by Julie Stepp, Affiliation CoordinatorHeartbeat International
There’s something about 50-year anniversaries that always intrigues me. For one thing, I always seem to be ending up at these half-century landmarks whenever they happen. Whether it’s at my university, in my country of choice for an extensive study abroad, or during the timing of my first full-time job, I find myself celebrating 50 years of something… over and over. I’m starting to wonder, “Does God have something to tell me through all this? Are 50-year anniversaries significant to Him, and if they are, why?”
I started studying where the number 50 shows up in the Bible to search for clues. The first factoid I found was that “Pentecost” means “50” and was a feast that happened 50 days after the Passover celebration of freedom from Egypt. This feast of Pentecost was also called the Feast of Firstfruits and celebrated the harvest God had provided for the people. So evidently “50” was related to freedom, celebration, and abundance in that case. The number “50” also came up in situations involving armies (like a group of 50 soldiers) or measurements (such as “make this area of the temple 50 by 50”). But what really caught my attention was the significance of the Year of Jubilee, which happened every 50 years for the children of Israel and was an entire year of releasing slaves to their families, forgiving debts owed to debtors, and restoring land to its rightful owners. I felt I’d hit the proverbial jackpot. Here was an example in the Bible of a year-long celebration of a 50-year anniversary that God Himself ordained. Maybe here was the answer to my questions about “the year of the 50.”
Let’s take a look together at what God had to say to the children of Israel about this “jubilee year” in Leviticus 25.
First, God told them that every 50th year would be a year of rest – rest for the farmland and the vineyards. This directly followed another year of no crop-planting, as every seven years God commanded a Sabbath rest too. With the 50th year coming right after the 49th, the Israelites were eating what they had planted over 2 years ago. God promised to take care of them through this time and provide for all their needs through their previous harvest. When I read this, I immediately thought about how 2020 was a similar year of rest in many ways. Businesses were closed for several weeks, social events were cancelled or moved “to the comfort of your home.” We didn’t have the option to “plant” our normal seeds in the hearts of our donors and supporters. The pregnancy help movement largely had to depend upon past interactions and strong current supporters to get through this season, and God provided. (Interestingly enough, while we’re celebrating Heartbeat’s 50th birthday in 2021, the fiftieth year of Heartbeat International was 2020. Remember that a child’s first year occurs before their first birthday, and so on and so forth, so 2020 really did match up with our 50th year!)
Then God told His people to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (v. 10). Slaves were freed and sent back to their hometowns, people who had sold their houses and land were welcome to return to their heritage (very important in those days), and many people got to experience freedom and release. It made me think of the fact that the pregnancy help community does exist to see an end to abortion in our lifetime, but in that existence, we encounter so much more than “the abortion problem.” We see broken families, wounded hearts, drug addiction, physical abuse, and sexual webs woven so tragically you wonder if their effects can ever be un-done. But Jesus came to give us “the year of the fifty.” He came to give not only us, but also our clients, a way out, a way to return to their homeland and repair the broken cities that have been devastated for generations. His power is real, and it works. What we do through pregnancy help inspires people to go back to their families – the places they learned their brokenness – and restore them back to healthy communities.
Last but not least, God promised the Israelites in verse 21, “I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years,” speaking of His abundant provision to sustain His people through their 2-year season of rest. Because the provision of the 48th year was so great, God’s people survived and thrived until they could reap the harvest of the 51st year. We’re in that season of rest and provision, friends. The seeds you have sown in previous years are still alive in the hearts God destined for them to be placed in. And not only are those seeds planted in the hearts of your donors, but also in the hearts of your clients. You are a two-sided ministry. Don’t doubt that God will bring to fruition what He planted through you in what seems like the distant past. His seeds have a purpose, and He will accomplish what He has set out to do. Don’t worry about “letting the fields rest.” God saw ahead, and He has commanded His blessing on you.
Just a few more thoughts. As a twenty-something celebrating all these 50-year marks, I’ve realized that it’s so sacred to witness a 50th anniversary. Think about when a couple celebrates their 50th anniversary. It’s such a special celebration because they likely won’t get to celebrate another 50-year mark – their 100th anniversary. Many times, different generations are looking at the same fifty mark and only get to see that fifty mark once. In the same way, a 50th birthday for an organization is a moment that all share together. I get to celebrate what others gone before me have prayed for, wept over, and offered their lives in service to. Heartbeat International, and the pregnancy help movement in general, takes skills, viewpoints, and experience levels from various generations to bring true healing and help to our communities. We are a cross-generational movement, and our 50th birthday is a moment in time that captures our passion together. May this “year of the fifty” be a year of rest, release from bondage, abundant provision, and multi-generational celebration.
In the last few years, Heartbeat has seen some amazing growth! Our affiliate network has been constantly expanding, and with the addition of the Abortion Pill Rescue Network, Next Level CMS, grant programs like Life Launch, and other exciting programs and resources introduced in the last few years, our staff have been working harder than ever to make sure you have all the tools you need to serve the women in your community.
With all of the excitement, Heartbeat’s team has had to adapt to new ways of working together, and that’s why we’re proud to announce that Betty McDowell, who has worked on the Ministry Services team for over 15 years, will be joining Cindi Boston as a Vice President at Heartbeat International.
Betty’s new title is Vice President of Ministry Services, and Cindi will continue to serve with the title, Vice President of Mission Advancement.
"Betty and I have worked together in pregnancy help ministry since 1983, and she has been a wise counselor to me (on matters both professional and personal!) for over 30 years,” says Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board of Heartbeat International, “So, I can confirm that she brings both a broad and deep level of knowledge, experience, creativity, passion, and wisdom to her position. Plus, her leadership is informed by her love of Christ and a focus on relationship. I can't think of a better combination! I am thrilled that Betty has accepted an even greater responsibility for Heartbeat's services to YOU, our affiliates, as Vice President of Ministry Services.”
Betty will continue to lead and serve the Ministry Services team, as members of the team take new titles as well. Dawn Lunsford, who will continue to make online learning available to the pregnancy help movement, takes the title of Director of Academy, and Christa Brown, who will continue to lead the Abortion Pill Rescue Network and work with those seeking to add medical services to their organizations, takes the title Director of Medical Impact.
Betty isn’t alone joining the Executive team. Director of Operations, Tony Gruber is also stepping into the executive team as Controller, and Danielle White, Esq. takes the title of Heartbeat General Counsel.
While not much changes for you, our affiliates (you’ll still be working with the same people for the same reasons!), we hope you’ll celebrate with us as we grow and adapt.
Ellen Foell, J.D., Esq., who previously served as Legal Counsel to Heartbeat International, has recently rejoined the Heartbeat Ministry Services team as International Program Specialist. Ellen’s introduction to pro-life work came as part of a team that defended peaceful, pro-life protesters. Ellen worked as a trial lawyer for many years after graduating from Case Western Reserve University. As legal counsel for Heartbeat, she was instrumental in laying the groundwork for several international initiatives, including our Europe Pregnancy Help Leaders Summit.
Ellen’s heart for the international program at Heartbeat is fueled by her family connections to Asia and Europe, and she is familiar with several languages. We’re thrilled to have Ellen working with the Heartbeat team again, so we decided to do a quick interview to share our excitement!
My last “gig” with Heartbeat was as Legal Counsel, a position now well-filled by Danielle White, Esq. I was in the position just under 5 years, and it was a wonderful experience. I had the chance to meet with lots of affiliates, do lots of legal reviews, do some teaching, and basically do all things legal for Heartbeat.
I always loved the mission and vision of Heartbeat, so when I had the chance to come back in a role with even more contact with affiliates, I was really excited. I see the pregnancy help movement across the globe is growing more and more. Look at what just happened in Ireland, a country where we never thought legalized abortion would come, and it did. Heartbeat is in a position to come alongside the pregnancy help centers where the political climate is changing. We have a lot to offer, and a lot to learn from these new organizations starting out, trying new things in new places.
I finished writing a book and started getting it ready for publication. I have been doing some work representing ministries and nonprofit organizations. I’ve also been doing some court-appointed work.
I did court-appointed work because I have such a long history of desire to help children. When you do this here, you often get appointed to represent either parents, children, or the best interests of children in abuse, neglect, and dependency cases. I really like it because you get to look at all the facts, and help the court find out what’s in the best interest of these children.
At the same time, it’s like putting band-aids on this incredible cultural systemic problem. It’s frustrating because you can put the band-aid on, but you’re not dealing with the foundational piece, which is life is sacred. God sees the life of this child as sacred, and God sees the lives of these parents, regardless of what they’re doing, as sacred.
One of the reasons I really wanted to take this position is that Heartbeat really deals with the foundational issue – that life is sacred. You can apply a billion band-aids, but if you have not addressed the foundation piece, if you’re not trying to help create and transform the pro-life gospel in a culture, you’re gonna be applying band-aids for the rest of your life. People need to do that anyway until Jesus returns, but I really want to make the years I have left count, and I think this is the way to do that.
I love being a part of a team. It’s encouraging to be with like-minded people again. It’s encouraging to be with people who have a vision to see a world in which abortion is unthinkable.
Joining the team in June of 2017, Hannah Ellis serves in dual roles as Heartbeat International’s executive assistant and international program specialist. Prior to her work with Heartbeat, she served as a Policy Analyst/Writer and the National Field Director at Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.
Hannah has appeared on television, radio and podcasts, and her writing has appeared in American Thinker, Breitbart, CNSNews.com and The Christian Post, as well as other national and international pro-life sites.
A graduate of Cedarville University with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies, she specialized in Bible, editing and publishing, and Spanish. Hannah’s heart for cross-cultural Christian ministry has led her to serve in Zimbabwe and Mexico.
Hannah’s desire to reach vulnerable people with the hope of the Gospel has also led her to answer phones for Dawson McAllister’s The Hope Line, which answers over 50,000 calls from troubled teens each year.
Hannah’s favorite titles, however, are Christ-follower and wife to her best friend.
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