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Lincoln home helps girls from all over heal

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Girls from across the country who need a place to get their lives on track have a place in Lincoln to do so. That place is called Mercy Ministries, a residential facility for girls ages 18 to 28 who are “seeking freedom from life-controlling issues” including eating disorders, depression, physical and sexual abuse, and self harm, according to Mercy Ministries officials. The 23,000 square foot home is located at 1896 McLain Drive. The Lincoln location opened in October, according to Cheryl Bangs, program director for Lincoln’s Mercy Ministries home. Currently, 20 girls live in the home, with two from Australia and others from around the United States, including Illinois, Idaho and Montana. There are three other Mercy Ministries homes in the United States, in Monroe, La., Nashville, Tenn., and St. Louis, Mo. Homes are also in Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In Lincoln, there are three counselors, a nutrition manager and a director of medicine to administer medication and take the girls to the doctor if needed, according to Bangs. There is also a staff member on hand available for the girls nightly if they need help. Bangs said the girls are all voluntarily at the program. “Our goal is success,” Bangs said. “We take anybody but they need to be ready.” This means they need to be ready for the program because “it creates a total life change.” Bangs said Mercy Ministries is founded on three principals, which are to take girls in free of charge, give 10 percent of every donation taken in to other Christian ministries or charities and never “take any government funding because it could limit our being able to spread the love of Christ with the girls.” The News Messenger toured the center Tuesday, guided by Bangs and Kaci Davis, community- relations manager for Lincoln’s Mercy Ministries home. Also along for the tour was Ken Campbell, a Lincoln resident supportive of what Mercy Ministries Lincoln is doing. “I just think what these guys are doing is great, taking girls at a dead end and turning them around 180 degrees,” said Campbell, who said he has a sister who went through a similar program. “This is something good happening locally.” Mercy Ministries runs on donations, including a donation of the land and $2.5 million for the building of the home from Buzz Oates, a commercial real-estate developer from the Sacramento area. On the tour, The News Messenger walked through the house, seeing the kitchen, dining area, living room and library. The girls share rooms and, according to Bangs, the rooms are only for sleeping because the girls need “to be in common areas at all times while awake.” Davis said this is because the girls go through counseling sessions and deal with issues, “and it’s more beneficial to be around people who can help rather than alone with their thoughts.” The girls are also not supposed to share the reason they are at Mercy Ministries, because Bangs said, the “other residents are not there to counsel one another.” While the girls aren’t allowed to have cell phones or Internet while at the home, they can write letters and receive and make phone calls on certain days, according to Bangs. During free time, they watch movies, work on assignments and sometimes go on outings. Bangs said the girls also go the mall every Friday to have lunch and shop with their own money. They also go on other group outings, such as concerts or King’s games if donated tickets are received. “It’s fun to get them out of the house and it’s good to get them away from the home,” Bangs said. The girls have a structured day, starting at 7:30 a.m., and lights out at 10 p.m. The girls eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time every day, and have “work detail,” which are household chores like vacuuming, washing dishes and dusting. Residents attend individualized counseling weekly to deal with their issues, and attend daily classes, which are “all biblical concepts teaching them how to walk life with tools.” Bangs said Mercy Ministries is not affiliated with any denomination but is Christian based and offers counseling from a Biblical perspective. “We believe in the Bible, and believe it has details for how we should live life,” she said. “You can have a good life and learn how to make the right choices.” Bangs said the girls face issues in their lives, turning to behaviors like eating disorders and self-harm to cope. Mercy Ministries teaches them positive coping skills, “using the word of God to help them learn to make good choices.” “Often they’ve been a victim but don’t have to have a victim mentality,” Bangs said. “We believe they’ve been created by God as unique people with a destiny and that’s part of what we teach. We teach them how to hear what he is saying for their plan.”