The statistics are shocking: in the UK, 1 in 15 young people self harm (the highest rate in Europe); 1 in 4 women have been sexually violated; 1 in 4 people will be prescribed anti-depressants, and 1 in 20 people have an eating disorder.
At Mercy UK, we see these statistics not as figures on a page, but as living, breathing people, struggling to face yet another day of despair, captivity and brokenness. As a Christian charity, we feel a sense of responsibility as “those who are strong and able in the faith to lend a hand to those who falter, and not do what is most convenient for us” (Romans 15, The Message). We understand that our strength is for service not status, and that it is God’s heart for each of His people to look beyond themselves to those around them who need help.
But what may shock you is that those we help are not outside of the Church; they are inside the Church. Those statistics are not ‘secular’; they describe the conditions of the human heart, and they are just as easily found sitting in pews, as sitting in the pub. The broken and hurting are not just in our communities; they are in our churches, in our youth groups, and even in our own nice Christian families.
I firmly believe that the Church is the answer to the needs of this broken society. He has anointed His Church to set the captives free; to bind up the broken-hearted, and to provide comfort to those who mourn (Isaiah 61). But how can we be effective in reaching the lost, in bringing comfort, healing and freedom in the very areas of life, where we ourselves are lost, trapped and hurting?
Our mission at Mercy UK is to serve the body of Christ in whatever capacity we are able, in order to educate, equip and empower the Church to embrace wholeness and healing on the inside, so that we can bring wholeness and healing on the outside.
We do this in several ways, one of which is providing a six-month Christian residential programme, dedicated to providing support and care – free of charge – for young women aged 18-28, who are suffering the effects of eating disorders, self harm, abuse, depression and other life-controlling issues. We do this in partnership with the young women’s local churches – from every size, denomination and location across the UK.
Our home is not a rehab; it’s not a women’s refuge or a Christian retreat. Mercy UK is a place where a young woman is able to dig up the very root causes of her problems and, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, address each one and find healing at the deepest level.
“…my reality before coming to Mercy: I was drowning in confusion, I tried desperately to extinguish the inner torment, and my thoughts were the building blocks to the walls surrounding my heart. I trained myself to forget all the pain. People were forbidden from my desolate castle, and I stayed hidden in the back room, cowering in the corner, a prisoner in my own dominion. I was silenced by fear and shame, nowhere was safe and death soon became my friendly escape. [Now] the life God has given me on this planet is no longer about survival or death, but more so about finding the adventure and giving myself the permission to express, to journey WITH people, and to discover the endless faucets of my Creator, Friend and Saviour.” (Kemi, 19)
And we are not just about providing a residential home; we also provide training courses – called MPower – to churches and ministry groups on life-controlling issues and pastoral care, as well as a helpline for those who need prayer, information or a listening ear – regardless of their age or gender.
Not only that, but we have produced issue-specific resources on eating disorders, self harm, addictions, sexual abuse and self-esteem, and frequently speak at conferences up and down the country, teaching people how to overcome adversity and access the biblical tools that God has made available to us all to overcome the pain of the past and embrace a future full of potential and hope.
If you’d like more info, just go to www.mercyministries.co.uk or call us on 01535 642042. If you’d like to apply to the programme, find out about our MPower training, or book a speaker to speak at your church or conference, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stats sources: National Institute for Clinical Excellence, BEAT, Mind UK, NSPCC