Friday, August 22, 2014

I am NEW! (Update from Mercy Grad Sara)

Sara at her Graduation after receiving her Mercy Ring!
Today marks six months after my graduation from Mercy Ministries. As I think back on these last six months and ponder what this last year has been like for me, I get completely and utterly speechless. Prior to Mercy, I was unable to sustain anything: a job, friends, school, etc. In fact, by the time I hit my lowest point I didn't have a job, school, or friends. I really was at my lowest of low.

While at Mercy, I learned how to manage all of those stresses without hurting myself in the process. When I graduated from the program back in February, I felt very prepared to tackle this thing called life. Little did I realize, though, how much Mercy truly had taught me!

Just a few weeks ago I was pulled into my supervisor’s office at work and told that I had displayed such patience, self-control in stressful times, and joy in my work life, that they wanted to promote me all the way up to the lead Residential Instructor position! I had only been there four months when this happened. If you had known me way back before Mercy (and even at the beginning of my stay at Mercy), I was not the most patient person, nor joyful—and I had no self-control to speak of. But now, when people look at me, they see the new me! It is an amazing feeling!

There are days where it is hard to walk in freedom, but I never let myself stray away. God has His hand on me. I have had to pace back and forth in my room speaking out truth, but I have never given in to the old lies of Satan that tell me that I am not good enough, not pretty enough, or not smart enough to do what I want to do in life. Its been a journey, that’s for sure—one in which I am far from finishing, but I am prepared for what lies ahead.

Only 15 months ago, I walked into the doors of Mercy—head low, hopeless, and defeated. But six months ago, I walked out with my ring and plaque, full of confidence, hope, and my held high. I now walk in a new peace, knowing I am loved. Today I smile because I am free and free indeed!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Directed Steps on the Road to Mercy

By Nicola Bartel, Executive Director of Mercy Ministries Canada

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

In 2003, I was six and a half years into what would be an eight-year journey directing a residential program for pregnant teens and young adult women. Along with unplanned pregnancy, many of the young women were struggling with eating disorders, self-harm, prostitution, gang related activity, anxiety and depression. In May of that year, I found myself at the Life Women’s Conference quite by chance, where, for the first time, I encountered Nancy Alcorn, Founder and President of Mercy Ministries.

Nancy spoke of the three principles God had given her to begin Mercy Ministries in 1983, and I nearly leapt out of my seat with a “Yes and Amen!” (My British roots held me back J).  Prior to coming to this conference, God had been speaking loudly to me about two of these same three principles regarding the home where I was working. We had a small fee for service, which created a barrier for some, and a government grant, which limited how we could share Christ.

At that conference, the vision to bring Mercy Ministries to Canada was cast. I left the conference and could not stop reading Nancy’s books, which resonated so loudly with my heart. I soon contacted Helen Burns, an amazing pastor at Relate Church in Surrey, BC, and we arranged to meet. Helen’s heart was already burdened to bring Mercy Ministries to Canada, and when we spoke, the heart connection between the two of us was immediate! That was the beginning of an incredible journey that brought me to this unexpected blessing of serving as Executive Director of Mercy Ministries in Canada.

One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “Stand for justice, love kindness (Mercy), and walk in humility before God.“ Today, I continue to be transformed along with an amazing team of staff members and the many young women we serve. I am both humbled and passionate to be part of changing the nation of Canada for Christ through Mercy Ministries!

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Future & Promise (Update from Mercy Grad Kimmie)

Kimmie at her Mercy graduation, April 2014
My mom looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "A year ago, I was terrified you were going to die. I didn't know what to do anymore. I was at a total and complete loss. But God intervened, and I'm so grateful. This year as I look at you, I see a future and promise."

At my very worst, I walked through the doors of Mercy Ministries, and it forever changed both of our lives.

My mom's thankfulness echoes mine as I think back to only 12 months ago. I was sitting in the same seat I am now but I was a completely different person. I was so broken and tired and suicidal. Because of Mercy I now have hope! Now, I am made whole, and I am so excited about the future I have with the Lord! Now, I am not afraid. Now, I am free to face the world with the Lord on my side. Now, I am a conqueror.

This is freedom!

I love when the Lord gives me continual glimpses of where He has rescued me from and what He has rescued me to—a life to be free and to set others free.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2008 Graduate Courtney Celebrates FIVE Years of Mercy

Courtney on her Mercy Graduation day in 2008!
Five years always felt like an eternity away to me. In fact, I remember dreaming up one, five, and ten years plans back inside the walls of that big white house [the Mercy home in St. Louis]. I tried to find them, but couldn't. It doesn't really matter anyhow, because I am certain these five years have looked so different from the plan.

And I am so thankful. In tears thankful, actually.

I never planned to be a girl in need of mercy [or Mercy Ministries, for that matter]. But the truth is, I've always needed it.

"Once you were not a people, but now you're God's people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have." [1 Peter 2:10]

Had my life been guided by the course of my own plan, I would be a wondering soul still in need of mercy.

In fact, that about sums up my life prior to walking through those doors of Mercy Ministries. Although, I don't really know that I knew just how lost I was or how needy. God used those six months to reveal Himself to me in a way I never thought was possible for "a girl like me." Surely I had out-sinned the cross. I would never be like the pastor's wife or the faithful grandma in the back pew every week. Forget about being a Proverbs 31 gal, I could barely keep myself presentable for an hour--more or less dream of doing any of that. I never really believed He could change my life like He had people around me. It wasn't even about whether He would or not--it was that He couldn't. I was the impossible statistic with the mile-long list of all the reasons I'd never function as a normal person.

It was that mindset which fed the sin cycle that had me on a perpetually spinning sphere through those dark years. And it was moving so fast, the immanent pain of falling just kept me gripping on tighter. And spinning faster. The more I hung on that I might preserve my own life, the more death I knew. Until the spinning nearly stopped and death knocked ever so closely. After that, I knew I wasn't just a perpetually spinning person. There had to be something (or someone) spinning me and now slowing me, so to speak. I knew a lot about God. But I didn't know the redeemer of my soul.

That's about when I came through those doors of Mercy Ministries. And for the first month or so, I fought hard to jump back on that spinning wheel. It was what I'd known for over a decade, after all.

I could identify more with the girl wondering and in need of mercy then the mercy being offered to me itself. 

Lucky for us, His word calls us "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."[1 Peter 2:9]

This fifth year of life after Mercy has taught me His plans are worth putting all of my trust in. Even when that means abandoning mine. Sometimes, that doesn't make much sense to us. Other times it's easier.

Either way, He chose me?! In my ugly, sinful, prideful mess of a self--He called me beloved, chosen, royal, holy. Then He decided to give His son in place of me that I might know Him intimately as Christ's blood washed out my sin that once separated me from Him. I deserved death and He gave me life. It's a choice of course, as when a gift is offered we're not forced to take it. But by much grace, I received it and He caused it. Of course, why stop there? Then He said nothing I could ever do would separate me from His love.

And that summed up the work Christ solidified in my heart through my time at Mercy---nothing would ever separate me from His love. I could never be too screwed up to out-sin the blood of Christ shed on that cross. I didn't have to starve or inflict pain upon myself to atone for my poor decisions because His work was enough to cover past and even future sin.

Had it been up to me, I would have left that place without ever knowing such truth.

I'm so glad that wasn't God's plan. And I'm so humbled by the men and women He surrounded me with that fought and interceded on my behalf all those years.

This fifth year of life after Mercy had me finishing my bachelors in social sciences [and finally got that degree!], nannying for some precious boys [to be joined by a baby sister this fall], hanging out with international friends, and experiencing the sweet blessing of the awesome body of Christ at my church. The sweetest of parts of this past year were none that I ever dreamed up. My plans would have led somewhere far different--and yet again I remember why it's so sweet to trust in Jesus!

Next year I'm headed back to my hometown where I have been accepted into an accelerated school of nursing program. At least that's where God has led thus far, but I'm learning to grip it all a little more loosely these days! And when it comes to dreaming dreams, I very much desire to be a wife and momma one day. And until then [or perhaps all at once] I still believe God's leading me overseas long-term, just whenever He gives the go-ahead.

But I'm realizing too, the here and now is really quite sweet.

Before we know it, we will be with Him in glory and I want these hours and days He is giving to make me more of a sojourner on this soil and a proclaimer of  the glory to come. With a whole lotta grace, I hope to see more men and women in need of mercy find it in knowing Him for the first time. Any role He allows me to play in that is the greatest gift I know. 

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Chirst, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." [1 Peter 5:10-11]

Courtney blogs here.