A Story of Healing - Maryhurst Alumna of the Year 2019
Meet Mercedes - who we honored at our 2019 Journey of Hope Luncheon
By the time Mercedes reached middle school, she had survived years of abuse from multiple offenders. When Child Protective Services became aware of her mistreatment, they began a series of interventions that were traumatic in their own way. As an escape, Mercedes resorted to self-harm and made attempts at suicide.
She spent the next several years in different home environments – from foster placements to group homes – but none seemed to offer the right mix of structured schedules and therapeutic care. Eventually, Mercedes came to live in one of Maryhurst’s community-based transitional living houses, Rosehaven, where she was determined to continue her habit of self-sabotage and be kicked out of the program. She recalls, “I felt it was best to reject them before they could reject me.”
Instead, Mercedes warmed to Maryhurst staff and began to learn to trust again. She remembers one lesson distinctly: It had to do with geckos. As an exercise in caretaking and healthy habits, the young women at Rosehaven were given geckos to look after. Mercedes wanted to return one of the geckos to the pet store because he was mean. Ms. Megen, a Maryhurst counselor, pointed out, “we don’t get rid of you when you are mean.” After that, Mercedes knew Maryhurst believed in her and wouldn't give up.
To Mercedes, one especially meaningful aspect of Maryhurst was the relationships she built with staff. The team at Maryhurst showed that they were genuinely interested in her as a person; they never viewed her as a project or just part of a job. They made real investments in her desires, taking her on college tours and visits to open houses (she has dreams to one day build a home).
Even after moving on from Maryhurst, one counselor introduced Mercedes to a church and local ministry, and week after week the staff member would pick her up so that she could attend services. In the years since, Mercedes has grown in her faith. “I know God is faithful and He is love. I am fully aware that without God's grace my story would be very different," she shares.
For a time, Mercedes believed it wasn’t a matter of if she’d take her life, but when. “That’s a very different song from the one I sing today,” she says. Her perspective now? That the good and the messy – no matter how messy – have all lead to right now. Her journey has led to the opportunity to build and restore relationship with family members that were once broken.
Today, Mercedes has just completed several impressive educational and professional achievements. She graduated from JCTC in December and has obtained her nursing license. She works at a ministry called The Wings of Refuge, where she’s been able to travel to Africa and help individuals both near and far. After all she’s been through, she feels especially dedicated to loving people and seeing them healed and whole. She looks forward to what lies ahead.
"I want to thank Maryhurst staff for all the support, both while in care and then the ongoing relationships. You never ‘age out’ of being a part of something, and you’ll always need a family… whatever that looks like."