Mary Melton's most endearing quality is that she enjoys taking care of others.
A 1984 graduate of DeKalb Technical College's Licensed Practical Nurse pilot program and a veteran in the mission field since 1988, she has a genuine love for people. Melton also co-leads the Celebrate Recovery women's group for sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse at Eastridge Community Church.
"I have always been a nurturer," Melton said. "I think that is what I do best. I believe that's why I am a good nurse. I just like to love on people."
Born in the Cabbagetown community in Atlanta, Melton dropped out of school and married before the age of 16. She and her family moved to Covington when she was 36.
Divorced when her youngest of three children was 14, Melton remembers feeling as if she had a big placard on her back inscribed with the word "divorce."
Melton has worked as an LPN in Newton and Rockdale hospitals and continues her work today caring for dialysis patients at Rockdale Medical Center.
She answered a call to missions in 1988 and spent nine months in Hawaii in the Crossroads training program where she received discipleship and Biblical counseling training. Melton's first outreach trip was an excursion to China, Singapore and the Philippines.
In January 1989, Melton spent five months on the Mercy Ship, "Anastasias," which means fellowship. They sailed to Jamaica following a hurricane with a shipload of food and clothing. Melton then returned home to care for her mother who was dying of cancer.
After a mission trip to Mexico and Belarus, Melton spent five months in India setting up medical clinics in four village churches. She taught the importance of washing their hands, wearing shoes to keep from getting worms and encouraged them to build a latrine or to properly dispose of waste with a shovel.
"I was constantly telling them things they could do to be healthy and have a better quality of life," said the missionary teacher. We would gather a group by singing in their language and they would come."
Once again, she returned home to care for family - her daughter, who is now a cancer survivor. Melton worked for a brief period at the Family Research Center in Tucker. She offered alternatives to women who were contemplating abortion and held parenting classes. She set up a store where women could trade rewards for clothing and items for their baby.
Melton said her journey to Eastridge Community Church is the best story of all. Like most people, she thought recovery was only for people with drugs, alcohol or serious co-dependencies. She has since learned that Celebrate Recovery is for people with hurts, habits and hang-ups of all kinds.
"I had some hang-ups," Melton admitted. "I was holding grudges without realizing it. I had no idea that was a sign of unforgiveness in me. The leader promised we would get a miracle if we would do the program. I have been in Celebrate Recovery for four years and have completed two 12-step programs and led one."
Melton said that most people who have been abused believe they caused it. She found step three, making a decision to turn her will and life over to the care of God, to be the most helpful.
"I had turned my life over to God, but I had never turned my will over to him," she said. "Turning your will over to God is something that you have to do every day, moment by moment. Women who have been abused have not understood God's unconditional love. In step three, we choose to believe he does love us, is worthy of trust and will help us to understand him as we seek his truth."
Melton spoke of the courage it takes to proceed to step four - taking a personal inventory, realizing all wrongs can be forgiven and realizing the abuse was not her fault.
Melton recently gave her testimony in church. Today, as she speaks about her journey to recovery, she smiles, extends her hands outward and declares, "I'm whole."
For more information about Celebrate Recovery, contact Eastridge Community Church located at 863 Hwy. 142 in Covington, or at (770) 786-2048.