Parents speak up about Mercy Ministries

Mercy Ministries is in the news again, and coming out swinging.That is to be expected, MM has a formidable pr pitch, slick advertising, has defensive well polished and the organization is well funded.   Critics and survivors aren’t addressed, they are ridiculed and attacked.

How easy it is to dismiss two fathers stories by implying they are lying, they are abusers, and that Mercy Ministries isn’t practicing repressed memory therapy. Of course they will demonize, marginalize and dismiss former clients or parents attempting to sound the alarm, and telling their stories.  MM is pentecostal , to date, no one has seen the revamped ‘therapy’ manual and written about it that I’m aware of. But people have seen the old one – and have warned Christians thinking of seeking MM help. No way MM is going to throw out most of the hard core demon in the dust bunny beliefs in Restoring the Foundations. Once again a warning is being sounded. This time, fathers  are speaking up. News Messenger:

When James Smith’s* 18-year-old daughter went to Lincoln’s Mercy Ministries in 2010, he didn’t know she would later sever ties with the family.

Smith’s daughter attended Mercy Ministries to get help with an eating disorder, which he said she’d “struggled with” since the age of 11.

“She had actually been through a couple of treatment centers before,” said Smith, a Minnesota resident. “She had noticed Mercy online and they have a really good website. They boast a 93 percent success rate and have all of these success stories.”

Prior to his daughter leaving for Mercy, Smith said he researched the organization and didn’t like what he saw.

“I found a couple of websites I was concerned about, with people who had problems,” Smith said. “We talked about it and she passed them off as atheists who don’t understand Christianity and Christian-based healing.”

Smith found online articles and blogs ranging from calling Mercy a cult to stories about girls having trouble after leaving Mercy or being kicked out of the program.

“Since then, I’ve found a lot more and I wish I would have known these things before she went,” Smith said.

Nevertheless, Smith’s daughter was 18 at the time so his permission to attend was not needed. She entered Mercy in March 2010 and graduated in March 2011.

Jack Smith is not alone.

Miller, who is from Illinois, said his daughter attended Mercy’s Monroe, La., facility seven years ago, for help with drug and alcohol abuse.

“My daughter had made some poor decisions while going to college on her own and that brought up drinking and led to drugs. She got kicked out of school at the end of her third year,” Miller said. “She had been raised in a Christian home and her goal was to find a Christian-fix for why she was making these choices.”

His daughter chose Mercy Ministries. While there, Miller said, “mind-regression therapy” was performed.

“In the mind-regression therapy, they try to go back and find something in your past and childhood that triggers you to do this (behavior),” Miller said.

Prior to that, Miller said, the director at the home called to say his daughter would be “kicked out” of the program after eight months of treatment.

“They said, ‘She is too rebellious and can’t have a breakthrough,” Miller said. “I pleaded with them. I said, if she doesn’t find a solution, how is she supposed to move forward with life? They agreed to try for another 30 days.”

One month later, Miller’s daughter wouldn’t return his phone calls, according to Miller. Two months later, he said, his daughter called to say she was graduating but her family couldn’t be there.

“She now tells us what happened after we pleaded. They went through two to three nights of sexual abuse films and talks with regards to young ladies sexually abused,” Miller said.

A counselor sat down with Miller’s daughter and said “I wonder if it could have been something regarding that,” according to Miller.

“The counselor said there’s a breakthrough. They said we’ll have to deliver you from those demons,” Miller said. “After being brainwashed for nine months, these people had convinced her that their word was the word of God and she had to accept their word as authority, as if it was a message from God.”

Miller’s daughter severed ties with the family upon returning back to Illinois, saying she had been sexually abused at the hands of her father.

The News Messenger gave Mercy Ministries right of response.

Recovered memory therapy is not a form of treatment performed by Mercy Ministries, according to Mercy Ministries headquarters spokeswoman Eve Annunziato in Nashville, Tenn.
The News Messenger summarized the complaints made by both fathers for Annunziato.

Annunziato did not directly address the specific complaints but gave the following statement: “As would be expected in a program that deals with women who have suffered abuse and other trauma during their lives, there are often family dynamics, which are communicated by the women to us in confidentiality. Mercy Ministries follows standard confidentiality regulations and recognizes that the women we serve are adults making their own decisions. Thus, outside family members and/or persons involved in their lives would not be privy to conversations or discussions within the Mercy program unless the woman herself decides to communicate externally.”

Why have former residents refuted this claim? This isn’t about breach of confidentiality, this is about what is being practiced behind closed doors by MM.

The reality is MM has mastered deflection.

The News Messenger visited the Lincoln facility at 1896 McClain Drive Tuesday to take photos and ask about staffing there. Mercy Ministries’ California community relations manager Stephanie Vierstra said on Tuesday, however, that the newspaper couldn’t take pictures inside as planned. She also refused to say what the staffing is there and whether nurses and doctors work there. Vierstra said to contact Annunziato.

…Annunziato said that Mercy Ministries counselors have degrees in counseling or psychology.

“Many have master’s degrees and meet or exceed state licensing requirements,” Annunziato said.

There are five counselors at the Lincoln home, according to Annunziato, and one nurse.

She said the counselors “identify root causes for destructive behavior” and “equip residents with life skills and the ability to permanently avoid destructive behaviors.”

Annunziato said that “this can be frustrating to persons unfamiliar with confidential rules and standard counseling practices.”

Since Mercy Ministries is not considered a medical facility, executive director Singleton said, “none of our homes have doctors on staff.”

“We do have an RN (registered nurse),” Singleton said.

Many have degrees? Do all counselling staff? Why aren’t staff credentials made available to any incoming client, or family? Would you go to a treatment facility and not expect this information?
Do MM facilities have medical staff on site? I don’t doubt medical people provide services, but I question if medically certified staff is on any MM site 24/7. Is MM treating young women with medically recognized disorders?  Yes.

Singleton stressed that Mercy is a “voluntary program.”

“The girls come and tell us their story and what they want to work on as far as getting counseling and getting past their issues. It’s generated by them, not us,” Singleton said. “On our end, the goal is getting them wholeness and fullness of life and getting them to a place of not harboring bitterness or feeling like they’re not able to forgive.”

Singleton said that the girls who seek treatment from Mercy “are choosing to come.”

The News Messenger asked Singleton what she had to say regarding Miller claiming his daughter was threatened with being kicked out for not learning fast enough.

“It’s an individualized program and there are certainly benchmarks for the program,” Singleton said. “I’ve never heard of anyone being kicked out.”

I can’t speak to this particular MM facility, the young women who have been kicked out can.

Annunziato said Mercy does not take funding from the government.

“One hundred percent of all our money comes in through private donations from churches and businesses. You can see where every penny comes in and is spent if you go on our website,” Annunziato said.

Mercy also does not charge girls for attending the program.

Oh. Of course MM in the US doesn’t accept government funding. They wouldn’t be able to meet the minimum standards required. Religious based programs have very little oversight and fundamentalist groups like MM want to keep it that way.  The Australia debacle is addressed, and I suppose that if your US pr people spin the party line enough, people looking at your program won’t investigate for themselves, and what happened to so many young women will all be forgotten.

Please, parents and prospective Mercy Ministry clients. Do your homework. Contact Mercy surivors, find out the pros and cons, hear their stories of mistreatment, and how and why they bought into bright pink, happy clappy advertising.  I don’t doubt that some young women have benefited from some of the life skills programming, and time away from familiar or difficult environments. I understand many Christian parents and young women don’t have health insurance and can’t pay for qualified treatment. I understand that many believers want faith based treatment, and can’t afford reputable faith based treatment.
Don’t kid yourself.  When you are desperate and suffering, you are vulnerable.  Mercy Ministry survivors didn’t plan to leave in worse shape then they entered.
Yes, Mercy Ministries is voluntary and religious and free. You get what you pay for.

Mercy Ministries needs more than the Bible for its treatment methods
The Dark Side of Mercy Ministries
Rick Ross forums

About Bene Diction

Have courage for the great sorrows, And patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
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19 Responses to Parents speak up about Mercy Ministries

  1. Roger Armbruster says:

    Bene D, you may well have a point here, in exposing the dark side of Mercy Ministries, but again, are you telling the whole story in a balanced way?

    With other ministries that you do not agree with, you seem to take offence at their “begging for money,” so imagine my surprise when I clicked on to the site of RH Reality Check that supposedly stands up for Reproductive and Sexual Health and Justice to find, right in my face, as soon as I clicked on to the site, a request to “DONATE to Support Fact-based News.”

    Yet, when it comes to the “fact-based news” on abortion, I do not see where they have anything to say about ministries like the Crisis Pregnancy Centre which is trying to offer women a truly compassionate choice, in offer them them physical and emotional support when they are in crisis, and should they so CHOOSE to keep their babies.

    Yet I see oodles of PRO ABORTION groups who are “partners” with this so-called Reality check that tells only one side of the story regarding abortion. If you give full credence to groups like this, it makes me wonder if this is also why you oppose Faytene who is very PRO LIFE!

    What are YOUR views on abortion, and human life begins–when?

  2. moira says:

    God Love the world Give only for gotten son. Belived In Saved. I Am Come not to destroy The p or law to fill. Standing for true Wishup. I light of the world

  3. fjc says:

    Red flags are obvious. The first is not meeting minimum Gov’t standards. The bar is low…just about anyone should be able to meet/exceed them.

    The second is professional designations. Most organizations would be pleased to publicize the credentials of their counselling and professional staff. Unless of course those so called degress or credentials came from one of the many ‘degree mills’ where anyone can obtain a degree for money. The ranks of the clergy and so called counsellors, etc. are filled with people who have these misleading bits of paper.

  4. Roger Armbruster says:

    On another link, given above, as “Mercy Ministries needs more than the Bible for its treatment methods,” I read the following:

    “One father said his anorexic daughter did not receive the right treatment in Lincoln. The other said his drug/alcohol-using daughter did not receive the right treatment in Monroe.

    “While their daughters had different issues, treatment and outcomes were similar for both, according to the fathers. Through Mercy Ministries’ recovered memory therapy, the daughters remembered being sexually abused by them, their fathers told The News Messenger in separate conversations. The fathers said those claims were false.

    “While it would be so much easier to take the 29-year-old organization at its word, we have to listen to what the fathers are saying.”

    What I find of interest here is that when it comes to some abuse claims on other posts here, we give little or no credence to the alleged abusers, particularly the “fathers” of those that claim to have been abused.

    I am not saying that these “fathers” are guilty, or that they are not guilty, but what I am saying is that the issues on this blog have more to do with TRUST than they have to do with FACTS at times. Whom do you trust? There are many situations where we have heard different versions of the same story, but groups like Reality Check call themselves “fact-based news,” when the reality is, their own beliefs determine who they will TRUST in areas that they do not know for sure, and yet they call them “FACT-based news.”

    Mercy Ministries is seen as dangerous and misleading, even though it is “voluntary and religious and free. You get what you pay for.” Yet in other settings, faith-based ministries are criticized because they are not “free,” and they keep “begging for money,” particularly lobbying governments for tax-based dollars, so that tax payers pay for programs that not all taxpayers support.

    fjc raises the farce of “minimum government standards.” People, do we not realize that the social problems in our society are so immense that the government does not even dare to en force its own standards anymore? Take private Day Cares, for example. Many Day Cares have more than the maximum number of children that government standards allow for the size of staff, and yet so great is the demand for these Day Cares, that the government will not dare to intervene, so great is the demand for these services. They know jolly well that the parents of these children who WANT these services desperately would be up-in-arms at the government if the government should shut these services down. “Minimum government standards?” It’s a farce.

    The reality is that government social programs are in such a mess and are such a failure, because social workers are overloaded with way more crisis situations than any one human being can handle. How can one social worker try to be a substitute parent for as many as 50 different foster children who live in different homes, while they are trying to figure out what is in the best interests of the child. Even our judges are not trained to resolve these kind of family issues when there are broken homes, and yet we keep looking to them for justice. In this system, more and more people keep getting wounded, feeling that they were treated unjustly, or their perspective was not “heard.”

    Get used to it, folks. The government recognizes the dysfunction of the present social system which is impersonal and bureaucratic to the point that it is soon coming to a breaking point. Revenue Canada is even contemplating changes to allow charitable organizations to start businesses known as “social enterprises,” if, in fact, those enterprises can be demonstrated to meet the social needs, and to help lift the load from an already overworked and overloaded government bureaucracies which, by their very nature, cannot afford to give vulnerable people the personal time, attention, care and emotional support that they need.

  5. Roger Armbruster says:

    Bene D, I like your statement of faith. .

    Are you a part of the “Evangelical Alliance”?

  6. Hank Hamm says:

    I would like to see some of the victims on the Dr. Phil show with a thorough investigation by the Dr. Phil team. This is the kind of thing he does so well.

  7. Bene Diction says:

    Hi Roger:

    No, the EA is in the UK.

    I like it also.

  8. Bene Diction says:

    Hi Roger:

    I’ve written a fair bit about MM – no one is being prevented from talking about the up side of MM.

    Do you want a one size fits all treatment if you need mental health services?
    Do you want your treatment providers to be trained and certified?
    Do you believe all depression is caused by demons, or all anoxics were abused?
    Do you condone repressed memory therapy when every health regulator in the first world condemns it?

    The reality is MM flourishes in the US because of need. When people don’t have health care options, groups like MM step into the gap.
    If you were in the US and because of so few regulations or standard of care and wouldn’t care if your daughter came out worse than when she went in, okay, talk up MM.

    There are reputable Christian alternatives.

  9. Roger Armbruster says:

    Bene D, I will be happy to answer your questions, but please do not simply ignore my questions. I have stated that you may well have a point, but that it needs some investigation on BOTH sides here.

    When you used RH Reality Check as one of your sources to give legitimacy to the claims of these fathers, I had some questions as whether this is, in fact, a “fact-based news, analysis abnd commentary” group, or whether it is, in fact, an “advocacy” with a political agenda.

    And I am interested, further, in how you square this with your statement of faith, which affirms “the dignity of all people, made male and female in God image” as to when the dignity of human life BEGINS?

    So, Bene D, let me try one more time. Human life begins–When? When you start using groups like RH Reality Check as your authority and as your source of information, I have questions which need to be asked, and need answers.

    For example, what are your thoughts on this page of the same web-site of RH Reality Check?

    What I read here is an advocate for abortion which not only does not define when the dignity of every human life BEGINS, but an advocacy which simply LOVES abortion, period. Nor do they offer women a real choice if they so CHOOSE to carry their babies to birth, so it is really pro-choice? No, it is pro-abortion

    This RH Reality Check advocate writes, “I love abortion. I don’t accept it. I don’t view it as a necessary evil. I embrace it. I donate to abortion funds. I write about how important it is to make sure that every woman has access to safe, legal abortion services. I have bumper stickers and buttons and t-shirts proclaiming my support for reproductive freedom. I love abortion.

    “And I bristle every time a fellow activist uses a trendy catch-phrase or rallying cry meant to placate pro-lifers. The first of these, ‘Make abortion safe, legal, and rare!’ has been used for decades as a call for abortion rights.

    “Safe and legal are concepts I fully support, but rare is something I cannot abide.”

    Bene D, my point here is that RH Reality Check seems to clearly relate reproductive and sexual health and justice, not simply to making abortions “safe” and “legal,” but to making them NOT RARE! It is an all-out advocacy FOR abortion, period, without any definition of when human life begins.

    Yet you use this kind of an organization as your SOURCE? Bene D, where are you coming from? And how do you square this with your statement of faith? Human life begins–when? This is a foundational question that needs to be answered transparently if we are to know where you are honestly coming from.

    Now, to get to your questions:

    “Do you want a one size fits all treatment if you need mental health services?”


    “Do you want your treatment providers to be trained and certified?”

    I certainly want them to be trained and qualified, but by who? Right now, we authorize legal judges to make decisions about family matters in which they have no expertise, and no training whatsoever. Do you sanction this?

    “Do you believe all depression is caused by demons, or all anoxics were abused?”

    No, every case has to be assessed on its own merits.

    “Do you condone repressed memory therapy when every health regulator in the first world condemns it?”

    Without prejudging this particular situation as you seem to have done, I would have to know the facts of this case to know for certain whether this was, in fact, “repressed memory therapy,” or whether it is, in fact, bringing to light long suppressed childhood experiences such as child abuse that still affect one’s life today, and which need to come to the light if they are ever going to be healed.

    So I am saying that I don’t know whether these fathers are telling the truth. Yet you seem to be saying that they are, which means that you could be sticking your head into the sands until all of the facts come to light as to where the truth lies. At this point, we simply don’t know.

    On the basis of your sources, Bene D, why do you, as a Christian, give more credence to the fathers than to MM before the facts are thoroughly investigated on ALL sides.

    You say, “there are reputable Christian alternatives.” I am sure there are. The question is, who are they, and what is their track record, so that we can investigate ALL of these alternatives with the same fine tooth comb.

    I am certainly not suggesting that “one size fits all,” but let’s be specific on what these alternatives are, and if they are in fact partners to advoacy groups like RH Reality Check. All of these groups need investigating. What is going on in abortion clincs all across our land needs investigating as well, and it needs to be a more transparent process. Would you as a Christian not agree?

  10. Bene D says:


    I’m not going to discuss a woman’s right to chose, this post is about two fathers, on-going criticism of Mercy Ministries, and treatment models and options.

    Thank you for answering the questions, I meant them to be rhetorical.
    I’m sorry the link offended you.

  11. Pingback: Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud

  12. fjc says:

    Follow the money and you will find the answer.

  13. Russ says:

    The Mercy Ministries branch in Lincoln CA is responsible for several devastated families whose daughters not only tried to commit suicide as a result of their treatment (when they had never been suicidal before) due to their poor therapy practices. When their donors are made aware (and rest assured, they will be) of who and what Mercy Ministries really is, they will either have to change their methods or shut down like they did in Australia. It is just a matter of time. Mercy made 7 million dollars last year off of these girls/women’s pain. Follow the money is right on!

  14. Russ says:

    In the previous comment I also meant to add that at least 3 of the girls who developed these false memories of horrific sexual abuse by their fathers as a result of their therapy at Mercy all had the same counselor in common..that cannot be a coincidence. They also all cut off contact with their families, and are now living with a “host family”, courtesy of Mercy Ministries.

  15. Lisa Kerr says:

    Roger Armbruster,
    I’m disappointed that you’re criticizing a publication for their views on women’s rights when you should be scrutinizing this ministry carefully. I’ve interviewed qualified experts who are extremely credible. Mercy Ministries hasn’t provided such credibility.
    Thank you,
    Lisa Kerr

  16. Russ says:

    Mercy Ministries has made it a practice to deny women access to their own medical records when requested…no all of course, but to those who have had a negative experience. I have heard from many already who had negative experiences (and I doubt one can have a truly positive experience in a destructive cult) and requested their own medical records and were denied. Many (as also happened in Australia) have to sue to get their own medical records. There is no defense for this, this is not just a woman’s right, but a human right. What possible reason could Mercy Ministries deny women access to their own medical records, other than having something to hide and fear of being sued? If the general public is made aware of this and they see the evidence, it makes it much easier for them to believe all of the other damaging allegations and to come to the rightful conclusion that Mercy Ministries is not who they say they are.

  17. John Weaver says:

    Dear Roger,
    I am pro-life and I trust the Reality Check site version far more than I do by the blogs run by Mercy and their supporters. These blogs have consistently misrepresented Mercy’s actions, and I have personally caught Mercy lying or distorting information on five or six ocassions. And lets not even talk about their flagrant misuse of the DCMA rules on Youtube. I’ll start trusting so-called “pro-life” sites dealing with Mercy, when those sites actually start showing concern for women as people rather than as profit objects and possessed individuals. Till then, I’ll trust the pro-choicers. They may be baby-killers in your eyes, but at least they are honest, which is a lot more than I can say for the pro-Mercy people.

  18. Roger Armbruster says:

    OK, John, you trust the Reality Check site. Does this go for their entire site? If so, I would appreciate your response on the Reality Check site link given above, and tell me how, as a pro-lifer, you can put your trust in a site that spues this type of propaganda.

    I might trust Reality Check as a source if they will publicly dissociate themselves from the over-the-top comments on the link above. Otherwise, if I cannot trust them on this part of their web-site, I have to be very wary about what they write in other parts of their web-site as well, because they have just broken trust with me big time.

    Thank you for you comments, and have a good day, regardless of whether we agree on Reality Check’s stand on abortion or not. I am simply and respectfully suggesting that any site which advocates that abortions should be not rare, should be unlimited, and at any stage of pregnancy, is promoting the worst type of child abuse against the most vulnerable in our society.

    You suggest that these people may be baby-killers in my eyes. What are they in your eyes??? You claim to be pro-life. In your belief, human life begins–when???

  19. Russ says:

    Mercy Ministries is a fraud…just like Penn State. While Mercy Ministries didn’t enable a sexual predator, they have caused untold pain to young women and their families by causing untold numbers of young women to have false memories of sexual abuse (and the young women often reject their families because of this, something entirely consistent with what a cult does). This is evil and shameful as well.

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