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.