Culled from the book Echoes of Mercy by Nancy Alcorn
The Gospel does not guarantee that every young woman who comes to us will automatically be restored. One of the major way a Christian ministry differs from a secular treatment program is that a Christian knows that people can, and often do, reject mercy. We do everything humanly possible to save girls from self-destruction, but we cannot make their choices and God does not make their choices for them either. For He said in His word
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV)
The only way I can explain the painful agony some girls endure and the ultimate deception of the enemy is to paint a picture of a graphic, but heartbreakingly true story. Rachel came to us after she had experienced remarkably horrible treatment at the hands of almost every person she should have been able to trust. The following paragraphs are an actual account of some of the gruesome events of Rachel’s life as told to her counselor in her one-on-one sessions. Of course, the names have been changed.
FIRST COUNSELLING SESSION 6/7/90
Rachel had suffered physical, mental, and sexual abuse before she was five or six years old, she had been sexually abused by several of her mother’s boyfriends. Rachel’s mother was promiscious; she had a baby, whom she beat to death when she was drunk.,Rachel’s mother showed no remorse. The police covered it up because they slept with her mom. Rachel’s mom told her about this and that she didn’t feel bad. Later, Rachel used drugs and did the same things her mom had done. Rachel feels she has now forgiven her mother but her mom doesn’t want Rachel. Rachel doesn’t know her father was her real dad. Around five or six years of age Rachel was taken away from her mother. She stayed with an elderly woman who was a Christian and they went to church. When she was twelve years old she asked Jesus to come into her heart.
Then Rachel was adopted by non-Christians – John and Patty Sanders. John abused her sexually as well as physically and mentally. Patty told her daughters she didn’t love them or want them. John had intercourse with Rachel several times. He abused her and played with her mind; threatened her, and told her not to tell anyone he had sex with her.
Her second foster parents were wealthy. They did not abuse her, but she became suicidal because of her painful past.
Rachel next lived in a group home. There was no abuse. She graduated. She loved school and lived at a group home for two years. During this time, Rachel read horoscopes and a counselor predicted her future with tarot cards.
COUNSELING SESSION 6/27/90
Tyrone, the father of Rachel’s baby, sells drugs and is a pimp. Rachel had sexual relations with Tyrone (who was manipulative and controlling), Mike Daniels, Dwayne, Kelvin (miscarried his baby),George, Don Farmer, and Leroy(he’s dead now; was shot in the head over money).
COUSELING SESSION 7/24/90
Rachel had a counselor. Tina Bellows .Tina said she didn’t understand how Rachel would make it with all her baggage,She thought Rachel should be put in an institution.
COUNSELING SESSION 8/14/90
Some of her neighbors said that while Rachel’s mom worked at a beer joint, she left the kids in the car. The children would get out and play in a nearby dumpster. The neighbors also said they saw them eating out of the dump. Rachel now has a problem with her weight. She’s afraid she won’t have any food to eat, like in the past. Her adoptive parents told her she was obese. They would make her run three miles and she had to weigh in every day. She would sneak food. Rachel didn’t understand why men abused her. She told herself she was going to get fatter so men wouldn’t look at her. But Rachel also hated herself because she couldn’t lose weight. She would beat herself for it. Ms Baker never disciplined her harshly.
Rachel’s mom had killed one of her brothers so Rachel vowed she’d never have children because she didn’t want to treat them the way her mom treated her. Rachel has had two miscarriages. She told Tyrone their baby that she was expecting was a mistake. Tyrone told her he hoped she got AIDS and died.
COUNSELING SESSION 8/28/90
Rachel said she had vowed that if she ever had a baby girl she would not let her husband ever touch her or even be close to her. Rachel also vowed that if she ever married and her husband beat her or her kids, she would kill him. Rachel fears death, spanking children, and being beaten. She remembers times when she was young: she would try to run away andd live in the woods. Scooter, her mom’s boyfriend, would chase her and beat her and torment her. He would burn her with cigarettes and beat her with a two-by-four rope. He would poke her and say he was going to beat her. Scooter sexually abused her. Then her mom would hit her repeatedly.
COUNSELING SESSION 10/17/90
Rachel told us about a letter from her mom. Her mother turned her life over to God after reading Rachel’s letter. She has given up smoking and drinking. Her mom has cancer, diabetes arthritis, heart problems, and many other things wrong with her. Rachel wants to see her sometime but wants to be ready.
Rachel’s story is a similar story of the kind of grils that come to our home.We believe that with the transformating power of Jesus Christ we can make a difference in the lives of these young girls.
COUNSELING SESSION 11/7/90
When she was six years old, Rachel drowned a puppy. Her mom and a friend had fought and taken it out on the kids, Rachel was angry with her mom so took it out on the puppy. She put her puppy under the water and made him stay under there. She didn’t want him to get out. It was an accident.
Rachel watched the movies Benjy; and this upset her. It reminded her of the time Scooter, her mom’s boyfriend, had tortured her and her brothers and her dogs in the front yard. Rachel was about three or four years old. He killed her dogs in front of her-he took the only thing she had. Rachel wanted Scooter dead. She begged a man named Tony to kill him. Scooter abused her brothers and she hated him for it. Scooter made her do back bends without her clothes on for one hour. He forced her to perform perverse acts against her will. He locked her out of the house while he abused her brothers, but she could hear them screaming.
COUNSELING SESSION 11/26/90
Rachel talked about anger, violence, and cursing. Two years ago she had a fight and cut a girl named Marie with knife. Rachel said she preferred black men to whites. She started dating black men when she was sixteen. Mike, a white boy, had broken her heart. She really loved him. It took years to started dating Tyrone after this, and Mike’s family was angry at her for dating a black man. Rachel had loved Mike and had given him her heart. After this, she closed her heart.
When Rachel arrived on the steps of Mercy Ministries, a war was raging inside her. She needed help in every area of her life, from her doubts, fear, and nightmares to her poor eating habits. Mostly she needed deliverance from her bitterness against those who had abused and violated her.
Despite her horrendous past, Rachel’s life began to take a miraculous turn at Mercy Ministries. Through prayer and the reaching of the Word, she was able to forgive the people of her past. The Bible came alive to her.
Rachel’s progress was steady. She had finally come into a life of joy in the freedom Jesus Christ had given. But once Rachel was on the road to real restoration, the ultimate fight for her soul began.
Rachel decided she was ready to leave the home. Her counselors agreed that she had improved but not to the point of maturity needed to live outside the home. We pleaded with her to stay. But she made her decision, and against the advice of the Mercy Ministries staff, Rachel left. We knew she wasn’t ready.
Once it became clear that her heart was set on leaving, we tried to make the best of a bad situation. We advised her to enter a half house to make her society reentry process smoother. She agreed but only stayed a few weeks. In an attempt to keep her from drifting further away, we encouraged her to move in with a Christian family that not only graciously provided her a place to stay, but gave her a job in the family business. We hoped for the best but were still concerned.
Despite our efforts to help and influence of the family she stayed with, Rachel was descending toward destruction. Although she had tasted the good life, she longed for the old. She disregarded the guidelines set by her new family and stayed out till all hours of night with non- Christian friends. Finally, the couple explained to Rachel that despite their love and their desire to see her prosper spiritually, they had a responsibility to their own children and if she could not abide by the rules laid out for her, she could no longer stay.
Instead of repenting, Rachel left. She knew she was returning to what she had been freed from. But she claimed she could wait until later to get her life straightened out. “I’m just not ready yet,” she said.
A few months later I received a call from my sister. “Nancy,” she said, “I’ve just heard some terrible news. Rachel has been murdered. They found her body. It’s awful what was done to her.”
My knees nearly collapsed under my body as my mind caught up with my heart.
As we later found out, Rachel had returned to her mother’s home. She had always had an underlying need for her mother’s acceptance. At the urging of her mother, Rachel married someone she had just met. Four months later, on a Wednesday, her new husband reported her missing. That Friday she was found tied up in a field, She had multiple stab wounds and head injuries. It looked as if a hollow steel pipe had been pounded into her head, face, and chest. The man she married was later arrested and charged with Rachel’s murder. He is rumored to be a Satanist.
The agonizing reality that Rachel had had the opportunity set before her to have abundant life haunts me often. Every day I encounter girls who live nightmares like this, and I have no guarantee they will come out serving God. What I do have is a calling to serve God and to do His work no matter what the cost, no matter what the loss.
Amazingly, the vast majority of the young women who come to Mercy Ministries do find restoration. They make the choice to live God’s way, and their live are totally transformed by the power of the Gospel. After they leave the homes, they go on to lead stable and mature Christian lives. Despite their struggles with pain, doubts, and temptation, they persevere in this thing called abundant life.
These girls are my heroes.
Lives That Have Been Restored
For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me .Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
From as far back as she could remember, Rhonda endured both physical and sexual abuse. By the time she was four years old she was taken from her home because of abuse she had suffered. Though removed from the situation, the experience remained. Her early suicide attempts seemed inevitable.
Growing up, she was tossed from one state psychiatric program to another and was shuffled in and out of foster homes and correctional institutions. No treatment program could heal the wounds. No foster program could offer the much-needed stability. No correctional institution could offer her true freedom. Her situation became worse as she grew older. The pain she had been through as a child was manifested in bitterness and rebellion. A life of lesbianism offered protection from the abuse embedded in her mind.
Rhonda grew to be six feet, two inches tall. To escape the painful reality of her past she began hiding her insecurities behind drugs, alcohol, and eventually, food. Rhonda grew to weigh over three hundred pounds, allowing her to dress only in men’s clothes. Her poor self-image led her deeper into lesbian life-style-ultimately reinforcing her sense of hopelessness.
Rhonda eventually realized she needed help from an outside source and sought guidance from a local pastor. He could see by the look in her eyes that she needed a refuge – not only fro her past but from the war in her mind.
But where could Rhonda go to find true freedom when she was so controlled by her addictions? Where could she go to find peace when all she had known was turmoil? Where could she go to find security when all she had known was insecurity? Through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit the pastor knew where to send her. Rhonda came to Mercy Ministries. She came to Jesus.
Although she desperately needed to escape from her seemingly hopeless situation, Rhonda did not immediately agree to come to Mercy Ministries. Our rules forbid her form smoking and drinking, both of which she was in bondage to. But she ultimately feared failure. Perhaps you have felt this way at some point in your life. The feeling of trying yet again to make something positive happen only to see the winds of defeat claim your dream and your faith. In the past, so many places that were supposed to have helped Rhonda left her feeling helpless. Why should Mercy Ministries be different from all the other places with good intentions and fruitless efforts?
Despite her doubts, Rhonda realized that her life would not change by itself. By the time she left our care the only way I can describe her is to say that she was one of the most gorgeous young women I have ever seen! She lost over a hundred and twenty-five pounds, changed her glasses to contacts, and replaced the men’s clothes that had once offered security with clothes fitting of the woman she had become. But beyond these remarkable changes was the amazing difference we saw in her face. A face shows a glimpse of heart, and Rhonda’s face was hardened with bitterness and despair when she arrived at Mercy Ministries. When she left, however, her countenance reflected the joy and peace only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We had been allowed to witness her transformation from being an overweight, bitter. Frightened child into a beautiful, forgiven woman of God. Lesbianism was part of her past and had been replaced with a pure life-style and Godly male friends. Most incredibly, although the physical change was so overwhelming, the change in her heart could bring a person to their knees. This was a heart that had been hurt at the hands of man and then healed by the hands of God.
After witnessing many such transformations by the grace and Mercy of God, I, too, am often brought to my knees as I try to understand fully the awesome love pf our holy and righteous Lord.
Rhonda now lives in Monroe, offering to others the selfless love offered to her. She takes meals to the elderly and works with a prison ministry. She still visits Mercy Ministries from time to time to volunteer her time to place that changed her life forever.
Rhonda is one of my heroes.
A Christian heritage does not guarantee that a person will turn from a life of sin. Chris is a classic example of this sad reality. She was raised in a spirit filled home where Christ was worshiped as Lord and savior. When I met Chris there was nothing about her that suggested she had ever heard of Jesus Christ or His love.
Chris is a beautiful woman. The hardness of her face, however, vividly revealed the life she had lived. By age thirty she was pregnant for the fifth time, had already had two abortions and two miscarriages, and had been married three times. She seemed destined to spend her life on the road to destruction and ruin.
Chris had once owned a beauty salon, but she lost it due to her irresponsibility. She was too caught up in her life-style of heavy cocaine use and illicit sex to worry about anything other than her own wants and desires. After losing the shop, Chris managed to pay her bills by working at other salons. Yet, her drug use and violent temper robbed her of the opportunity to hold a steady job. Once she even beat up another employee.
Her fifth pregnancy led an unsuspecting Chris into the arms of a waiting Savior and to Mercy Ministries. She had scheduled a visit to Planned Parenthood for her third abortion. ”Why not?” She thought to herself. ”I’ve been doing so much Cocaine, the baby will probably be deformed anyway”.
Chris did not need Planned Parenthood. But where could she go to have a face-to face encounter with God and a realization of her sin? Where could she go to find an alternative to abortion? Where could she go to find people who would pray with her and give her spiritual guidance despite her strong will? Chris came to Mercy Ministries. She came to Jesus.
One day, while struggling with the consequences of her sins, she picked up the phone. “Dad, it’s me.” As she told her father of her intentions, tears flowed on both ends of the phone. He pleaded with her not to go through with the abortion. “Chris, do what is right. Please don’t do it this time!”
Chris sobbed as he told her about a place that offered the help she so desperately needed. “I know of a woman who has a place called Mercy Ministries. They help girls like you. She came to our church one Sunday and told all about it, and I know she can help you. Can I send her to talk to you?”
Chris agreed to the meeting but refused to cancel herb appointment with Planned Parenthood.
I’ll never forget that morning. It was early and I was on my way out the door when the phone rang. Chris’s dad related her story to me. I sensed the urgency and knew that this was a meeting only God could have arranged.
I knew I would encounter resistance from Chris, but I also knew the power of God could change her heart. I called our staff together to pray. I felt the Lord urging me to bring one of the girls who had been through the home for unwed mothers and now worked for Mercy Ministries. I believed Chris might see herself in the life this girl.
When we arrived at Chris’s apartment, the tears had ceased and the wall she had built around herself dared us to enter. Though she was cordial, she obviously had no desire to hear our message. After talking with her at this time. As we left we silently prayed that something we had said would eventually seep through the cracks and invade the pain of her past. She thanked us for coming but she was still planning to have an abortion.
As if the Holy Spirit grabbed my tongue, the Scripture of Matthew 10:19- “Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak” (KJV) – was placed into action. “Chris,” I said, reaching into my purse, “maybe we’re not going to be able to help you, but we just got this video back. We’re really trying to come up with some effective ways to reach people with situations just like yours. Would you mind taking a look at it and telling us if you think it would be an effective tool? The videotape was from a Mercy Ministries “Celebration of Life ” rally and included testimonies of people whose lives had been changed through their relationship with Mercy Ministries.
“I guess so,” said Chris. “You came to talk to me. The least I can do is Watch your video.”
I popped the videotape into her VCR, raised a “thank-you” to heaven, and continued to trust that God was somehow working in this situation. Music from a popular contemporary Christian group played, then testimonies were given by girls and families who had believed there was no hope for their circumstances until God showed them that He is the author of hope. Then, as pictures of babies who had been born and adopted through our ministry flashed on the screen along with a brief glimpse of an aborted fetus, Chris’s hardened heart broke under the tender touch of the Holy Spirit. She watched until the tape ended. Finally, almost in a whisper, she asked the questions that haunt so many who fall by the wayside in our fallen world: “Do you really think there is hope for me? Do you really think I can change? Do you really think God still loves me?”
Chris didn’t go to Planned Parenthood that days later she arrived at our home in Louisiana.
Yet, even though she had agreed to go to Mercy Ministries, she was still very strong-willed. When she arrived, the first thing she told our staff was, “I didn’t come here for you to try to save my soul. I came here for you to save my baby.” She had resolved not to be changed during her stay at Mercy Ministries. Often though, our plans and God’s plans are very different.
Instead of arguing with Chris, we offered love and understanding and left everything else to the divine intervention of the Lord. We felt it was a major victory that she had decided not to abort her Child . We thought that, perhaps, as she grew more comfortable with her surroundings and gained a greater knowledge of the Gospel, her attitude would soften. “In her mind, she’s come here for only one reason,” we prayed, “but, Lord, we trust that you have brought her here for another reason as well.”
Although we knew the Holy Spirit was working, we saw no evidence of a change in Chris. In fact, her attitude grew worse each day. As she participated in Bible classes and attended prayer sessions, Chris became increasingly hostile and cynical. She lost her temper more than once, leaving few words unspoken as she released her colorful vocabulary on our staff members. Something had to happen.
Finally we felt we had to confront Chris about her actions.
“Chris, the reason you are so miserable is because the Holy Spirit has you under conviction,” we told her. ”The reason you are under conviction is because an unholy heart cannot come into the presence of a holy God without coming head-to-head with the reality of its sin. We’ve all sinned, Chris. Not one of us her is exempted-we simply quit fighting His love and accepted it as something that is freely given. He doesn’t care how many abortions you’ve had, or how many men you’ve slept with, or how many needles have penetrated the veins in your arms. He cares about you, about your hurts and your pain, and about your dreams and your future. He wants to forgive you. Not because you deserve it, Chris, but because He loves you.”
Miraculously, the walls fell and for the first time our words fell on listening ears.
“You’re going through what King David talked about.” We often tell the girls about David’s escapade with Bathsheba-how he saw something he liked that belonged to someone else. He took it and used it for his pleasure, then tried to destroy anything that stood in the way of his own pleasure. Listen to how David prayed to God.
There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. All day and night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ”I will confess them to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. (Psalm 32: 3-5 TLB)
We read to her what David said: “What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who confessed their sins and God has cleared their records” (Ps.32: 1-2 TLB).
The Holy Spirit finally broke through. Chris realized Jesus’ promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” ( 1 John 1: 9). Gradually we began to see small changes occur. Every day was a new victory in Chris walk with Christ. The past that she could not forget was now forgiven. The temper that had lost her jobs was now controlled and under submission. The staff that she once so rudely addressed had now become her friends, her prayer partners, her mentors. The other girls, who called her “Miss Know-it-All,” now saw a changed heart that was eager to learn. She developed a hunger for the Word and invited every opportunity to learn more about the Lord. She consumed herself with Bible classes, the Word, and teaching tapes.
God continued to prove Himself to Chris. One incident involved direct intervention. On our first visit to Chris’s apartment she had allowed us to pray for the health of her unborn baby. With her constant drugs use, deformity of the fetus was a very real possibility. However, as Chris grew in her new life, her child also grew. In answer to our prayers, an ultrasound showed that the baby was completely healthy. Chris decided to leave our home to live with her parent two months before the baby was due. She felt God clearly guiding her to keep her baby.
One month prior to her due date, Chris water broke. Chris’s first reaction was fear that it was too early. We learned, however, that if the baby had not been born at that time, it would have been born dead. The umbilical cord had wrapped itself around the baby’s neck and there was no room for additional growth in the womb. The baby would have eventually suffocated. The doctor could not explain why her water had broken early, but Chris knew God answering prayer prayed from earnest heart.
After the birth of her son, Chris knew it was time to find a job. She decided to go back to the beauty salon from which she had been fired. When she arrived, She told her former boss, “I Know I look like Chris. But I’m not the same person who used to work here. I’m changed.” By the time she finished sharing her testimony, the woman was in tears. The same lady who had fired her rehired her. And Chris was shown another demonstration of God’s restoration.
Since then, Chris has led several Bible studies with her fellow workers. I have been privileged to attend a couple of these meetings and have left each one deeply moved by Chris’s simple yet elegant presentation of the Gospel message. As a result of Chris’s boldness for Christ and her willingness to put her life with all its mistakes in other people’s view, many people have realized God can change them too and have become Christians.
Chris has become the top hairdresser in her salon, and she gives a portion of what she makes each month to Mercy Ministries so other young women can receive the same help she was given. Chris occasionally accompanies me to churches to share the dynamic story of God’s grace in her life and her incredible transformation. She now has beautiful relationship with her family-God has truly restored Chris.
Chris is one of my heroes.