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.

How long do girls usually stay?

The typical stay is six months. It depends on the girl—how difficult the problem is and how quickly she heals.

I wish we could find a way to call our ministry something other than a home for "troubled" girls, because we like to tell them, "Look, you're just like everybody else in the world except you were willing to admit you had a problem and then do something about it. So your problem's nothing more than an excuse to get you into an environment where you can discover God's plan for your life and learn you're not a reject or a throwaway."

Then we go through the Bible and point out all the "troubled" people God used. Look at King David; God called him a man after his own heart, yet he committed adultery, got another man's wife pregnant, then had the husband killed in a battle to try to cover his sin. Even Rahab the prostitute is in the lineage of Jesus.

We tell the girls that just because they graduate from Mercy doesn't mean they won't have problems, but it does mean they have the Overcomer living inside them. The Enemy still will tempt them, but we emphasize that the only person who can make them fail is them.

What's mercy's success rate?

About 90 percent. We have graduates who are pastors' wives, missionaries, college graduates, even Mercy Ministries staff members. Theresa, our first Mercy girl, was working as a nurse at a local hospital last time we heard from her. And I was thrilled to learn she was still following God. Part of the reason our success rate is so high is that we've never had a girl complete the program and not make a commitment to follow Jesus.

What's the most prevalent problem you see in young girls right now?

Definitely eating disorders. I think the statistic right now is that one in four girls in America wrestles with an eating disorder. This issue probably affects the church the most, because while "good girls" may not sleep around, use drugs, or get drunk (though some certainly do these things), that drive for perfection in Christian girls can be quite strong. I know—that's part of what drove me to become bulimic.

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May 25

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