Mercy Ministries Lincoln
● By Wendy Sipple
Photo by Dante Fontana
You hear it all over the news. Binge drinking and substance abuse is on the rise among teenage girls.
Eating disorders and self-harm issues are rampant among young women who are trying to make sense of the world around them. But Mercy Ministries offers hope and help to women struggling with these and other issues.
Founded in the early 1980s, Mercy Ministries offers residential care homes for women and teen girls, ages 13 to 28, with life controlling issues. Drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and self-harming behaviors are just some of the problems the ministry addresses. Physical and sexual abuse, depression, and unplanned pregnancy are issues residents seek help for as well. With four facilities in the United States, the new residence is a welcome addition in Lincoln.
“We had been looking at putting a home in California, knowing the need on the West Coast for a facility like this,” says Cheryl Bangs, the Lincoln facility’s program director. Lincoln was chosen, in part, because Buzz Oats donated the land and seed money to start the local program. “Buzz wanted to leave a legacy – so he and his family started [researching] how to open a home for troubled girls. He found that there were already people doing this, and quite successfully,” says Bangs.
After getting to know program founder Nancy Alcorn, Oats gladly gifted the property. The doors to the facility – which houses 19 women and room for 21 more – opened on October 1. What makes Mercy Ministries unique is their inclusion of scripture and faith in healing.
“We’re biblically based; we don’t just focus on the behaviors, but on getting to the core of why women have the behaviors,” shares Bangs. “We focus on Jesus Christ and how he has a plan for each and every one of the girls.”
With an average age of women in their mid-20s at the Lincoln facility, Bangs explains that eating disorders and self-harming behaviors are the biggest issues for women needing assistance. “These issues are rampant and increasing in our society,” she says. “Some of it is media driven – women are striving for the perfect body.”
The program typically takes about six months to complete, though there’s not a specific time guideline. “We teach women how to make choices to be successful once they’re outside of the program. Our society doesn’t always acknowledge that women are of great value,” says Bangs.
Mercy Ministries, which is funded by donations, operates under three core principals: Take girls in, free of charge; tithe ten percent of monies to other ministries; and never accept money with strings attached or with terms that would inhibit the organization from sharing biblical truths with their residents.
There are 700 girls and women on a waiting list for the Lincoln facility and others elsewhere. “The Lincoln facility is 23,000 square feet and very upscale. We make sure the homes are nice so [that] the girls understand they are valuable and worthy. They’re surrounded by beauty,” says Bangs.
For more information about Mercy Ministries, visit mercyministries.org.