By Carl Stagner
In 2014, the Church of God reengaged in a more than one hundred-year battle against sex trafficking through the launch of Trafficklight. In the years since, individuals and congregations have rallied for the cause, raising awareness and funds to advance freedom. Stories have illuminated the hand of God on this initiative across North America and around the world, and partnerships have been developed and promoted with ministries doing the grunt work on the ground. The work of a parachurch ministry known as Mercy Multiplied has captured the attention of many in the fight for freedom. It’s not only helping young women break free of destructive situations—like trafficking and abuse—but also from a wide variety of destructive behaviors.
Since 1983, Mercy Multiplied has been addressing such behaviors as eating disorders and drug addictions, as well as potentially life-altering circumstances like unplanned pregnancy. Addressing these early can attack the issue of trafficking at its roots.
“While no one would want to take attention off the global issue of trafficking and the need to intervene at every level to end this disgusting practice, we can often forget about those whose story we deem ‘not that bad,’” Brooke Keels explains. Brooke, the daughter of Louisiana Church of God pastor Ray Owens (North Crossings Church, Monroe), has worked for Mercy Multiplied since 2016, though her family has been involved as far back as she can remember. “With the cultural shift of constant access to media, whatever is the biggest, baddest, scariest, or most dramatic often gets the most attention. What this can do is cause us to have significantly less compassion for those that are hurting and struggling with depression, anxiety, neglect, addiction, etc. We cannot forget that we have so many people walking around, simply surviving the day-to-day, and they are not living whole and free.”
Mercy Multiplied has expanded from a modest program in Monroe, Louisiana, to the international ministry organization it is today, with residential homes across the country, international affiliates, and conferences and events throughout the year (For a brief history of the ministry, watch this video: https://vimeo.com/301920973). The six-month residential program is free of charge for women between the ages of thirteen and thirty-two, and utilizes a Bible-based, multidimensional approach to deal with the root of issues, instead of “merely medicating symptoms or modifying external behavior.” Events like the MPower Workshop have helped family and friends of those with destructive behaviors know how to help. The Freedom Experience has proven transformative to young women weighed down by life-controlling issues. Events like the Guidelines Workshop are especially appealing to churches and leaders, as they intentionally train participants “who have a vision to start a Christian residential program similar to but different from Mercy.” After all, the insights gleaned from thirty-six years of experience and caring for 3,000 residents are too important to be hoarded.
Melanie Wise, who leads the outreach department for Mercy Multiplied, explains that their founder Nancy Alcorn knew this from the beginning. She describes the moment that Nancy “realized God did not equip the government to heal broken hearts and set captives free” but instead equipped his church for the task. “So, we are extremely passionate about the church stepping into their calling to partner with him and see hope restored and lives transformed in this broken and hurting world!” she continues. “There are innumerable people sitting in church pews every single week who are hurting and struggling, many of them in silence. If the church doesn’t step up and have the courage to address these issues and know how to point people to the healing power of Christ, it has missed one of its highest callings.”
Mercy Multiplied knows they cannot do it alone. Mercy Multiplied partnering with churches, and churches partnering with Mercy Multiplied, is the answer. “We realize that we will never be able to build enough Mercy homes to adequately meet the needs of this broken world…while we love to directly help the individual, we also believe the greatest way to see this message of freedom spread is to see more and more leaders—specifically within the church—equipped and resourced to take these principles to their circles of influence. That is how we believe we can truly see hope, freedom, and mercy multiplied!”
As fifth-generation Church of God, and a preacher’s kid, Brooke is especially blessed to see the ministry expand to more and more Church of God congregations. “I don’t think I could clearly explain what this means to me personally,” she says. “To say I love this Movement is an understatement. My entire life I saw the Church of God love those that others deemed unlovable, and be the church that accepted anyone who walked through its doors with open hearts. So, for me, it just fits that the Church of God would be so passionate about equipping its church with ways to connect with a new culture and a new generation. I honestly could not be prouder of where the Movement is heading.”
Every day, Brooke and Melanie witness firsthand the impact of their vital ministry. And every day, they’re confronted with truths about women’s ministry, and outreach to the hurting, that they wish more pastors and churches understood. From dealing with the root of the issue to recognizing the role Jesus plays in transformation, to a willingness to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable” and not accepting the status quo, there’s a wealth of knowledge, practical ideas, and tested strategies available to offer help and healing to the hurting—both women and men.