Herbie Newell was recently in Kansas meeting with a real estate agent about a piece of property. When the man asked him what he did for a living, Newell told him.
Newell works for Lifeline Children’s services, a pro-life Christian organization that has supported children and mothers for 40 years.
The man broke down and cried. He confessed to having paid for an abortion over 20 years ago and told Newell he thinks about it every day. Not only that, but the man said he spoke recently to the child’s mother. She’s spent the last 23 years thinking about it, too.
“No matter how much the left wants to hide these studies, these studies are staggering at the number of women who’ve had abortions who will tell you they think about that child each and every day of their life,” Newell said.
Listen to Herbie and Ashley Newell tell their story in this exclusive interview with 1819 News.
In 1982, just under 10 years after the Supreme Court instituted federal protection for abortion in Roe vs. Wade, Lifeline started in response to the rising number of women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.
Instead of encouraging abortion or leaving the mothers to their own devices, Lifeline founders Wales Goebel and John Carr decided to do everything they could to take care of the women and children themselves.
Today, from its headquarters in Birmingham, Lifeline offers a variety of services, not only for mothers looking to choose adoption for their child but also for orphans and even mothers experiencing unexpected pregnancies who still plan to parent the baby.
Lifeline operates on five pillars: adoption, pregnancy, family care reunification, orphan care and counseling.
Though the majority of women who come to Lifeline for help have already made the decision to keep their babies, Lifeline compassionately helps the remainder of the women consider the realities of their choices.
“We want to help women understand that you can’t undo what has happened, so you have to make a proactive choice for what [they’re] going to do for both [them] and [their] child," Newell said. "The left and the pro-abortion lobby has really painted this picture of ‘you can undo this pregnancy.’ But you can’t undo the pregnancy. Abortion is exactly that: abort.”
Through its pregnancy ministry, Lifeline teaches mothers the values of not only their unborn child’s life but also their own. Lifeline works with local churches to produce its “Worthy” curriculum, which is intended to unlock women’s gifts so that they can make the best decisions for their children.
Lifeline also helps parents who have lost their children to foster care work toward reunifying their families. These parents typically end up in family court, and many of them also end up in drug court. In order to get their children back, parents are required to take a series of parenting classes.
Many states, such as Alabama, provide these classes, but they’re often inflexible and limited. Lifeline’s classes are offered in 19 states and have, as of now, graduated 250 individuals.
Of these individuals, only 20% have relapsed, meaning a vast majority have never had to send their children back into foster care due to the same issues arising again. When Lifeline first started, the relapse rate was as high as 70%.
Newell attributed Lifeline’s success to its ability to make connections for the parents. Lifeline works hard to create a community around the parents and give them the resources the state is unable to provide.
Lifeline also works with orphans both domestically and internationally. Unlike similar organizations, Lifeline helps find homes for orphans in their own country unless the resources there are insufficient to meet the child’s needs.
“We’ve got to go in and help create domestic alternatives for these children,” Newell said. “We’ve got to introduce them to the church. We’ve got to help these orphanages have a plan to be able to get these kids in the places where they’re going to be taken care of, where they’re going to have a hope for their future.”
To do this, Lifeline works with churches in communities around the world and provides counseling for adopted children.
Newell said they’ve found a big difference in the issues faced by adoptive families as opposed to biological families. Research shows children can experience trauma inside the home due to substances and other factors.
Lifeline helps these families identify and address issues from the child’s past.
In 2019, Lifeline launched Bridge Educational Services, which provides educational resources for adoptive families. Newell said Bridge exploded during COVID-19 after many families turned to homeschooling their children.
“We don’t want these families just to survive,” Newell said. “…We want them to thrive.”
“I feel like everything that Lifeline stands for is the love of God because when you’re 18 and pregnant, and you’re out of wedlock, my first thought was I let my parents down. I let God down. I’m a terrible person, but they never made me feel like that,” said Alicia Tembo. “They prayed with me. They took me to church. And they did what the Bible said to do.”
Tembo was in a Walmart bathroom when she found out she was pregnant. She was only 18 and was already suffering from alcohol and drug abuse. She tried denying to herself and her family that she was pregnant for a while, but at 30 weeks, the fact couldn’t be suppressed.
After her mother finally confronted her, Lifeline helped Tembo through her pregnancy and the process of choosing adoption for her son by offering her a place at their maternity home, which at the time was in Pell City.
“The love and acceptance I felt at the maternity home was instant,” Tembo said. “The house family showed me unconditional love. They taught me that no matter what I had done or the choices I had made that lead me to this point, God still loved me. They taught me God loved me no matter what, that all He wanted was to have a relationship with me. They showed me the same love and grace that our Father shows us.”
At first, Tembo wasn’t sure about choosing adoption for her son. Lifeline didn’t make the decision for her. Instead, they counseled her so that she could make the decision herself.
After birthing her son, Tembo even changed her mind last minute and revoked the adoption. However, after praying on it, she resigned the papers and, through Lifeline’s help, found the perfect family to raise her child.
“When I got to meet them, it was like them two put together had so many of my similar interests and so many goals I had as a parent,” Tembo said.
The adoptive parents sent Tembo updates until her child turned 5. She agreed to cease contact with him after that. Though it hasn’t been easy, Tembo eventually became a nurse and is currently in school to become a nurse practitioner. She is also on a committee to start another maternity home like the one that she said saved her life.
Now that her son, Christian, is an adult, Lifeline is helping her reunite with him. Tembo said she completed the paperwork for the reunification process in November.
“I could not fathom the fact that if Christian ever wanted to find me and me not listening to God and doing what I was called to do,” Tembo said.
“It was a hard time in my life, but beautiful at the same time,” she said about her pregnancy. “I just feel like everything Wales Goebel made that organization [to be] was built on the love of God. And they showed me that. They showed me grace and mercy and love.”
Roselande and Richardson Jean came to Lifeline for a much different reason. Even before they were married, they talked about the possibility of one day adopting a child. After having four biological children, they knew it was time to move that process forward.
But they struggled to find an adoption agency they were willing to move forward with until a friend who’d worked with Lifeline to adopt a child of her own referred them.
“Just our experience with Lifeline, they are truly who they say they are,” Roselande said. “There’s no bias in what they stand for. They are truly a Christ-centered ministry.”
Richardson said that the most difficult things about the adoption process for the adoptive family are the emotions and the waiting.
“We do have to say yes before a birth mom says yes, so your yes is connected to a lot of emotions,” Roselande said. “You almost already envision the child in your home, and its part of your family, so when you see the no on the other side, it's an emotional rollercoaster you have to go through, and you have to have the courage to say yes again to another birth mom.”
Lifeline helped them through everything. The Jeans found their child within seven months and were just matched and placed in October. Now, they said they will continue to take advantage of the services Lifeline offers for adoptive families.
“I admire the fact that Lifeline provides ongoing care for the birth mother,” Richardson said. “Going through the process, especially for like the pregnancy counselor, they’re experiencing two types of emotions where they’re experiencing joy with their adoption parents… but they’re also experiencing the emotion of sorrow for the birth-mother… The fact that Lifeline provides that kind of support for the birth mother so that she doesn’t feel like its an ultimate loss is something to admire.”
Lifeline just opened its new international headquarters, the Ridge, in Birmingham in August. According to Newell, the new facility was gifted by a donor and will serve as a ministry center to further expand Lifeline's national and international outreach.
To avoid being beholden to alternative interests, Newell and his colleagues avoid taking any funds from the government.
“We want to serve the system, not be employed by the system,” Newell said.
Almost a third of Lifeline’s revenue comes from fees for their services like counseling, education and adoption. Most of their revenue comes from individual contributions.
Newell said the best way to help is to go to lifelinechild.org or call 205-967-0811.
Those seeking help can also find resources online and reach out to that number.
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