How much damage did Harold Camping’s “Rapture” fraud cause? The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has asked California Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate Family Stations Inc. for fraud and deceit.
This is a notable stance from the FFRF, and one that I support completely. During my blogging career, I’ve often wondered if there’s really anything that can be done to stop cults. Sometimes it feels like there’s very little that we can do to affect change in this particular area. Many cults and fundamentalist groups stay under the radar because of their size and because most victims stay silenced.
One way to stop cults and end destructive teachings and behaviors is to hold the leaders accountable in a tangible way, which is exactly what the letter from FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker are asking the State of California to do.
If states recognized the need for investigations into religious groups like this, our country would be a more pleasant place to live in and our youth would be safer from the predatory cult leaders of today.
Are Unpaid Master’s Commission Internships Legal or
Not? OR: How to Out Your Pastor for Not
A Little Pebble Can Make a Lot of Waves
I just read this in a fishing magazine of all places. My dad and mom love Alaska, so we have a lot of outdoor adventure magazines around the house.
What’s odd is that I always knew I’d wanted to make a difference in the world somehow, but I never thought my blog might make a big difference. What’s unique about this blog is that it’s the only place that I know of that openly speaks about the spiritual abuse people have faced in Master’s Commission.
When I was in Master’s Commission, people would come up to me and say, “You’re a great woman of God,” or “You’re going to change the world,” or “You’re going to be a voice for the voiceless.”
I honestly think that a lot of what people said was sweet, but just very generic and sometimes very hokey (you know the type of old women who come up and wave flags over your head and speak in tongues like they’re on drugs? yeah, that’s hokey to me). But, what is so ironic to me is the fact that my little pebble-self has made some big waves since July, 2010.
Waves Were Made
Not even five months have gone by and I’ve been contacted by Lloyd Zeigler, co-founder of the Master’s Commission International Network (MCIN) and director of my former Master’s Commission group in Phoenix (now Master’s Commission USA in Dallas, Texas). We discussed some very heavy issues for months and I prodded him to take action over a letter documenting spiritual abuse and slavery-like treatment of staff members. He did take action and the group I was part of, Master’s Commission Industries (now Elevate 3D–who operate in Pods out of Our Savior’s Churches in Louisiana), lost it’s affiliation from the MCIN because of the contacts I made with over twenty former students and staff members, and the encouragement I gave them to write to Lloyd Zeigler. They did.
The MCIN Agrees With Unpaid Internships
Lloyd and I disagreed and ended up parting ways over a variety of issues I continued to try to bring into dialogue. I found out we didn’t agree on a great many points and I was not going to stop until things were better for future students and staff members.
Now, I’m on my own and no one is here to advocate except for me. Lloyd argued with me when I told him that seven year long staff members can’t be treated as interns.
It’s unethical and illegal, even if they’re willing to stay!
I shared with him a New York Times article about how the Department of Labor has been cracking down (for several months now) on business who have interns. Trust me, they’ll catch up to Master’s Commission soon enough–even if it’s through my personal contact to them (which I have).
Lloyd Zeigler stated his case: He’s known doctors who interned for a year and weren’t paid. He knew a zoologist who interned unpaid for a year. It was ethical to him, because Master’s Commission was giving value to the students who interned (for more than a year…even for fifteen years).
I explained to him that there was a huge difference. A doctor goes into the field knowing that he will spend several years studying very demanding biology courses, and then will take a difficult MCAT exam and will spend some time training in the field so that he can make a six figure income (or more).
Additionally, I know teachers who have earned their teaching credential by spending one or two years (depending on the school they attend) taking credentialing courses and student teaching. Student teaching is unpaid, but you’re warned about it early on. You’re also qualified to teach after the student teaching, and can earn a great salary, benefits and three months off in the summer. Not a bad deal.
“Interning” in Master’s Commission is not at all like becoming a doctor or a teacher. If a Master’s Commission student or staff goes into ministry, they rarely become a senior pastor. Most, if not all, become a youth pastor and/or a Master’s Commission director. These youth pastor jobs aren’t always high paid, and Master’s Commission directors do have the luxury of getting compensated financially out of their MC budget.
Why Master’s Commission Staff Members Don’t File Complaints
Why don’t Master’s Commission staff members file complaints, speak up, or report their unpaid “internships?” In my case, I had a very difficult time finding out WHO was the proper person to report this violation to. I spent time as a staff member unpaid, and other years was severely underpaid at $50-$150 a month.
The New York Times reports that, “…It is unusually hard to mount a major enforcement effort because interns are often afraid to file complaints. Many fear they will become known as troublemakers in their chosen field,endangering their chances with a potential future employer.”
I know this to be true. Many of my peers who served as staff members in my own Master’s Commission, or close-by groups in Texas complained to me about not getting paid or getting severely underpaid. However, none of them wanted to be the whistle-blower.
For good reason.
Master’s Commission carries with it a “don’t criticize” and “don’t question the authority” unwritten rule. If you do speak up about something you’re unhappy about, you’re often accused of being “ungrateful” or your spiritual life is called into question.
No “intern” or staff member would want to speak up and risk the chances of being labeled a troublemaker or endangering their chances of networking with a pastor who knows of Master’s Commission and respects the group. If your ultimate goal was to be a pastor, you wouldn’t want to speak up either.
Where To File a Complaint
The other question is where do you speak up, if you want to?
I considered several places. The “Christian” thing to do, in my mind then, was to talk to the pastors themselves. The ones I had an issue with. So, I did. That went nowhere, which left me a bit helpless.
Where else was one to go?
I went to Lloyd Zeigler, and let him know that these things were happening, and he should address them. Turns out, it took a few years for anything to change, and even then, not much has changed within the Master’s Commission International Network and their treatment of staff. I learned during those months that Lloyd didn’t even pay his staff members a fair wage (severely less than minimum wage).
I also learned that the position a Master’s Commission staff member is in it is less likely to draw attention from the Department of Labor if laws are violated because the way the groups are set up. Often, the groups aren’t set up as ministries within the church, but sort of under an umbrella. Not to mention, churches often aren’t scrutinized by the government, since they non-profit groups. They typically have to be reported to the government, by the intern his or herself.
Seek out an Employment Lawyer–Immediately
Another option that would resolve issues is for the staff member to contact an employment lawyer in the state that he or she served in Master’s Commission. If the offense happened in Texas, then you must contact a Texas lawyer who handles Employment Law.
What is the offense? If you were a staff member in Master’s Commission, or on any church staff, and were unpaid or underpaid, you have the right to file a suit against that group for back wages. You can search online for wage comparisons for the type of work you did and find the minimum wages that you should have been paid. Any job worked should have been paid minimum wage, at the very least, but jobs such as Administration have a minimum yearly salary that is required to be paid (even by churches). To ensure winning your case, you should speak to a lawyer within two years of leaving your Master’s Commission group, or church. Some lawyers will attempt the case after three years, and there are some cases where a lawyer may take your case due to the cult-like behavior of a group like Master’s Commission. In this case, a lawyer will file against the Master’s Commission group up to several years after you’ve left, especially if you can prove that you required medical attention or therapy after your years within the group.
Another place to contact is the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU. In order to receive legal representation, you must find a local affiliate. You can do so here: http://www.aclu.org/affiliates. I’ve reported my case to my local affiliate.
Find an Investigative Reporter
When Ted Haggard was outed for his sex scandal, Mike Jones (the callboy) turned to a news reporter, Paula Woodward, an investigative reporter at KUSA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Denver, Colorado. A news reporter, especially a local investigative journalist may be able to begin work on the story. (For more information, click here: http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/how_pastor_ted_got_outed.php)
I’ve contacted several investigative reporters, and have been emailing one in Lafayette, Louisiana.
I’ve also contacted Oprah, 60 minutes, CNN, Gloria Allred, and several lawyers in Texas and Louisiana.
Every local news station or news paper has an investigative reporter. You can google to find the official newsite and then look at their reporter’s profiles to find their email address. Most journalists respond to emails sent to them.
In addition, places like CNN, FOX News, or MSNBC are very interested in hearing these type of stories. They always have a contact page on their official website, with instructions to follow. You typically have to prepare a press release write-up, which can be a lot of effort, but you can always find sources online that can help you prepare a press release with your story. Include facts, such as how much you were paid (or not paid), how many hours you worked, what types of labor you did, and any other information that you think would be relevant to a media story.
How to Report to the Internal Revenue Service
Additionally, you can report financial indiscretions (such as political contributions, which are illegal or being underpaid as a church employee) to the IRS. On the IRS website, it talks about reporting a church to the IRS:
The IRS may only initiate a church tax inquiry if the Director, Exempt Organizations Examinations, reasonably believes, based on a written statement of the facts and circumstances, that the organization: (a) may not qualify for the exemption; or (b) may not be paying tax on unrelated business or other taxable activity. This reasonable belief must be based on facts and circumstances recorded in writing.
The IRS can obtain the information supporting a reasonable belief from many sources, including but not limited to:
Newspaper or magazine articles or ads,
Television and radio reports,
Internet web pages,
Voters guides created and/or distributed by the church,
Documents on file with the IRS (e.g. a Form 990-T filed by the church), and
Records concerning the church in the possession of third parties or informants.
The IRS must derive the facts and circumstances forming the basis for a reasonable belief from information lawfully obtained. If this information is obtained from informants, it must not be known to be unreliable. Failure of the church to respond to repeated IRS routine requests for information is a factor in determining if there is reasonable cause for commencing a church tax inquiry.
Have you seen this place? Just read the description. You can already tell where this post is going…
Do girls get beat here? I’m curious how they break the girls’ spirits and what types of abuse goes on.
Parents can’t come visit anytime they want? The child can’t leave the state of Florida with their parents? They must attend ALL church services regardless of a vacation or visit with their parents? Marvelous Grace sounds pretty fucked up.
And if you haven’t visited freejinger.org, you should.
If you or someone you know has survived attending Marvelous Grace Academy, I’m working on research about the program. Please send me an email with “Marvelous Grace” in the subject to mycultlife AT gmail DOT com.
Going after a cult is like playing cat and mouse. Sometimes you’re the cat and other times you’re the mouse.
There’s a game of chase going on online. Mercy Ministries appears to be in the lead, but they’re running head long into a trap. It’s a trap they’ve set up for themselves. They’ve manufactured what they think are “professional” sounding answers, but let’s be honest–they’re not professionals. They have a hell of a lot of money to hire professionals, though, and this is where they sometimes have the upper hand. But they don’t actually have the upper hand and this is why: the laws are against what they’re doing and no matter how many times they change their website to conform to their newest lies, or attempt to silence the victims who’s lives they’ve destroyed one thing remains true–many victims of abuse have emerged from Mercy Ministries to tell their truth. And truth will prevail.
Oh and I’m on the front page of Google for “Mercy Ministries” searches. Let’s watch this change as they attempt to squash my victory.
In the past few weeks, the Lincoln Messenger has ran a series of articles on Mercy Ministry. These reports were done with great care, as you can tell from reading them. The reporter and editor went to great lengths to present both sides of the case. However, Mercy disputed the articles. Sadly, it takes a trained eye or a survivor of Mercy to recognize their “dispute” for what it is: lies.
Yes, you read that right. Mercy Ministries is lying. And they’re changing their web presence to match their lies. They’ve also modified their Wikipedia page to attempt to remove the Australia scandal, but don’t worry we’re bringing those stories back like 2010 brought back Ray Bans.
[This article originally posted in the Sydney Morning Herald. I’m reposting for educational purposes under Fair Use to bring light to new allegations that Mercy Ministries, International has continued abusing young women. If you have any new information regarding this program, please email Lisa Kerr at email@example.com.]
March 17, 2008
THEY call themselves the Mercy Girls. And after years of searching they have found each other.
Bound by separate, damaging experiences at the hands of an American-style ministry operating in Sydney and the Sunshine Coast, these young women have clawed their way back to begin a semblance of a life again.
Desperate for help, they had turned to Mercy Ministries suffering mental illness, drug addiction and eating disorders.
Do you know more? Message 0424 SMS SMH ( +61 424 767 764 ) or email us with information or images.
Instead of the promised psychiatric treatment and support, they were placed in the care of Bible studies students, most of them under 30 and some with psychological problems of their own. Counselling consisted of prayer readings, treatment entailed exorcisms and speaking in tongues, and the house was locked down most of the time, isolating residents from the outside world and sealing them in a humidicrib of pentecostal religion.
At 21, Naomi Johnson was a young woman with a bright future, halfway through a psychology degree at Edith Cowan University, working part-time and living an independent, social life.
Yet she was plagued by anorexia.
With her family’s modest means and her part-time job there was no way she could afford to admit herself into the one private clinic in Perth that specialised in adults with eating disorders.
They had no private health insurance, and there were no publicly funded services in the state. So after much research Johnson found a link to Mercy Ministries on the internet.
Months passed as she devoted herself to going through the application process, pinning all her hopes on what appeared to be a modern, welcoming facility, backed by medical, psychiatric and dietitian support.
She flew to Sydney, thousands of kilometres away from her family and friends, and entered the live-in program.
Nine months later she was expelled, a devastated, withdrawn child who could not leave her bedroom, let alone her house.
Nine months without medical treatment, nine months without any psychiatric care, nine months of being told she was not a good enough Christian to rid herself of the “demons” that were causing her anorexia and pushing her to self-harm. After being locked away from society for so long, Naomi started to believe them. “I just felt completely hopeless. I thought if Mercy did not want to help me where do I stand now?
“They say they take in the world’s trash, so what happens when you are Mercy trash?”
Two months after she had been expelled from Mercy’s Sydney house (her crime was to smoke a cigarette) Johnson ended up in Royal Perth Hospital’s psychiatric unit. From there she started seeing a psychologist at an outpatient program two to three times a week.
“Even now, three years on, I don’t socialise widely, I don’t work full time, I don’t study full time. Even now there is still a lot of remnants hanging around from my time at Mercy.
“The first psychologist I saw rang and spoke to Mercy. She wrote to them over a period of time, just trying to get answers. They were very evasive; they avoided her calls. Eventually she got some paperwork, some case notes, from them.”
Mercy Ministries made the psychologist sign a waiver that she wouldn’t take these notes to the media before they would release them. Johnson has signed no such waiver and, months ago, she posted her notes on the internet, almost as a warning to other young women considering a stint at Mercy Ministries.
Yet for so long she just wanted to go back to the Sydney house, because they had convinced her that Mercy was the only place that could help her.
“It is difficult to explain, in a logical sense. I know how very wrong the treatment, their program and their approach is, but the wounds are still quite deep, and even though I know that they were wrong, there is still a part of you that just even now wants to be accepted by Mercy.”
In the northern suburbs of Perth, in a large, one-storey home bordered by a well-tended cottage garden, the Johnson family is attempting to pick up the pieces of a life almost cut short by Mercy.
With two fox terriers at her feet and doors and windows shut against the relentless Western Australian heat, Johnson – a small, delicate young woman with a razor sharp mind – unveils a sophisticated, nuanced interpretation of her time in the Sydney house.
Careful and articulate, her struggle with the horror of her descent into despair at the hands of Mercy is only evidenced by the occasional tremor in her hands and voice as she describes her experience. She was sharing the house with 15 other girls and young women, with problems ranging from teenage pregnancies, alcohol and drug abuse, self harm, depression, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders.
“There were girls who had got messed up in the adult sex industry – a real range of problems, some incorporating actual psychiatric illness, others just dealing with messy lives, and the approach to all those problems was the same format,” Johnson says.
Counselling involved working through a white folder containing pre-scripted prayers.
“Most of the staff were current Bible studies or Bible college students, and that is it, if anything. You just cannot play around with mental illness when you do not know what you are doing. Even professionals will acknowledge that it is a huge responsibility working in that field, and that is people who have six years, eight years university study behind them.”
And while there was nothing that was formally termed “exorcism” in the Sydney house, Naomi was forced to stand in front of two counsellors while they prayed and spoke in tongues around her. In her mind, it was an exorcism. “I felt really stupid just standing there – they weren’t helping me with the things going on in my head. I would ask staff for tools on how to cope with the urges to self harm … and the response was: ‘What scriptures are you standing on? Read your Bible.”
Johnson had grown up in a Christian family; her belief in God was not the issue; anorexia and self harm were. “A major sticking point was when they told me I needed to receive the holy Spirit in me and speak in tongues, to raise my hands in worship songs and jump up and down on the spot in fast songs. I told them that I really didn’t understand how jumping up and down to a fast song at church was going to fix the anorexia, and yet that was a big, big sticking point, because it showed I was being resistant, cynical and holding back.”
Her mother, Julie Johnson, watches as she talks, anxious about the effect of her daughter’s decision to tell her story, yet immensely proud of her courage.
“Naomi was very determined to find somewhere that could help her. We didn’t have private health cover, so our resources were limited, so she searched the net and came across Mercy Ministries,” Julie Johnson says.
“It sounded very promising … she went off to Mercy a very positive young lady who finally had some hope that she was going to come back completely free of this eating disorder.”
And the family was excited, too, pleased that there was someone who could help their daughter beat anorexia. “But unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. They gave her hope and told her they would never give up on her but … in the end she got quite distraught that she was never able to please them.”
Johnson sent her parents a letter telling them she was not very well and that she was very confused with the kind of program Mercy Ministries was running.
“I called and spoke to her counsellor in person,” Julie Johnson said. “She told me that Naomi was lying to me, that Naomi was just rebelling … she was making the wrong choices.”
But instead of taking her mother’s concerns on board, the staff punished Naomi for disclosing anything about her time at the Sydney home.
“They told me that what happens in Mercy stays in Mercy, that what happens between the staff and Naomi stays at Mercy. It is not let out to the family,” Julie Johnson said. “We were isolated, we were not involved in her progress at Mercy, we were just excluded and yet we were a family that wanted to be behind her and they wouldn’t allow us to be.”
The situation came to a head when Johnson returned to the Sydney house after spending Christmas with her family in Perth. She was told she had been seen smoking at the airport and that she was being expelled from the program. Naomi phoned her mother in tears, and the staff informed her they were putting her on the next plane back to Perth.
“She was distraught; she was an absolute mess; her life was in danger. I could hear it, she was capable of anything, the anxiety was so extreme … she was just out of control,” Julie Johnson said. “I said to them, ‘There is no way you are going to send her
back on her own, she is suicidal. You will deliver her to me at the airport when I can get a flight over’.”
Mrs Johnson flew to Sydney to collect her daughter.
“She went into that place as a young lady and came back to us as a child. She was very confused, like she was 12 or 13. She shut herself in the bedroom and thought she was nothing but evil. Her self-esteem went down. She thought, ‘I may as well die.”‘
Johnson, now 24, and her mother, know how close the end had been.
The executive manager of programs with Mercy Ministries, Judy Watson, is proud of the organisation’s achievements, and rejects the claim that there are no staff qualified in psychiatry, psychology or counselling.
It appears that there is one registered psychologist at Mercy’s Sydney house, although the Herald understands that the little contact she has with the residents is around scriptures, not psychological care. She did not respond to a request for an interview.
In a written statement, Watson said: “Mercy Ministries counselling staff are required to have tertiary education and qualifications in counselling, social work or psychology. Staff also participate in externally provided supervision from psychologists.”
Yet she was unable to detail what qualifications each staff member had, or how many had qualifications beyond their one registered psychologist.
On the allegations that young women are denied medical and psychiatric care, Watson had this to say: “Residents’ mental and physical health concerns are taken very seriously, and appropriate treatment is made available.
“Mercy Ministries provides a range of services to young women in the program. Mercy Ministries provides services through either health professionals employed by Mercy Ministries, subcontracted to provide services to residents at Mercy Ministries, or taken to specialists at their practice.”
Rhiannon Canham-Wright and Megan Smith (not her real name) are two others who have suffered at the hands of Mercy Ministries, this time in the group’s Sunshine Coast house.
Smith had also been at university before she went into the Mercy Ministries house. She had been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, and thought a residential program with medical and psychiatric care would help get her illnesses under control. Yet almost from the moment she arrived she began to struggle.
Sitting in the courtyard of a cafe in a large, central Queensland town, as storm clouds gathered above, she told her story in a soft, quiet voice. Like Johnson, she is fiercely intelligent and articulate, focused and determined. She described her mental illness growing quickly out of control the longer she was subjected to the cruel, illogical treatment in the Sunshine Coast house.
“I was pulling my hair out – it’s a condition called trichotillomania,” said Smith, now 29. “However, it wasn’t bad before Mercy. I let the staff know about it because suddenly it had got a lot worse. Instead of taking me to the doctor to where I could have got assessed and got some medication, they just told me to forget about it.”
Her condition worsened without treatment, but she had no way of getting any medical care because the house was locked down most of the time.
“To take the rubbish bin out to the footpath we had to get special permission. If we stepped over the boundary we were kicked out of the program because it was treated as absconding. Even to go to the toilet or brush our teeth we had to have specific permission. It was such a sterile environment. We were not allowed to talk about our feelings, there was no family support, no friend’s support, and no professional support.”
Before long, Smith began to harm herself in other ways. Again she alerted the staff to her concerns. They reprimanded her for wasting their time, calling her a “fruitcake”, she said.
“The [staff member] said I was attention seeking, bringing negative energy to the environment and taking her valuable time away from girls who really need her.
“With this particular staff member, I know she had issues in the past, because she used to talk about it with the girls. She was open about it because she thought that was how God qualified her for the work that she did.
“But she had mood swings and anger problems. She would go from calm and normal to aggressively angry very quickly.”
Again, there was no medical treatment, just Bible studies and prayer reading, relentless cleaning and many rules that were often only revealed to residents when they broke one of them.
“I went to a residential place that said they help people with mental illness using qualified professionals, [instead] going there took away my help. Even the GP they took me to to get my prescriptions filled was their GP, who they said had been specifically chosen because they were supportive of ‘the Mercy way’. I wasn’t allowed to talk to the doctor by myself; they had a staff member or volunteer with us at all times.”
Asked to name the most valuable thing she learned in Mercy Ministries, she said, without hesitation and with much mirth: “cleaning”.
“I am no domestic goddess, so I needed all the help I could get.”
In both the Sydney and the Sunshine Coast house residents were prohibited from talking about their past, what brought them to Mercy, their struggles and problems.
“We were threatened with being kicked out if we did disclose anything,” Smith said. “It was a lot to do with control and manipulation, and it just shows that they did have that power over us. We could have talked and rebelled but we were so scared of them and just so desperate for help.
“I was really sucked in. That was my world; it was locked down 24/7, so anything the staff said I believed to be the truth.”
By the time Smith was expelled from Mercy, three months into her six-month stay, she was a mess. She was locked in a room and told she was not worth helping, she said, then driven to the airport and left alone to wait for a flight to her central Queensland home.
A family member met her at the airport. He had been told, incorrectly, by Mercy staff that Smith had chosen to leave. He was unprepared for the state she was in when she arrived.
“She was extremely upset. She didn’t want to come back at all … she was in a real mess,” said the relative, who did not want to be identified. “I was extremely fearful that she was likely to commit suicide. It was an extreme shock that this ministry we all had decided was the real deal had turned out to be a worse problem … it left her in a worse state than she had ever been in before.”
For two years just keeping her alive became a full-time job, he said. “Whenever she was alone for any length of time it was always a fear that she may not be alive when you got back. When you did get back there were quite a lot of times when she had a knife and she had been scratching her wrists.”
Since then Smith has received effective psychological care and is no longer at risk of self-harm or suicide. After more than a year of searching the internet, she found one other woman who had been at Mercy, using the social networking site Facebook. That is Canham-Wright, 26, another former resident of the Sunshine Coast house.
Canham-Wright, now living in Darwin with her daughter, 1, and her partner, describes every day as a struggle since she was thrown out of Mercy, after living there from July 2003 until the following March.
She had gone into Mercy Ministries just after her 21st birthday following a drug overdose and suffering bipolar disorder. Soon after she was in conflict with staff over her regular medication.
Canham-Wright has asthma, and yet she was prevented from having her ventolin with her at all times, she said.
“Every time I had an asthma attack they told me to stop acting … I was punished, I had to do an assignment about why God believes that lying is wrong.
“I was told, ‘You still have demons to battle with. Satan still has a huge control over your life. That is when the exorcism and the prayers over my life started.”
She got to the point where she no longer knew herself or what she believed in.
“They would call me into their office, saying that I was just make-believing and trying to get attention, and they would start praying over me. They would always pray for Satan to be dismissed out of my body.”
Every night there was a prayer meeting. “When someone wanted to have something prayed about in particular, we would all have to lay hands and the staff member … would perform an exorcism.”
You will find a donation box and pamphlet in every Gloria Jeans store soliciting donations for Mercy Ministries. “Your spare change helps transform a life,” the pamphlet reads.
Yet few who donate to Mercy understand they are giving money to fund exorcisms in a program that removes young women from proven medical therapies and places them in the hands of a house full of amateur counsellors. Its literature claims to have a 90 per cent success rate – yet nowhere does it publish any results.
The allegations by Johnson, Canham-Wright, Smith and others indicates the program cannot lay claim to such a success rate.
The internet is littered with other young women making similar allegations about the Mercy Ministries program.
One young woman wrote in January: “I have been to Mercy Ministries – I have seen so many girls hurt and abused there, it is really sickening. Many girls are also kicked out and leave there far worse off than before they went to get help.”
Another replied: “Mercy Ministries operates off the grid, and therefore can abuse and harm young women who go there.”
And yet Mercy continues to operate without the scrutiny of government authorities, under the radar and with impunity.
[This article was originally posted on Against Biblical Counseling and is being republished here to spotlight an abusive group: Mercy Ministries.]
Mercy’s Newest Mass Letter (From 2008, after an International scandal hit Mercy)
Recently, the following letter has been sent to Mercy Ministries Graduates. Nancy now apparently thinks that the best way to combat anti-Mercy sites is to make sure that no one can find them. This action is clearly taken so that anti-Mercy sites will not appear on search engines, but only favorable quotes from P.O.G. and Natalie Grant supporters. Nancy is now engaging in cyber-warfare. Congrats, Nancy. Unfortunately, however, since my site’s name is AGAINST BIBLICAL COUNSELING, what you are doing is unlikely to affect me or Sean. Let’s hope anyways.
TO ALL FORMER MERCY RESIDENTS!!! Thanks so much to those of you who went online and posted comments on Natalie Grant’s Blog. We need your help to continue getting the positive message about Mercy Ministries and Nancy Alcorn out there on the Internet! We wanted to let you know about another blog. Long-time friend and major supporter of Mercy, Shelley Breen, from the group Point of Grace, has posted a blog on the Point of Grace Website about Mercy Ministries and Nancy Alcorn. Check it out at http://www.pointofgrace.net/blog-detail.php?pageid=706628.
Here’s how you can help us: 1. Put a LINK on your own Blog or MySpace page to the Point of Grace Blog (http://www.pointofgrace.net/blog-detail.php?pageid=706628) and Natalie Grant’s Blog (http://www.nataliegrant.com/2008/11/06/i-love-mercy-ministries-nancy-alcorn/). Be sure to use the words Nancy Alcorn AND Mercy Ministries in the description. It won’t help us if you just include Mercy or Nancy – you need to include both Mercy Ministries and Nancy Alcorn to get the highest ratings on the search engines.
2. Copy the text from Point of Grace’s Blog and Natalie Grant’s Blog and put it on your own sites.
3. Write about Mercy Ministries and Nancy Alcorn on your own blog / MySpace pages.
4. Click on the links and read the articles. (AMOUNT OF TIME SPENT ON A SITE HELPS TOO!!!)
5. Post a comment on Natalie Grant’s Blog (http://www.nataliegrant.com/2008/11/06/i-love-mercy-ministries-nancy-alcorn/). There are currently 76 comments and it’s not too late for you to post your own comments. Again, be sure to use the words Mercy Ministries and Nancy Alcorn somewhere in your comment. Thank you for your help – we want to be a light in the darkness and make sure the positive message about Mercy Ministries is easily found for the many young women who are desperate for help.
Thanks for all you do,
[Article reposted for educational purposes under Fair Use.]
I’ve written almost exclusively about Master’s Commission and Our Savior’s Church here at My Cult Life for almost two years. I rarely mention other groups, with the exception of Teen Mania Ministries, because the amount of abusive groups out there is vast.
Awhile ago, I came into contact with a Mercy Ministries insider. I’ll call her Anne. Anne and I became friends and she shared her Mercy Ministries experience with me. Little did I know, that I would find a kindred spirit in Anne and eventually feel compelled to help her get help with her story.
I’m a writer and I’m an experienced researcher. It didn’t take long to channel my experience as a whistleblower to help Anne on her story. Several weeks after she and I spoke, I found another Mercy Ministries insider who was from Australia (before Mercy’s big scandal, shut-down and legal action taken against them). Weeks after my first article came out about Mercy, a father of a Mercy Ministries girl sent me an email. This father ended up connecting me with a handful of other survivors who wanted to tell their stories.
Now the list of Mercy Ministries survivors is growing larger.
The girls’ personal stories are heart-breaking and awful.
I can’t disclose some of the stories yet, because I’m working on a larger project involving them but I’ve asked some of the girls to share their stories and experiences. They’ve also graciously allowed me to re-post some of their blog posts and personal stories that have been published on the web before.
I share their stories here and welcome the Mercy Ministries Survivors. Please make them feel at home and let’s help them get the justice they deserve.
This post originally appeared on “Sarah’s Collage” a blog written by a Mercy insider who attend the program in Australia.
Since around the beginning of the year, myself and some other fellow survivors have been involved in a struggle to have our respective client files released to us.
(Some coverage of this can be found here, compliments of Sean the Blogonaut).
As this is public domain, I will speak only for the situation involving myself.
When all of this began, I fasted and prayed my heart out, considered scripture and discussed the issue with a few wise friends.
After much delay and Mercy’s subsequent refusal, a bunch of phone calls, intervention of a Lawyer and the Privacy Commissioner and further delay, I received an incomplete file.
Prior to my appointment on Tuesday evening, I did not expect that I would feel troubled by its contents. In fact, I did not expect to feel anything at all.
This was true of most of it, even of the more sensitive material.
Some of it that would have troubled me years ago actually made me laugh out loud.
There was only one thing really that I felt a bit disturbed by. It related to one of the major traumatic events I experienced there, and the account of that event was so twisted and untrue. For a second, I felt that old familiar feeling again of having my sanity put in question.
I was glad to have my Psychologist present to share a good chuckle with.
I just feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to heal from that experience with the help of some safe, wise and discerning women in my world. Not all girls have had that opportunity, but God can use many things to heal an abused heart.
I can see how going through one’s own file with a sane, trusted and qualified person can be a significant healing experience for those who are still reeling from the impact, even several years on.
Having that choice restored to us is healing in itself, validating of our adulthood and our own ability to make decisions that are in the best interests of our healing.
I am yet to receive the remaining documents, and after several delays I have come to expect that I will not be receiving it any time soon, and definitely not before I go into hospital in about two weeks.
So today, I am thanking God for victory, for healing and restoration in the lives of survivors both here and abroad, for the voice He has restored to me, and most of all I am thanking him that my suffering was not in vain.
I asked Lloyd Zeigler to provide for me the original letter sent to MC 3D, or as they now call themselves, Experience 3D, of the accusations he was presenting to them, in order to verify that all my issues were addressed, and also because a large group of people I had referred to him had contacted him with their issues. I want to ensure that their concerns were correctly addressed; however, I have not received any of these original documents, which Lloyd has promised to me the past two months. I assume they will be coming by the end of the month, but of that I can not be sure. I’ll share them here when I receive them, as I feel it’s our right as former students and staff to read them.I don’t believe any organization should hide those from the people they are trying to help.
While I’m truly sad that MC3D did not ever respond to my letters, or begin the dialogue I asked them to begin when I sent letters and made phone calls over two and a half years ago, I am happy that there was an investigation and appropriate action taken from the MCIN on the behalf of students and staff who have experienced abuse. This is a big statement for the MCIN to take to stand up against abuse.
I have much more to say about my OWN investigations into the misuse of staff members as unpaid interns and volunteers in the Master’s Commission International Network, Master’s Commission USA and groups of that nature, but I will save that for a post next week.
Look for it soon, but until then, please feel free to read the following letter and share it with anyone who has experienced abuse under the Master’s Commission 3D program that is currently directed by Gred Thompson, and formerly was directed by Nathan Davies and Tim Wilson. This Master’s Commission group is currently located in Lafayette, LA under the umbrella of Our Savior’s Church http://www.oursaviorschurch.com , an independent church senior pastored by Daniel and Maria Jones and senior associate pastors, Stuart and Lindsay Rollings, and associate pastors Nathan and Natalie Davies.
Master’s Commission 3D changed their name today to Experience 3D, as a result of the Master’s Commission International Network removing their affiliation status.
Part of the Experience 3D website http://www.leadin3d.com/#/welcome states: “Allow us to stress that this program is not for “ministry prima donnas”. We understand true, Biblical ministry to be servanthood. Much of a person’s character is built while doing the “unglamorous tasks” of ministry. A goal of Master’s is to cultivate Biblical character and servant leadership.”
What they mean to say by “ministry prima donnas” is that “servanthood” is their main way of training their students for leadership in churches. What they mean by servanthood is modern day slavery, where you as the student or parent will be paying to be used by the senior pastors and associate pastors of Our Savior’s Church, in order to be their live-in gardener, nanny, janitor, etc. all under the guise of become a “servant” to God. God has NO part in that form of servanthood!
If you’d like to read more about this “servanthood,” be my guest. There are many details on this website, and more first-hand accounts to come from this so-called leadership school.
Many thanks to the hours the MCIN Board spent meeting and discussing each student and staff members concerns when it came to these issues. I greatly appreciate each one of you taking action and responding to the great many written and verbal statements you received from this website and from people I’ve spoken to over the years. I was told this was a unanimous vote, and for that I am thankful.
I hope this incident will help Master’s Commission be a healthier place for students to attend in future years, if they should feel the need to go. Based on my experiences in Master’s Commission and the research and statements I’ve received over the years, I can not endorse or support any Master’s Commission group to students or parents who ask my opinion. However, if you do choose to go, I wish you the best, and I hope you realize that after today’s action the MCIN has taken against abuse, they’re working on becoming more of an advocate for students rights.
Since the MCIN does read this blog, I do wish that you would revisit and address the issue of payment for staff members, or “interns” or “volunteers” as many of you call them. I will be posting blogs relating to this issue in the weeks to come.
Please make that your next issue of concern, as I addressed it in 2008 and it has not yet been actualized.
August 26, 2010
RE: MASTER’S COMMISSION 3D AFFILIATE STATUS
To Whom It May Concern:
Master’s Commission International Network (“MCIN”) recently received several reports from individuals formerly associated with “Master’s Commission 3D” located in Broussard, Louisiana (“MC3D”). These reports were received in the form of letters, blog posts, and verbal reports.
In response to these varied reports, MCIN undertook and completed an investigation concerning MC3D. As part of its investigation, MCIN requested that MC3D provide MCIN’s Board of Directors (the “Board”) a detailed response to the various allegations and other concerns. Having concluded its investigation, MCIN presented the results to the Board.
In light of the facts and information presented to the Board, and after careful deliberation, the Board decided to terminate MC3D’s status as a Master’s Commission “Affiliate”.
We know this decision may affect students currently enrolled at MC3D, and as such, we informed MC3D that should any of their students desire to relocate to another Master’s Commission Affiliate in good standing, MCIN is available to assist them and answer questions they may have in that regard.
MCIN values the commitment and contribution of all students and leadership associated with the Master’s Commission Affiliates. Accordingly, we believe that our actions in this regard were both appropriate and necessary.
Lloyd Zeigler, Chairman
Master’s Commission International Network