The Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:19-20, is not relegated to a select few Christians; neither is the command to care for orphans and widows as communicated in James 1:27. In light of God’s call and their passion for the value of all lives, Wales Goebel and John Carr, opened Lifeline Children’s Services in 1981 as a ministry to meet the needs of women in crisis pregnancies as well as to connect those women who wished to make an adoption plan for their children with Christian couples seeking to adopt. At the heart of this ministry was the desire to transform lives through the gospel while promoting the value of life—both birth families and vulnerable children. Lynn Beckett remembers the adventures of a new, small ministry. One of her favorite memories is of Mr. Carr taking all six—yes, six—staff members to lunch when they needed a morale booster from the long, heart-rending but joyous work of ministering to those who were experiencing tremendous life challenges.
Despite the deep nature of Lifeline’s mission, our staff has seen countless stories of God’s work unfold as they walked alongside families. Lea Anne Parker, one of our social workers even remembers a time when a young birth mother’s family dropped her off by at the emergency room when she was in labor. With no family or other support around, Lea Anne was the hands and feet of God as she was the only person who stayed with this precious mother throughout the delivery. Our staff not only experienced the bond of delivery but would also go to great lengths to serve our birth mothers, such as the time Jana Lombardo, while wearing a dress and hose, had to break into a house by crawling through a window; Jana was taking a birth mother back home after she was released from the hospital following delivery, and unfortunately, this sweet mom had forgotten her house key. Compassion and dedication are two words that could sum up Lifeline’s social workers, and because of God’s work through them and the Lifeline staff, we have had the privilege of journeying alongside thousands of women, children, and families. In 2013, Lifeline’s 1,000th domestic adoption was finalized!
As the ministry to women continued, Lifeline saw a need to provide a focused resource for women in crisis pregnancies. In 1984, Lifeline Village Maternity Home opened in Pell City, Alabama as a ministry arm of Lifeline Children’s Services. Lifeline Village offers a home environment for women who are facing a crisis pregnancy and are considering adoption as an option. Women can receive housing and physical care while also receiving resources, professional counseling, and information to assist them in making an informed decision regarding their plan for parenting or adoption. In 2016, the Village moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and continues to provide this incredible resource for women.
As God continued to open hearts and doors, Lifeline’s mission expanded to include international adoption from China in 1999. The very first Lifeline adoption from China was completed by the Settles family, as they brought home a sweet little girl named Cara Li. God continued to open more doors, and in 2003 Lifeline’s international program expanded to include our Eastern European program. Programs began to grow, and we became licensed in an increasing number of countries. As of 2014, Lifeline’s international program included 23 countries on 5 continents.
Lifeline remained committed to defending the fatherless and were burdened by the great need for children overseas who would never be adopted, left to a lifetime that would most likely be characterized by poverty, sickness, slavery, or death. As a response, Lifeline launched (un)adopted in 2009 to address the need for life skills, education, and training for these children and their community. (un)adopted currently maintains partnerships in eight countries. In 2014, (un)adopted took on a new project of opening a foster center in Southern China. By moving children from a local orphanage to this center, lives have been saved and dramatically changed because of the intentional love and care these children receive. At this foster center Katie Beaton witnessed a huge milestone in the life of a little boy named Scout, who was confined to a stroller. Katie was able to connect with others who could provide a wheelchair for Scout, and give him the mobility and independence he needed to survive!
Not only has Lifeline’s story expanded with new ministries and programs, it has deepened through ministries like Crossings, Families Count, and Safe Families for Children. These programs deepen our ministry to provide further reach and impact throughout the world and down the street. Recognizing the great need for pre-adoptive parents to be trained for the intense journey of adoption, Crossings was created in 2013 as an education program to equip families in how to best prepare for and parent their son or daughter who came to them through adoption. This level of training and care sets Lifeline apart as an agency that truly holds your hand throughout the entire adoption process and attempts to make sure parents are as prepared and aware as possible.
Crossings began going international in 2015. Sensing the care gap between orphanages and families, Whitney White and Allison Fuqua developed curriculum to teach caregivers the importance of attachment, appropriate discipline, developmental milestones, or as a caregiver called it “positive brainwash,” and she meant that in a most positive way. Whitney witnessed life transformation at the Lifeline foster center and grieved that other children were not receiving the same care. As a result, they developed training for caregivers and have been traveling to (un)adopted partnerships and educating caregivers on a holistic approach to make sure children are loved, cared for, and provided for in appropriate and God-honoring ways to these valuable children. An orphanage leader thanked them for the “positive brainwash” and invited the team to see the difference the training had made in their orphanage!
In 2009, Lifeline began a partnership with the Department of Human Resources in Alabama to expand our domestic ministry to recruit and train foster parents. Deepening this ministry, Families Count began in 2014 after a vision of reaching birth parents through the local church came to fruition. Families Count is a six-week gospel-based curriculum for birth parents in the process of reunifying with their children who are currently in foster care or who are at risk of entering foster care. Traci Newell recalls a time when the Lord clearly moved to provide for the parenting class. Volunteers had provided Bibles for the children of the parents, but Traci realized the night of the class, they were seven Bibles short. That afternoon, an Amazon Prime box appeared on her desk with the exact number of Bibles needed for the class!
The year 2014 also allowed us to deepen our domestic ministry in Topeka, Kansas with Safe Families for Children, which works through the local church to walk alongside families in distress.
Through all of these milestones, ministries have expanded, deepened, and changed, but the mission to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children has been unwavering. In 1981 the entire staff could fit in one car. In 2011, we were able to move into two new office spaces that allowed interns and staff to sit at desks instead of love seats and the hallway floor, as Krisha Yanko remembers. One Saturday in 2014, Krisha walked to her desk to do a little work and was able to witness the moment when a sweet baby girl was about to meet her adoptive family for the first time. As she held this little girl, Krisha recognized the miracles that happen within Lifeline’s walls every day—even on a pretty normal Saturday, and that is the true story of Lifeline; the work can be challenging and unpredictable, but the Lord does miracles among families every day between the walls and the desks of a ministry that seeks Him and seeks to defend the vulnerable.