For the accompanying music video for her current hit single “He Knows My Name,” Francesca Battistelli partnered with Mercy Ministries, an organization that provides a free-of-charge, voluntary, faith-based residential program for young women facing a combination of life-controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, depression and unplanned pregnancy, among others. Mercy Ministries has homes across the nation, including a flagship home in Nashville, Tenn. In the brand-new video, four Mercy graduates–Leslie (24), Alma (31), Shannon (20) and Taylor (19) –share their powerful stories of transformation and how they found their identity in Christ, a perfect complement to the underlying message of Francesca’s song. Filming took place over the course of two days atop a residential hillside in Brentwood, Tenn., as well as Nashville’s famous “Love Circle,” an elevated hill that boasts stunning views of the city. In the interview below, Mercy Ministries’ Ambassador Program Coordinator Mickenzie Vought takes us behind the scenes of the video shoot for “He Knows My Name.”
TSO: How did your partnership with Word/Francesca come about?
Mickenzie Vought: Mercy Ministries was approached in early June by Francesca Battistelli’s marketing team at Word Label Group. They shared their idea of featuring Mercy Ministries graduates in Francesca’s upcoming video for the song, “He Knows My Name.” The vision was to have young women share their stories of finding their identities in Christ. Since Word had a previous artist partnership with Mercy through Christian rock band BarlowGirl, they knew the message and mission of Mercy Ministries would be a perfect fit for this project. A plan quickly fell into place to select four Mercy graduates to tell their stories on camera.
TSO: How did you go about selecting the four Mercy girls who were featured in the video?
Vought: When Word approached Mercy Ministries, they suggested three or four graduate stories be featured in the video. I was tasked with the project as I run our Mercy Multiplied Ambassador and Outreach Program. The program exists to encourage and equip our graduates to spread the vision of Mercy. We have a little over 450 U.S. Mercy Ministries’ graduates who are part of the Ambassador program and currently live all over the world! Our marketing team wanted to select graduates who had faced diverse life-controlling issues before Mercy and who had diverse life experiences after Mercy. Selecting just a few graduates was an extremely daunting task. We wanted to be sure graduates were not only comfortable with participating in the whirlwind two-day video shoot, but that they were also comfortable with the implications of sharing their testimonies for such a large and potentially far-reaching project. God brought the perfect Mercy graduates for the project as we leaned into His wisdom. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend a few days with Leslie, Taylor, Alma and Shannon!
TSO: What was the initial concept for the video? Did that fully play out in the final version?
Vought: The concept seemed to evolve as the directors learned more about the graduates’ stories. Once the graduates were selected and their stories were filmed, the producers really felt God wanted to use these stories in a more predominant way than first anticipated. (The graduates were very relieved when they found out they wouldn’t have to lip sync!)
TSO: Was there a special and/or funny moment that happened during filming you’d like to share?
Vought: Some of my favorite moments of the day were watching the Mercy graduates interact with each other. They seemed to have an instant bond even though they had never met — something I’ve noticed time and again. The four of them picked up like old friends, chatting and laughing the afternoon away together. They encouraged one another, shared about their lives, and spent time reminiscing about their time at Mercy and the girls they “once were.” That right there is PURE MAGIC!!! No one can argue with a changed life!
I also love watching the graduates interact with others, because they are always full of poise and maturity. There is a special spark about a Mercy girl when she shares what God has done in her life. It’s my favorite part about my job! On set, they seemed to spread light and impact everyone from the make-up artists, to the waiters, to the film crew.
The graduates, Mercy staff, and filming team all laughed and had a great time together. Everyone came to serve each other, and it was a great team to work with. One of my favorite examples of this was filming the scene on the hillside with Francesca and all of the girls holding sparklers. What you can’t tell in the video is that it was raining, and everyone had to work together to keep the sparklers lit. Catching that footage took coordination! It was tremendous, ordered chaos! We all laughed afterward, drenched from head to toe.
TSO: Did Francesca and the four Mercy girls have time to interact on set while filming? What was that experience like?
Vought: Mercy staff and graduates first met Francesca during a lunch break at the studio where the girls had hair and make-up done before heading to the film location. Francesca was so sweet to all of our girls and took a genuine interest in them. Her presence before we began filming set the tone and put our graduates at ease. Francesca communicated that it was an honor and a privilege to have been able to feature Mercy Ministries in her video. After an afternoon of filming on the hillside and a dinner break with Francesca and the crew, the girls were able to share a few moments with Francesca and get photos together. As a busy mom, Francesca was not able to be at the second day of the shoot, but she shared that she would be praying for the girls as they shared their stories. After the video was released, she followed-up with the girls to thank them. She told them she knew it was not an easy thing to publicly share their stories, but that she was already seeing hope and freedom come from the video. How cool is that?!
TSO: How does the message of this song align with the values of Mercy Ministries?
Vought: I am personally a huge Francesca Battistelli fan and am overjoyed that she picked this particular song to partner with Mercy Ministries! The song just speaks to things that we tell our girls all throughout their journey in the Mercy program and beyond. They are loved. They are valued. God has written an incredible story for them. They are overcomers. Our Founder and President, Nancy Alcorn, founded Mercy Ministries on the promise of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Many of our girls come into our program feeling forgotten — not only by God, but by people. Many enter our program thinking they’re going to address the life-controlling issue that they are facing, but God meets them and does so much more. Not only do they find freedom, but they find identity, love and purpose. I love the message of this song — that God chooses us, even though our story might not deem us “worthy.” He is the Redeemer and He calls us by name.
TSO: What do you hope people take away from this video after watching it?
Vought: We pray people will be encouraged and have a renewed sense of hope after watching the video. I am not sure if it is possible to not be impacted by the stories of those beautiful graduates. I still cry every time I watch it! Their stories portray hope and redemption and point all the glory to God. I believe people will relate to the past struggles of our graduates and find hope that God could meet them in a similar way. I would love for this project to convince people that we serve a personal and passionate God who is always pursuing us with His love. I love how this song, and the stories that are woven in, point to God’s unrelenting pursuit of our hearts. We are chosen and we are His.
Additionally, our prayer is that people will catch vision for the work of Mercy Ministries and consider ways they can help further our mission or even apply to the program, if needed. The heart of our graduates is to bring hope to other hurting girls through telling their stories. One graduate who participated in this project said that if one girl could find freedom through her story being shared, it would be worth it. Hope begets hope, begets hope, begets hope…
TSO: Are there future plans for Word/Francesca to partner with Mercy in the future?
Vought: A few weeks after the video shoot, Francesca and her husband, Matt Goodwin, toured our Nashville home, and our residents loved being able to meet her and have a private concert. It was beautiful to see the connection, as many of her songs have really ministered to the girls during their time in the program. We’re working to coordinate visits to our three other U.S. homes, if Francesca’s touring route allows. When Winter Jam comes through Sacramento in a few days, the Mercy residents there will be able to attend, which they are very excited about!
TSO: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience at the video shoot?
Vought: I was honored to have been a small part of this remarkable and beautiful project. The Mercy staff has been praying for God to set up divine connections, and He never ceases to amaze us! It was a tremendous blessing to work with Francesca Battistelli’s team at Word Label Group and the Skies Fall production team. It makes my heart happy that we can provide the world a glimpse of the miraculous stories we get to be part of on a daily basis. We serve AMAZING world changers! Our Mercy homes are not a place for troubled girls, but a place for girls who have not yet realized their potential and who become completely transformed by our Savior. He knows each one of them by name!
For more info on Mercy Ministries, visit www.mercyministries.org.
For more info on Francesca, visit www.francescamusic.com.