Mercy propaganda: What’s in a testimony?

We frequently receive queries from young women and their families who are considering Mercy Ministries as a treatment option, but are confused by the conflicting testimonies of former residents.

My general response is that it is possible for a person to have a positive experience there, but when considering any person’s testimony, they must:

  1. Consider the purpose and reliability of the source. (Eg, Mercy Ministries’ website or promotional material is not necessarily going to give them anything less than 110% beaming reviews); and
  2. Consider the timing of the testimony.  (Eg, has this girl just graduated?)

I also let them know that among the graduates in our network, there seems to be a pattern of duress (especially among the US survivors) when it comes to the content and sharing of their testimonies.

I’m not fond of presenting allegations that are not my own without having evidence to support what I have long known and suspected, but in the last few months, there are two pieces of evidence that have come our way that I believe are VERY revealing.  Revealing about the kind of organisation that Mercy Ministries is, and revealing in terms of what they expect from their graduates.

Exhibit A

The following video was a password protected video on Mercy Ministries’ website which was intended for graduates being asked to record their testimonies for the upcoming 30th anniversary celebration:

To paraphrase:

  • 5 seconds of smiling and fake laughing
  • “For our own liability concerns”, a statement confirming permission for Mercy to use your name and clip.  (Times have changed).
  • Name/Home/Grad date
  • One sentence of how Mercy impacted your life with examples such as (wait for it) “Mercy saved my life!”

Exhibit B

The following is the text of a document called “Testimony Information” distributed to graduates who have been chosen to promote Mercy Ministries at conferences and the like.  This is the full and complete body of text, minus the contact details of a staff member.  Some text is highlighted in bold for emphasis:

Testimony Information

As you get ready to share your testimony at an upcoming Mercy event, please take a look at the attached information and make sure that you read through it carefully! It will help you to tell your testimony clearly and with ease—to show off what God has done in your life through your time at Mercy Ministries!

Preparing Your Testimony

 Build your testimony around a “theme”—for example: Dreams for your future, The pathway from brokenness, He healed my broken heart, Mercy was the answer, My new family, etc.

Make sure that you are using the same “language” that we use here at Mercy when we talk about the young women that come through the doors at Mercy. Make sure that you are using at least 3-5 of these words IN your testimony!

Here are some example words that you can use…

BEFORE MERCY WORDS: damaged, alone, sick, unstable, depressed, confused, sad, no purpose, no worth and value, hated myself and others…

AT MERCY/AFTER MERCY WORDS: healing is possible, transformation, love, hope, freedom from…, life-changing, unconditional love, mercy, restoration, powerful, healed, death/life, darkness/light, purpose, faith, etc.

Be specific—make sure that you are mindful of the audience, but that you are SPECIFIC about your past!

TESTIMONY STRUCTURE

3-4 minutes: 1 minute before Mercy, 2 minutes for at Mercy/After Mercy

4-5 minutes: 1:30 minutes before Mercy, 2:30-3:00 for at Mercy/After Mercy.

Transitions:

Before Mercy:

1) “Hi, my name is…. and I am so excited to be here and share what God did in my life through Mercy Ministries”

2) “My life growing up was….”

3) “I am…. And ever since I can remember, our home was a place of….”

4) “My name is…. And my life was plagued with…”

Coming to Mercy:

1) “I knew that I needed help—and then I met someone and they told me about Mercy Ministries and I applied”

2) “I literally didn’t think that I would live, and knew that I needed help

3) “when I walked into the doors at Mercy, I felt….”

4) “I remember being really nervous about whether or not it would work”

After Mercy:

1) “ I graduated almost 2 years ago on….”

2) “When I graduated, I left the Mercy home and felt prepared to take on the challenges of life

3) “my life and my story has touched the lives of others”

4) “I walked out of the doors of Mercy Ministries completely different than I did when I walked in

Anything that you reference during your BEFORE MERCY, please re-reference that in your during/after Mercy portion—ie: “All growing up I felt like I didn’t belong, but during my time at Mercy—I realized that God had given me a NEW family”

Include any information about any failed attempts that you tried in order to get the healing that you needed. This can include: treatment centers (please do not use the name of the center), nutritionist, doctors, psychiatrists, other programs, etc.

Please include at least one aspect of the Mercy program that you think really helped you! For example: “Since Mercy Ministries was free-of-charge, my parents were able to know that I was not only safe, but that I was getting the help I needed for free!” OR “Memorizing scripture in my time at Mercy was vital to my healing—and I still use some of the same tools that I learned at Mercy… to help me to continue to overcome the obstacles that are in front of me”.

Please refrain from using words such as: rock bottom

Please make sure to not reference any particular denomination and any ministry “twang” that is confusing.

Please steer clear from using spiritual words such as: spiritual warfare, demonic, oppression, etc—instead, you can use light/darkness. This helps with being sensitive to what different denominations believe AND also is sensitive to any people that attend that are not Christians!

During Your Testimony

Please do not do any nervous habits! For example: wringing your hands, rocking back and forth, etc.

Smile OFTEN! Ask the Lord to shine through you!

Speak clear, slow and eloquent! Please refrain from saying “uh”, “oh” and “um”

ABOVE ALL—remember to have FUN and do NOT take yourself to serious! Be YOURSELF and let your personality and who you are shine brightly through you! This is not something that should feel like pressure—it is more about God using you in a powerful way to share His love and power through your life! The people that are in attendance at this event are current or future supporters of Mercy—and we definitely want them to support the Mercy financially—BUT, really—your testimony is supposed to point to the LORD!!!

Thanks again for attending this event and allowing God to use you in such a powerful way! We appreciate it so much—and are excited to see what God does in your life through this experience.  You will truly continue to overcome by the word of your testimony (Rev. 12:11)!”

So to summarise:

  1. Make sure you glorify Mercy Ministries instead of Jesus, giving them kudos for saving you from death’s door and being superior to the big bad “secular treatment”.
  2. Pack your testimony full of Mercy’s buzz words.  Mercy needs all the positive advertising they can get.
  3. Pull no punches when divulging about how bad your life has been, including your family life (oh, there’s an opportunity to say how Mercy is your new family!)
  4. Make sure you don’t make reference to demonic deliverance because Mercy still deny the fact they practice this to the media and public, despite a ton of documented evidence.
  5. You are obligated, but at least pretend to be happy about the fact Mercy is exploiting you to promote the work of Jesus Mercy Ministries, especially because current and potential sponsors are there and we want their money.

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Written By Mercy Survivors

Support for survivors of Mercy Ministries

5 Comments on “Mercy propaganda: What’s in a testimony?

  1. .s.

    June 15, 2013 at 12:23

    My daughter’s online (and grad) testimony is full of proven falsehoods and includes almost every ‘buzz word’ mentioned in the article. This is tragic.

  2. former rez

    June 24, 2013 at 6:09

    Wow. A few thoughts:

    While i never made it to my own graduation, I sat through several of them during my stay at MMoA. Sometimes I felt like graduates were competing with one another to have the hardest/most redemptive story. It felt… bizarre.

    For an organization that seems to pride itself on setting women free, they sure seem to keep a short leash on their graduates.

    Sometimes I wish that graduates of the program would publicly express there concerns. From my perspective, those of us who didn’t graduate are written off as bitter, rebellious, ungrateful, lost, etc., etc., by everyone connected to Mercy.

    But guess what? We wanted (and deserved) healing, too. We just weren’t able or willing to pay Mercy’s price for it.

  3. […] about the rest of the stuff here. It’s […]

  4. […] this fun women’s conference.  However, I knew that wasn’t the case, as I had to go over the testimony rules and be coached on what I was going to say well in advance.  The church that I spoke at was very […]

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