Last week, it was announced that the organization I lead, Crossroads Church, paid off more than $46 million in medical debt for 45,000 families in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.
If you’ve ever been in debt, like I have, you know the dread that comes from daily trips to the mailbox. It gets to the point that you don’t even want to open it anymore. My debt caught up with me right after I got married, forcing me and my new wife into living with my in-laws. It was uncomfortable, but I know for many people, the ramifications of mounting debt are much higher than a less-than-ideal living scenario.
Medical debt burdens millions in America. 25% of all credit card debt and ⅔ of all personal bankruptcies are tied to it. For nearly everyone, this isn’t debt we’ve willingly chosen. Medical debt isn’t like someone who just ran up their credit card because they bought too many clothes. No one wakes up one day and says, “I’m bored and have nothing better to do, I think I’ll order an MRI.” This debt builds up while we’re trying to survive, and it shackles us in a way that little else does.
In November, I challenged our church community to do something about medical debt. We planned to do this through a partnership with RIP Medical Debt. Because this non-profit can buy debt at a fraction of the original amount, it provides a 100:1 multiplication factor—every dollar donated clears $100 dollars in delinquent debt.
Our community responded, giving enough to erase over $46 million dollars in medical debt from 45,000 real individuals. Many people assumed we had long staff meetings and a fancy, buttoned-up plan to do this. Not at all. At the end of a weekend service, I gave a five minute explanation and asked people to give if they felt moved. It was that simple, and the gift was that profound. This is the true history of people of faith. We see a need, respond to it, and lives are changed. RIP Medical Debt has since confirmed this to be their biggest debt relief campaign to date.
Why would a church do this?
Because we don’t exist to have big Sunday meetings. We exist to make an impact in our local communities. Followers of Christ should feel compelled toward providing freedom from debt because it’s the backbone of all our stories.
At the core of Christianity is the knowledge that Jesus died on a cross to free humanity from a spiritual debt. So when we come across someone with a physical debt, we’re reminded that we too have lived “in the red” with God. He took it upon himself to clear our debt, nailing “paid in full” to a cross for all to see (Colossians 2:14). If we can help someone pay off their physical debt, and feel a bit of freedom, it’s a fun-filled no-brainer.
For us, this has been faceless and nameless. RIP Medical Debt did the work of connecting the money we raised to families in need. But we’re beginning to hear stories of yellow envelopes arriving in mailboxes, with a letter inside that says “Your debt has been paid.” It is our hope that those envelopes bring real hope, and point people to a God who is in the business of clearing debt and providing freedom. It has been a joy for us to follow His example.
If you want to get in on the freedom game, visit ripmedicaldebt.org.