Herbie Newel of Lifeline Children’s Services: “That this is a marathon and not a sprint”

Your staff will never match your ownership, passion, or concern for the ministry, but they still have so much to offer. I think in the beginning I expected that my work ethic and care would just be contagious to the people that we hired. What I have learned over time is that I had to […]

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Your staff will never match your ownership, passion, or concern for the ministry, but they still have so much to offer. I think in the beginning I expected that my work ethic and care would just be contagious to the people that we hired. What I have learned over time is that I had to give them things to own within the ministry. I had to find their true giftings and put them where they would flourish. I needed to be patient with those who saw their position as a job.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Herbie Newell (MBA, Samford University),President and Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and its ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, Families Count and Lifeline Village. Under Newell’s leadership, Lifeline has significantly increased its international and statewide outreach, attained membership with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and achieved international accreditation under The Hague Treaty, begun an extensive foster care ministry, and started its (un)adopted strategic orphan care ministries in more than 10 countries. Herbie speaks nationally at conferences and events and regularly preaches throughout the world on gospel-driven justice. He and his wife, Ashley, live in Birmingham, Alabama, and are parents to a son, Caleb, and daughters Adelynn and Emily. His first book, Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life, released on January 21, 2020.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I was raised in a christian home and in church. Our family never missed being at church whenever the door was open. At the age of 14, I felt a tangible call into some form of full time ministry. After speaking with my pastor and my parents, it was determined that I should get a business degree and go to seminary afterwards if that was what I still believed the Lord was calling me to do. I graduated from Samford University in Birmingham, AL with both an undergraduate in accounting and a master’s degree in business and accounting. During my time in school, I worked alongside several churches focusing primarily on junior high ministry, even serving for two years as a youth pastor in a rural church. After graduation, I began working as an accountant with a focus as an independent auditor with a large regional firm, Warren Averett. While I was working as an accountant, my sweet wife, Ashley, was working as the pregnancy center director for a large pro-life pregnancy testing center called Save-A-Life. She would come home from work and share the many stories from her day with women in crisis. Our dinner table became a place of prayer and strategy as we thought about how to best serve these women. After many successful years working as an accountant and volunteering in youth ministry at our church, the Lord called me to take my passion for youth and my business acumen and use them to serve the ministry of Lifeline Children’s Services, a ministry seeking to bring gospel hope to vulnerable children through adoption, foster care, orphan care, counseling, and reconciliation. I have been in this position for the last 17 years.

So how exactly does your organization help people?

Our mission is to manifest the gospel to orphans, vulnerable children, and vulnerable families. We have several facets of ministry by which we accomplish this including intercountry and domestic adoption, birthmother and pregnancy counseling, foster care and family restoration, international orphan care, and counseling, education, and coaching. We recruit missional Christian families for children in need of the loving support of a family through adoption from 15 nations as well as those placed by their birth mothers in the US in 13 southeastern states. Lifeline also counsels and supports women going through unexpected, crisis, or single-parent pregnancies. The ministry equips the church in 16 nations to care for orphans in their communities by supporting these children while also teaching them life skills and job skills in a biblical discipleship community. Lifeline also works with churches in 17 US states to help them organize ministries to foster children in their communities by ministering to birth parents through state-mandated parenting classes, mentoring and training them to be restored with their children lost to foster care. Also, Lifeline trains and equips parents to foster care in Alabama and South Carolina. Lastly, Lifeline, believing that adoption and foster care are opportunities to disciple children in the gospel of Christ Jesus, counsel, coach, and educate families to help them reach through their child’s past trauma in order to reach their hearts.

Can you tell me a story about a person that you helped?

There are literally so many stories that could be told, but the most recent that comes to mind is during this global pandemic. We helped a young lady, let’s call her Brooke, who was seeking an abortion because of her unplanned pregnancy. She couldn’t find a place that would perform an abortion because Covid-19 had shut down the abortion providers in her state. She reached out to Lifeline and we counseled her towards life, but everything seemed so hopeless to her. She ended up finding an abortion provider in another state. As she went into the Planned Parenthood clinic, she claims she remembered the counseling from Lifeline and demanded an ultrasound. The clinic prepared her for abortion, but she insisted to first see the ultrasound results. They reluctantly gave them to her and she found out for the first time that she was pregnant with twins. She left the clinic immediately and contacted her Lifeline counselor. She began meeting regularly with the counselor and gave her life to Christ. In October 2020 she delivered healthy twin girls whom she placed through an open adoption relationship with an adoptive family whom she chose. Brooke’s life is completely rich as she knows Jesus, has a new job, she provided life for her girls, and she has a relationship with her girl’s parents through adoption.

This obviously is not easy work. What drives you?

This work is challenging emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. While it is always rewarding to see the lives of vulnerable children, women, and families changed, you also experience so much hurt and pain that the most vulnerable experience. Also, spiritual warfare is real and draining. Whenever we are shining the light of the gospel into the lives of the lost and fighting the lies of abortion, we can always expect an attack from darkness. However, what keeps me going is a constant reminder that the Lord is my portion and strength. He cares about this work so much more than anyone else and He provides endurance and peace during the storms. The mission of the ministry to manifest the gospel to the nations through orphan care and adoption drives me, as I truly believe that the population we serve is unreached with the gospel and many times unengaged.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Lobby for laws which federally and locally protect religious liberty of child welfare organizations. The Church and Christians have been leaders and passionate advocates for child welfare since the Old Testament. Currently there are laws in the United States that threaten Christian and other faith-based organizations from operating on their closely held religious beliefs.
  2. Pray for the orphan, vulnerable families, and women in crisis. Pray that the Lord would sustain them and give them hope in Him. We must be stirred to pray to the Father of the Fatherless on behalf of the orphan and vulnerable child. He is their hope and their sustenance, and He is the one from which we should take our cues. What could happen in our neighborhood, our city, our state, our nation, and our world if we sought the face of God in prayer as much as we worried, fretted or made plans of our own? There are probably a lot of people praying for our children — parents, grandparents, other family members, friends, etc. What about the orphan or the child in foster care? Our Father wants us to pray for them, so beloved, start praying for the orphan today!
  3. We need to speak out on behalf of the vulnerable child and we need to serve them and their families. The Gospel is so beautiful as it weaves a tapestry of grace throughout all people groups, all ethos, and all shades of skin as we are reminded that we are all sons and daughters of Almighty God. Functionally speaking, what do our closest relationships look like? Are we investing time with people who look differently than we do or who haven’t had the opportunities that we have had? Are we investing parts of our lives for justice and Gospel proclamation through action? Do our politics inform the way we do justice or does the Word of God?

Let us join the Father to the fatherless by serving children in foster care, orphans from around the world, and families who have lost their children to foster care. The Lord will make a difference with our faithfulness if we will just step out.

Maybe you are a restaurant owner — could you provide discounted meals for foster families? Maybe you are a hairdresser — could you provide discounted haircuts for foster children? Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom who loves to cook — could you take meals to foster families? Be creative and willing to get engaged with the heart of the father for the fatherless.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My sweet wife, Ashley. She is my biggest fan and cheerleader. She has encouraged me when I have been down. She has believed in me and especially the Lord working through me even when Lifeline was much smaller and much less significant. She has encouraged me with scripture and prayed daily for me. Also, she has worked tirelessly as an all-in volunteer for the ministry — helping with events, editing newsletters and our book, Image Bearers, beginning initiatives, training pregnancy centers, and so much more. In addition to all of this, she homeschools our children, cares for them as I travel the world, and encourages other women. I would not be able to be where I am without her.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. That this is a marathon and not a sprint. When I first started, I felt such a sense of immediacy and urgency. I saw the lives of so many orphans and vulnerable children who were aging out and unable to be adopted or brought into a family. I felt as though I had to do it all and do it now. While I am still driven by a sense of urgency, I have been encouraged to remember that I must pace myself for the long haul.
  2. That fundraising is more about relationships than even the mission. I am so passionate about the mission of Lifeline and I desperately want everyone to share my passion. I think initially I drove people away with my passion — it seemed like they ended up feeling they could never match my passion and failed to fund the work. When I learned that I needed to be as passionate about mentoring and building relationships with donors and funders, I started to see new friends share passions with me that they wanted to help fund.
  3. In cross-cultural ministry, we have very little to offer people in other nations outside of our legitimate relationship and partnership. I think too many times we go into other nations believing we see all of their issues and problems and know the solution. In the end, we have made more of a mess than help. I once helped a pastor in a slum in Africa start a hair salon which would serve the community, be a place for orphans to learn a skill and gain a job, and the profits would support the ministry for the children. While the business was needed in the community, the goals were achievable, and the idea noble, our partners never saw the value, didn’t share the passion, and in the end were driven to do the work because they didn’t want to disappoint the Americans. While the idea was good, it wasn’t their idea, it was mine. That experience taught me to first discover the passions of our partners and help them accomplish those, because then they own it and it becomes much more successful.
  4. Your staff will never match your ownership, passion, or concern for the ministry, but they still have so much to offer. I think in the beginning I expected that my work ethic and care would just be contagious to the people that we hired. What I have learned over time is that I had to give them things to own within the ministry. I had to find their true giftings and put them where they would flourish. I needed to be patient with those who saw their position as a job.
  5. When you travel a good bit, it pays to pick brands to be loyal too. The perks that your patronage brings saves money and makes being away from home much more palatable. I have chosen Delta, Marriott, and Hertz.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My big audacious goal has always been to see the Church care so much for their communities and vulnerable families that, as the Church, we would keep kids out of foster care as we disciple, love, and mentor families and children. Currently there are 400,000 kids in US foster care with 400,000 churches. If the church could not only involve themselves with these children, but also begin reaching other kids vulnerable to enter foster care, we could legitimately see foster care in the US revitalized. The church can provide respite homes for families, could teach families and mentor them to be the most successful parents, help families find jobs and support, and minister to children in extraordinary ways.

I also have a goal to see pro-life women’s health care facilities that would not only compete with Planned Parenthood, but provide life-giving options to women and children including help with parenting and adoption.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see just see this. 🙂

Howard Schultz of Starbucks or Arthur Blank of Home Depot. Both men have built companies with excellent reputations and franchised those organizations in such a way that every store offers the same excellent experience. I hope, as Lifeline grows into other states and countries, we are perceived as an excellent organization that offers what people expect from Lifeline.

Also, I have always wanted to have lunch with George W. Bush. His resilience and steadiness during some of the toughest days of our nation have always been encouraging to me. I also love the way that he has seemingly befriended his closest allies and his fiercest competitors.

Lastly, I have always wanted to sit down with Matt Chandler. I love his wit and how he handles God’s Word. His personal story of perseverance is extremely inspiring.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?; Twitter @hmnewell or @lifelinechild; Instagram @hmnewell or @lifelinechild; and Facebook “Lifeline Children’s Services”

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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