Eveleo “Val” Newton, the new pastor of Good News Christian Fellowship in Marion as of January, didn’t have ministry in mind when he was 33 years old. He didn’t have much of anything in mind at all.
Newton was born and raised in Miami, Fla., and by the time he was 33, he knew he was in trouble.
“I kind of lived a wayward life,” Newton said. “I was plagued by some addictions and demons I had to battle with. I became tired of living a life that there was no benefit in living.”
Newton finally heeded the message he had ignored for years from his mother, family and friends, asking God to come into his life.
“I was really tired, and I remember calling out and saying ‘If you are the God people tell me you are, I need you right now,’” Newton said.
An overwhelming sense of peace rushed over him, Newton said.
“I was able to smile, with tears rolling down my eyes, and I knew there was something different,” he recalled.
Newton found God that day. The next day, he found a bus station.
He left Miami for southern California, where he worked with two different ministries, spreading the Gospel, serving people less fortunate, people outside mainstream Christianity, and people seeking to restore their faith.
As his faith and knowledge grew, so, too, did Newton’s opportunities to begin preaching and serving on outreach teams.
During one team visit to a church, Newton learned about World Impact, and was attracted to the organization’s inner-city, urban ministry focus. He filled out an application for World Impact, but waited nine months before he received a call, one from a place that was completely non-urban.
“It was a guy named Dennis Nichols, and he said ‘Hey, I’m the director of a ministry in Florence, Kansas. I’d like to invite you to visit my place,” Newton said.
Nichols was director of Morning Star Ranch, a World Impact ministry that taught young men from urban areas discipleship and Christian values while working on the ranch, and Newton fit right into his plans. Newton stepped out on faith and moved to Kansas in 1997.
Newton visited several area churches and chose Good News Christian Fellowship in Marion as his new church home. When the ranch started Rivers Flow Fellowship, a small congregation that met monthly, Newton served as pastor.
In 1998, Newton became friends with a ranch volunteer, Meg Green, who moved to Kansas with her husband, Mike, when he was called to be the pastor at Florence Christian Church. Meg remained in the area after Mike passed away so her children could complete high school. Friendship turned to romance, and the two were married in 2000.
This past fall, longtime Good News pastor Larry King announced his intention to retire by the end of the year. With encouragement from King, the members considered pastoral candidates from inside the congregation, and asked Newton to become the new pastor.
“They said, ‘hey, Val, we think you can do this, we stand by you, we believe in you,’” Newton said.
Newton said he is grateful for King’s support and confidence, and acknowledges the legacy King left to his care.
“I appreciated the history, appreciated the traditions of what this church is about,” Newton said. “I’m still needing to know more about what that is, but also making the congregation aware of the great heritage they are a part of.”
One of Newton’s goals is to build on that heritage by working in partnership with his congregation to create a shared vision of moving into the future together for Good News.
“Members in the congregation are presenting some of their visions, along with my overall vision, and we’re just clicking,” Newton said.
“We are gearing up to go out and meet the needs of the community, we are gearing up to be a presence and voice in the community here,” Newton said.
“We have a vision that the church will be so big in response to spreading God’s love, and it’s not about numbers, that inevitably we’ll have to expand our quarters,” Newton said. “We know if we go out, we’re bringing in people, too.”
Newton said the way in which Good News members welcome others is a special trait the church has.
“I believe anybody from a homeless person to the President of the United States can walk inside of our congregation and be loved equally,” Newton. “We have a church that will embrace them 10 times before they get to the service, and another 30 times before they go home.”
Fellowship is important, but even more so to Newton is that the church fulfills God’s purpose.
“It’s about aligning ourselves with the word of God, seeing that vision, praying about that vision, hearing that vision, and getting people on board.”
Newton believes his experience allows him to be responsive to people at different points in their faith.
“Those messengers that God sent, it took me all the way to 33 years of age — I wasn’t ready, I didn’t want to hear it,” Newton said. “There are some people who do want to hear, who need to be reminded about the love of God, and those are the people I want to reach, and always be there when they’re ready. We’re excited to be here.”