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.

When did your eating disorder start?

Right before I became a Christian, three weeks before leaving for college. One day I ate too much and forced myself to throw up to relieve that too-full feeling. When I realized doing this would allow me to eat whatever I wanted without having to burn off the calories, I started bingeing and purging regularly. I was a perfectionist who put pressure on myself to do everything right—including looking good. Unfortunately, becoming a Christian only intensified that, as I thought I had to be perfect in order to please God. At that point, I had zeal for God, but I didn't yet understand his grace and mercy.

How did you become a Christian?

When I was growing up, I loved sports and desperately wanted to become a basketball coach. When I blew out my knee in high school, I no longer had a driving goal to give my life meaning, and I became increasingly angry. I fell into the party life and started smoking and drinking.

By the summer before college, I recognized the emptiness of this lifestyle. When my friend Cleta invited me to a revival meeting, I reluctantly went. Unbeknownst to me, Cleta had been praying I'd become a Christ-follower for three years. I'd been raised in a church-going home and even served as the president of my youth group, but it was more like a social club to me. I hadn't given my heart to Jesus—I was too busy living life my way.

At this revival meeting, however, I heard people share about their personal, day-to-day relationship with Jesus. I was especially moved by the young people who shared how Jesus filled the void in their lives, giving them purpose and direction—the very things I lacked. Several days later I called Cleta, and with her help, I prayed to become a Christian. A couple weeks later, I left for college.

Did you end your rebellious lifestyle?

I stopped smoking and drinking right away; I'd grown tired of those things anyway. But the bulimia was more difficult to shake. I was away from my family, living in an apartment with a friend, so it was easy to hide.

Back then, I didn't know there was such a thing as an eating disorder. I'd never even heard that term. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but there was no one to turn to. If I'd known someone else with an eating disorder, I would have talked to her.

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