A Tale of Mercy Ministries

Awhile back I posted a testimonial from someone I know who was sent to a Pentecostal “Drug Rehab” facility as a teenager. I recently found out another person I’ve known for some time had a similar experience when she was sent to a Christian treatment center for issues of “self-harm.” Although she is out as an atheist, her current living situation does not allow her to be completely open in expressing her nonbelief, but I asked if I could share her story anonymously, and she agreed.

I hope other atheists, who may share a similar past, will be helped by reading the following account. And I have added some random thoughts of my own at the bottom, regarding points that stood out to me for various reasons. With that, here is her story:

My Experience at Mercy Ministries

First let me tell you a little about “Mercy Ministries” (founded in 1983 by Nancy Alcorn), based on what they say on their website:

Mercy Ministries’ free-of-charge, voluntary, faith-based residential program serves young women from all socio-economic backgrounds, ages 13-28, who face a combination of life-controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, depression and unplanned pregnancy. Mercy also serves young women who have been physically and sexually abused, including victims of sex trafficking. Using proven methods, a holistic approach and professional counselors in a structured residential environment, Mercy has helped thousands of young women be restored to wholeness. Mercy’s goal is to help these young women find freedom from their issues and empower them to serve in their communities as productive citizens.

Mission: Mercy Ministries exists to provide opportunities for young women to experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and life-transforming power.

Vision: Mercy Ministries is committed to being an effective and well-respected global organization dedicated to transforming lives of generations searching for truth and wholeness.”

I won’t go into all the details about my past, but I went there struggling with self-harm, anorexia, depression, and suicidal tendencies. I never got better while I was there.

They say they are “voluntary,” but to a point that isn’t true. You go in voluntarily, but if you want to leave, it is not that easy. They tell you that you will never get better without them. They tell you they are your last hope. They talk you into staying with threats. Fear controls you when you are there.

Multiple times I would try to talk to staff members about how I wanted to self-harm, and they told me I was lying and I needed to go write an essay about how I needed to work harder, how I could stop being an attention seeker, and how I should look to God to solve all my problems. Oh, and favoritism is so obvious. They don’t even try to hide it. Once I saw a girl stuff food into her pockets. I told the staff because I thought I was helping her by reporting it. The girl flipped out, threatened to commit suicide, told them I was targeting her and hated her. I got in a lot of trouble for that, and had to write an apology letter and read it in front of the other residents and staff. It was humiliating. This girl was a favorite of Nancy Alcorn, because she was one of the first residents from Peru, with very wealthy parents, who donated a lot of money to the program. As a result, she was able to get away with so much.

Most of the staff made me feel low for small things. Told me I was manipulative, rebellious, not following God’s plan. They made it clear I was sinning and beneath them. They told me I must not want to get better because I was “choosing” to hurt myself, “choosing” to starve myself, “choosing” to live the life I was living. They condemned me for things I did in my past, even going as far as blaming me for negative things that had happened to me.

Mercy makes it clear they are not a medical facility, but they tell women they will have access to medical treatment if needed. What they don’t tell you, is you will only be able to see “approved” Christian doctors, and you will not be able to talk to the doctor alone—a Mercy staff member is always in the room with you. After a month of being at Mercy, they took me off my medicine cold turkey. I got very sick and depressed, but they refused to give me anything and insisted this was the devil attacking me. They believe mental illnesses are evil spirits that need to be prayed away. They repeatedly tell you that the only answer is Jesus. They performed exorcisms on some of the girls, even though they claim they don’t. And when girls try to come forward and tell the truth, they call them troubled souls. I witnessed them take a girl into a room while she was having a mental breakdown. They closed the doors and made the rest of us go to another part of the house. We could still hear yelling, but didn’t know what was going on. She told me later they made her stand in the middle of the room, laid hands on her, and called the demons out by name, to cast them out of her. She said she was afraid to tell anyone she still felt the same, because she couldn’t let that happen to her again. She looked absolutely terrified.

They control everything you do. They control what and how much you eat, when you sleep, when you shower, and which residents you can talk to. They are homophobic and do not allow girls to touch in any way—not even hugs. You aren’t even allowed to do another girl’s hair. Apparently, in their eyes, a hug could make a lesbian stray. If they thought you were getting too close to another girl they would make you do a separation contract, which means you cannot speak at all to that resident. Like I said, they control everything. Nothing could be done without their permission.

Five months after I walked into those doors I realized I had to get out, one way or another.

I tried to run away but didn’t even make it off the property. After that, I was forced to sleep on the floor in one of the staff member’s bedrooms for several days.

Eventually, I stopped telling the staff I was struggling, and I cut in secret. Instead of starving myself, I would make myself get sick. I hid it from everyone and pretended I was getting much better. I did all the counseling work I was supposed to, watched countless sermons in a classroom, read lots of books, wrote lots of essays, prayed, and rebuked all the “demons” that were supposedly controlling me. I acted happy about attending church three to four times a week and praised a god I thought had failed me. I told everyone how happy I was and kept a smile on my face. Finally, eight months into my stay, I was able to graduate and go home. Eight months of absolute hell. I was only 16.

When I left, I was an absolute mess, but I was so good at hiding it at that point. I trusted no one. I thought god hated me, because I didn’t get better like most of the other girls did. I thought I was a failure. I still got in front of my youth group and spoke about how Mercy saved my life and how god set me free. I encouraged girls who were struggling to seek help there. I was applauded for my courage. And I regret that so much. It was all a lie, but I was scared to tell anyone the truth. Scared I would end up back there, because I couldn’t go through that again. I convinced myself Mercy was a wonderful place, even though I struggled daily.

It took me seven years to finally admit to myself there was no god. Funny, how once I did that, my depression seemed to fade a lot. I guess trying to please a god that doesn’t exist causes a lot of emotional issues when you can’t be perfect. I still struggle with some things, but really, who doesn’t? Thankfully, I am no longer self-destructive, and I will never give credit for that to a god or Mercy Ministries ever again.

I didn’t follow Mercy’s rules. I mean, ultimately I am betraying them by speaking out against them. At least, in their eyes, it’s seen this way. And in my own mind, during the time it had been torn down and built back up to worship Mercy, I saw it this way too.

It has taken me nine years to talk about what I experienced at Mercy Ministries and how it affected me. It feels pretty damn good to finally get that off my chest. I am done keeping this to myself, I am done hiding the truth.

My Comments

This is where my friend ended her story. I’m glad to say that she is doing much better these days. However, in reading her account and perusing the Mercy website, I recognized a few things about the story I wanted to consider further.


I think the first thing I noticed when I proof read it were these two lines from the Mercy website:

“Mercy also serves young women who have been physically and sexually abused, including victims of sex trafficking.”


“Mission: Mercy Ministries exists to provide opportunities for young women to experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and life-transforming power.”

I found it odd that “forgiveness” was listed at all. I can’t imagine what a victim of sexual abuse, or sex trafficking, would need to be “forgiven” for? In fact, the reality that many victims of sexual abuse feel guilty about what has been done to them, I would think would be a good reason to stay as far away from the idea of “forgiveness” as possible. They don’t need to be told they can be “forgiven.” They need help to realize they haven’t done anything that requires forgiveness, and that they are not responsible for the abuse they endured. I realize the doctrinal implication of “forgiveness.” But during treatment for sex abuse, it seems that doctrine might be one that should be set aside for another time and purpose.

Ultimately then, when I got to the part of the testimonial that said, “they condemned me for things I did in my past, even going as far as blaming me for negative things that had happened to me,” it reminded me of the above statements I’d seen at the website.

Qualified Counselors?

My next concern was that the person who penned this story was dubious about the credentials of the counselors at the facility. While I was not able to find specific information, the site does claim that all workers in counseling roles “are required to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in social work, psychology, counseling or a related field, and more than 80% have master’s degrees.” I don’t know if this means a degree from “Liberty University,” or if the master’s degree has to be in a similar field. But they are claiming a related education is required by counselors at the facility. When I looked at their “Meet the Board” and “Meet the Staff” pages, there wasn’t much collective background in related areas of experience. But when I looked at some other random treatment sites online, I found it wasn’t unusual for such facilities to not give out much in the way of detail about credentials/qualifications. I found it surprising, but there it is.

Exorcism? Or “Prayer”?

I was struck by the comments about exorcism:

“They performed exorcisms on some of the girls, even though they claim they don’t. And when girls try to come forward and tell the truth, they call them troubled souls.”

It’s insidious when someone targets mentally fragile people. They know that if anything goes wrong, the word of someone with a mental illness, or even a history of mental illness, will always be suspect. It allows people to easily prey upon them, because who is going to believe this “troubled” person over a facility counselor? Telling fact from fiction when you’re dealing with someone with a mental disorder has it’s challenges, I imagine. But using that distrust in order to take advantage of vulnerability is predatory. Obviously, I was interested in what Mercy had to say about this at their site:

“As a Christian organization, Mercy Ministries believes that spiritual warfare is real and that prayer plays an important role in healing and spiritual growth. Mercy Ministries does not perform or endorse exorcisms as part of its treatment curriculum. Our emphasis is on the power of God’s grace and unconditional love to help hurting young women overcome addictions and past hurts.” [Emphasis mine.]

I am aware that “prayer” in many churches includes “laying on of hands.” In fact, I was raised in a church that did not practice this, and the one time it was ever done to me, I felt extreme discomfort—and that was as a healthy minded young adult. Just the other night I had dinner with friends who had done some interviews at such a church this past weekend. One of them had this same experience, and I asked if it made him uncomfortable as well? He could not express enough how uncomfortable it was to have a load of strangers randomly touching him while they prayed and spoke in tongues. My point is not simply that this can be a violating and unnerving experience, though. It is that, to the uninitiated, the difference between this sort of “prayer,” and an exorcism, might not be readily apparent. And I will say outright that the difficulty in differentiating the two speaks volumes. When someone says they don’t practice exorcism, it is possible there is what you and I might consider a “prayer” equivalent happening. Considering this group espouses belief in “spiritual warfare”—there may be some hair splitting going on here between the “prayer” they admit they practice, and the “exorcism” they claim they don’t.

Mercy Helps People?

This also caught my attention at the website (no survey link provided):

“Mercy Ministries International has helped over 3,000 residents in its 30 years of operation, and in a recent survey of former Mercy Ministries of America residents, 93 percent of respondents said Mercy Ministries ‘transformed their lives and restored their hope.’”

It was unsurprising when I read in the testimonial that, “I still got in front of my youth group and spoke about how Mercy saved my life and how god set me free, I encouraged girls who were struggling to seek help there, I was applauded for my courage. I regret that so much.”

This is a huge problem within the atheist community. Atheist voices are very often silenced by intimidation and fear. At TAE we commonly receive letters from people explaining to us that they are atheists, but can’t tell anyone they know. Some of these people are still maintaining a theist façade, in order to fit in and not face repercussions for their nonbelief. I often wonder, if everyone who does not believe a god exists could be somehow identified in a single moment on the globe—exactly how many of us would there be? We can’t know, because so many of us are often marginalized to the point we can’t risk being identified. Not surprisingly, then, some of us, in order to stay under the radar, adopt the voice of theistic rhetoric, espousing beliefs we don’t hold, because it’s unsafe for us to be out, and we need a more acceptable disguise until it becomes safe. When Mercy says their survey indicates lives have been “transformed”—can we trust that survey? Can they? How many of those people might be exactly like my friend—gushing praise for the program in hopes of being accepted or, more worrisome, not sent back?

And that is what stuck with me most of all, “I thought god hated me, because I didn’t get better like most of the other girls did.”

It made me wonder, did most of the other girls “get better”? Or did they also simply learn that acting better was their only way out?


  1. says

    Here’s another interesting article I just stumbled across…

    From the link: According to Mercy’s own website, qualifications to work at the program include a bachelor’s degree and maturity in their relationship with God. Although the site claims that their counselors have either a master’s degree in counseling or psychology (or be working toward such a degree) and meet state licensing requirements, there are two issues with this. One, statements from Mercy graduates counter this statement. Many residents claim that their counselor was not certified, trained or experienced to deal with the issues they faced such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts. Two, Mercy is not licensed with the Department of Mental Health nor are they a licensed medical treatment facility. They are governed by their own Board of Trustees which doesn’t include medical or counseling personnel. Three, even if their staff is licensed, as they claim, the real issue is the curriculum they teach and what they consider “best practices” as opposed to what secular therapists use as standard practice.

  2. says

    “…93 percent of respondents said Mercy Ministries ‘transformed their lives and restored their hope.’”

    I read this and wondered if 93% made that exact declaration, verbatim. As if, perhaps, they were told to sign a statement affirming that Mercy Ministries transformed their lives and restored their hope.

    (Not to make light of this too much, but I imagine it like that old SNL commercial for “The Amazing Alexander” https://archive.org/details/TheAmazingAlexandersnlSpoof)

  3. says

    Forgive my ignorance here. Why do Mercy Ministries claim they don’t perform “exorcisms”? Is there a negative connotation in exorcism? Is is because exorcisms are a Catholic thing, and Mercy only uses the tried and true magic incantations of Protestantism?

  4. says

    I can’t speak for the reasons behind their policies, but this was the statement from their website (quoted in the OP):

    “As a Christian organization, Mercy Ministries believes that spiritual warfare is real and that prayer plays an important role in healing and spiritual growth. Mercy Ministries does not perform or endorse exorcisms as part of its treatment curriculum. Our emphasis is on the power of God’s grace and unconditional love to help hurting young women overcome addictions and past hurts.”

    My point in the blog is that to some people, a prayer along the lines of something Pentecostal, for a demon to be removed–would be nothing they would differentiate from “an exorcism”–however the person laying on hands and praying might draw a distinction. What the girl described to my friend sounded like a hands-on prayer for healing. And my point was simply that Mercy may draw a distinction between *that* and “an exorcism.” But to lay people, the idea of praying over someone and asking a demon to leave, would be “an exorcism.” Since Mercy says outright they believe in “spiritual warfare”–they endorse the belief that demon possession causes psychic disturbances in people. And they say they incorporate “prayer” in their treatment. I think the “no exorcism” stance may be, as I stated in the post, then, “hair splitting.”

  5. says

    I understand your point, for sure. What I don’t understand is why Mercy is interested in splitting that hair. Is there something unseemly about exorcisms in the world of faith-based “treatment”?

  6. Monocle Smile says

    Part of it might also be that exorcisms in the modern day have become a serious PR problem.

    Typically, exorcisms are performed on misbehaving children, some perhaps with undiagnosed disorders, and involve disturbing amounts of violence to eject the demons. Just Google “exorcisms on children” and watch the hits pile up. Mercy appears to be open to outreach rather than preaching to the choir, and endorsing child-beating rituals is not exactly in line with that mission.

  7. says

    I think there may be. I’ve been doing a load of reading on “Spirituality and Healthcare.” And there are *many* advocates who are extremely well qualified doctors and mental health workers, who support incorporating “spirituality” in healthcare. They make a point of showing they don’t mean “religion”–however they *include* religious practice and belief as *part of* spirituality. I see this as another “hair” being split. “Oh, we don’t mean RELIGION…(but of course religion is a big part of a lot of people’s spirituality).”

    These same *respectable* medical professionals seem to be comfortable with “praying” with a patient. But they don’t seem to equate this with “including religious rituals” in their practice. So, if you say “why not perform exorcisms as well?” They take that as though you’re now being ridiculous…and that’s hair splitting. Prayer is a religious ritual. If it’s fine to participate in or perform religious rituals with patients–what is the problem with an exorcism? Oh, but now I’m being “ridiculous.” Prayer = OK…Exorcism = Now you’re being ridiculous.

    There seems to be a distinction. The only distinction I can see is that more people pray than engage in exorcisms? But that is about the only difference I’m aware of?

  8. says

    Gotcha. From my perspective, it’s all the same; Praying and exorcisms are the same as each other, and the same as casting Cure Moderate Wounds.

    I’ve been following your spirituality in healthcare series closely. To be honest, at first I didn’t think the topic would interest me, but the more you’ve shared with us, the more interesting I’ve found it. Thank you for the considerable amount of work you’ve put into it.

  9. says

    “in Q4 of 2013, an independent firm conducted a survey of former Mercy Ministries residents, similar in scope to the former resident study conducted in 2008, to determine how successfully Mercy Ministries is fulfilling its mission.

    Former residents for whom we had current email addresses were invited to participate.

    379 former residents responded. Their responses are included in summary below.

    Approximately 50% of respondents had been out of the Mercy Ministries program four or more years.”

    I am a doctoral level psychologist, and there are so many problems with this “research” that I hardly know where to begin. First, survey data is the weakest kind of outcome data there is and cannot be considered “outcome data”. Secondly, they used “former residents for whom we had current email addresses.” This would suggest that only people who were in continued contact with the facility would be included, so the sample is corrupted from the beginning. You are automatically eliminating those who are deceased, in terrible situations, happen to have changed their email addresses, or who do not have the financial and technical reasons to maintain and regularly check email.

    Thirdly, they state that 379 former residents responded. Out of how many? This is another self-selecting sample. Those who feel they “owe” something to the facility will respond and feel compelled to respond positively. Those who had negative experiences would likely delete the email immediately. We don’t know if this is 379 out of 400, 4000, etc. Percentage of response is part of what determines the strength of effect sizes.

    This data is completely meaningless, and worse it is deceptive. The last thing that horrifies me about the “results” section of the website is that they have clearly asked for “testimonials” from clients, requesting them to discuss their own abuse history. This is a complete violation of the power of the helping relationship and confidentiality. There is no way that any trained mental health professional would willingly participate in such a program, because anyone who would could lose his/her license for it.

    I’ll probably make more comments soon as this sinks in…

    McMinnville Oregon

  10. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    But… my cure light wounds stick demonstrably works to heal people! 1d8 +1 to your face!

    PS: Yes I know vigor wands are better.

  11. says

    First of all, thank you for finding this. Next:

    >Secondly, they used “former residents for whom we had current email addresses.” This would suggest that only people who were in continued contact with the facility would be included, so the sample is corrupted from the beginning.

    This is similar to criticisms I’ve read of 12-step program “results,” such as AA. There is no way to get data from people who abandon the program and aren’t in contact with it any longer. Only the people who stick with it, are prone to be “reach-able.” And that is generally going to include more people who assign “it’s helping me” in some way. If someone just needed that additional community support, and that’s what they derive from the program that “helps,” the results will be biased against people who weren’t helped from that—and left because it wasn’t helping. Also, the belief it is the program making me better may/may not be accurate. There are many people who assign such success to things like homeopathy which we know cannot work. But if you only survey long-time homeopathy adherents, you’ll get a large amount of people who say “Homeopathy really helps me.” So, yes, it’s problematic. And you’re correct that the way it was worded—I, and two others, interpreted it as “93% of the people who have been through the program.” Obviously that’s not what it represents, and they may have not intended the confusion, but it certainly did get read that way by three different people giving it a glance. So, it gives that impression for sure—intentional or not.

    Finally, I appreciate your further points, but have nothing to add to them, except to thank you and hope that you do write back with further input.

    One off point thing I will add is that someone at a social network site I posted this link to actually said something in the vein of “She sounds like someone who would complain about any place they’d have sent her.” I could hardly believe my eyes as I read that. I think it is very hard for some people who have never had to understand mental illness, to put themselves in the shoes of someone who has such a disorder. They tend to think “If I were in their shoes…this would not bother me…” For example, I think if this person understood more about the motives behind self-harm, and the reasons one would accept voluntary in-patient admission to such a facility, they *might* understand why a statement that says that my facility helps people learn to understand god forgives them, is so insidious and harmful. These people already have issues with depression and self-blame. They don’t need the authorities that are “helping” them to reinforce that they are wrong and bad—and need forgiveness. They haven’t done anything wrong. Most likely they have endured something by other people/another person that was a “wrong” done to them. That alone would be sufficient for me to call the place “dangerous” for someone with depression or someone expressing self-harm issues.

  12. says

    “One off point thing I will add is that someone at a social network site I posted this link to actually said something in the vein of “She sounds like someone who would complain about any place they’d have sent her.” ”

    The person has symptoms suggestive of borderline personality disorder, which includes self injury and some of the other symptoms she described. Often even mental health providers have an intensely negative reaction to chronic “cutters” or people who engage in some form of non lethal self injury (also called parasuicidal behavior) for the presumed purposes of gaining attention. Some of the elements of borderline personality disorder involve a tendency to lash out at caregivers and push boundaries, test limits, etc. Often these clients evoke significantly negative emotional responses in others as well as providers. I don’t know if this young woman suffers from this condition or not, but in the current research we understand that the behaviors seen in these folks (e.g. if you don’t extend my session for 15 minutes I will leave here and kill myself) are symptoms of severe and chronic post traumatic stress disorder and need to be understood in this context. These folks act aggressively (sometimes physically) towards their providers because people in authority have historically been abusive. Thus, even if this young woman would have “complained about any place they’d have sent her”, it would not say anything about the validity of her complaints about the unethical and coercive means used by this program. In fact, I am certain she was horribly retraumatized by this program.

    Whether or not the person would complain about another program or not says nothing about the validity of her complaints. Programs like this truly make me angry because of the extent of damage that they do to extremely vulnerable people, and if or when the survivors do again feel safe enough to get help, they will have to address both their early trauma as well as the trauma of their treatment.

    I need to more carefully review the website, but if any of the providers actually are licensed, I think the young woman should be encouraged to file a complaint with their licensing board.

    I am very curious to know where and how this program gets its funding.

    Thanks for the fascinating info,

  13. says

    “Programs like this truly make me angry because of the extent of damage that they do to extremely vulnerable people”

    That, to me, is the crux of the problem with faith-based treatment options. They target people at their most vulnerable, when they have limited capacity to counter, or perhaps even recognize, the harm being done. Individuals in these situations need reliable and safe care, not further trauma.

  14. sowellfan says

    I grew up in the Assemblies of God (a fundamentalist/pentecostal denomination), and for anyone who’s been in grown up in an environment of that sort (or they converted and have been in it for a while), exorcism was a *completely* different thing than praying with ‘laying on of hands’. Sure, they’re both grounded in fantasy, and they’re both completely ineffective, but in terms of atmosphere and perception, they’re completely different. Exorcisms are all about casting out demons, whereas prayer is just about asking for God’s positive intervention.

    For example, maybe during prayer request time you mention that you’ve got a disturbing medical condition that’s hurting you or worrying you. Your fellow church members, likely good friends, might come and stand behind you, or around you, depending on how many people decided to get in on the action – then they’d put their hands on you and pray (audibly) for a bit. Generally the prayer would be for God to heal you, guide the doctors, etc. etc., – though there’s an outside chance that somebody might mention a demon. Like, “We pray against the demon of cancer that’s attacking this sister, we rebuke it in Jesus’ name, etc.” Now some people might hear the mention of a demon and assume it’s an exorcism, but in my experience that wouldn’t really follow – at least in their thinking. Exorcism (at least to my former-fundamentalist understanding) is all about casting out demons that are possessing (i.e. have gotten inside of) an individual, not the demons that are flitting about just generally screwing up people’s lives. The notion that someone is actually demon-possessed (and that the demons need to be cast out) is fairly rare, especially in comparison to the amount of times that general prayer with laying on of hands is done.

  15. says

    Thanks for the personal testimony of what you recall:

    >Exorcism (at least to my former-fundamentalist understanding) is all about casting out demons that are possessing (i.e. have gotten inside of) an individual, not the demons that are flitting about just generally screwing up people’s lives.

    This is *slightly* what I am saying about people outside these groups. To someone inside the group, there may be a vast difference, but to someone who isn’t in the group, who reads something like the above, that difference isn’t so “vast.” They’re hearing “pray…lay on hands…cast out a demon…” and “pray…lay on hands…cast out minor demon…” I did assume, and still do, that the writers of the website may actually acknowledge what was done in the testimonial that was told to my friend by the other girl, but add “but that’s NOT an exorcism–it’s prayer/spiritual healing.”

    I do want to note again, though, they adopt the view that spiritual warfare is real–and that is demon responsibility for disorders–such as the ones they claim to treat. The fact they represent these disorders as being defined as “spiritual warfare”–and also acknowledge prayer and god’s healing to address them–makes me skeptical of the idea that they aren’t employing some technique to rid the people of demons–because they are saying outright that they do use religion to fight “spiritual warfare.” And this, to a lay person would be “using prayer to fight demons that are causing mental illness in the person” = exorcism. But I do get that to these counselors, that would not mean “exorcism.” I don’t think they’re lying. I just think they are not understanding that they are merely describing two different things that are both techniques used to rid someone of demon disruption (exorcism), and drawing a distinction that really isn’t appropriate. One technique is more hard core than the other–but both are rituals designed to remove/keep away demons from causing these mental disturbances in their subjects. And that makes them exorcisms by definition–even if the church uses different labels.

  16. xscd says

    “93 percent of _respondents_”

    Lets see, they could write a letter such as: “We see from our records that you recently completed your Mercy Ministries program. If you found Mercy Ministries to be helpful, would you mind responding and letting us know your thoughts? Thank you so much, Mercy Ministries.

    Wow! 93% of those respondents, who might represent 15% of all the people who went through the program, said positive things about Mercy Ministries. Who could’a thunk?

  17. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this young lady’s tragic story, Tracie. It reminds me of the “enforced positivity” training I was made to listen to as a teenager (Norman Vincent Peale), although her story is many orders of magnitude worse.

    I hope she can move on with her life and aid others in shutting Mercy MInistries down.

  18. John Kruger says

    This reminds me a lot of Scientology “treatments” for mental disorders. It seems all you really need for things to go really badly is intense certainty in a worldview that claims to be able to correct these problems and the denialism of victim blaming which easily follows. “The story of Lisa McPherson is a grizzly example of this, which ended in the worst possible way. I think Mercy Ministries has only avoided such calamity because their methods are not as intense, even if similar in philosophy.

    As for exorcisms, they are extremely intense and traumatic in the cases I have had the stomach to watch. Being restrained or confined in some way, essentially rendered at the mercy of the “exorcists”, and then being verbally (often also physically) assaulted into playing along with the narrative can only do intense psychological damage. The only real avenue for the exorcism victim (aside from death or continued torment) is to appease their tormentors into stopping, which has to involve the presentation of an evil force and its subsequent defeat or removal.

    As Tracie says, do doubt they are splitting hairs about what they mean by “exorcism”, likely thinking it means a specific ritual. Even in the most innocuous from, forced behavioral compliance by intense social pressure and confinement is always going to be damaging, especially if there is criteria which can never be objectively examined (aka invisible demons).

  19. says

    It would appear that Mercy doesn’t even know what the words unconditional love means or they haven’t decided on which god they’re referring to. It certainly wouldn’t be the x-tian god because his love is conditional according to John 3:16. Since when does unconditional love have consequences? It is amazing how some places get away with kidnapping and torturing someone all under the illusion of some god and their divine love.

    It would also appear that Mercy is more concerned about controlling someone even if it’s against their will, then actually addressing the person’s problem and trying to find a solution. I think that Mercy is only concerned about their and their god’s image and not really concern about anyone else. If it sounds like a cult, looks like a cult and smells like a cult, chances are it most likely is a cult.

  20. luke v says

    this place sounds an awful lot like many of the the “residential treatment centers” or “therapeutic boarding schools” i have been to over the course of my life, though they were less religious, the tactics seem the same, the way the program works, how the only way out is turning 18 or pretending your better, the victim blaming, the favoritism

    fake it to make it programs never work, and much of the time these places that treat people as if they are degenerates who need to be saved, do immeasurable harm

    look up logan river academy on youtube to see some frightening testimonies, and this isnt a openly religious school (though god was preached to us by all of the staff)

  21. luke v says

    i dont think its so much a problem with faith based treatments, its a problem with the “troubled teen” industry, i went to a treatment center that was not marketed as religious (though Mormonism was preached heavily) and they did all the things described in the account, besides the exorcisms, but the victim blaming and claims of attention seeking instead of help, everything sounds so hauntingly similar to my experiences at logan river academy, you didnt get help or better, you just had to pretend you were to get out

    so many of these places are there to take advantage of desperate parents, and in the end they can do whatever they want to these vulnerable kids, who cant speak out and are basically imprisoned in these places until you can convince them you are better, whether you are or not

  22. s. says

    We lost our daughter due to mercy ministries (mm) so called counseling which includes a form of memory regression therapy. Inconceivable allegation .. completely untrue. Haven’t seen or talked with her in over two years. We’re part of a growing group of parents in the same situation. It’s a nightmare.

  23. says

    I am sorry to hear this. And I know there are others out there. I do hope you get some satisfaction and maybe even the capacity to reconnect with your daughter.

  24. says

    It’s odd you use John 3:16, which contains a condition:

    >For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    “Whoever believes in him” is a condition. Those who do not believe in him shall perish–not have eternal life. I suppose you could say god loves those whom he will ultimately destroy and not save through his love? But that’s a fairly bizarre “unconditional love” to say “if you don’t love me back I’ll see you destroyed.”

  25. Ruben Laane says

    This is possibly the most stupid question I ever asked, but why is it possible to raise some semi-religious-treatment house and not be under the scrutiny of the medical authorities of a healthcare department???
    If they would be based in the Netherlands, the law would provide a lot of protection for patients that have a mental disorder.
    If they claim to treat their patients/victims and that would automatically put them under the authority of the medical authorities in the Netherlands. They would have to provide data and protocols of their methods and could be audited if neccasary.
    Any claim of prayer as a method of treatment would be invalid as this is no proven method of treatment.
    How does this organisation manage to slither through the cracks of the laws concerning medicine and healthcare????
    It doesn’t mean there are no attempts from organisations to raise such a ‘facility’, but I know that a ‘scientology facility’ that was initially allowed, was later shutdown as it proved to be a mockery of healthcare and since then such private initiatives are under heavy scrutiny.
    I am not trying to ‘show off’ our situation, but I really don’t understand how such organisations can provide ‘healthcare’ without having qualified staff, an approved programm and protocol or even a licence of some kind.
    This seems to me to be a harmfull method/organisation, that patients/victims should be protected from!

  26. Holly says

    This was sent to me to explain how I was to give my testimony at a Mercy event. Read on. Ever wonder why all of the testimonies sound written? Because they are.

    Testimony Information
    As you get ready to share your testimony at an upcoming Mercy event, please take a look at the attached information and make sure that you read through it carefully! It will help you to tell your testimony clearly and with ease—to show off what God has done in your life through your time at Mercy Ministries! Preparing Your Testimony Build your testimony around a “theme”—for example: Dreams for your future, The pathway from brokenness, He healed my broken heart, Mercy was the answer, My new family, etc. Make sure that you are using the same “language” that we use here at Mercy when we talk about the young women that come through the doors at Mercy. Make sure that you are using at least 3-5 of these words IN your testimony! Here are some example words that you can use…BEFORE MERCY WORDS: damaged, alone, sick, unstable, depressed, confused, sad, no purpose, no worth and value, hated myself and others…AT MERCY/AFTER MERCY WORDS: healing is possible, transformation, love, hope, freedom from…, life-changing, unconditional love, mercy, restoration, powerful, healed, death/life, darkness/light, purpose, faith, etc. Be specific—make sure that you are mindful of the audience, but that you are SPECIFIC about your past! TESTIMONY STRUCTURE: 3-4 minutes: 1 minute before Mercy, 2 minutes for at Mercy/After Mercy 4-5 minutes: 1:30 minutes before Mercy, 2:30-3:00 for at Mercy/After Mercy. Transitions: Before Mercy: 1) “Hi, my name is…. and I am so excited to be here and share what God did in my life through Mercy Ministries” 2) “My life growing up was….” 3) “I am…. And ever since I can remember, our home was a place of….” 4) “My name is…. And my life was plagued with…” Coming to Mercy: 1) “I knew that I needed help—and then I met someone and they told me about Mercy Ministries and I applied” 2) “I literally didn’t think that I would live, and knew that I needed help” 3) “when I walked into the doors at Mercy, I felt….” 4) “I remember being really nervous about whether or not it would work” After Mercy: 1) “ I graduated almost 2 years ago on….” 2) “When I graduated, I left the Mercy home and felt prepared to take on the challenges of life” 3) “my life and my story has touched the lives of others” 4) “I walked out of the doors of Mercy Ministries completely different than I did when I walked in” Anything that you reference during your BEFORE MERCY, please re-reference that in your during/after Mercy portion—ie: “All growing up I felt like I didn’t belong, but during my time at Mercy—I realized that God had given me a NEW family” Include any information about any failed attempts that you tried in order to get the healing that you needed. This can include: treatment centers (please do not use the name of the center), nutritionist, doctors, psychiatrists, other programs, etc. Please include at least one aspect of the Mercy program that you think really helped you! For example: “Since Mercy Ministries was free-of-charge, my parents were able to know that I was not only safe, but that I was getting the help I needed for free!” OR “Memorizing scripture in my time at Mercy was vital to my healing—and I still use some of the same tools that I learned at Mercy… to help me to continue to overcome the obstacles that are in front of me”. Please refrain from using words such as: rock bottom  Please make sure to not reference any particular denomination and any ministry “twang” that is confusing. Please steer clear from using spiritual words such as: spiritual warfare, demonic, oppression, etc—instead, you can use light/darkness. This helps with being sensitive to what different denominations believe AND also is sensitive to any people that attend that are not Christians! During Your Testimony Please do not do any nervous habits! For example: wringing your hands, rocking back and forth, etc. Smile OFTEN! Ask the Lord to shine through you! Speak clear, slow and eloquent! Please refrain from saying “uh”, “oh” and “um” ABOVE ALL—remember to have FUN and do NOT take yourself to serious! Be YOURSELF and let your personality and who you are shine brightly through you! This is not something that should feel like pressure—it is more about God using you in a powerful way to share His love and power through your life! The people that are in attendance at this event are current or future supporters of Mercy—and we definitely want them to support the Mercy financially—BUT, really—your testimony is supposed to point to the LORD!!! Thanks again for attending this event and allowing God to use you in such a powerful way! We appreciate it so much—and are excited to see what God does in your life through this experience. You will truly continue to overcome by the word of your testimony (Rev. 12:11)! Much Love, Lara Izokaitis Ambassador Program Coordinator HYPERLINK “mailto:lizokaitis@mercyministries.com” lizokaitis@mercyministries.com (615) 831-6987

  27. S. says

    Holly … there’s a video to this effect as well in how to put together your mercy ministries testimony. my daughter’s testimony, in addition to being complete lies, follows the pattern in your post. we haven’t seen her since march 2012. we miss her so much.

  28. Katey says

    I am a former Mercy girl from 2000 in Nashville. I survived but was kicked out. I went there cause I was bulimic and was pregnant. I worked and worked to get past the bulimia cause I knew it was best for my child. I didn’t care about myself. Mercy was HARD! I did SO many “self disciplines”. I guess one positive is cause the help I got at Mercy I got past the bulimia and my daughter was born on her due date perfectly healthy. But I placed her in open adoption. And now that open adoption is closed pretty much and Mercy wont do a damn thing about it!!! I used to have phone calls, visits, letters…lots of stuff. Open adoption. Why I chose the family. The open adoption closed. Now I cant send anything and the family sends a once a year photo. I can’t even send a thank you. So yeah I have bitterness. I have 3 1/2 more years til I can try to talk to the girl who helped me give my life back. My hero.

  29. S. says

    adding to this comment thread… march 17, 2015 marked three years of no contact with our daughter of any sort thanks to the bad so-called therapy at mercy ministries. our story (along with some other parents and former mercy ministries grads and kicked outs) will be public by june in a national magazine. we’re bringing this to the public.

    “They thought they buried us. They didn’t realize we were seeds.” Mexican Proverb