August 2022. Anaheim, California. Serving USA (SUSA) partner NorthEast of the Well celebrates the reopening of their Anaheim gathering at the First Congregational Church of Anaheim.
After a 2.5-year hiatus due to Covid-19, NorthEast of the Well (NEOTW) gathered with 60 individuals from all walks of life for “Dinner, Worship, and the Word”. Together again, men and women perhaps recently released from jail, navigating addiction, or experiencing mental illness found community through the efforts of NEOTW volunteers and staff, including Community Outreach and Program Development Coordinator Shaneen Coston.
“Because of Serving USA, we can expand our outreach, hire new staff, and relaunch our Anaheim gathering,” says Coston. NEOTW is one of the 20 California-based Serving USA partners that focus on women in recovery. Serving USA’s commitment to women in recovery supports programs that walk alongside women and offer compassion, counseling, life skills, and spiritual development to recover from various forms of abuse.
NEOTW is a Christ-centered worshiping community with a mission to empower each person to return to their community with the message to “come see about a man…”.
Their name comes from scripture, “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see about a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” [John 4:28-29]. A woman came to a well to draw her water, hoping to avoid others, as she was marked by sin and failure and felt great shame. Christ met her with intention, saw her, and called her to a higher living. With passion, she returned home, located northeast, and spread the message of grace. The outcast became the witness.
NEOTW encourages its participants to share their stories of addiction, hoping those individuals would feel inspired to seek help and improve their lives through their hope in Jesus.
“Go back to the people who are struggling with what you have overcome, and tell them about this hope in Jesus,” says Coston. She recalls an attendee sharing, “I’ve only been clean for six days,” to which she responded, “Ok- but where were you seven days ago? Look at where you are now.”
Shaneen Coston can attest to the importance of gatherings as she will soon celebrate six years of sobriety, attained through a new life focused on the word of the Lord. When asked if she had any advice for someone seeking help but is nervous about taking that first step, Shaneen said, “You will not regret trying the program, but you will regret it if you leave.”
Hiring program leaders with lived experience is crucial to the success of participants. “We are a testimony community”, Coston stated. When seeing someone who has shared their experience, they feel less judgment and more encouragement to move forward. The lived experience provides accurate, honest information to participants:
“It’s not an overnight fix. You won’t get into a program and suddenly not want to use every day. You are fighting for your life every day and constantly having to make a choice to say no when someone is tempting you.”
In the last year, NEOTW has reached 1,924 people. Some are new; some are returning. With the partnership of Serving USA, NEOTW continues to support individuals who relapse to find the program that works for their needs. NEOTW remains a vital asset of the community with the support and guidance of scripture.
With an initiative to “take God’s word into hard places,” Serving USA is proud to partner with NEOTW and its restorative justice work. Whether their Steps to Success employment readiness programs or Outcast to Witness gatherings, NEOTW provides guidance and walks alongside individuals finding their way to recovery.
To learn more about NorthEast of the Well and how to get involved, please visit www.northeastofthewell.org.