Monday, November 29, 2010

Dave Ramsey to Auction off Priceless Piano for Mercy Ministries

Michael W. Smith recently stopped by to sign the piano!
If you are a music fan, you will not want to miss out on a very special one-of-a kind piano being auctioned off by Dave Ramsey for our Merry Mercy Christmas Benefit this year! The piano is valued at $22,000, but the autographs of some of Nashville’s biggest stars like Lorrie Morgan, Michael W. Smith, and Olympic skater Scott Hamilton, make it priceless!

The piano was donated by country legend T.G. Sheppard and his wife, singer/ songwriter, Kelly Lang, in conjunction with Samick Music Corporation. Sheppard and Lang are longtime friends of popular radio show host and New York Times Best Selling author of The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey, who will be auctioning off the piano through his eBay site at www.daveramsey.com/piano. Dave and his wife Sharon are faithful supporters of Mercy Ministries and are the chairs of this year’s Merry Mercy Christmas Benefit being held at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on Friday, December 10th.

The piano is currently on display in the lobby of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Plaza in Brentwood for anyone who would like to stop by and see it in person. Bidding will start on Thursday, December 2nd and continue through midnight on Saturday, December 11th. All proceeds from the sale of the piano will go directly to Mercy Ministries, so be sure and place your bid for this amazing one-of-a-kind item!

Dove award winning artist, Phil Keaggy, will perform
at the Merry Mercy Christmas Benefit

To learn more about the piano and to make your bid on Thursday, December 2nd, go to www.daveramsey.com/piano. For more information about the Merry Mercy Christmas Benefit, contact Heather Robinson at 615-831-6987 or hrobinson@mercyministries.com or go to www.merrymercychristmas.com/nashville.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving at Mercy Ministries!

Thanksgiving is a special time of celebration and fellowship at all of the Mercy Ministries homes. On Wednesday afternoon, the residents worked with some of our volunteers to prepare Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, sweet potatoes, and stuffing. The girls learned how to make most of their dishes from scratch, something many of them had never done before! One of our residents even brought a special recipe from home to prepare for everyone. Staff members from each home and our corporate offices brought several delicious desserts for all of the residents to enjoy.

On Thanksgiving morning, the girls slept in and then enjoyed watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as final preparations were made for their special dinner. After enjoying a wonderful meal together, residents gathered around the table to share what they are thankful for. Everyone was moved by the many blessings that were shared and several of the girls expressed that this was the first time they truly enjoyed Thanksgiving. Overall it was a relaxing day of playing games, watching football, and creating memories.

We want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our faithful supporters! It is because of your commitment and generosity that these young women were able to have a truly special holiday filled with hope and love. We hope you enjoy these fun photos of our holiday weekend:


Nashville








St. Louis









Sacramento








Tuesday, November 23, 2010

St. Louis Residents Give Back to Their Community

Our St. Louis residents and staff had a great time last week at the St. Louis Dream Center putting together Thanksgiving food baskets for needy families. The St. Louis Dream Center was founded by Mercy Ministries’ supporters, Joyce and Dave Meyer, and is a church focused on ministering to the needs of inner city areas in St. Louis known for high crime, drugs, and gang activity. Dave and Joyce Meyer helped Mercy Ministries open our St. Louis home in 2005 by donating the property and funding the renovations, and they have continued to be generous monthly partners. Our residents were so excited to have an opportunity to say thank you by giving back!!

The girls created an assembly line, sorted all the food, and packed boxes. The gift boxes included everything needed for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner - potatoes, green beans, corn and, of course, a turkey! It was an incredible opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world outside the walls of Mercy Ministries. Watch this video and hear straight from our residents on why they love volunteering:

Monday, November 22, 2010

St. Louis Celebrates Mercy in the Evening

Hosts Steve and Terri Stipanovich

It is an incredible blessing when our supporters want to share their passion for Mercy Ministries with friends, colleagues, and their community. Steve and Terri Stipanovich are faithful supporters through our “Sponsor a Girl” program and have opened their home to some of the Mercy girls who needed a place to live following graduation. They generously opened their home again for a private event last Thursday for Mercy in the Evening and over 100 people came to learn more about the lives being changed at Mercy Ministries.

Following an amazing dinner, everyone took their seats to hear Founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, cast the vision of Mercy Ministries. Everyone was deeply impacted by the three graduates, Courtney, Holly, and Jen, who shared their powerful stories of healing and transformation. Each girl spoke of the unconditional love they received while at Mercy and their desire to share that love with others. Courtney now works with inner city youth through her church while Holly helped plant six churches this summer in Costa Rica! Jen will soon be starting an internship and will be working with victims of sex trafficking.

We are so grateful to Steve and Terri Stipanovich for hosting this wonderful event and to Faith That Works for helping to plan the event. Thanks also to Melody Humans for the beautiful d├ęcor and centerpieces, Thomas Warwick for donating photography services, Straub’s Markets for the delicious food, and the St. Louis Symphony members who provided music for the event - Paula Kasica on the flute, Paul Huppert on violin, and Ken Kulosa on cello.

Guests also enjoyed beautiful artwork done by Mercy residents with the help of Bert Vandermark and Visual Parables. The paintings were available for purchase with 100% of the proceeds going to Mercy Ministries. We hope you enjoy these photos from the event:
Artwork by Mercy residents
Nancy Alcorn casts the vision


Graduates Courtney, Holly, and Jen



Friday, November 19, 2010

Real People Sharing Real Stories on the Radio

Mercy Ministries is hitting the airwaves THIS Sunday to talk to real people about real life-controlling issues on SuperTalk 99.7 WTN. Over the past ten years we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of residents struggling with self-harm and eating disorders. Between 2001 and 2006 alone, the percentage of residents who reported dealing with self-harm went from 6% to 67% and those struggling with eating disorders went from 37% to 69%! For the next two weeks, starting Sunday, November 21st, NancyAlcorn and co-host Eve Annunziato will be taking calls from you, our listeners, to discuss these issues. The show is called Mercy Multiplied and airs between 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM CST for the next 13 weeks.

With young girls like popular teen Disney star, Demi Lovato checking herself into rehab to deal with these issues, it is clearly becoming more and more prevalent. It is estimated that one in every 200 girls between 13 – 19 years old cuts themselves regularly and 1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder. This all adds up to millions of hurting young women who need healing and freedom from these life-controlling issues.

With over 27 years of experience and a 93% success rate, Nancy and Mercy Ministries want to share our expertise, help, and resources, as well as communicate the vision and mission of Mercy. But we need your help to get the message out. You are an important part of the show and we want to invite you to call us with your questions, stories, and comments. Together we can bring light to these life-controlling issues! Tune in to Mercy Multiplied this Sunday at 9:00 AM CST to hear more about real people, dealing with real issues, and getting real life restoration through the love of Christ. We’ll see you soon on the radio waves! To check out more about Mercy Multiplied, click here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mercy Multiplied Hits the Airwaves!

Mercy Ministries is excited to announce that Founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, will host a live one hour radio show called Mercy Multiplied on Super Talk 99.7FM WTN starting this Sunday, November 21st! With over 27 years of experience and an incredibly high success rate, Nancy and Mercy Ministries want to share our expertise, help, and resources, as well as communicate the vision and mission of Mercy. Airing with Nancy will be producer and co-host, Eve Annunziato.

Listeners will be able to call in, talk to Nancy, tell their stories, and ask questions about how to find freedom from life-controlling issues. Each week, the show will focus on one of these issues such as physical and sexual abuse, sex trafficking, eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, and unplanned pregnancy. You will truly be encouraged by the stories of healing and transformation told by Nancy and our Mercy graduates!

The show will air live each Sunday morning over the next 13 weeks from 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM CST. You don’t want to miss it!

Special thanks to Cornerstone Retirement Group for sponsoring the program! To find out more about how you can be a sponsor, contact Dave Temple at 615-831-6987 or mercymultiplied@gmail.com. To find out more about Mercy Multiplied and see this week’s topic, go to www.mercymultiplied.com.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Five More Mercy Ministries Graduates Transformed!

Five more brave young women were so excited to see family and friends gathered at the Monroe and Lincoln homes this week to celebrate graduation. It was clear to everyone who attended that these girls have been truly transformed by God’s grace and unconditional love. Here are their stories of hope and healing:

Monroe

Carissa

When I was 15, I started dieting. I liked the comments and attention I received and the diet quickly spiraled into an eating disorder. I was diagnosed with anorexia and hospitalized. I spent four months in treatment and then went to college. I started to drink a lot and one night I was raped by two guys at my school. I had planned on being a virgin until I got married. The rape reinforced the lie that I was only as good as my body and I relapsed with the eating disorder. I believed that if I wasn’t skinny and beautiful, then I was trash. To escape my thoughts, I would numb myself with drugs, alcohol, cutting, and shoplifting. I was miserable. I couldn’t afford treatment again but I knew I needed help, so I decided to apply to Mercy.

While at Mercy, I’ve been overwhelmed with God’s greatness. I am completely healed of all my addictions. It wasn’t until I was in a safe place at Mercy that God revealed the root of my struggles and I was able to work through them. I’ve learned to trust God and know His unconditional love. It’s absolutely amazing the work God has done in my life!

After graduation, I will be looking for an internship and returning to school. I plan to major in counseling and minor in art and will hopefully do art therapy one day. I’m also planning to get involved in the college ministry at my church. I’m so excited about my future!

Hillary

At the age of 9, I was raped on the school bus. When I was 12, my family moved and I started attending a new school. I did everything I could to fit in, becoming sexually active and experimenting with cigarettes. This eventually led to involvement with drugs and alcohol. My life was spiraling out of control and my addictions began taking over my life. My brother-in-law supports Mercy and he told me about the program, so I decided to apply.

While at Mercy, my life was completely changed. I am free from my addictions and I am free from shame and condemnation. I’m eternally grateful for Mercy Ministries and appreciate the staff for how patient and loving they were toward me. Now, I can be the person God has created me to be.

After graduation, I plan to spend more time with my family and get involved with my church. I would also like to pursue a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. My goal is to minister to children and teach them about Christ while they are still young.


Thecla

I was sexually and physically abused at a young age. I developed an eating disorder as a result and was throwing up 15 to 30 times a day. My life was out of control and I didn’t want to think or feel so I drank alcohol constantly. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t have enough money for treatment anywhere. I heard about Mercy from a counselor who told me it was free, so I decided to apply.

During my time at Mercy, God completely changed me. I’ve learned that there are no limits to what God can do and I need to continually hand things over to Him. He is more amazing than I could ever imagine.

After graduation, I’m going back to school to major in youth and preaching ministry. I will also be teaching gymnastics. I am so happy I finally found the answers I have been searching for. Mercy helped me understand that God is the answer!


Lincoln

Gina

I grew up in a very controlling family and believed a lot of lies about myself. I was sexually abused and struggled with depression, self-harm, and suicide. I really hated my life. I knew that God had more for me and then Nancy Alcorn came and spoke at my school. I knew Mercy could help me to be free from these issues and that my life could be different.

While at Mercy, God has helped me to see that I don’t have to be the one that holds everything together. I know now that He wants to take my burdens. I found my value and my identity in Christ.

After graduation, I plan to go to Victory Bible Institute’s School of Worship. I feel like God is calling me to full-time ministry. I have just loved being here. Coming to Mercy was the best decision I ever made!


Leviticus

Life before Mercy was miserable. I was sexually abused and became consumed with depression, suicidal thoughts, bulimia, and self-harm. I had no hope and didn’t think things could ever change for me. I found Mercy on the internet and decided to apply.

Since I’ve been at Mercy, I have learned that God truly loves me and that He has good things planned for my future. He has shown me joy and peace. Before, I was confused by lies but now I know God’s truth. I have hope and freedom from my past.

After graduation I will be getting back to work. I also want to get involved in politics, working with sexual abuse and sex trafficking victims. Coming to Mercy was the best decision I’ve ever made. God truly transforms lives here.


Congratulations ladies! We are so proud of you! You’ve shown heart and determination in the journey to regain your life and we are very excited to see you walk out your freedom!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mercy Volunteer Says Happy Birthday!

Birthdays are celebrated in a special way at our Monroe, Louisiana home thanks to faithful Mercy Ministries supporter, Dee Ledbetter. Dee and her daughter Rachel come to the home every other month armed with table decorations, dinner, and cake, ready for a special birthday celebration. Each time, the party has a different theme and this month it was Italian! The girls enjoyed a delicious meal of lasagna, garlic bread, salad, and personalized Italian cream cakes for each birthday girl.

After dinner, Dee shared her story of how God saved Rachel’s life after a near fatal car accident, answering many prayers throughout the ordeal. She also told the girls about her son and the events leading up to his commitment to Christ. Dee finished the evening by giving each resident a handout of scriptures on God’s faithfulness. The girls were so blessed by Dee’s words and are already looking forward to her next visit.

Dee and her husband, Dr. John Ledbetter, have been longtime supporters of Mercy and we are so thankful for all of the ways they show their support and minister to the hurting young women of Mercy Ministries. To find out more about how you can use your passion in volunteering with Mercy Ministries, click here and download the volunteer application.

Getting everything ready

Dee and Rachel make a salad

Italian creme cakes for each birthday girl!

Our Monroe residents with Dee and Rachel Ledbetter

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bringing Hope and Healing to Domestic Sex Trafficking Victims

2009 Mercy Ministries graduate, Christine, was interviewed for an article in Sunday’s Tennessean on the shocking issue of sex trafficking in the United States. While many believe that sex trafficking only happens in other parts of the world, over 350,000 cases are reported in the U.S. each year. But there is hope for these hurting young victims and Christine is proof that with the love of Christ, there can be freedom.

Christine was adopted and throughout her childhood and teenage years, she was sexually abused and sold to others for sex by a family member. This betrayal left her scared, ashamed, and in a constant search for control. Her drive for perfection led to over-exercise, food restriction, and self-punishment by cutting. After graduating from high school, she spiraled into a deep depression and became suicidal. For the next 11 years, Christine found herself in and out of counseling and treatment centers. She eventually married and had children but her self-destructive behaviors only got worse. Christine heard about Mercy Ministries at a Leadership Team Development Conference and decided to apply.

While at Mercy, Christine experienced life changing transformation through the unconditional love of Christ and her relationships with her husband and kids changed dramatically. Christine now home schools her three children and is finishing a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry. She is very involved in her church, singing in the worship choir and leading worship for kids on Sunday mornings with her husband. Here’s what Christine had to say about her life after Mercy:

I'm still learning and growing. We are watching God repair what the enemy was trying to destroy in our family. I've made so many fantastic memories with my kids this past year! Life is so much more than I ever knew it could be, and I'm truly grateful. I can go forward in victory now, because I know who I am, and, most importantly, whose I am.

Christine is just one example of how Mercy Ministries is helping victims of sex trafficking in the U.S. This is a growing problem in our country and Mercy Ministries Founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, is answering the call to become more involved with this issue. For more of Christine’s story and the issue of sex trafficking in the U.S. see the “Top Story” (left) from Sunday’s article in The Tennessean.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Five More Mercy Ministries Graduates Restored and Free!

One of yesterday’s graduates had every intention of ending her life on June 17, 2010, but God had other plans. At Mercy Ministries, God brings hurting young women from death and darkness into a life of hope and freedom. Residents, staff, family and friends came together at the Nashville and St. Louis homes yesterday to celebrate the healing and restoration of five amazing young women and we wanted to share their courageous stories with you.

St. Louis

Casey

My life before Mercy was empty. I was sexually abused by a family member when I was 8 years old. My house was full of anger, constant yelling and fighting, and emotional neglect. When I was 14 years old I started cutting because I felt so dead and lonely. I made a lot of bad choices in an effort to fill the void I felt and eventually at 22 years old I found myself headed down a path of destruction with sex, drugs and alcohol. I found out about Mercy at a BarlowGirl concert and decided to apply. I still had plans to end my life on June 17, 2010, but God had other plans. I got my arrival date for Mercy and it turned out to be June 17, 2010!

I have learned so many things while I’ve been here, but the thing that stands out the most is LOVE. The staff here demonstrated God’s love to me everyday no matter what kind of day I was having. With that love came knowing that I am accepted, important, and forgiven.

After graduation, I am going back to work as a kindergarten teacher at the daycare I’ve worked at for 9 ½ years. I also want to pursue a desire to serve in a children’s orphanage in Africa.


Jill

During my adolescent years I struggled with extreme insecurity that led me to seek approval from others. I quickly became a perfectionist and developed a serious eating disorder. The eating disorder controlled my entire life and took over my identity. I made some horrible choices while caught up in this vicious lifestyle and felt guilt, shame, and condemnation. The guilt only made the eating disorder worse and I started to abuse alcohol in order to blackout and numb myself of the pain I was feeling inside. My mom saw Nancy Alcorn on Joyce Meyer’s show one morning and when she heard about Mercy, she knew God let her see that for me. I knew I needed serious help if I wanted to save my life and future, so I decided to apply.

When I came to Mercy in June, 2010 I was not really sure what to expect. I mostly thought I would be learning behavior modifications. Once I learned how huge God is and His amazing grace and forgiveness, I realized how wrong I was. Words truly cannot describe the work Christ has done in my life. I can now look at myself and say I am holy, clean, pure, and righteous before my God! It is such an amazing feeling to not be stuck in the past anymore. I used to be so empty inside and tried to fill all the voids in my heart with worldly things. Since coming here, I’ve realized that God is the only one who can sustain and fulfill me. He redeemed my life!

After graduation, I plan to get involved in my church wherever God opens doors. I have a desire to go back to school and possibly get a degree in ministry. My heart’s passion is to minister to the youth of this generation and love on them as Jesus would. All I really know is that God has great plans ahead and that I’m going to follow where He leads me.



Nashville

Kristen

I grew up in a Christian home, but I felt like I would only be loved by God and others if I was perfect. I became a people-pleaser and feared rejection, so I attempted to be perfect in all I did, especially in sports. In 9th grade, I moved to a bigger town where there was more competition. I compared my body to other girls and was determined to be the best runner with the best body. I developed an eating disorder and lost about 40 pounds, which left me weak and dangerously underweight. I was hospitalized for a low heart rate, but continued to exercise daily despite the fact that I was dying. I wanted to be free from my eating disorder, but I didn’t have the money to get treatment. I knew Mercy was a Christian program and I saw how God had freed so many other girls. I had heard about His power but never experienced it, so I applied.

Since coming to Mercy, God has revealed how much He loves me. I know He has grace when I mess up in my pursuit to be like Him. He has taught me that I don’t have to be perfect to get His attention. He is near to me if I just call to Him. I have learned that there is so much more God has planned for me. Life is so much more than being thin and exercising. I want others to be set free like me.

After graduation, I believe God is calling me to go to college to pursue a degree in social work. I want to get involved in my church by joining a small group and possibly work with the youth group. Thank you Mercy Ministries for pouring so much love into me. I am sure that I am free in Christ because of the truth you spoke over me. I now know the power of Jesus’ name. God bless you for your obedience to Christ! I am a life transformed!


Heidi

Before Mercy, I spent most of my time trying to escape reality. I was very anxious, especially in social situations, and afraid of failure. I came out of a lot of poverty and confused thinking. I used self-harm out of frustration and thought it would make people see how much pain I was in. I hated my family and I thought they hated me too. I felt dead inside and believed that there was no hope for me. My dad told me about Mercy, so I decided to apply.

Since coming to Mercy, I am no longer confused and I don’t want to die. I learned that the Bible is God’s Word and it is absolute. I’m not angry at God anymore and I learned that He has a purpose for me that is more than I could ever imagine.

After graduation, I plan to go to college and look forward to seeing all that God has in store for me!

Christina

Before Mercy, I used self-harm and prescription medications to cope. I hated myself and felt so much shame and guilt because of my lifestyle. I knew that only God could heal me and I was determined to receive that healing. I heard about Mercy from my sister and decided to apply.

During my time at Mercy, God has freed me from depression. I no longer suffer from fear or feel I need to live behind a mask. He has restored my hope, confidence, and boldness. I have learned that God has forgiven my sins, He loves me, and that I am His prized daughter.

After graduation, I plan to get degrees in criminal justice and social work. I have a passion to work with and mentor troubled teens in urban areas. I want to show them the love of Christ and speak truth and show light in the dark world we live in. My dream and vision is to bring hope and healing to young people and see them set free from depression, addiction, and other life-controlling issues.

Congratulations Casey, Jillian, Kristen, Heidi, and Christina! It is so incredible to see how your lives have been transformed and restored. Your heart to serve others and bring the light of Christ to the world is inspirational. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for you!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Angelo and Veronica Petrucci Visit Mercy Ministries

Veronica Petrucci
Three time Dove Award winning Christian singer Veronica Petrucci knows all too well what it is like to be a young woman struggling with depression, fear, and self hatred. Yesterday, our Nashville residents had the incredible opportunity to hear her story of healing and transformation. Growing up, Veronica had a difficult relationship with her father, a distorted body image, and was consumed with fear. After the birth of her first child, she was in such a deep depression that she thought about killing herself daily. Veronica encouraged the girls that by renewing her mind with the Word of God and speaking it aloud she began to heal. She got actively involved in her church and over time, with the love and support of her husband and friends, she found freedom from these life-controlling issues.

Veronica and her husband, Angelo, performed a few of their songs for the girls, including Dare to Dream, an incredibly inspirational song selected for the 2006 Special Olympics. Their powerful voices and humble hearts were such a blessing to all our residents and staff. Here’s what some of the girls had to say about what they learned:

“I could relate to how Veronica dealt with low self-esteem, a spirit of fear, self loathing, and depression. I learned that God wants to heal me from the inside out and that speaking the Word of God daily is powerful medicine!” - Kate

“I loved how real she was. She is a walking testimony of healing and you can see the joy that she has. I am going to read the Word of God out loud and have some encouraging people in my life.” - Jorey

“It was really neat to hear Veronica speak today because I related so much to her story, struggles, and fears. God used this to encourage me and remind me how much power and authority we have as believers! I don’t want to live with fear anymore and I will use my voice and God’s Word to combat fear. I will choose to believe the truth!” - Kayla

For more information about Angelo and Veronica, visit their website at www.angeloandveronica.com.

Veronica and Angelo Petrucci with Nancy Alcorn

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One Long Road Together

Thanks to an amazing group of teenagers from Richmond, Virginia, another hurting young woman will have the prayers and support she needs at Mercy Ministries. On October 30th, a group of 13 high school students and volunteers laced up their shoes for a 45 mile trek from Richmond to Williamsburg to raise money for Mercy Ministries. Their goal was to raise $2,100, for Mercy’s “Sponsor A Girl” program. They called their 45 mile relay-walk “One Long Road Together”, representing their desire to walk alongside a Mercy girl as she goes through the program. These incredible teenagers asked everyone they know to make a pledge for every mile they travelled. One of the students, Olivia, gave handmade bracelets to supporters who gave $50 or more. After a beautiful, fun-filled day on the Virginia highway, they raised a total of $2,369!!! Here is what youth leader Nicole Unice had to say about the journey:

“What a great experience and a great day! We wanted to stretch ourselves, do something hard, sacrifice a Saturday – to say to one girl at Mercy: We love you. We believe in you. We know God can change your life. We believe in miracles.

It is because of supporters like these amazing and creative teenagers that hurting young women can come to Mercy free of charge.  To learn more about how you can sponsor a girl, go to www.mercyministries.org.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Federal Crackdown on Child Prostitution Results in 884 Arrests

By Michael Martinez, CNN
November 9, 2010 11:41 a.m. EST

(CNN) -- A three-day federal crackdown on child prostitution rings across the country has resulted in the recovery of 69 children and the arrest of 884 people, including 99 pimps, federal authorities said Monday. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, authorities announced Monday they were arresting 29 individuals involved in gangs that trafficked underage Somali and African-America girls in a prostitution ring. The 29 people were connected to the Somali Outlaws, the Somali Mafia and the Lady Outlaws, officials said.

The three-day federal sweep, called Operation Cross Country V, involved 40 cities nationwide and is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, authorities said.

"Child prostitution continues to be a significant problem in our country, as evidenced by the number of children rescued through the continued efforts of our crimes against children task forces," said Shawn Henry, executive assistant director of the FBI's Criminal, Cyber, Response and Service Branch, in a written statement. "There is no work more important than protecting America's children and freeing them from the cycle of victimization. Through our strategic partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, we are able to make a difference."
The city where the most children were recovered was Seattle, Washington, with 16, said FBI Special Agent Jason Pack. Seven pimps were arrested there, he added. 

Following Seattle were Tacoma, Washington, and Sacramento, California, each with seven child prostitutes retrieved by authorities, Pack said. Two pimps were arrested in Tacoma and three in Sacramento, he said.  The city with the largest number of pimps arrested was Detroit, with 10, Pack said.

To combat growing child prostitution, federal agencies formed the Innocence Lost National Initiative in June 2003 to address enterprises involved in the domestic sex trafficking of children. Those agencies were the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation-Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

There are now 39 Innocence Lost task forces and working groups throughout the country. So far, those units have recovered 1,250 children, and the initiative has resulted in 438 indictments, 625 convictions, 153 criminal enterprises disrupted and 58 successfully dismantled, authorities said. Convictions have resulted in sentences ranging up to 25-years-to-life and in the seizure of more than $3 million in assets, authorities said.

The most recent sweep, over a 72-hour period ending Sunday night, was the fifth such law enforcement operation, said Pack.
"Once again, Operation Cross Country has awakened the nation to the fact that today American children are being marketed and sold for sex in American cities," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in a written statement. "These kids are victims. This is 21st century slavery. We are proud to be a part of this extraordinary partnership to rescue children, save lives and bring the pimps and operators to justice."
The FBI says that at least 25 percent of adult prostitutes were enticed into the illegal activity as juveniles.  In Tennessee, federal authorities said the gangs transported the minor girls from Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has a large Somali immigrant community, to Nashville, Tennessee, for prostitution over a 10-year period. Some of the girls were 13 years old or younger.

"I would call this one of the more significant cases that we investigated," said John Morton, director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

To read today's article in The Tennessean on sex trafficking in Nashville, go to http://www.tennessean.com/article/20101109/NEWS03/11090332/Somalis-charged-with-sex-trafficking

Monday, November 8, 2010

Former Australian Teen Icon Shares His Story of Transformation!

Mark Stevens
Mark Stevens grew up in Tasmania, Australia and was a teen icon on the Australian hit television show, Young Talent Time, before falling into the deadly trap of drug and alcohol abuse. Last Friday, the Nashville Mercy Ministries residents had the incredible opportunity to hear his amazing story of transformation. Mark shared with the girls how at age 14, he started using drugs and alcohol, and by age 26, he was estranged from his family, had lost his entertainment career, and was a heroin addict. Mark eventually moved to London and it was through a Christian friend there that he came to know Christ and experienced instant and radical transformation in his life. Mark is now married and has been the Worship Pastor at Abundant Life Church in Bradford, England for the past 10 years.


Matt Hooper
Worship Pastor, Matt Hooper, also spoke to the Nashville staff and residents. He told his story of growing up in church and loving God, but believing most Christians were fake. He spent years wearing masks and trying to please people to fit in. Matt often struggled with panic attacks and even became agoraphobic, unable to leave his home. He did not experience the overnight healing that Mark received but was healed over time through God’s Word and unconditional love. Mark and Matt urged the girls to arm themselves with the Word of God and both shared many of their favorite scriptures.

Abundant Life Church and Senior Pastors, Paul and Glenda Scanlon, have partnered with Mercy Ministries Founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, since 1999 to see the lives of hurting young women in the UK restored and transformed. It was truly encouraging for our Nashville residents to have a time of praise and worship and powerful teaching with Mark, Matt, and the rest of the worship team from this awesome church.

Special thanks to the Abundant Life Worship Team and to Mark and Matt for sharing their powerful stories of healing and restoration! Here’s what some of our residents had to say about hearing from the Abundant Life Worship Team:

“Mark and Matthew were really amazing! Both spoke so much life and hope and put more of a hunger in me to really know God’s Word to fight the enemy’s schemes aggressively. We can teach and train ourselves to line up with the Word but we need to be aggressive in fighting!” 
-- Kayla

“Both testimonies were so amazing! I’ve learned that God never fails and He is so powerful. God fixes broken people!” -- Madison

“These two messages were awesome! I learned that I need to be aggressive and passionate about my destiny and my future! God loves me so much that He can and will meet me wherever I am in life.” -- Ashley 
Praise and Worship

Mark and Matt spent some time afterward talking with the residents