42 million Americans have medical debt according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And CNBC reports medical bills are the number one reason people file for bankruptcy.
A church in Carrollton, Texas, sees those staggering facts as an opportunity for ministry.
On Easter Sunday, Covenant Church donated $100,000 to the charity RIP Medical Debt. A debt collector turned debt forgiver, RIP Medical Debt buys medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgives it.
That $100,000 gift paid off a total of $10,551,618 in medical debt for nearly 5,000 families in Carrollton, Crossroads, Colleyville and McKinney, all places where Covenant has churches.
In his Easter sermon, Pastor Mike Hayes told his church about one of the statements Jesus made on the cross before his death, he said the word ‘tetelestai.’
“When you were in debt to someone, when you reached the end of your payment plan and paid off whatever you were in payment toward, they would write like the big red ‘paid’ stamp they would put on the invoices, they would write the word, ‘tetelestai.’ Jesus in that moment was saying ‘guess what, it is finished, the debt of sin had been paid. What we celebrate on Easter, these families will get to celebrate that personally in their home. The bill is finished, it’s been paid, it’s forgiven.”
It wasn’t a problem for the church to raise the money. Hayes said they typically spend that amount promoting their Easter services but felt this was a much better use of their offerings.
While the charitable act by the Covenant congregation is laudable, Hayes reminded the crowd that they, too, have received similar letters of forgiveness, referring to what is written in John 19:30 when Jesus was on the cross and said, ‘It is finished.'”
“That is your letter in the mail,” Hayes said. “If you can imagine what those people this week will be feeling when they receive the letter you sent them saying their debt is paid. I prayed 100-fold that [is how] you would feel in reading the letter He wrote to you in the book of John 19:30—Hey, your debt of sin is paid. You are covered. He wrote a letter to us too. How do we not respond when we see the letter and understand what it means? How do I not want to send letters to others and say, ‘Guess what? I received it, would you consider receiving it?'”
Hayes knows firsthand what it’s like to be riddled with medical debt. According to NBC-DFW, Hayes was hit by a car when he was 17, and spent 12 days in intensive care. His family was aided in paying off their medical bills by his church family.
Hayes said he thinks about the kindness he received from the church but also wonders how people who don’t have the support of a church family cope with the pressure medical bills create.
But now, thanks to the Christian love of Covenant Church, nearly 5,000 families won’t have to.