Have Mercy!

This spring, Nancy Alcorn celebrates the 20th anniversary of Mercy Ministries, which offers God's hope and healing to girls struggling with addictions, eating disorders, unwed pregnancy, and abuse—girls not so unlike the bulimic teen she once was.

As she sits in her suburban Nashville office, Nancy shares with TCW amazing accounts of God's provision for Mercy Ministries, her freedom from her eating disorder, her thoughts on being 40something and never married, and things God's taught her in two decades of reaching troubled girls with God's mercy.

What's a typical day like for girls at Mercy?

The girls get up at 7 A.M., and from 7 to 9 A.M. it's showers, breakfast, work detail, and straightening up their rooms. From 9:00 to 9:30, they gather in the classroom for Bible reading and a discussion of the day's passage.

Then after a quick restroom break, we spend 45 minutes in worship and prayer. Bible teaching is from 10:30 to 11:30, led either by me, someone on staff, or a video of a youth pastor or Bible teacher. Then we break for lunch.

In the afternoons there's free time, and on Fridays there's usually an outing to the mall. One afternoon a week, the girls have individual counseling. The pregnant girls also go to a special decision-making class to help them determine if they want to keep their baby or put their child up for adoption. Girls 13-17 participate in a "homeschool" program at Mercy in the afternoons.

We all attend a local church on Sunday mornings and evenings and on Wednesday nights. In the evenings the girls have more free time. Then quiet time begins at 10 P.M. and lights go out at 10:30.

That's pretty regimented!

Yes, but many girls come from very undisciplined backgrounds. We're trying to help them learn to establish positive habits—such as daily Bible reading and regular church attendance—that will last long after they leave Mercy. Basically the problems that bring them here are just an excuse to get them into a discipleship program where God's Spirit can move them to a place of total commitment to him.

We teach the girls forgiveness is available through Jesus for anything they've done, and we stress how important it is to forgive those who've hurt them. We also teach basic life skills, such as how to discover what they're gifted at, how to conduct themselves in a job interview, and how to stick to a budget.

How do girls get admitted to Mercy?

We have a careful intake process. Parents can't just send their daughters here; the girls have to want to come. They're given a list of the house rules and are told they'll have to work hard on their issues. The girls don't have to be Christian to get admitted, but they're told upfront this is a faith-based ministry. They're asked point-blank if they're ready to commit to this. There's also an extensive application, and state licensing requires them to have a medical examination. We give pregnant girls priority since there's a limited window of time to help them choose life—whether that's keeping their baby or putting the child up for adoption. If they choose the latter, they're given a vital role in choosing adoptive parents.

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May 25

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