Hope’s Mercy Ministries Story from Seantheblogonaut.com
This story was told to Seantheblogonaut.com
“The story of my time at Mercy is a long one, so I hope you will bear with me. At this time I choose to remain anonymous because it may cause unnecessary distress to my friends or family, but everything I have put down is true according to my experience and I would be willing to testify to it under oath in a court of law.
I was a resident at the Nashville location of Mercy Ministries for approximately 7 months, beginning in Jan of 2000. I left the program voluntarily the following July. I was there seeking a long-term treatment option for Bulimia. I had just finished my second in-patient treatment program in a very reputable medical facility in another state. I’m very thankful to the staff of that program as I got more unconditional acceptance and consistent treatment from them than I ever did from the staff at Mercy Ministries.
Firstly, I would like to address the actual effectiveness of their program. Even if what went on there had been mundane Christian activities, I feel the treatment regimen was severely inadequate, inconsistent and ineffective in the long term.
Upon entering the house, the house manager went through all my belongings with me to make sure I did not have any contraband items. This is a pretty routine practice when it comes to treatment programs. The forbidden items included: razors, mouthwash with alcohol or medications. These make sense because of the concerns of suicide, self-harm, substance abuse, etc. However, some other forbidden items were cartoon Halloween stickers, any secular reading materials and in my case a diary I had created during my in-patient treatment and diabetic nutrition manual recommended by my previous doctors. I was told that Halloween was an evil holiday and used by the devil to corrupt Christians. The objection to my diary was the collage I had made on the cover. I was studying for a BA in English Literature and was particularly upset that they were taking my poetry anthologies and other reading materials and when I tried to discuss this in a civil manner with the program director, Ms Sherrie Douglass, I was severely reprimanded.
Yes, I realize that I signed up for this treatment. But, what I didn’t realize at the time is what a dramatic psychological effect that kind of isolation would have on me. My best friend—who has since forgiven me for all the crazy stuff I did while I was there—would send long, typed letters to me, and print out some of my favorite poems on the back of the sheets. I was happy about this at first, but then refused to take her letters or calls because I was convinced it was a horrible sin to break the rules of the program, and that she was being used by the devil to prevent my full recovery. I was encouraged by my counselor to cut myself off from her when I confessed she’d been sending me the secular poems.
During my first weeks there I was given little supervision in regards to my food intake and after-meal activities. They had taken my copy of Exchanges for All Occasions, which contained nutritional information and told me that the Lord would guide me in my food choices. Staff were greatly reduced on the weekends, and it was especially difficult for me when they held a Super Bowl party with all kinds of junk food on the first weekend I was there. Girls there for Eating Disorder (ED) treatment were supposed to sit in the library for an hour after meals and read their Bibles, but this was enforced without consistency. Some girls were on “1-hour” for over a month while others were taken off the list after a few days, regardless of how whether they were purging after meals or bingeing during meals.
There was a lot of favoritism in the program and when any of it was pointed out, people claimed they were making decisions based on guidance from the Holy Spirit. Nancy really, really did not like me and at the time I thought it was because something was wrong with me. Everybody there wanted her approval and was intimidated to say anything that would contradict her. The whole time I was there I just kept telling myself that all the doubts I was having were my fault and to question authority would be a lack of faith on my part. I thought that if I just prayed hard enough that I would have peace in my heart about what I saw going on around me.
Shortly after I arrived, a psychologist who specialized in eating disorders joined the staff. She left after little over a month because she disagreed with the treatment. She wanted us to go to the doctor, and to see each of the ED girls for a counseling session on a regular basis. My counselor was not a licensed psychologist, or trained in any sort of eating disorders counseling. We weren’t given the details, but when she left we were told things “didn’t work out.” Certain medications that I take are very time sensitive, but I had a constant struggle with the staff to get my medications on time. I even got disciplined for speaking up about it. I got a skin infection at one point, which turned into an abscess before they would take me to a doctor.
Again, these are just the basic problems I have with the program.
Why haven’t I spoken out until now? At first I thought it was my fault. I felt a lot of guilt because at Mercy they make you feel you are turning your back on God if you chose to leave, that you were opening yourself up to an attack from the devil by not believing what they said. I felt like it was my fault that I hadn’t been able to complete the program. After I realized just how corrupt the organization is I felt really stupid that I had supported them and alienated myself from my friends and family. Me, a college-educated adult! And I had gone there of my own volition. It took me years to let go of that, understand the dynamics of cult organizations and realize they were in the wrong. Finally, it just seemed like nobody would believe what I was saying. Now that other people have come out with their stories, I not only feel I should back them up, but also that I can hope to get support from others.
My experience with “casting out demons” (once again long, I apologize)
During my stay at Mercy we did not have a daily “casting out” of demons. There was frequent “laying on of hands” and praying over inanimate objects or people to bless them and protect them from the devil. “Casting out demons,” or what some would refer to as exorcism was reserved—for the most part—for a later stage of the multi-step program. (As is posted already by another resident, so I won’t go into that.)
In my case, though, I have particular knowledge of this practice because a woman came to speak over a period of days for this specific purpose during my stay there. Our normal schedule was put aside to participate in these sessions. We were told she would prophesy to each of us—no exceptions—and cast out demons during the course of the day as she felt called upon by the Lord. She first addressed the residents and later the staff members.
Nancy Alcorn, the founder of Mercy Ministries, and the rest of the staff were there for the sessions and had full knowledge of was going to take place. In fact, this was not the first time this woman had come to speak at Mercy and I was told it was a regular occurrence. (Something like twice a year so that each resident could benefit at least once during her time there.) Nancy told us she was very excited as she felt this would bring a spiritual revival to the house. She also had this speaker pray over one of her dogs who had recently developed a seizure disorder. (I think his name was Jude.)
As I stated before, I was there for eating disorder treatment and at some point during that day she called for the ED patients to stand up and have this particular demon cast out of us, one at a time. She came by and touched each of us and commanded that the evil spirit leave our bodies. The demon “left” some girls more willingly than others, while other were prayed over for a longer time. I remember she had to pray over me for a quite awhile and at the time I really just wanted to push her hand off my shoulder. I attributed this to the spirit not wanting to leave my body, but now I am thinking that it might have just been a gut reaction that I was not comfortable with what was going on. She also called for girls to stand up who were suffering from chemical dependency, self-mutilation, and depression, etc.
I am trying to be as honest as possible and admit that I participated in this fully and in fact believed there really was a demon in me that was being cast out. At that time I had totally bought into it. I will say that I always felt uneasy about things, and could never fully accept the teachings, which ultimately led to my decision to leave the home. Looking back, it is hard for me to understand how I could ever have believed it. I can only attribute it to being completely brainwashed during that point as another guest speaker—this one affiliated with Hillsong—had come just days after I entered the program. She prayed over Nancy and I remember telling one of the girls how absurd I thought it was and that God was not a member of “The Psychic Friends Network.” But at that time I had flown across the country and promised myself to give the program a shot, so I ignored any misgivings I had in the beginning.
That night Nancy threw us a party to celebrate our new found freedom. It was held at her house, which is not something that happened every day. Everyone was so cheerful, but once again, I just felt that things were wrong somehow. At the time I attributed this to it possibly not working, that there was probably something wrong with me. Once again, that I didn’t have enough faith. I longed to get rid of that nagging feeling in the back on my mind that something was just not right about what was going on! After we’d eaten, we all sat around with Nancy talking about how wonderful the day had. I raised my hand and told her that I was feeling sad and out of sorts. In front of the others she said that it was my own problem and that I needed to go home and pray about it. As I also said before, Nancy disliked me because I was always saying things like that, or questioning the material we presented. At the time I longed for her approval, but now I realize she didn’t want anyone questioning her authority.
The prophesying was classic con artist stuff. She would make a very general statement such as “Somebody has a relative who died in a motorcycle accident.” Or “Somebody has horrible, painful dry skin on their hands in the winter.” Then she would diagnose them and “heal” them by praying over them. The dry skin comments were made on staff day and diagnosed as Raynaud’s disease. She told me I would “marry someone in a band” and to “be sure” when I told her I was interested in working in a women’s mission program. (I didn’t marry anybody in a band, by the way. My husband is an electrical engineer and the closest he gets to a musical instrument is playing drums on Rock Band.) It was really similar to a Sylvia Brown or John Edwards sort of exhibition.
Right now I am trying to fill in some information I have forgotten so that I can give the most accurate account of these events. If anybody reading is a former resident, please contact Sean if you know the name of the woman who led these seminars or that of the Australian woman who spoke in January of 2000 shortly after I arrived. They also taped the sessions (audio cassette) and gave each girl a copy of the minutes she spent in direct contact with the speaker. I no longer have mine, but if anybody still has theirs could you please let us know. Mercy claims “casting out demons” is not part of their program and this would be definitive proof that they are lying.”