Originally published in CBN News
The Bible calls Christians to tithe but what happens when churches give back?
In a trend that is sweeping across the United States this summer, churches all over the country are helping their congregations eliminate their medical debt.
From coast-to-coast churches are stepping in and surprising their congregants by lifting financial burdens that plague them in their daily lives. The churches partner with RIP Medical Debt, which is a company that targets people earning less than two times the poverty levels, to help eliminate their medical debt.
RIP Medical Debt also negotiates lower prices for debt portfolios, which makes the donations worth incredibly more than they are at face value.
“On average, each dollar donated to the nonprofit abolishes $100 (R1 400) of debt,” according to the Statesmen Journal.
Here are the stories of five churches, in five different states, making an incredible financial impact on their church members, and in the community around them.
Stetson Baptist Church – DeLand, Florida
One of the most recent churches to eliminate their congregant’s debt is Stetson Baptist Church in DeLand Florida. This Southern Baptist-affiliated church is paying off over $7.2-million(R101-million) in medical debt over the next year. Additionally, the church will also fund three foster homes for the next year.
Dan Glenn, the senior pastor of Stetson Baptist, told The Christian Post that the church would be raising money for both the RIP Medical Debt programme and Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
RIP Medical Debt is a company that assists families and individuals in paying off their medical debt, while Florida Baptist Children’s Homes is a network of foster care homes.
During their first Sunday fundraising, the church donated over $153 000 (R2.15-million), which will be split between both causes.
“This was something that really struck a chord with our church,” Glenn told The Christian Post. “Medical debt is something that I think everyone can get behind. But our church is unique in that we have an undercurrent in our church of fostering and adoption, both from the perspective of families that have fostered kids and adopted children but also through adults who were foster children or adoptees.”
The Vineyard Church – Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan was among many that used this year’s Easter tithes to help eliminate debt for people living in nearby counties.
The church was able to eliminate over $2.9-million (R41-million) in medical debt, covering more than 2 100 people in their area.
Donnell Wyche, a pastor at Vineyard Church, explained that each Easter the church decides a different cause to donate to. In the past, they have donated to Food Gatherers, Habitat for Humanity, and Religious Action for Affordable Housing.
This year, after seeing a story in the New York Times, they decided to donate to RIP Medical Debt.
“When we learned about this medical debt, we realised there is probably no better way to help people experience new life than to help them get free from debt,” Wyche said. “Debt – and especially this kind of debt – it can devastate people because it sits on their credit, it affects their housing, it affects their jobs, whether or not they can get car loans.”
Life Church of the Nazarene – Medford, Oregon
Life Church of the Nazarene in Medford, Oregon partnered with RIP Medical Debt after they found the company and realized how simple it was to help people eliminate their medical debt.
Dale Schaeffer, the pastor of New Life Church of the Nazarene, found the company after watching a John Oliver segment when he used RIP Medical Debt to eliminate around $15-million (R210-million) in debt rather quickly.
“I was really moved by the power of a little bit of resource to eliminate that much debt,” Schaeffer said. “I’ve had family members and friends who have had to file bankruptcy due to those kinds of debts — it’s just heartbreaking to watch that.”
New Life Church of the Nazarene raised around $30 000 (R421 000) this past Christmas, which ultimately was able to help forgive more than $2-million (R28-million) in medical debt for people in Oregon, as well as another $1-million (R14-million) for veterans around the United States.
Pathway Church – Wichita, Kansas
Over Easter weekend 2019, Pathway Church raised $22 000 for debt forgiveness, which when paired with RIP Medical Debt, amounts to over $2.2 million in total.
Larry Wren, the executive pastor at Pathway, said that it painted the perfect illustration for the celebration of Easter, what it looks like to have a debt paid by someone else.
“Being able to do this provides an opportunity to illustrate what it means to have a debt paid that they could never pay themselves,” he said. “It just was a great fit.”
City Church – Evansville, Indiana
City Church in Indiana is among the more recent churches to donate to RIP Medical Debt.
In May the church pledged to raise $15 000 (R309 000) to go towards RIP Medical Debt, which will come to eliminate around $1.5-million (R21-million) in medical debt.
Pastor Jeff Kinkade of City Church encouraged congregants to donate, emphasising how Jesus paid the ultimate debt.
“We have been speaking about Jesus paying our debt. Let me tell you about something that is a chance for City Church to pay someone else’s debt,” Kinkade saidduring a May church service.
“We are able to completely erase that entire $1.5 million of debt for those people and we can do it with a $15 000 contribution from City Church. It is pretty remarkable. So, we are going to do that as a church.”