Mercy expectations

This is a recent piece by Mercy Survivor Kathryn who blogs at Comfortably Numb.

Some of it, I was prepared for…. Other things, not so much.

I knew it was going to be hard- I didn’t know it was going to be nearly impossible.

I knew they were going to be strict about nutrition- I didn’t know I’d be forced to swallow things I couldn’t stand. (Or that when I gagged on them, I’d be told I wasn’t “allowed” to throw up.)

I knew that there was going to be lots of church and spiritual training- I wasn’t prepared to get in trouble for simple things like sitting down during worship, not taking enough notes, or thanking a pastor after a sermon.

I was prepared to have stern rules for going to the mall- I was not prepared to get in trouble because I was 11¢ short for my shampoo, so the cashier gave me a quarter and that meant my change was off.

I’ve always known it’s important to stay clean- I never dreamt I’d get in trouble for going a single day without a shower.

I was aware that there was a fitness routine- I was not aware that I’d be disciplined for not working out enough on my own, outside of our daily trip to the local YMCA, in the time that I was supposed to be doing counselling assignments.

I knew that I’d have to learn to pray through anxiety and panic attacks- I didn’t know I’d be forced to stand up and read “God’s Creative Power” out loud (while I couldn’t breathe?) all the while being told that I was faking it.

I knew that there were precise bed times and times to get up at- I didn’t know that I’d get in trouble for falling asleep at any other time- even though I couldn’t help it because it was the meds making it hard to stay awake, and they wouldn’t let me reduce them without a change in prescription, but they wouldn’t let me see a doctor to get that change in prescription.

I was prepared for lots of counselling and hard work- I was completely unaware that the work I needed to do would be to read countless Joyce Meyer books and write reflections on them. Nor was I prepared to be told that I simply couldn’t move forward anymore unless I accepted that God loved me. (Have I heard it? Yes. Does my brain believe it? Yes. Had that knowledge transferred to my heart yet? No, but I didn’t know how to make that happen.)

I knew that they would want me to hear God’s voice, and speak back to Him in tongues- I was unprepared for my counselor to tell me that I was at a standstill, and unless I could hear Him audibly speaking to me, I couldn’t keep going.

I was aware that some of the things I’d done were unbelievable- I was not prepared to have the staff there second guess me and tell me they didn’t believe the truth.

I had razor blades embedded in my arm, and despite the fact that one was close enough to the surface to feel it, despite the fact that I had a letter from my GP (so that I could get through airport security) I was told that was simply not possible.

I thought that I was going to Mercy Ministries to be healed- I did not know that was supposed to happen by ignoring the physical doctors and just praying the bad things would go away.

I am from Canada and was at Mercy Ministries St. Louis. When I tried to enter the US, I had problems at the border. The way that I was finally allowed in, was complicated. If I left the United States, it would be difficult, if not impossible for me to get back in again. So, I knew that when all the other girls were travelling home for Christmas, I wouldn’t be able to go. I was told, by Mercy Ministries, that they would arrange for a host family that I could stay with over the holidays. As Christmas got closer, I was told that I couldn’t stay at Mercy Ministries, because it would be closing for the holidays, but that they didn’t trust me enough to let me stay with a host family either.

To put it bluntly- I was prepared for lots of church, spirituality and faith to be addressed- but I thought it would be in addition to, not instead of receiving professional medical help for my mental illness(es)- mental illness which the staff at Mercy Ministries were not qualified, nor prepared to deal with.

They should not be taking in these girls who have real issues and need real help and promising them things that they can’t deliver. It’s not fair, it’s not ethical, and it shouldn’t even be legal- yet somehow, it’s still happening.

Not a medical facility

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her personal blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

Not a medical facilityI’m going to take a bit a break from the manual review for this post.  The holidays are impossible to get away from, and it got me thinking about how Mercy Multiplied handled the Christmas holidays.  Because Mercy Multiplied is not an actual treatment facility, residential facility, medical facility, anything facility, they simply close down for two weeks for the winter holidays.  Anybody who isn’t familiar with quality treatment programs might think that this is normal, but it’s definitely not.  I’m been in multiple different treatment centers over the holidays various different years and while there were definitely more “passes” (treatment team permission to leave the facility to visit with family or friends), they never just shut down.  Think about it…hospitals don’t shut down.  They might discharge anybody and everybody they can, but when illness is so extreme to need 24-7 round the clock care and supervision, the assumption is that there are those who aren’t well enough to leave for two weeks.

One of the excuses reasons that Mercy Multiplied would most likely offer in response to this is that they are “not a medical facility.”  Mercy Multiplied is very careful (and has become increasingly more careful) in the words they officially use to describe their program.  I’m all about accuracy in description and reporting, but usually the purpose of this is to make sure that individuals are well-informed about a program and able to make a decision as to whether the program will be a good fit for their needs and beneficial for them.

Mercy Multiplied seems different than other quality programs (and even some non-quality programs) because while they are very careful to keep from using phrases such as “treatment facility” or “medical facility,” they are also simultaneously reaching out to specific populations of young women who are seeking treatment for various different reasons that require treatment or medical monitoring.  This leads me to believe that the care in their language and descriptions has much more to do with possible legal issues (because as we know from the manual’s review they definitely recommend getting well-qualified legal advice) than it does to making sure they are serving the right clientele and able to meet the needs of their residents.  Seems more like they’re following the advice of their lawyers to protect their organization at the cost of appropriate care for those they are claiming to help.  That’s just my take on it, though.

Think about it…have you ever tried going to a podiatrist for your toothache?  No, because you know that if you do they’ll turn you away and send you to a dentist.  They know  they are not qualified to care for you teeth.  Now they might tell you that taking care of your feet will help your teeth (it’s all part of the same body afterall), but they can’t tell you that they’ll take care of your teeth.  This is good, because you don’t want a foot doctor caring for your teeth anymore than you want a dentist doing your foot surgery.  You want a medical professional that is trained, certified, and experienced with the problem for which you are seeking help.  In other words, you want a dentist.  Mercy Multiplied claims that they are able to care for young women with mental illnesses, eating disorders, past abuse, self-harm, etc., but they aren’t actually qualified to do so.  Like they say, they’re not a medical facility.

I wouldn’t have a problem with this if they were to be responsible, make clear that they only offer basic prayer ministry from laypersons, and send applicants that need treatment to actual treatment facilities.  After all, when’s the last time you saw a podiatrist telling success stories about someone who needed a root canal? Eating disorders are a prime example.  While classified as a mental illness, eating disorders have significant medical and nutritional issues that must also be addressed in fact anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011).  But does Mercy Multiplied tell those applying that they are not qualified to treat eating disorders?  On the contrary, they actively promote the idea that they treat eating disorders.  I think when it comes to eating disorders, they are deceptive and medically negligent—and the same goes for other disorders and struggles.  Mercy Multiplied should not get to specify that they are NOT a medical facility while simultaneously acting as if they were. But that’s what Mercy Multiplied does.

I hear the comeback of course, you have to be “medically stable” in order to be accepted into the program.  An MD has to sign off on that, but there are several issues with that.

  1. The doctor signing off on a future resident’s medical stability does NOT have to be trained, certified, or even knowledgeable with regard to psychiatric diagnoses and their effects on medical stability.  (For those of you who have been spared the experience, most doctors are horrifically unknowledgeable about eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or trauma issues.  The last doctor that I saw asked why I was on Prozac.   When I told him it was for depression his response was “You don’t look depressed.”  I guess he wasn’t expecting me to be smiling?)
  2. Medical stability is often not well-defined, particularly for psychological disorders. Plus once a resident is in the program, is it simply assumed that they will maintain their medical stability?  (Maybe it’s changed since then, but I was there with an eating disorder for 9 months, and I don’t remember ever getting my blood pressure taken. And there was definitely not anyone there qualified to evaluate my state of mind or psychological distress levels.
  3. Even programs that are medical facilities often require medical stability.  (For instance, residential treatment centers for psychiatric issues require medical stability as do psychiatric hospitals that are not part of a medical hospital.  Not needing immediate medical care is not the same as not needing treatment or care whatsoever.)

If Mercy Multiplied is truly following their “not a medical facility” and not “treatment” line of reasoning, why aren’t they up-front about their lack of qualifications, denial of evidence-based care, and lack of validated proof of their claimed success rates? If the podiatrist treating your dental problems failed to make that sort of information clear, would you be okay with it?

Here’s the thing Mercy Multiplied —you don’t get to have it both ways: You don’t get to claim you’re not a treatment facility but promote yourselves as caring for individuals who need a treatment facility.  If you want to take your brand of ministry and spread it to the ends of the earth, fine, but you don’t get to lead people to think that it’s appropriate for those who need a treatment facility.

I wouldn’t have any problem with Mercy Multiplied saying that they’re a place where someone can come and spend time going to church, watching sermons, doing chores, listening to Joyce Meyer, and meeting with a prayer counselor–at least that description is somewhat accurate.

For all their talk of authenticity when it comes to finances, they are quite the opposite when it comes to information about the actual program.  They may have consulted a lawyer when putting together their promotional materials, but I don’t think they consulted a doctor.  But that’s okay right?  I mean, what matters is the organization and its reputation right?  It’s not like someone’s life is at stake…oh, wait…it is.

Let’s look at how the medically stable process went down in my case.  I was struggling with an eating disorder and other various self-destructive behaviors.  I saw a doctor that I’d never seen before who had no experience with any of these things.  That’s right, any old doctor would have done as long as there was a signature.  If I remember correctly the doctor that I saw was actually an orthopedic specialist because I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit so a friend of a friend got me in.  The doctor was required to sign off on a “medically stable” weight for me.  He put down the weight that I was because I was obviously “fine” if I was there seeing him.  I presented Mercy Multiplied as a treatment facility because that’s what I thought it was—after all, Mercy Multiplied knew what my issues and diagnoses were, and they accepted me, so I assumed they must be able to help me.

Mercy Multiplied themselves often shares the dire nature of a young women’s plight prior to coming to Mercy Multiplied in their success stories and information about the program.  They’ve taken in individuals from across the world that didn’t even have a doctor’s permission to fly due to their medically precarious state.  They’ve required individuals to remain unhospitalized while awaiting placement with Mercy Multiplied despite immediate medical and safety concerns that recommended hospitalization.  This is not just irresponsible, it’s dangerous and putting the lives of young women in jeopardy.  But they apparently can get away with this because they are “not a medical facility.”

After my time at Mercy Multiplied, I remember my treatment team and I seeking a residential or inpatient facility that would accept me because I had deteriorated far beyond the realm of outpatient care.  I remember being frustrated that there were facilities that refused to take me simply because of various diagnoses.  Now, while I still find the lack of facilities that specialize in certain various issues, there was wisdom in that.  At least they weren’t telling me that they could help me and take me in knowing that they couldn’t.  Mercy Multiplied didn’t offer me that kind of respect.  And as horrible as it would be for a facility to purport to be able to help someone and realize a bit into it that it was outside their realm of experience and then refer the patient out to appropriate care, Mercy Multiplied didn’t even do that.  Instead when Mercy Multiplied is faced with an individual who is failing to make “progress” in the program, the individual is blamed for not working the program, trying hard enough, submitting enough, or believing enough. Mercy Multiplied, their staff, and their program get immunity from any responsibility and don’t have to be accountable for the damage they are doing.

Think about being desperate for help, being evaluated by staff and doctors, being told you’re a good candidate, and being accepted into a program that doesn’t have the ability to help you.  Now imagine you’re in the program and finding the program is not helping you (surprise, surprise), but you’re told that it’s your fault the program is not helping even though they never had the ability to help in the first place.  This is the situation that many residents and former residents have found themselves up against at Mercy Multiplied.

And people give Mercy Multiplied a pass because they say they’re “not a medical facility.”  I wonder if people would have the same response if a podiatrist advertised for and knowingly accepted patients, specifically with dental issues, telling stories of a wildly successful cure?  Or maybe it’s only okay if you call it a ministry.

How to create a monster (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 7)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her personal blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

A review of Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry.

monsterI’ll have to admit that I was excited when I first came to the section in the manual that was titled Operations Fundamentals.  I naively expected this section to cover aspects of residents’  treatment that had been so sorely lacking in the content up until this point.  I was disappointed (but not surprised) to realize that the operations that they are referring to are not the operations of the residential counseling ministry, but rather the operations of the non-profit that runs it.  This section is over halfway through the manual, and readers haven’t heard anything about the residents that this entire manual is supposed to enable them to minister to.

I’ll also say right from the start that Mercy Multiplied specifically states that they are covering the concepts in this section on a “high level” stating the importance that readers “seek knowledgeable resources to address the specifics as they relate to your individual vision, mission, and actual legal requirements you will need to comply with.”  We see the foreshadowing of the disconnect between recommending professionals for aspects of the organization’s finances and legal decisions and the obvious eschewing of any professionalism with regard to the residents’ treatment or care.  Over and over again, the manual encourages legal counsel to be sought early and often and while they do encourage finding pro-bono or discounted services (because what Christian organization doesn’t feel entitled to having professionals do things for them for free), they don’t suggest that you get prayer ministers to do this work for them.  Even the pro-bono work is assumed to be coming from, professionals, i.e. lawyers and accountants.  In fact they not only recommend that these individuals be professionals (read: passed the certifications and requirements necessary to prove that they are knowledgeable and experienced in the areas they are advising in), but they even strongly encourage a “reputable attorney” with expertise in non-profits and a “reputable Certified Public Accountant”.  So not only do they expect their financial and legal information to come from experts trained and certified in their field, they’re even wanting to make sure that these individuals are especially good at what they do.

Now let’s just contrast this with Mercy Multiplied’s attitude concerning the expertise of their staff that are actually interacting with residents that have major mental illnesses and require round the clock 24/7 supervision.  This staff is not recommended to have any qualifications or certifications barring a general college degree.  This staff is not recommended to come with reputations of successfully treating individuals with specific struggles that are common to the residents.  It’s not even suggested that people consult with people who are qualified in psychology or mental illness.

What kind of priorities are reflected when an organization is requiring certified professionals for dealing with legal and financial issues to cover their rear legally, but has no requirements for individuals that will actually be caring for the individuals all of this is supposed to be about?  Better make sure you get someone experienced to deal with your organization’s operations because everyone knows how important that is, but anybody can care for the residents—what kind of a double standard is this?  What kind of message does this send to the residents about their worth?  Does Mercy Multiplied really think that recovery from illness with high fatalities is simpler than doing their taxes?  And the answer of course is, yes.  After all, taxes takes someone who knows what they’re doing…training, education, even experience, but recovery from mental illness is as simple as praying and memorizing Bible verses so why would you need anyone special to help residents with that?

Oh, and they even recommend having an independent auditor review financial practices yearly to provide accountability to donors.  And what kind of accountability checks are their for the treatment of residents?  (In case you’ve forgotten, the residents are the people that they are so keen on helping and ministering too…it’s hard to remember since most everything that is recommended has nothing to do with them and everything to do with the organizations’ image and potential donors).  So if you’re a donor, you get to make sure that your money is doing exactly what they said it would, but if you’re a resident you have no recourse if they fail to live up to the minimal expectations commonplace in treatment.  Think about it, what can residents do if they are abused by this organization?  There’s no professional ethics board when you don’t employ professionals to do your counseling.  There’s no certification to revoke when the complaints come pouring in when you don’t submit to any treatment guidelines or certifications.  There’s not even a way to show that their claims about “treatment” are even remotely true.  But that’s obviously not the important thing…because the important thing is that there’s accountability to the donors.  After all, they are the ones who are really running the organization, right?  They’re the ones that matter.

Along the lines of this same disconnect between how money is handled and how residents’ LIVES are handled, there’s plenty of encouragement to keep detailed and accurate records for the organization, but if you’ve seen any of the stories about residents attempting to get records from their time in the program, you’ll know that this sort of record keeping is not considered important.  Because, you can get in some serious trouble with the government for not keeping records on your organization’s tax-exemption, but who is there to get you in trouble if you’re not keeping treatment records?  In Mercy Multiplied’s set up there’s nobody, and for an organization that claims excellence in caring for these ‘poor souls gone astray’, there’s not really any evidence to back those claims up.  ‘Cause who would listen to a bunch of mentally ill young women anyways?  And what would it hurt the organization if those women aren’t satisfied with the treatment or care they get?  I mean, it’s not like they’re paying for it anyways…as long as the donors are happy the revenue stream is stable.  Nothing else matters…nothing…as long as the organization can maintain its public image and engender financial support, there’s not any way to hold the organization accountable for any of its actions with regard to the residents.  This is how Mercy Multiplied is set up.  This is how they recommend similar ministries to be set up.  The focus is not on the residents or the ministry as much as they want to make people think that it is, the ultimate priority is the organization, its leadership, and its financial backers.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you establish a residential counseling ministry that abuses the very people they are claiming to help.  This is the secret of Mercy Multiplied’s success that they are so eager to share with other people.  This is Mercy Multiplied sharing how to create a monster that looks just like them.

**All quotes are from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015.**

(More) fundraising… (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 6)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog, External Mercy, and can be viewed here.

Fundraising2A 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.**

If Mercy ran an accounting firm… (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 4)

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.

accounting

Mission is the topic of the next bit of the Guidelines Manual from Mercy Multiplied.  Once again we have some fairly good advice (although nothing that I didn’t find when I googled these sorts of key words).  They talk about a “values-based mission statement” and emphasize that this is what can be used to inspire materials and used as a “talking point” when recruiting volunteers.  They also say it should be the core of speeches and presentations.  I find it just a bit strange that these are the first points they make about a mission statement.

I think of a mission statement as being the heart of an organization…that serves to inspire the people within the organization and keep the organization on track.  I don’t know that my first thought is that a mission statement is good for (basically) fundraising, but then again there’s a lot in this manual overall that seems to have way more to do with fundraising and creating an organization than it has to do with any sort of interaction with the people who are supposedly going to be served.

True, you need to fundraise because you need money to do pretty much anything, but if Mercy Multiplied’s got this amazing monopoly on the “only” thing that works to fix all these problems like they claim, shouldn’t that sort of thing be in this manual?  I mean, you can get advice on fundraising from anywhere.  Is the secret to Mercy Multiplied amazing work with young women actually their fundraising?  Is this the advice and guidance they’ve gained through their vast experience of taking people whose lives were a complete mess and making them into a neat little box complete with a ribbon on top?  Why are we even talking about fundraising and promotional materials at this point?  Shouldn’t we at least talk about the individuals that are to be served and what they might need and how best to go about offering that?  Those things seem to be minor details when it comes to establishing a residential counseling ministry at least from what Mercy Multiplied has shared so far.

Next they go through specific steps to creating a values-based mission statement.  And when I say specific steps, I mean SPECIFIC steps.  Like a one two three how to list that a five year old could follow complete with what to tell people to write down and to have one person write this all up on a large board and making sure that you’re using the correct verb tense.  Do I think that it’s wrong to list specific steps?  No…but it’s not like this is novel information to well, anyone.  Remember too that it hasn’t even been suggested that perhaps consulting social work, counseling, psychology, psychiatry, or even medical professionals, but they’re being very sure to write out in a “simon says” sort of instructions how to write a mission statement.  Perhaps my expectations are higher for the individuals who might be reading this manual than the authors thought, but if you have to get step by step instructions on how to create a mission statement, don’t you think that maybe, just maybe these individuals are probably not ready to be opening a residential counseling ministry?  I’d love to give Mercy Multiplied the benefit of the doubt and think, well, it’s just common sense that you would consult professionals who work with the populations you are wanting to serve, but they leave me no room to do that when they specifically spell out something that in my opinion is so much less important.  I don’t know though, maybe the secret to Mercy Multiplied’s supposed success (unbelievable some may even say) is that they used the proper form of the verb in their mission statement brainstorming session.  This is obviously important enough to take up some of the very limited 41 pages (and in that 41 pages I’m counting the title page for each section that has just the sections title on it…now if we want to talk about people giving grace, I’d say that’s pretty gracious of me).  Remember this document contains the information to share the “depth of experience [their] remarkable team brings” and to explain “fundamental functions” for the establishment of this kind of ministry.

Is vision and mission important?  Absolutely.  The worrisome thing is that Mercy Multiplied seems to think this is all it takes to make people qualified to care for individuals with life-threatening medical and mental illnesses?   I know it sounds almost humorous…as if the best response would be to roll your eyes and laugh at the idea, but these are the people who are running residential treatment centers for individuals with eating disorders, psychiatric disorders, abuse histories, suicidality and histories of suicide attempts, self-harm, drug addictions, and anything else they can think of…these are real people who are using these principles to take care of young women who are being told that they are qualified to do so and have an insanely high success rate to back their claims up.  There are real people who are being offered “free help” from people who think that this is what it takes to establish a residential counseling ministry.

Let’s take a little side trail to an analogy.  What if this were a manual about how to establish an accounting firm?  What if they never said anything about needing there to be people who know anything about accounting?  What if they emphasized that what’s really important to establish a good accounting firm is that you have a good mission statement and to use to recruit people to do book work?  How would you feel about taking your taxes to an accounting firm that has decided that they won’t be licensed or certified by the government because they don’t want anything to keep them from giving you the keys to become prosperous which they solely have discovered?  Would you take your taxes to an accounting firm that offers “Bible-based” accounting leaders who instead of being certified public accountants or having experience in the financial field have instead gone through the firms special two week course on the new financial principles that they’ve found that are nine times more effective than those of certified or experienced accountants?  Would you like that accounting firm to do your taxes?  Would you hand over all your company and personal finances and just trust that they’ll take care of all of it as God tells them to?  Would you worry at all that you might have to pay penalties and fines because they didn’t do things properly?  What if there were stories of people taking their taxes there that have years later still been trying to undo the damage that the firm’s lack of qualification had caused them?  What if no one could do anything to hold them accountable because they aren’t a “real” accounting firm so they don’t answer to any certification boards or ethics rules or minimum quality standards?  What if they blew off any criticism by saying that they “meant well” or that their “hearts were in the right place”?  What if they said that having good intentions provides magical insight and training that qualifies them to be accountants…or counselors, or directors of residential treatment centers?

Would you be okay with them doing YOUR taxes?  Is that a risk you’d be willing to take?  Don’t worry about it though…I mean, it’s not like Mercy Multiplied’s doing anybody’s taxes–they’re just caring for people with mental illnesses…illnesses that people die from…no big deal, right?

All you need is VISION…and this manual (Mercy Multiplied’s Guidelines Manual Part 2)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog “External Mercy” and can be viewed here.

3d7d0f901ec7ba1d4003fdc45b285fb1In the introduction of Mercy Multiplied’s “Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry“, Mercy Multiplied lays out what information they are going to be giving you.

They say that “Certain fundamental functions, processes and structures will provide a solid foundation to establish your ministry to serve your God-given vision for years to come.” (page 5)  And then tell us that Mercy Multiplied is sharing their “wealth of experience, knowledge, and information” that they have acquired.

I think it’s fair to assume that they are going to include what’s important, right, or at least what they think is important for this sort of ministry, or at least what they think is important for theirs.  So let’s take a look at the manual from this perspective…we’re getting a peek into what Mercy Multiplied considers foundational for accomplishing the same “success” they have with a similar method.

They also say that they’re not including specific details (not that that would even be possible in 41 pages).  They point out that the details are specifically serving THEIR vision and mission and that individuals establishing their own ministry need to work these out according to their ministry’s specific calling.  Keep this in mind as we’ll be coming back to these two points: Mercy Multiplied is sharing what they think is foundational and they are NOT sharing details.

Next comes the ever present, ever shared story of how Mercy Multiplied began.  Also known as the epithet to Nancy Alcorn, this tells how Nancy Alcorn worked in a correctional facility for youth and became disillusioned because the programs were not working.  She worked for Teen Challenge for a bit (who has their own sordid history and those who were harmed more than helped by the program) and then she starts Mercy, emphasizing that secular, governmental programs were tremendous failures when it came to helping these “troubled girls”.  Thus the birth of Mercy Ministries, now Mercy Multiplied and of course the three principles that are emphasized by the ministry:

  1. Don’t charge the girls to come;
  2. Tithe 10% (even though most people are donating the money to mercy as their 10% tithe); and
  3. Don’t accept state/government funding.

Next, we skip forward to the current Mercy Multiplied: Listing the locations of the homes in the US and the homes outside the US.  Funny though that Australia is no where to be seen in this “history”.  The other locations are heralded as the spreading of Mercy Multiplied beyond the US’ borders…not sure what they really thought the Australia homes were if not for that…apparently they were orphan ministries that had nothing to do with Mercy Multiplied (after they got shut down of course).  This makes me wonder, does Mercy Multiplied not learn from its own mistakes?  From my point of view they got themselves in trouble with associated homes in Australia, then backtracked to de-associate from them when those homes became the “black sheep” of the Mercy Multiplied family.  So now they’re publishing guidelines on how to replicate their ministry?

Just a warning to anyone who might use these guidelines (besides being prepared for a lawsuit), Mercy Multiplied will claim you as long as it looks good for them, but once you reflect badly on them, you will be cut off and disowned like an unsightly growth—or at least that’s what their history (the part that’s not told in this manual section) seems to show.

They go through the usual lines about who they are and what they do…and how well they do it, specifically pointing out that they often receive residents who “have been in various treatment facilities with unsuccessful long-term results”, to contrast this they claim that their approach to healing is a permanent solution that is unattainable in any other way. (page 6)

They also describe their program as “extremely successful in equipping young women with the tools they need to understand their self-worth” and share that they get daily communication from graduates “walking in freedom” (page 7).  Mercy Multiplied’s always had this thing with comparing themselves to other treatment facilities. You hear it again and again in Nancy Alcorn’s speech and even in the request of materials from graduates.

Walking in freedom is another huge buzzword for them – the implication of course is that if you are a Mercy Multiplied graduate who is still struggling, then it’s simply because you’re choosing not to “walk in freedom”.  There’s no possibility that maybe there are still things that need to be addressed, still education that needs to take place, still resources and support that need to be built up; and ultimately, there’s no possibility that Mercy Multiplied didn’t hold up their part of the bargain to get you permanently better.  It’s a syntax they emphasize that conveniently allows them to shirk all responsibility while still claiming that they are being accountable.

[All quotes from Mercy Multiplied, Guidelines for Establishing a Residential Counseling Ministry, Retrieved October 2015]

Who failed who? (Basics Part 2)

This piece by Mercy Survivor Anna was originally published on her blog “External Mercy” and can be viewed here.

FailureSix months into the program, I went home to my family of origin for Christmas (at Mercy Multiplied’s insistence).  God magically healed me of everything just a few weeks prior to that Christmas break.  I didn’t struggle with any symptoms, I didn’t struggle with any feelings, and everyone said that I was like a different person after Jesus had healed me.  The same staff that were ready to kick me out of the program, were suddenly singing the program’s praises for its part in my amazing transformation.

I spent three months like that, and the only thing that I struggled with was a serious case of denial.  I actually really thought that everything was better (self-awareness has always been a slow battle for me).  It didn’t send up any red flags that everything was perfectly better because that’s what Mercy Multiplied expected.  There’s no need for relapse prevention work when your mental illness and trauma symptoms are just magically healed.  I pushed to graduate as soon as possible…and walked away with Mercy Multiplied’s full approval.  I didn’t realize that somewhere inside I had decided that it wasn’t safe to be there and continue to get hurt…maybe I thought that God healing me was the only way to get away from this place that continually denied my perceptions and internal experience.  Whatever the underlying reasoning, it worked.  I graduated.  And it lasted less than twenty-four hours.

See that’s the problem with a program whose core therapeutic method is (to put it bluntly) emotional abuse.  When you’re told over and over again that you’re wrong…that you’re not trying…that you must not want help…that your feelings are wrong…that your intuition is rebellion, you end up with a recovery that’s completely divorced from reality…because you are divorced from reality.  It worked while I was in the Mercy Multiplied bubble…where the Mercy Multiplied party line was the only acceptable reality.  Once I stepped outside, it was obvious that I hadn’t made progress whatsoever.

I was completely bewildered…I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong that I couldn’t maintain my “healing”.  I thought that obviously God had held up his end of the deal and made me better, now it was on me and I was failing.  Mercy Multiplied had set me up perfectly for it to be all my fault and Mercy Multiplied’s attitude had taught me that if it was all my fault that I didn’t deserve help.  Maybe someone would have caught this and corrected this cognitive distortion if they had connected me with professionals so that I had a qualified support team, but they didn’t.  I had an “accountability partner”, a woman from my church who met with me and prayed with and for me.  This was good…but it wasn’t anywhere near what I needed.  I had no psychiatrist, no psychologist, no therapist, no nutritionist…I had no professional help.  And I needed professional help–why else would I have spent 9 months in a residential facility otherwise?

My views of Mercy have changed drastically over time from…

Mercy Multiplied is great – it was all good!

to…

It was mostly good, but there were a few things that weren’t.

to…

Okay, at least some of it was good.

to…

They did a lot of harm, but at least their intentions were good.

to…

They had no business doing what they did.

It took years to cycle through all of those, and it’s still a process now.  But the most important thing is that I know that I didn’t fail…Mercy Multiplied  failed to help me, and that’s a big deal.  So to any of you who are still carrying the burden of failure from Mercy Multiplied’s teachings and attitude, take a deep breath…maybe you didn’t fail…maybe Mercy Multiplied failed you too.

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