Friday, January 29, 2010

West Coast Home Featured in Lincoln Newspaper

Lincoln home helps girls from all over heal

Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter

Photograph: Michael Kirby/News Messenger


Girls from across the country who need a place to get their lives on track have a place in Lincoln to do so.

That place is called Mercy Ministries, a residential facility for girls ages 18 to 28 who are “seeking freedom from life-controlling issues” including eating disorders, depression, physical and sexual abuse, and self harm, according to Mercy Ministries officials.

The 23,000 square foot home is located at 1896 McLain Drive.

The Lincoln location opened in October, according to Cheryl Bangs, program director for Lincoln’s Mercy Ministries home. Currently, 20 girls live in the home, with two from Australia and others from around the United States, including Illinois, Idaho and Montana.

There are three other Mercy Ministries homes in the United States, in Monroe, La., Nashville, Tenn., and St. Louis, Mo. Homes are also in Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

In Lincoln, there are three counselors, a nutrition manager and a director of medicine to administer medication and take the girls to the doctor if needed, according to Bangs.

There is also a staff member on hand available for the girls nightly if they need help.

Bangs said the girls are all voluntarily at the program.

“Our goal is success,” Bangs said. “We take anybody but they need to be ready.”

This means they need to be ready for the program because “it creates a total life change.”

Bangs said Mercy Ministries is founded on three principals, which are to take girls in free of charge, give 10 percent of every donation taken in to other Christian ministries or charities and never “take any government funding because it could limit our being able to spread the love of Christ with the girls.”

The News Messenger toured the center Tuesday, guided by Bangs and Kaci Davis, community- relations manager for Lincoln’s Mercy Ministries home. Also along for the tour was Ken Campbell, a Lincoln resident supportive of what Mercy Ministries Lincoln is doing.

“I just think what these guys are doing is great, taking girls at a dead end and turning them around 180 degrees,” said Campbell, who said he has a sister who went through a similar program. “This is something good happening locally.”

Mercy Ministries runs on donations, including a donation of the land and $2.5 million for the building of the home from Buzz Oates, a commercial real-estate developer from the Sacramento area.

On the tour, The News Messenger walked through the house, seeing the kitchen, dining area, living room and library. The girls share rooms and, according to Bangs, the rooms are only for sleeping because the girls need “to be in common areas at all times while awake.”

Davis said this is because the girls go through counseling sessions and deal with issues, “and it’s more beneficial to be around people who can help rather than alone with their thoughts.”

The girls are also not supposed to share the reason they are at Mercy Ministries, because Bangs said, the “other residents are not there to counsel one another.”

While the girls aren’t allowed to have cell phones or Internet while at the home, they can write letters and receive and make phone calls on certain days, according to Bangs.

During free time, they watch movies, work on assignments and sometimes go on outings.

Bangs said the girls also go the mall every Friday to have lunch and shop with their own money. They also go on other group outings, such as concerts or King’s games if donated tickets are received.

“It’s fun to get them out of the house and it’s good to get them away from the home,” Bangs said.

The girls have a structured day, starting at 7:30 a.m., and lights out at 10 p.m. The girls eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time every day, and have “work detail,” which are household chores like vacuuming, washing dishes and dusting.

Residents attend individualized counseling weekly to deal with their issues, and attend daily classes, which are “all biblical concepts teaching them how to walk life with tools.”

Bangs said Mercy Ministries is not affiliated with any denomination but is Christian based and offers counseling from a Biblical perspective.

“We believe in the Bible, and believe it has details for how we should live life,” she said. “You can have a good life and learn how to make the right choices.”

Bangs said the girls face issues in their lives, turning to behaviors like eating disorders and self-harm to cope. Mercy Ministries teaches them positive coping skills, “using the word of God to help them learn to make good choices.”

“Often they’ve been a victim but don’t have to have a victim mentality,” Bangs said. “We believe they’ve been created by God as unique people with a destiny and that’s part of what we teach. We teach them how to hear what he is saying for their plan.”


SOURCE: Lincoln News Messenger


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Relevant Magazine Highlights Mercy Ministries

Mercy Ministries

Written by Alyce Gilligan

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Young women face some tough challenges today: anorexia, self-injury, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, addictions … The list goes on, and the statistics are often alarming. Nancy Alcorn saw much of this firsthand while working at a state correctional facility for delinquent girls, as well as researching child abuse cases. Later, as a director with Nashville Teen Challenge, she noted how faith-based programs had a greater impact in producing permanent lifestyle changes. From these experiences, Alcorn developed a passion for seeing young women living to their full potential. As a result, she founded Mercy Ministries, and in 1983, they opened up their first home in Nashville, Tenn., as a safe haven for girls dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, addictions, depression, eating disorders and unplanned pregnancies. Sixteen years later, they have four homes in the United States and three in other global locations. Through their efforts, 2,000 girls have found hope and personal healing.

Mercy seeks to restore the lives of young women through the knowledge of Christ’s love, as well as proven clinical practices. Girls of all backgrounds may enter the six-month program voluntarily and without any cost. These facilities are run entirely by charitable donations, with 10 percent being tithed to other ministries.

During the program, girls are counseled, comforted, and challenged to make the most of the opportunities life has in store for them. And it seems to be working: 93 percent of former residents report that Mercy Ministries “transformed their life and restored their hope.” The accounts of these women are perhaps the most moving testament to the work of Mercy.

Sara Opperman entered the Nashville home with an unplanned pregnancy when she was only 16, needing to make a decision concerning her unborn child. “What I needed was a place to come where I could get away from all the noise and opinions of others,” Opperman says. She credits the spiritual foundation of the program with her personal success. Now 29, Sara has raised her 12 year-old daughter and works with the intake department of Mercy Ministries, helping other young girls get into the life-changing program. “They really helped me to reverse that failure and guilt mentality. I feel like I’m living proof that God can really turn things around.”

Ali Erikson is another young woman who was helped by Mercy. She first went to the Nashville home when she was only 17, but she had suffered from an eating disorder for seven years. She’d grown up in a close-knit family with six sisters and was raised in the church. “Everyone wore this mask of perfection, like everyone’s got it all together, and the people who didn’t were like the [outcasts],” Erikson says of her upbringing. During her stay with Mercy, she began to overcome her perfectionist tendencies by developing a personal relationship with God. “Instead of trying to do a behavioral change, Mercy focuses on heart change,” Erikson says. After graduating from Mercy, she spent a year with the Impact 360 program and is now going to college for marketing.

Stories like these are what keep Mercy going, as well as a lengthy list of partnerships with respected artists and businesses, including Group One Crew, Joyce Meyer Ministries, and Sketchers. A brand new $6 million, 40-resident home opened in Lincoln, Calif., in November, funded entirely by charitable contributions. As the first West Coast facility, this home is vital to the expansion of Mercy Ministries’ influence.

The work of Mercy is impossible without the prayers and support of the community. Volunteer opportunities are available, but the most direct way of giving to Mercy Ministries is through financial donations to the organization in general. Explains Erikson, “It’s a great investment if you believe in the impact that a changed person can make.”

SOURCE: Relevant Magazine


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Special Guests at Mercy Ministries - Residents and Staff Discover their Strengths!

Nashville girls and staff had an incredible day of encouragement and teaching this past Monday with a few very special guests. It was a privilege to have Dr. Alina Lehnert, Associate Director of Leadership and Strength Development at Evangel University and her sister Briana Leach, take time away from their busy schedules to help develop the strengths of Mercy Ministries’ staff and residents. After every resident and staff member took the Gallup’s Strengths Finder assessment, they had the opportunity to discuss how they are each created with individual strengths and talents, and they learned how to maximize their strengths in the workplace and daily life. Staff discovered how they can work more effectively with their team members and residents were empowered to realize their potential by focusing on the unique talents that God gave them. Everyone was encouraged by the teachings!

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Briana, Nancy Alcorn and Alina


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Dr Alina Lehnert teaching our Nashville staff


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Briana working with our girls

Here is what a few of the girls had to say about these special visitors:

Ally, a resident, said, “Finding out what my strengths are and understanding what they mean was interesting. The way they all work together made me understand myself better. I also realized how unique we are and how we can all work together and compliment and feed off others. Seeing the good in some of my strengths and understanding how to use them in productive ways was helpful. I plan to implement this information by reminding myself that God made me and on one else is just like me.”

Kay, a staff member said, “It was eye opening to hear that our culture has taught us to be “well rounded”, however, God made us each with unique strengths, not to do everything well, but do what He created us for with excellence. It was also encouraging to realize when we partner with others, our different strengths compliment each other and make us better together than we are alone.”

Shaina, a resident, said,”Wow! Boy did I enjoy this seminar, it made me realize a lot about myself and why I am the way that I am. The speaker said “the more you know yourself the easier it is for you to relate to others. I see now that God fashions people differently. All these years I’ve wasted wanting to be like someone else, God was just waiting for me to discover what and who He made me! AND He did a beautiful job! I am uniquely Shaina!”

A special thanks to Dr. Alina Lehnert and Briana Leach for spending the day at Mercy Ministries! To learn more about Strengths Finder resources, visit www.strengthsquest.com.

To learn more about Dr. Alina and Briana’s long term relationship with Mercy, check out Nancy Alcorn’s blog at www.nancyalcorn.blogspot.com.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Terry Warren Visits Mercy Ministries

Singer and songwriter, Terry Warren, was invited to our Nashville home yesterday to sing and share with our girls. Originally from Titusville, Florida, Terry played football and was an All-American linebacker for Florida State University. Upon graduation, he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. After a severe back injury his rookie year that ended his sports career, Terry pursued his musical talent and appeared and performed on several TV shows and movie spots, eventually landing the role as Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables on Broadway!

Terry shared his own personal experiences and sang several songs for our Nashville residents and staff. Throughout the performance, he shared his powerful testimony as a way to encourage the girls to seek God for healing from any negative thoughts or low self-worth. Due to personal tragedy in Terry’s life, he had to walk away from his music for the last 6 years, but he shared how God has miraculously brought healing to several relationships and is making a way for him to share Christ through his music. Terry’s down-to-earth message of hope and healing challenged the residents to never give up and always choose forgiveness.

Here is what a few of the girls had to say about Terry’s visit:

Rachael said, “I enjoyed hearing his testimony. He is a man after God’s own heart and that is cool!”

Beth said, “At the end, when we were having question and answer time, I was taken back by his gentle strength of forgiveness. God’s been prodding me to release others through forgiveness and walk in that balance of gentle strength.”

Megan said, “What an incredible man of God! Terry hit many bumps in the road throughout his journey that could have put an end to his life, but he helped me to see that all things work out for the good of those who love the Lord and don’t give up!”

Kalissa said, “He is such an encouragement. He has been through so much and somehow he still found hope. What an amazing testimony.”

To learn more about Terry Warren and his music visit www.myspace.com/terrywarrencom.

Click here to view a short video clip of his time at Mercy Ministries.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nashville Residents Cheer Vanderbilt Lady Commodores to a Big Win!

Mercy Ministries Nashville residents had the chance to be part of the action when the Vanderbilt Lady Commodores beat the University of Georgia Lady Bulldogs 44-66 last Thursday at the Memorial Gymnasium on Vanderbilt’s campus in Nashville! Georgia came in with an undefeated record, but Vanderbilt really needed this victory after losing their last two games. Residents had a blast cheering their team on for the big win!

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Mercy Ministries would like to take the opportunity to thank the Vanderbilt Lady Commodores for providing season tickets for the Mercy Nashville girls to attend the games regularly. They always have a great time!

Here is what a few of the residents had to say about this exciting game:

Heather said, “Thursday’s game was one of the best we’ve been to! It was very exciting and we had a great time!”

Abbey said, “I had so much fun at the game. It was very exciting to see them be the first team to beat Georgia! Go lady Commodores!”

Alexa said, “The game was so amazing! The girls won and it was good to get out and enjoy a game. The mascot even welcomed us, which was really cool.”


You can follow the Lady Commodores season at http://vucommodores.cstv.com/sports/w-baskbl/vand-w-baskbl-body.html

Monday, January 18, 2010

Local Musicians Encourage St. Louis Residents

John and Paula Kasica, professional musicians in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for over 35 years and creators of Windfire, a flute and percussion ensemble, volunteered their time this week to encourage the St. Louis residents. As members of Destiny Church in St. Louis, the same church that our St. Louis residents attend, their pastor, Jim Stern, connected them with the vision of Mercy Ministries and they immediately shared a deep compassion for the young women we serve. They have been ministering regularly at the St. Louis home for the past year.

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John, a master percussionist, spoke to the residents about living a life of excellence, and he also brought several illustrations with him to reveal how beauty and art impact people in a powerful way. Paula took time to share the importance of learning to value oneself. The Kasicas also incorporated a lesson about public speaking and encouraged the residents to trust God to give them the right words to say when they have the opportunity their testimony in front of a group of people. Each girl was encouraged in a personal way to study scriptures on the power of their words so they will understand the importance of stepping out and sharing their message of hope in Christ with a hurting world.

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Here is what a few of the residents had to say about this talented musical group:

Teresa said, “I enjoyed listening to John and Paula Kasica. It was neat to learn about public speaking because it is so useful for the rest of our lives! John gave an amazing performance with the tambourine!”

Kelsey said, “I really enjoyed learning about how to enhance my public speaking. I am definitely going to learn to add more words like they suggested. If I learn a new word every day, by the end of the year I could double my vocabulary!”

Tasha said, “The Kasicas bring lots of talent, culture and encouragement to the Mercy home.”


To learn more about John and Paula Kasica or Windfire, visit their website www.windfire.org.

Mercy Ministries Featured in Charlotte Newspaper


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From left, Sarah Turner; Nancy Alcorn, founder of Mercy Ministries; and pastor Derek Turner of
Branch Family Church in Charlotte at the Mercy Ministries pastor's luncheon in Charlotte in September.


Treatment house for women, teens may build in Charlotte

A ministry that helps young women with eating disorders, self-harm problems and other issues is eyeing Charlotte for its fifth U.S. residential treatment center.

Whitney Cantrell of Nashville, Tenn.-based Mercy Ministries began visiting Charlotte last year to build a support base. The response has been good, she said: For example, 160 ministers and counselors attended a luncheon in September, when only 100 were expected.

"The more we do here, the more it is clear this is where we need to go next,"
Cantrell said.

The Mercy Ministries house will be built on 8 acres, off Rocky River Road, donated by Derek and Sarah Turner, longtime Mercy Ministries supporters and leaders at Branch Family Church in Charlotte.

Cantrell said that building the house, which will house 40 teenagers and women up to age 28, and paying for initial operating costs will require between $5 million and $7 million. Mercy Ministries likes to have that money up front, so the group will begin holding fundraisers in Charlotte this year, including a barbecue and 5K road race.

Mercy Ministries gives 10 percent of money it receives to other ministries in the community, and it accepts no money "with strings attached," Cantrell said.

At some Mercy Ministries events, graduates of the treatment program who live in the Charlotte area will share their stories of recovery, Cantrell said.

Mercy Ministries offers its residential program for free, and girls participate voluntarily. The women suffer from "life-controlling" issues, which include eating disorders, cutting, addictions, abuse and depression.

Women live in the Mercy House for an average of six months, where they attend classes and counseling sessions.

The counseling and teaching is biblically based, Cantrell said. When they graduate, women are encouraged to get involved in a church and read the Bible regularly.

"Everything we do is centered on the love of God and unconditional love for the girls,"
Cantrell said.

"We teach that, in Christ, there is true freedom; not 'once an addict, always an addict.'"


A house in Charlotte would impact the Mercy Ministries wait list, which now has 750 names, Cantrell said. With enough local support, the house could open in several years. "It totally depends on how the first part of this year goes," she said.


SOURCE: Charlotte Observer




Wednesday, January 13, 2010

JCLU Forever Partners with Mercy Ministries

1JCLU or “Jesus Christ Loves U” was originally created by the Fong family - Louis, Kim, Zoey and Chynna, - in order to raise money for their church youth group. Since that time, JCLU has become a great resource for women’s Christian apparel. They offer a unique line of women’s t-shirts and apparel featuring inspiring words and artwork. The Fong family has recently decided to donate 10% of their product sales to Mercy Ministries.

Having experienced the heartache of watching a beloved sister develop a drug addiction that led her into the world of prostitution, Louis Fong wishes his family had found Mercy Ministries early on. “Today my sister is currently serving a 4-year term for a drug related offense, and she has lost custody of her children. I believe that Mercy is truly a healing ministry and had my sister known to apply, she could have been helped. I was much too young at the time to have known how to help her,” he explained. Louis and his family are still believing that God will help his sister, and they dedicate their partnership with Mercy Ministries to her and to all the young ladies out there who are hurting and in need of God’s mercy.

“For our family, the decision to sow into Mercy was unanimous, and it was confirmed in our spirit,” said Louis. “God wants us to help this ministry grow. We believe that Mercy is a healing place and we hope and pray that we can see this ministry help many young girls out there like my sister. We dedicate this to her!”

To learn more about the stylish and uplifting t-shirts available at JCLU Forever, visit their websites www.jcluforever.com or www.facebook.com/jcluforever.



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Graduate Chosen for Makeover!

Anne came to Mercy Ministries in 2006 with an eating disorder. She has walked a long road to freedom from her life-controlling issues, but now finds her hope and her joy in Christ. Not only has she experienced a transformation in her heart, but she recently had the awesome opportunity to be outwardly transformed on Good Day Wisconsin’s Monday Morning Makeovers!

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After writing in to her local morning television program, Anne was chosen to participate in a fun makeover day at Haven Salon and Spa in De Pere, Wisconsin. The makeover artists pampered Anne with a manicure, hair coloring and style, and a cosmetic session that transformed Anne’s style. Anne was very excited to get this fresh start right before beginning nursing school. “I loved it,” she said. “This is something I have never done before, but it has been really exciting and super fun!” After the makeover, Anne was also featured on television with her “before and after” pictures. Check out the video below.









Congratulations Anne on your fun day at the spa! We are excited to see what God has in store for your future!


Nancy Speaks in Delaware

On Saturday, Mercy Ministries Founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, had the privilege of being invited to speak about vision and loving God’s way at the Girlfriend’s High Tea, a special gathering for women of all ages at Seeds of Greatness Church in New Castle, Delaware. Founded by Pastors Jerome and Lisa Lewis, Seeds of Greatness Church is dedicated to providing tools that empower believers to grow to new levels of greatness. The next day, Nancy also had the opportunity to speak at both of their Sunday morning services. A big thanks to this congregation that collected over $11,000 in support of the young women we serve!

Here is what Nancy Alcorn had to say about the pastors of Seeds of Greatness Church:

“Pastors Jerome and Lisa really touched my heart in a special way. They are not only great leaders, but they are great people. The thing that stood out the most to me about them was their humility and their love for people exemplified by their servant’s heart. I am so thankful for this new relationship.”

Mercy Ministries is so excited about connecting with this awesome church and we are looking forward to our next visit! To learn more about Seeds of Greatness Church, visit their website at www.sogm.org.


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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mercy Ministries Featured in Sierra Style Magazine

Cheryl Bangs, Program Director of our Sacramento home, was recently interviewed for the purpose of highlighting Mercy Ministries’ brand new West Coast home in Sierra Style Magazine, Sacramento’s #1 monthly publication. Appearing in the January edition, check out the feature online at http://www.stylemg.com/Roseville-Granite-Bay-Rocklin/January-2010/Mercy-Ministries-Lincoln/.

Mercy Ministries Lincoln

Where Helping Women is a Matter of Faith

by Eileen Wilson

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Photo by Dante Fontana

You hear it all over the news. Binge drinking and substance abuse is on the rise among teenage girls.


Eating disorders and self-harm issues are rampant among young women who are trying to make sense of the world around them. But Mercy Ministries offers hope and help to women struggling with these and other issues.

Founded in the early 1980s, Mercy Ministries offers residential care homes for women and teen girls, ages 13 to 28, with life controlling issues. Drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and self-harming behaviors are just some of the problems the ministry addresses. Physical and sexual abuse, depression, and unplanned pregnancy are issues residents seek help for as well. With four facilities in the United States, the new residence is a welcome addition in Lincoln.

“We had been looking at putting a home in California, knowing the need on the West Coast for a facility like this,” says Cheryl Bangs, the Lincoln facility’s program director. Lincoln was chosen, in part, because Buzz Oats donated the land and seed money to start the local program. “Buzz wanted to leave a legacy – so he and his family started [researching] how to open a home for troubled girls. He found that there were already people doing this, and quite successfully,” says Bangs.

After getting to know program founder Nancy Alcorn, Oats gladly gifted the property. The doors to the facility – which houses 19 women and room for 21 more – opened on October 1. What makes Mercy Ministries unique is their inclusion of scripture and faith in healing.

“We’re biblically based; we don’t just focus on the behaviors, but on getting to the core of why women have the behaviors,” shares Bangs. “We focus on Jesus Christ and how he has a plan for each and every one of the girls.”

With an average age of women in their mid-20s at the Lincoln facility, Bangs explains that eating disorders and self-harming behaviors are the biggest issues for women needing assistance. “These issues are rampant and increasing in our society,” she says. “Some of it is media driven – women are striving for the perfect body.”

The program typically takes about six months to complete, though there’s not a specific time guideline. “We teach women how to make choices to be successful once they’re outside of the program. Our society doesn’t always acknowledge that women are of great value,” says Bangs.

Mercy Ministries, which is funded by donations, operates under three core principals: Take girls in, free of charge; tithe ten percent of monies to other ministries; and never accept money with strings attached or with terms that would inhibit the organization from sharing biblical truths with their residents.

There are 700 girls and women on a waiting list for the Lincoln facility and others elsewhere. “The Lincoln facility is 23,000 square feet and very upscale. We make sure the homes are nice so [that] the girls understand they are valuable and worthy. They’re surrounded by beauty,” says Bangs.