This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.
A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.
As much as I’d like to get off the subject of fundraising, Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual seems to have more about fundraising than any other topic. Raise your hand if you’re surprised about this…yeah, didn’t think so. We have three more things to look at from this section: organizational ties, newsletter advice, and volunteer use. The warnings on organizational ties seems to allude to an area of Mercy Multiplied’s history that they failed to cover in their personal historical overview.
“…be careful not to officially associate or partner your ministry with any other ministries, organizations, or people who would otherwise contradict, endanger, or create roadblocks in furthering your ministry’s God-given vision and mission…the best way to manage these networks and links is to connect via a written policy and procedure that includes standards set by your Board.”
While on the surface this seems innocent enough and rather common sense, I wonder how much of this actually comes from the ‘wisdom’ gleaned from Mercy Multiplied’s relationship with Mercy Ministries Australia, Hillsong Church and other organizations that they were connected with that they disowned when the abuse of the Australian homes was discovered and those associated ministries were shut down by the Australian government. Remember in their history lesson earlier in the manual, all the Mercy Ministries homes were proudly listed as being outgrowths of the US ministry, except Australia. Mercy Multiplied’s desperate attempts to sever ties with Mercy Ministries Australia after former residents of the homes in Australia were courageous enough to share their stories of abuse and misuse, is a well-known part of Mercy Multiplied’s storyline. Mercy Multiplied’s public image has been plagued by their association (or attempt not to be associated) with Mercy Ministries Australia and other organizations that were supportive of their (now unclaimed) work in that country. With this historical context, it’s not hard to imagine that Mercy Multiplied would offer advice to others that would encourage very careful associations and partnerships. After all, didn’t Mercy Multiplied specifically say that this was information that was gleaned from their vast experience? The experience of having to disown Mercy Ministries Australia and to paint former associatives from there as “renegade” organizations not connected to Mercy Multiplied had to have been quite a learning experience. They say that hindsight is 20/20…people learn to cover their asses based on theirs and others’ experiences. This section could be read as a what we wish we’d done prior to Australia blowing up in our public faces advice, but maybe I’m reading too much into it.
They recommend a newsletter as a great fundraising tool…of course they recommend that you use pictures, resident testimonies, and success stories without any concern voiced for the residents’ privacy or consent as was discussed earlier. They warn future fundraisers to have “direct oversight over the newsletter” in order to maintain control over the “voice” of the newsletter’s writing. Again, this seems quite innocuous if you were to look at it outside the context of Mercy Multiplied’s history and behavior, but remember what information they are recommending be front and center in the newsletter: residents’ stories. Couple this with knowledge that Mercy Multiplied has a history of specifically telling residents what their stories should say, and you have to wonder if they’re really just advising control over the narratives that former residents share. Mercy Multiplied has repeatedly targeted former residents who share stories that do not conform to their chosen narrative and are even known to take down a residents’ “success story” from their website if they discover that the resident is in any way questioning their Mercy Multiplied experience. There’s a gray area obscuring the point where oversight and control becomes censorship and propaganda, but there is definite reason to think that Mercy Multiplied has reached past the common sense areas and into the extreme.
Lastly, they give advice for volunteer use. Again, most of this is pretty benign, but it’s concerning that they seem to lump volunteers with access to residents and volunteers at fundraising and awareness events into the same category. Now, they do offer this caution even though it’s not necessarily specific to volunteering with access to residents. “Because of the times and the nature of residential counseling programs, we suggest you carefully screen all volunteer applicants. Require applicants for volunteering to fill out an extensive application, write out their testimony, and give three letters of reference, perhaps including one from their pastor.” They don’t suggest that maybe background checks be performed or at least the barring of individuals with sex offender histories. Do they think that filling out an “extensive” application, writing out a “testimony”, and getting a reference letter from a pastor is guaranteed to weed any such individuals out? Because you know, churches and pastors have never been known to cover up abuse or take the side of abusers…<sigh>. They also encourage volunteers as a possible way to consider additional staffing needs in the future. Since we already know that about the professional education or training of their staff it should come as no surprise that they recommend building a staff based not on industry-standard qualifications and requirements, but rather from getting to know a volunteers “heart from a deeper perspective.”
**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015.**