“I was a total mess, I was on the road to death or prison and my kids were going to follow in my footsteps if something didn’t change,” explained Melissa Marr. “Dysfunction was all I ever knew, I consumed as much drugs, alcohol and men as I could in eight or nine years. I was in and out of jail. Chaos was normal for me.”
“God really brought me to my knees,” Melissa continued. “I was about to face prison, but God really interceded and saved me. I got the opportunity to go to Heritage House in Costa Mesa. It’s a six-month program, but I was there a year; I’m a slow learner!”
Melissa explained that while she was at Heritage House for recovery help, women from NorthEast of the Well came and led Bible studies.
“They loved me when I couldn’t love myself,” Melissa said. “They spoke truth into my life, showed me love I’d never known before and God restored me. I invited Christ into my heart and that step changed my life forever. I have a drastically different life today, so do my children, and other people can too.”
Today Melissa is the administrative assistant and the resource coordinator at NorthEast of the Well, and she is a peer leader at Village of Hope, where she lives with her two children.
NorthEast of the Well (NEW) is a Christ-centered, worshipping community whose mission is “to provide discipleship, encouragement, accountability and a network of resources that empower people to move from lives of dependence to independence under Christ.”
NEW began in 2007 as an outreach to women and their children who were recovering from life controlling addictions, though men are now part of the community as well. Emily Schilling, a Newport Beach resident and co-founder of NEW, explained that it started when Laura Johnson, the missions director at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, and a small group of volunteers began a weekly Bible study at Heritage House, an alcohol treatment center. Originally only one woman attended, but over time, word spread, women began changing and the program grew.
“We have about 150 adults and 50 children every Monday night,” Emily explained. “Once people leave a program, they need to stay connected. We really compliment other organizations by providing continuity, and the ongoing connection of Christ-centered community, which is so important to sustain faith and growth. We’ve outgrown 3 places and are back at St. Andrews. We became an independent 501(c)(3) a year ago.”
“This is a lifelong community,” Emily continued. “We address long-term needs. We create community through our family style meal Monday nights and we have wonderful staff and volunteers for the children’s ministry. We take it seriously when parents have a serious desire to change their lives, and we know the kids need nurture too.”
The name is based on the story in the Bible of the Samaritan woman who was an outcast and tried to draw water from a well inconspicuously before retuning to her village in the northeast. She had such a transformational encounter with Jesus at the well that she dropped her water jar and ran back home, exclaiming to everyone that they needed to ‘Come see about a man who told me everything I ever did. Could he be the Christ?’
NorthEast of the Well has a goal of empowering broken people to rebuild their lives and return to their community with the message to ‘Come see about a man…’
“Like the woman of the well, I tell people they really need to come see what happens for themselves,” said Timberly Eckelmann, Director of Development for NEW. “I’ve never seen so many lives changed so quickly and so dramatically. We help people learn life skills; they learn dependability and accountability and they experience spiritual transformation. We are there for the lost and forgotten and help transform them into leaders. Many wonderful recovery programs are limited by the calendar, but we’re ongoing; we don’t have a graduation date. We fill a gap that needs to be filled.”
“We partner in ministry with Teen Challenge, The Orange County Rescue Mission, Heritage House, Mika, and other non-profits,” Timberly added. “We have a common spiritual agenda and we are excited about transformation. If you feel called to support us financially or have an employment opportunity for one of our carefully vetted people, give us a call. Or better yet, come and see.”