In biblical times, wells represented life. They provided water and were social hubs where people gathered to talk and socialize.
Wells supplied physical water, but sometimes, like for the Samaritan woman, they also gave something even greater – living water and an encounter with Jesus Himself.
At The Well, a new day center for homeless men and women in downtown Brunswick, patrons can shower, wash their clothes, use a computer to seek employment, drink a cup of coffee, and have a conversation with a friend. More importantly, though, they are treated with dignity and respect.
A ministry of Faithworks, an extension ministry of the South Georgia Conference that works ecumenically with other denominations and is run by United Methodist pastor Rev. Wright Culpepper, The Well is not a shelter, but a “hospitality resource center,” says Rev. Culpepper.
Open daily from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., The Well, which opened a few months ago in an abandoned bus terminal, serves between 50 and 60 people each day.
Vilma Gall is one of them. College educated but unemployed, Gall is homeless. She lives with a friend right now, but for months she slept outside – on a bench by the library, on the back porch of an abandoned or for sale home, or on a grassy spot by the riverfront. With nowhere to bathe or launder her clothes it’s been hard to find a job.
She uses The Well’s computer lab to send out at least one job application each day; sometimes she fills out as many as eight or 10.
It’s hard for Gall to put into words what The Well and its ministry means to her.
“I am very grateful for it,” she said. “I thank God for the safe place I have to sleep at night and the safe refuge I have during the day.”
At The Well, Brunswick’s homeless population can also receive transportation to counseling services, health clinics and the hospital, and rehabilitation programs. Several volunteers give their time to teach Bible studies, cut hair, help patrons fill out forms, and offer rides to church and other area locations.
“There are a lot of good things happening,” Rev. Culpepper said. “It’s a good place to build community. That’s really what The Well is all about. That’s historically always where people gathered to draw water necessary for life. They came and they met and they had conversations and built relationships and solved problems together. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing happening down there right now.”
The ministry of The Well is about meeting basic needs and affirming the worth and value of each person as a child of God.
“To have someone come to them and give them a cup of coffee and ask how they are doing is transformational,” Rev. Culpepper said. “I believe that is the primary thing that is happening, that they can say, ‘This person has validated me, this person has respected me, this person has not condemned me for how I am or how I got here,’ and that opens up opportunities for people to be loving spirits of redemption and justification and, we hope, sanctification.
“My hope is that we can recognize that we are all God’s children and that we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
Gall said that The Well and the people she’s met there have been bright spots and blessings in her life.
“I come in here and feel like a human being again.”