — two years after the accident. The judge granted several delays because prosecution witnesses or lawyers failed to appear in court.
The judge ruled Bell was guilty of “causing death by dangerous driving” and “failing to stop after an accident.” She fined Bell the equivalent of $540 and banned him from driving in Kenya for three years.
Bell and his wife, Twylia, serve as International Mission Board missionaries in Tanzania. He works in agricultural development in Shinyanga.
“We were all very surprised about the verdict,” Bell said. “Throughout the whole process the prosecution never was able to prove that I had done anything wrong. All of their witnesses were either contradictory in their testimony or could not state a single fact to point out that I had done anything wrong.”
Bell admitted he left the scene of the accident. Missionaries in some countries are told to go straight to a police station after an accident to avoid vigilante violence at the hands of the crowd that invariably gathers.
“Our lawyer said he himself would never stay at the scene of an accident because of the possibility of vigilante violence,” Bell said. “He said what we did was fully within the limits of the law as he understands it and that he could not understand why the judge came to these conclusions.”
Bell said he was tempted to ask God why he allowed such a verdict, which could have included a 10-year prison sentence.
“But we must remember that his ways are not our ways,” Bell said. “He has answered the prayers of every person who interceded for us. The outcome could have been much worse.
“I believe God is going to accomplish some things in the lives of other people who were involved in this trial that we may never know about. He never allows anything to come about without a purpose.”
An appeal of the decision is possible, but Bell said his family would seek God’s guidance about whether to file an appeal.
“I think we would be happy that the matter be put to rest right now,” he said.
The prayers of fellow Christians meant a lot to the family throughout the prolonged ordeal, Bell said.
“We want to express our deepest gratitude and thanks to every prayer warrior who had any part in praying,” Bell said. “We have been constantly amazed, and even more humbled, by the constant influx of letters and e-mail from people all over the U.S. and even from other countries who tell us of their concern and intercession to the Father on our behalf.”
Bell hopes those who prayed for him will turn their attention to the people groups of the world that need to hear the good news of God’s love.
“There is a great prayer support force that needs to be utilized to intercede for people who have a greater need than we ever had during this trial,” Bell said. “I want to challenge these same prayer warriors to pray for the peoples of the world so they will not have to stand before the judge on the great white throne and be read a verdict that sentences them to eternal separation from our Lord’s presence.”

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  • Mark Kelly