Tethered to Christ

April 15, 2013

David and Danielle Newell, M.A.R. and M.A.C.

David and Danielle moved from Colorado to Philadelphia so that Danielle could pursue a Master or Arts in Counseling degree. While working full-time as a pilot for American Airlines, David is also pursuing a Master of Arts (Religion) degree part-time. Recently, they sat down with us to talk about how they met, their faith background, what brought them to Westminster, and their plans for the future.

1. Can you start off by telling us how you met?
: Danielle and I met in the 6th grade. We worked on projects together as children, and knew each other through junior high and high school. I was interested in flying, so I applied for an ROTC scholarship to fly for the air force. As I got ready to graduate college in 1975, the Vietnam War was winding down, and there was a reduction in force, so they didn’t need pilots anymore. At that point, I decided to go civilian and was flying different jobs. My first major job was in American Samoa, flying from island to island.

After college, I reconnected with Danielle and we got to know each other. I moved back to California, and she also moved back to California. Danielle and I began dating, and I wanted to get married, so I proposed before moving to American Samoa, and the idea was that we’d get married and go from there.

2. How did you both come to faith?
: I wasn’t raised in a Christian home and David was raised in an Irish-Catholic family. I think in college, after we reconnected in our mid 20s, we were both being drawn to the Lord separately. My mother was going to a non-denominational Protestant church at that time, and David was still going to a Catholic church, so we would go together to the churches and ask questions. It’s about that time that David got the job in American Samoa.

David: I was beginning at that point to ask a lot of questions regarding my salvation. My soccer coach from a team I was on in California happened to be in American Samoa, and we struck up a really good conversation. He began to share more about what it means to be a Christian, that it’s more than just intellectual assent.

Danielle: There was a crisis that we were both experiencing individually, but almost simultaneously. David was learning the truths of the gospel from his coach, and what it means to know Christ as Lord and Savior, and he came to faith. Within a short time, I moved to American Samoa, and the pastor of the church he was visiting was instrumental in sharing with me my need for salvation. That was the first time I realized I couldn’t save myself.

3. What brought you both here to Westminster?
: After our kids went off to college, I was looking for work. We had invested so much of our lives into our kids, and at that point I felt like my career as a speech pathologist wasn’t satisfying. I didn’t really enjoy it, and I didn’t feel that that was what I was supposed to do. There’s a C.S. Lewis quote, where he says that Christians are content to play in mud pies when God is offering them a holiday at the sea. I thought about that a bit and I was inclined to apply to a seminary in our area. At that time when the pastor of our church (who knew we had Reformed leanings) said, “You should really apply to Westminster.” There was a seminary close by, and Westminster was so far away, but my pastor said, “Well, Dave’s a pilot, so you can do it.” I didn’t really think about it until Dave said, “If you want to go to Westminster and CCEF and get a counseling degree, you can go.” Isn’t that amazing?

At that point, I was working as the Director of Childrens’ Ministries at our church, and I knew I wanted to pursue counseling because women in the church would often come to me for help and advice, and I didn’t feel equipped.

4. You mentioned that before coming to Westminster, you had Reformed leanings. Was there a particular person who led you in that direction?
: I was flying to Japan, and I was on one of my rest breaks with another guy on our crew. We were reading our Bibles, and then one of the flight attendants came up to us and started talking about the Reformed faith. He gave me a little booklet on [the 5 points of Calvinism]. Initially, I pushed back, but he sent me a lot of books, like Loraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination and Kenneth Johns’ Election: Love Before Time.

5. Can you both share one thing you’ve learned from your time at WTS that has really impacted your walk with the Lord?
: John Leonard is our pastor, and he’s had a big influence reshaping how I think because I hear his sermons every Sunday. In addition to that, I’ve learned two things: That we are tethered by our relationship in Christ to Christ before the foundation of the world for all eternity. It’s given me great freedom and peace. The other is that we are not getting better; Jesus is getting sweeter, and I can say that wholeheartedly after one year of being here. I recognize I’m not getting better, but my Lord is so much sweeter to me than he was before.

David: I think some of the major things that rocked me were in the Doctrine of God class. Things such as the high and exalted view of God displayed in that class, the extended discussions on the Trinity, and God’s condescension toward us are remarkable in the sense that every day we live in this condescension; as well as the idea that God, by his delight, has made himself known to us.

6. Do you have any idea what your plans might be after gradution?
: It’s difficult for me to even articulate what I think God is doing because honestly, I would say I don’t know. I’m really looking forward to what he has in mind. So I would say that for myself, I really don’t know. A year and a half ago, I thought I knew, but isn’t it a mystery how God leads and directs us? We think we know, but we don’t know.

7. How can the Westminster community be praying for you both?
: I would say that my identity is first in Christ, but I realized I’m a struggler, like everyone else here. I think everyone here is struggling with something, or someone, and my prayer would be that I would learn to struggle well and keep my focus on Christ as I’m tethered to him. Because everything else will disappoint and fall short of where God wants me to be. That’s how people can pray for me.

David: That sort of leads to how to embrace suffering better. There’ve been a series of setbacks in my life since I’ve come here. American Airlines went bankrupt, a brokerage firm I had went bankrupt, and there’s the added stress of going back and forth from Philly to Dallas. I would like to be able to embrace suffering better, and to be able to rest in Christ and be able to give out instead of just looking inward. To be able to pour into other people’s lives, especially the people here.

If you would like to support the work of Westminster to train students like David and Danielle, please visit our online donations page here.