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Just inside the Chattahoochee National Forest, in a bend of the Little Tennessee River, there is a large brick house that overlooks the surrounding mountains. The house was given a new name in 2011, and has offered dozens of women a place to call home since then. Mitchell Payne and his wife Roma have named it The House That Mercy Built, and it truly lives up to the title.
Payne and his wife decided to open The Mercy House with the mission to help women who struggle with drug addiction and face a life of imprisonment. The Mercy House is a non-profit, faith-based residential program that seeks to provide a safe, family oriented living facility where women can rebuild their lives on a strong foundation.
Payne has been the Pastor at Rivery Life Ministry for the past 28 years, The Mercy House is an extension of their service to the East Tennessee Community. The Mercy House and its staff are dedicated to helping women who struggle with drug addiction become clean, healed, and whole. They show the women how to develop a strong relationship with Christ through daily Biblical instruction and discipleship training.
The Mercy House also offers classes to help with goal development, parenting skills, health and nutrition, as well as teaching their members a good work ethic to prepare them for life after addiction. They also have an in-house tutor to assist in GED completion and college preparation through educational materials and seminars.
For women who are interested in coming to The Mercy House for rehabilitation, Payne says “we have a waiting list.” All applicants must submit an application for approval. They must show a desire to fully commit to the program for 1 year, as well as living a drug-free life before they can be considered for enrollment. “The girls have to be diligent,” Payne says. “They have to persevere.”
Tammy Conner persevered, and successfully graduated from The House That Mercy Built. She is currently 4-years sober. Conner used Methamphetamine for 15 years, often living in the woods to hide from the Police. “I turned into junkie,” Conner remembers; “that was number one. My family, everybody else, I just used them to get what I had to get.”
After she was arrested for the 42nd time, Conner gave her life to God completely, and soon came to The Mercy House to become drug-free. When participants arrive at the Mercy House, they must have bloodwork done to add to their file. Conner tested positive for Hepatitis C from coming in contact with contaminated blood. Upon graduating from the Mercy House, Conner had more bloodwork done, and the results showed that she was completely healed. “What’s incurable with man, that’s the business that God is in,” Conner said, smiling.
The Mercy House is successfully helping women transform their lives. By offering a safe and spiritual place to live and heal, The Mercy House has begun to repair families damaged by addiction. Payne and the staff at The Mercy House are on a mission to teach and love women struggling with drug abuse. But it is not a battle that they can fight alone; The Mercy House relies heavily on volunteers, donations, and materials given by the community. Their continued success depends on these gifts to help transform the lives of women like Tammy Conner.
Conner got her GED through the Mercy House and is set to graduate from Cleveland State University this Fall. But she could not have gotten so far without the help of the people serving at The Mercy House. “I tried to quit,” Conner admitted, “but the only way was through the Lord.” She encourages those who may still be struggling with addiction to “give it to the Lord” because there is a “fulfillment in him that the world cannot offer.”
The Mercy house has graduated over a dozen women since its beginning, and doesn’t plan on stopping there. The success of the program is evident in the lives that The Mercy House has touched, including the relationships that have been restored. When asked about his graduates, Mitchell Payne said “Now they are living a life that they never thought possible. They’re doing it.”
To learn more about ways to get involved, please visit www.housethatmercybuilt.com