On the outside, it looks like an ordinary house in a middle-class neighborhood in St. Joseph, Mich. On the inside, there are signs something out of the ordinary is going on. Around the bathroom mirror, for example, notes from God: “I love you.” “I’ve created you for a purpose.”
“Our girls look at themselves in the mirror, and they don’t like what they see,” said Flori Mulder Mejeur ’78. “At the house, we repeat messages of love and acceptance to them, and slowly they take those messages into their hearts.”
The house is Well of GRACE, an acronym for Girls Restored and Christ Exalted, named for the place Jesus met a woman full of shame and offered her messages of truth and acceptance. Mejeur and her husband, Steve Mejeur ’78, with friends Leslie Thompson Kroeze ’91 and Jim Kroeze ’87, founded the ministry after meeting young women with emotional and spiritual issues who needed help at Southwestern Medical Clinic’s Christian counseling office, where Flori and Leslie were counselors.
“They weren’t pregnant, addicted, in trouble with the law or severely mentally ill,” Leslie said, “so there were no residential programs available to them.”
“And one hour of counseling a week isn’t enough for them to make lasting changes,” Flori added. “They go home to situations that keep them stuck.”
Twelve such women have lived in the Well of GRACE house since it opened in November 2007. Between the ages of 18 and 25, they’re welcomed by therapeutic staff and volunteers who counsel and companion them throughout their stay. The young women pay nothing.
But grace is not cheap at the Well.
“To get into the program they have to jump through a lot of hoops that help convince us they’re ready to do the hard work of change,” Flori said.
“The days are very structured,” Leslie explained. “We provide activities to meet wellness goals they’ve worked out with us: Bible studies, book studies, workouts at the Y, group and individual counseling, and community service.
“Also, the girls are in charge of planning meals, cooking and eating together, which, honestly, has been the hardest part of our program. Many girls have had an eating disorder, and many self-mutilate.
“Across all boundaries—economic, educational, racial and religious—kids aren’t getting the message from their families that they’re loved no matter what,” Flori continued. “At Well of GRACE something will get spilled or broken and the girls’ immediate response is, ‘I’m bad, you don’t love and accept me.’ After six months of our staff pouring messages of God’s love into them, they finally begin to change the way they think and feel about themselves.”
Those messages don’t stop after six months. When they are ready to leave, they can practice re-entry, returning to the house after visits with their families to discuss what has gone well or badly.
However long they stay, whether they’ve achieved their wellness goals or not, young women who’ve been to the Well know grace is available to them anytime.
“They know they can call us and we’ll care,” Leslie said. “We offer an unconditional love they’ve rarely, if ever, had.”
To learn more about the ministry, visit wellofgraceministries.com.
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