by Virginia Forste
Five years ago, many people probably thought Cindy Bell was crazy for opening a brick-and-mortar store when so many businesses were closing. However, Cindy knew why she was opening. Hers is a story of obedience. After an eight-hour vision Cindy knew she was being shown where God wanted her. Through much prayer and research, Belong Christian Bookstore opened on September 14, 2017.
Cindy credits her success to God and to her loyal customers. “We really do have the best customers!” Cindy said, as she pointed to a vase of sunflowers a customer had dropped off for no specific reason. “Our customers are so generous! We see daily how they give in so many ways to others; it is humbling. I wish the news outlets could hang out in our shop. They would see countless stories of inspiration and hope.”
Believers are called to give evidence for our belief in Jesus. James warns us, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17, ESV). We love and honor God by doing good works in his name, out of gratitude for his immense love for us. Obedience is the main way that Christ followers can show that love and serve others.
An Undeniable Vision
When God gave his vision to Cindy, she knew she had to act. She showed her business plan to her husband who has extensive experience in opening restaurants. He responded, “We would never open a restaurant based on this plan.”
Cindy replied, “Neither would I if it depended on me. But I now have to choose what I really believe. I believe the same God who put the stars in the sky will supply what we need when we need it.”
After much prayer, a year and a half spent researching how to open a bookstore, and rehabbing a space that was previously used as a dry cleaner, Cindy realized God’s dream and opened “Belong.” She chose the name because she saw it as the culmination of God’s plan for his followers. He wants everyone to belong in his kingdom and Cindy believes that everyone belongs in her bookstore. As she beams, “We want people to belong to the family!”
We can see echoes of God’s hand in Belong in similar ways that we see in the account of Noah and the ark.
First: God provided the vision.
In Noah’s day, God was frustrated with his creation. Almost everyone on earth was willingly sinning. God decided he needed to start with a fresh canvas, with one righteous man, Noah, and his family.
“And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.’” . . . “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground” (Genesis 6:13, 14; 7:4, ESV).
God gave his vision of Belong to Cindy. She was to do what she had never done before, but God chose and equipped her.
Secondly: God worked through a person to change others’ lives in profound ways. Regardless of the obstacles Noah encountered as he built the ark, he obeyed: “Noah did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22, ESV). Because of one man’s obedience, the course of history changed and paved the way for the Messiah to save us all.
Partnering with God
God has also used Belong Christian Bookstore to touch the lives of those in the Cincinnati area. Cindy explains, “When our volunteer Greg Wiley became very sick, we saw God work in the most incredible way! Greg was in the hospital fighting for his life. He had been misdiagnosed and had been given many antibiotics, which caused sepsis. Doctors struggled to find the cause of the tremendous pain in his face. Upon hearing this struggle, our customers started praying and God showed up! Finally, Greg was correctly diagnosed. Unfortunately, the condition he had was very painful. Thankfully, we heard of a nurse in town who had this same condition and we were trying to find her. One day, our UPS delivery man came into the store and asked about Greg. I shared what was happening. It turned out that he knew this nurse! He had taken her to a high school prom years ago and had stayed in contact with her through Facebook. She had been researching her condition for many years. She knew what to do, who to go to, and a surgery that could help.
“While waiting for the surgery Greg needed four pills a day that were $1,000 per pill and his insurance did not cover them. Once again, we prayed for God to intercede. Greg called his doctor to see if she could help us. The doctor called her sales representative. The sales representative dropped off free samples in the exact quantity Greg needed until he could have the surgery! Even the medical team knew that God was working in Greg’s situation.”
Cindy shares her vision for her bookstore: “To foster faith and connect Christians.” She explains, “We have had the opportunity to witness and lead people to Christ. We have put thousands of Bibles into the community. We have been able to reach the world because of ATP [Association of Tennis Professionals], Kings Island, and Great Wolf Lodge. We have prayed with our customers and continue to hear testimonies of answered prayers. We have heard children say that Belong is their favorite place to go. We are impacting the next generation. People even travel hours to come to our shop. We put each day in God’s hands to glorify him.”
How can you support Belong bookstore? You can visit them in Mason at 5216 Kings Mills Road. You can subscribe to their newsletter to hear about upcoming events and new products, such as the variety of Bibles they suggest for children and adults. By supporting Belong, you can participate in God’s plan for all people to know him (2 Peter 3:9, ESV).
Obedience to God can be challenging, but if you hear his call, listen, and courageously obey. There is nothing on earth more exciting and rewarding than being used by God in his plan. Obedience can simply mean being available. Or, it can be a step out in faith as Cindy Bell has experienced. What step of obedience is God calling you to take this week? How is he specifically calling you to serve in his church or in your community? Jesus said, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, ESV). Step out in faith and see!
Virginia Forste is a former elementary education teacher and stay-at-home mom.