In memoriam: Missionary emeritus La Nell W. Bedford, 95

Elizabeth La Nell Watson Bedford, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel among the American Affinity Peoples in Argentina, Paraguay and Costa Rica, died March 18, 2020, after a long illness. She was 95.

Bedford was born Jan. 14, 1925, to the late John and Nora Watson in Lorenzo, Texas. Her family later moved to Elida, New Mexico, where she graduated from Floyd (N.M.) High School. She received the Bachelor of Arts in Education from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

In her second year of college, La Nell met Benjamin Bedford. Two years later they began their 74 years of marriage, becoming lifelong partners in family and Christian service.

As a young person Bedford taught in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and in college she was an active member of the Baptist Student Union and was appointed state secretary. She ministered alongside her husband in churches he pastored, including one in Ranchvale, New Mexico, during college, and in Myra and Muenster, Texas, while she studied Christian education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth.

The Foreign (now International) Mission Board appointed the Bedfords missionaries to Argentina in 1951. They studied Spanish for a year in Costa Rica. During her more than 40 years as a missionary, Bedford assisted her husband as his administrative secretary and in other aspects of their ministry. She also devoted time and energy to two passions: Christian education and the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). She taught Bible classes, prepared materials and trained teachers, organized and promoted WMU at every level and served on the boards of both organizations in the Argentine national convention. With the Argentine Baptist Mission, she used her experience in education, business administration and bookkeeping in numerous committees and positions. She helped found four new churches, two of which began meeting in the Bedfords’ home.

At the International Baptist Seminary in Buenos Aires, Bedford served as librarian and taught English and Christian education.

During their last 11 years with the International Mission Board, Ben was associate area director for Spanish Eastern Latin America, later expanded to the entire Southern Cone of South America, and La Nell was secretary to the associate. They travelled extensively throughout Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile, supporting and counseling the missionaries who served there.

The Bedfords retired from IMB in 1992 to Albuquerque. Bedford continued to teach Sunday School, both in English and in Spanish, in Friendship Baptist Church and Del Norte Baptist Church. She gave sewing lessons at a Goodwill center and was a member of a medical missions team in Nicaragua, where she translated for one of the doctors.

In 2012, shortly after La Nell was recognized for 70 years of teaching Bible classes, the Bedfords moved to Evanston, Illinois, where they were founding members of a new Spanish-language church, Iglesia Bautista Filadelfia.

Besides her husband, she is survived by her three children; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

A small service was held March 20, 2020, at Wm H. Scott Funeral Home in Wilmette, Illinois.

Memorial gifts may be made to the New Mexico Baptist Children’s & Family Ministries, PO Box 629, Portales, NM 88130.

Read an obituary here. Her story is told in a two-volume biography, To the Ends of the Earth and From Sea to Sea (Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, 2015 and 2018).