12 August 1932 - 30 November 2001
Brian Russell-Jones was born on 12 August 1932 in Exeter, England, the son of godly parents, his father being a very well known Welsh Baptist minister, the Rev D M Russell-Jones. Brian himself came to know the Lord at the age of l0 in 1942. In 1950 at the age of 18, choosing theology over music, he went to train at London Bible College where he was awarded a B.D. degree. Between the years of 1954 -64 he held three pastoral placements, in England, Wales and Scotland
However, it was in 1954 that one of the most important events of his life happened: he met Isobel Watson. It was in fact Isobel who was first called to Belgium She had stayed at rue du moniteur in 1951 on holiday and had promised God that if it were His will for her life, she would return. Having completed her studies at Bible School in London, she went to Cardiff, Wales, for a Child Evangelism Fellowship course in 1954. It so happened that Brian, now a minister in Wales, was one of the lecturers! They married in September 1955 in Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh.
In the summer of 1964 Brian and Isobel brought a group of young people from Scotland to rue du moniteur on holiday, with the prayer that God might call some of them to work in Belgium The prayer boomeranged and in fact they were the ones who were called -to the work of the Bible Institute.
They arrived in Brussels on a cold November day in 1964 with their 2 year old daughter Sharon- the newest missionaries of the Belgian Gospel Mission -equipped, as Brian later wrote, "'with a Divinity degree and six years of school French and Isobel still struggling with the "plume" of her "tante". House parents in the Bible Institute was our official title, but by interpretation that meant -lecturer- cook - cleaner- plumber -electrician -nurse -economist and book-keeper. Happy days though!"
They intended to spend all their lives there, but in October 1967 were called to Paimpol in Brittany. They went with the blessing of the Bible School and remained there for three very happy years. Looking back, Isobel believes that the Lord took them there with the purpose of gaining expertise in church planting in a Catholic environment.†† Debbie was born six weeks before they left for Brittany and Marc during their time there-
In January 1971 Brian was invited back to Brussels as Director of the Belgian Evangelical Mission. His main task now became that of overseeing the work of all the churches and mission posts as well as teaching in the Bible School. He was often away from home, particularly at weekends, preaching in various churches, eg. Arlon in the Ardennes where he regularly made the round trip to speak to four faithful people. It was at this time that a lady asked Isobel, "Comment est-ce que vous supportez toutes les absences de votre mari ?" (How do you cope with all your husbandís absences?) To which Isobel replied, "Ce sont les absences qui m'aident a supporter sa presence !" (Itís the absences which help me cope with him being here!) A favourite story of Brian !
Henry and Anne Robinson (Ottignies year-team members 1972- 73; British rep. of the Belgian Evangelical Mission 1973- 82) recall the achievements of those years. "During Brian's eight years as leader of the BEM tremendous growth was experienced It was an exciting time for us all. The Mission personnel increased from a small number to well over 100. Year-teams were also introduced For us personally, apart from a definite call from the Lord to Belgium, it was the genuine warmth of Brian's leadership and Isobel's ever-open door of hospitality which endeared us above all to the Mission and to Belgium as a country."
In August 1978, Brian and Isobel returned to the UK and Johan Lukasse, then the Flemish Director, assumed overall leadership of the Mission.
After four years as a minister of a Baptist church in Scotland, Brian was invited back to Belgium to become Director of Studies of the French section of the Bible Institute. Three years later, he was able to hand over the post to a Belgian, Alain Lambot.
Brian's final ministry in Britain was in Carrubbers Christian Centre in Edinburgh. The Victorian church building on the Royal Mile was modernised and transformed with the help of teams from America, supervised by Bob McIntyre and Carey Holmquist, GEM missionaries with whom Brian had worked in Belgium. Brian's ministry had a major impact on the student population in particular in Edinburgh. The Institute of Biblical Studies, based on the Belgian idea of the Saturday courses, was started with great success and still continues to this day.
In November 1994 Brian had some preaching engagements in Brussels which coincided with the Mission Convention on 11 November, at which he was invited to return to Belgium to become Director of the Bible School. To friends in Scotland asking, "Are you going back?" Brian's reply was always, "No, we're .-going forward! " His return created a renewal of interest in the Bible School and the student body built up to 15 full-time students and the Saturday courses increased
Brian's role in the Bible School was abruptly brought to an end by a stroke two years later. He and Isobel returned to Britain, but it has to be said that Brian's heart was still really back in Belgium !
At the Convention this year he was invited to say a few words from the platform, which proved to be his farewell. Typically, Brian when he was asked 1Irer-e whether he wanted tea, coffee or sandwiches, announced "Frites !" A true adopted son of Belgium right to the end !