her Life


We called her Sweetheart, and it would be easy to assume the nickname came from regular use of the term of endearment. She’d say, “sweetheart,” as she kissed each of your cheeks in greeting. She’d sigh, “sweetheart,” to encourage or comfort you when you shared even the most mundane triumphs or losses. And, once you shared all that you had to share you’d stand facing each other, your hand resting in hers, she’d take you in and her final appraisal was always a warm and gentle, “oh, sweetheart.” The nickname came less from repetition and more from her innate ability to make you simultaneously aware and comfortable with the depth of your own goodness.

Birth and Early Childhood:

Bella Ndlela was born in a little town called Mafeking, situated on the border of the Cape Province and Botswana in South Africa. She was one of 10 children born to Henry Selby and Miriam Noluthando Msimang. Her father was a political activist who worked tirelessly for the cause of Black Africans during the years of apartheid in South Africa. He was the co-founder of the political organization known today as the ANC (African National Congress).  Her mother was a devout Seventh Day Adventist and a pioneer in fostering community outreach in the face of a harsh political environment. 

The family moved around in South Africa and finally settled in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province. This is where Bella spent her early childhood. She spent most of her time growing up in Christian schools,  including Bethel Adventist College. In 1956 she embarked upon the career of Nursing at King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban, South Africa. After completing her General Nursing she went on to specialize in Obstetric Nursing (labor & delivery). Thereafter she went to Baragwaneth Hospital in Johannesburg which was at that time the largest hospital in the Southern Hemisphere. She pursued a specialty in Pediatric Nursing.

It was in 1963 when Bella met her husband Charles who was, at that time, engaged in his studies at the University of Natal Medical School in Durban.  They met in the Pediatric Dept at King Edward VIII Hospital. After Charles completed his studies at Medical School in 1964, they got married on July 3, 1965.  They were married for 54 years. When Charles proposed marriage to Bella, being a God fearing young lady, asked "have you prayed about it? You go and pray.”

Unfortunately, Bella’s mother passed away before she was able to see her daughter get married, but her father, Selby Msimang, was alive to see the day.  Selby was not allowed by the apartheid regime to even give a speech or to hand over his daughter because he was banned from attending public gatherings.

Despite all the political drama prevailing at the time, the wedding, on July 3, 1965, was, "the wedding of the year.” It took place in Edendale and was attended by dignitaries from all over the country. One of the most striking features was that the bridal party was multiracial, which was rare in South Africa at the time. Bella and Charles have been blessed with three wonderful sons, Sibusiso, Bongani and Andile. Bella devoted all her early married life to raising and nurturing the three children.

1980 was a major milestone in the life of this family when they moved to the United States and settled in Loma Linda, California. There were a lot of adjustments to be made, and Bella did such a wonderful job of taking care of the entire family.  With all of the ups and downs, and God’s grace, the family was able to make a second home for themselves.

Illness and Death

Bella was diagnosed with stomach cancer a few years ago, which she fought gallantly.  She remained faithful throughout, and constantly relied on God's promises to keep her going, day by day.  
Bella is survived by her loving family:  husband; Charles, sons; Sibusiso, Bongani, and Andile, daughter-in-law; Emily, grandchildren; Nandi and Nia, and sister, Khubi Mbokazi.  She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins, and grandchildren from all parts of the world, who loved her dearly.  

Her Legacy

Bella's life can be summed up in three statements "dedication to family,” "dedication to community," and "dedication to God.”

She loved her family dearly, and made many sacrifices to make sure they were catered for.  When her first grandchild was born, Bella retired from her career in nursing, so she could dedicate her time to helping raise them.  She was a wonderful, caring, and doting grandmother, mother and wife.

She was dedicated to her community, in Africa, and in America.  Just like her mother, she was sensitive to the needs of the disadvantaged in the community.  The memory of the difficulties she faced as an immigrant moved Bella to quickly check in on new African immigrants in the country.  She would visit them often, to check on them, bring them food, and leave them with a word of encouragement.  Bella never forgot her family and community in Africa.  She sponsored children to go to school, helped build churches, and took care of the widowed and orphaned.  She practiced her profession of caring all around.

She loved serving her God and exalting His name.  She raised her children to be God fearing, and to serve God with diligence, just as she did.  

Her memory will forever be engraved in our hearts as she is laid to eternal rest.