Tuesday, November 25, 2008

St. Louis Graduates Share Their Stories of Hope, Transformation and Life

During the month of November, four girls graduated from the St. Louis home. During their time in the program we have seen first hand how their positive choices and growing faith in Jesus Christ have transformed their lives. Here are their stories:

LauraMercy Ministries Graduate

Before I came to Mercy Ministries, my family situation was very stressful. I was lost and searching for answers. My parents are supporters of Mercy and they told me about the ministry. I decided to apply to the program because I felt like I had no where else to turn.

When I arrived at Mercy, I was struggling with severe depression, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, and drug and alcohol addictions. 8 days after I arrived at Mercy, I accepted Jesus into my heart and life. I am amazed at how much my life has changed over these short six months. He has showed me that I am no longer defined by a disorder, but instead I am defined as a child of the King. I am free from the bondage of things from my past. These old things have been replaced with God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. Through it all, my family has also become closer than ever.

After Mercy, I am moving back to North Carolina to live with my parents and my brother. I am going to get a job and then in January, I will attend a local university and finish my degree in Psychology. I plan to get my Master’s degree in counseling. Ultimately, my dream is to help young women and maybe come back and work at Mercy Ministries.

TaraMercy Ministries Graduate

I have always been a perfectionist and lived my entire life feeling as though I was not “good enough.” I based my self-worth on my appearance and my grades. When I was in 5th grade, my grandfather passed away, and I felt like there was no one else who believed in me and loved me unconditionally. The chaos of everyday life caused a lot of stress in my family, and I felt like it was my responsibility to keep everything in perfect balance.

While I was trying to fix everyone else’s problems, I developed an eating disorder when I was in 5th grade to cope with my own stress. I turned to starvation to deal with the anxiety of my rigorous class schedule. I purged several times a day; regardless of whether or not I had eaten. By the time I was a junior in high school, my eating disorder became a full-time addiction. The summer after I graduated from high school, I stopped eating and drinking completely. After more than 40 days of total starvation, I ended up in a treatment center.

Over a period of 6 months, I was in a secular treatment six times. My insurance ran out and I had been told by numerous psychiatrists that I wouldn’t live to see my 20th birthday. I planned to let the eating disorder kill me but something inside of me was screaming for help. I was angry with God, but I was willing to give Him a chance as my last resort. My sister had heard about Mercy Ministries at a Point of Grace concert several years ago and told me about the program. I made the decision to apply.

I came to Mercy with a lot of fear and a tiny seed of hope. I had such a low opinion of my value that I wanted to take up as little space as possible, so I would sit on the floor curled up in a ball with my hair in front of my face. I would tell the Mercy staff that I was unlovable but they just continued to tell me that I was loved. That love changed me. I realized that even though I had been through some of the best secular treatment programs out there, Jesus Christ is the only One who heal a broken heart and restore a person to wholeness.

After graduation, I am going to go back to Chicago and live with my family. I want to get a job and volunteer at a home for people with Alzheimer’s disease. I hope to start school at Belmont University next fall, and I would like to major in journalism. No matter what the future holds, I want to be a shining example of God’s mercy to girls that are suffering with the same issues I once had. I want other girls to know that it does not matter what the doctors, therapists, or psychiatrists have told you…I am living proof that there is hope, freedom and life out there. If you can use some help on the journey, swallow all of your doubts and fears and fill out the application to Mercy. The staff members are awesome and the atmosphere is very loving. They are able to reach out to so many hurting girls because they will always point you back to God. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” (II Cor. 3:17.)

Sarah BethMercy Ministries Graduate

I grew up in a Christian home with loving and nurturing parents but from a very young age, I was hardened to their love and to the love of God. For me, striving to be loved and Jesus went hand in hand; this resulted in a lot of legalism.

I became bound by all kinds of fear – fear of Hell, fear of people, and a fear gaining weight. I lost a lot of weight and a trusted doctor suggested that I was anorexic. I began to obsess over food, and my weight, and everything that used to be simple became complicated. I started to despise myself and practically everything related to God. I spent all my time in front of the mirror criticizing my body. I started to exercise all of the time and the more I exercised, the more I was unsatisfied with myself. I desperately wanted God's approval so I would spend hours on my knees begging for God's forgiveness but nothing ever seemed to change on the inside. I desired to be Godly so I followed the scriptures, yet I did everything out of fear and obligation.

When I graduated high school, I decided to stop eating completely. I began to compare myself to the world’s image, specifically to the women in the media. My everyday life became exhausting. If I wasn't exercising then I was crying on the floor unable to get dressed.

I was angry, unhappy, confused and deceived. I wanted to die and was desperate for help. so I decided to send in my application. I arrived at the Mercy home in St. Louis on May 6, 2008. At this point in my life, I was battling depression, an eating disorder, legalism, self hatred, obsessive compulsive behaviors, and lust. I hated who I was and my mind was in total confusion. I was the good Christian girl on the outside, but I was dying on the inside and nobody ever knew my struggles because I was so well put together. Every part of me was filled with rage, guilt, and emptiness.

During my time in the program, I realized that I had built up so many walls against God. Through the unconditional love of the staff and their patience in helping me get to the root of my issues, the walls began to come down. I began to see God as my Father who had been there all along. I saw how He was there even when I was a baby. This released me from the guilt and shame of my past. His love for me reached deep into my soul and took away the pain and emptiness I had been full of.