In Romans 7:19, the apostle Paul admits, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” This could be the theme Bible verse for New Earth Recovery ― a ministry of Tierra Nueva here for recovering women addicts ― says Amy Muia, New Earth Recovery’s co-director.
“These women want to change but just can’t,” Muia says. “We specialize in reaching the most broken.”
In June 2011, New Earth Recovery opened a residential home called Faith House in nearby Mt. Vernon. “We believe in seeking lost sheep until they’re found, and we’re pretty good at finding them,” Muia says. “But we keep losing them again and needed a place where we can get them out of their environment. That’s the only way it works.”
Faith House is the only Christian “clean and sober house” in Skagit County, a primarily agricultural region in northwest Washington State that is home to many migrant workers ― the people with whom Tierra Nueva ministers in a variety of ways, including an active jail ministry.
According to its website, Tierra Nueva “is an ecumenical ministry dedicated to proclaiming the Good News of God’s reign (on earth as it is in heaven) in solidarity with the oppressed for our mutual liberation, healing, empowerment, transformation, and total salvation.” Its founder and executive director is the Rev. Bob Ekblad, a Presbyterian minister. Tierra Nueva receives significant support from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s North Puget Sound Presbytery.
“Not all the women come from the jail, but that’s where the seed was born,” says Muia, who has been involved with Tierra Nueva since 1999 and has been on the staff since 2005. “We had to do something like Faith House because we kept seeing the same women over and over [in the Skagit County jail].”
As with all of Tierra Nueva’s ministries, New Earth Recovery’s program starts with prayer. “We know that neither incentive nor punishment really works,” she says. “Prayer is like medicine. When I walk into Bible study and see a real hard woman hanging back, I just say, ‘God’s going to get her today’ and invariably He does.”
The Tierra Nueva community gathers for worship each Sunday at 4:30 in the group’s weathered storefront building in downtown Burlington. Muia tells of a woman ― “a hard case, rejected by everyone,” she notes ― who dropped in on worship and by the end of the service broke down in tears. “She told me she felt ‘warm all over,’” Muia says.
Another key to Faith House’s successful ministry with recovering addicts is partnership with churches, Muia says, “because addicts need replacement mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings for those who have rejected them or whom they have rejected.”
Equally important, she adds, “the church needs addicts because they offer transparency, vulnerability and honesty. This ministry offers mutual liberation because in one way or another we’re all addicted to something. It just happens that these women’s addictions are illegal.”
Faith-based addiction recovery is essential, Muia believes, “because sobriety is only a means to an end, which is healing, and only God can do that for ALL of us. Our ministry is mutual and healing for all ― to learn to trust God.”
New Earth Recovery’s next step is a residential house for men who wish to be clean and sober. That effort is being headed up by Muia’s husband, Alan, who has recently given up his job as a dean at Skagit Valley College to be co-director of Tierra Nueva’s New Earth Recovery full-time.
Alan Muia, who provided some pastoral care at Faith House before deciding to take on creation of the men’s house, says he finds ministering with recovering addicts “humbling and fun. These are people who don’t have a back-up plan, which we believe God loves!”
He says the need for a male counterpart to Faith House is obvious. “We see folk make good decisions while they’re in jail, but have no place to walk the right path when they get out. We’ve got a growing little cadre of ex-offenders who come to church on Sunday afternoons, but they’d be so much better off if we had a place like Faith House for them.”
“We’ve got the needs and the ministries,” Amy Muia says. “We need donors and backers.”
To learn more, visit the Tierra Nueva and New Earth Recovery websites; to make a financial donation, click here.