A church in Ohio has paid off $46.5 million in medical debt for 45,000 families by working in partnership with a non-profit called RIP Medical Debt. Pastor Brian Tome of Crossroads Church in Cincinnati announced the giving campaign last November, and it turned out to be the largest campaign conducted by RIP Medical Debt to date.
“We’re here to bless people,” Brian Tome told WLWT 5 News. “We’re not here to have huge meetings. We’re here to have an impact in our local communities.”
Brian Tome Has a Challenge for Crossroads Church
Last November, Crossroads Church concluded a six-part sermon series called “The Blessed Life” with a sermon called “The Marks of Multiplication.” In the sermon, Brian Tome elaborated on various financial principles that he drew from the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Mark 6. One of Tome’s goals was to encourage people who were not tithing to start and to challenge current tithers to trust God more with their giving. Around seven percent of Crossroads Church members, said Tome, were tithing before the sermon series started. To those people, he said, “I want to give us the opportunity to multiply our impact.”
The pastor explained that 25 percent of all credit card debt is medical debt. And something significant about medical debt is that when people accrue it, it’s not because they’re spending money they don’t have on material possessions. People don’t just carelessly waste money on MRIs or chemotherapy. “When there is medical debt,” said Tome, “it’s because there is legitimate true hardship and pain that’s come somebody’s way.”
“Do you realize around Cincinnati, there’s $65 million worth of medical debt that’s coming due?” he asked. Tome then said the church was going to partner with RIP Medical Debt to attempt to pay off all of that money. Those who wanted to help eliminate the debt could, right then, pull out their phones and text the word “MULTIPLY” to 313131. The pastor emphasized that this was an opportunity for people to be aware of, but that if God was not prompting them to give that was fine—it was “just an idea.”
About RIP Medical Debt
Founded in 2014 by two former collection agency executives, RIP Medical Debt is a non-profit that will buy debt for pennies on the dollar. Says co-founder Jerry Ashton, “Our only goal is to see that that debt is taken off the backs of our fellow Americans.” Medical debt can drastically change people’s lives, causing them to go bankrupt and even become homeless. Says Ashton, “You could walk in [to a hospital] having a great job, perfect credit, lovely home, and eight months later, you could qualify for charity.”
The organization has currently eliminated over $1.3 billion in medical debt, but as their website says, “there’s still a long way to go.”
While Crossroads did not raise enough to eliminate the total $65 million, the church members still accomplished a significant feat. They raised $465,000, which was enough to pay off over two-thirds of their goal. Around $43 million of the $46.5 million of debt they erased went to families in the Greater Cincinnati area and the rest went to people in other states.
Rebecca Alcorn was one of those in Cincinnati who benefited from the church’s generosity. She told WLWT 5 that she had forgotten she even had medical debt until she and her husband began the process of buying a home. They were about to start paying off the debt when she learned that Crossroads had paid it in full. “We felt so blessed that the church did this,” said Alcorn.
Brennan Hill, the director of marketing for Crossroads, told a USA Today affiliate in Cincinnati that the church did not announce the campaign on social media: “We really [wanted] it to be about people in our community…who are currently giving.” He said the church also offered debtors resources such as prayer and the chance to connect with medical professionals. Said Hill, “We don’t want this to be the last interaction that we have with them, but there are no strings attached. We just hope that they understand who Crossroads is, what our heart is for the community, maybe set foot in one of our sites.”
What Crossroads has done, said Tome, is live as an example of what Jesus himself has done for everyone. Said the pastor, “This is actually the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ pays our spiritual debt.”