A Florida church has paid off $1.62 million in outstanding medical debt for some 1,300 Lakeland residents.
According to the Associated Press, Access Church is mailing letters about the Thanksgiving gift to the residents. The letter will notify the resident that their medical debt has been paid off and will include the message, “Access Church loves you.”
Ryan Jordon, the executive pastor at Access Church, said a member of the congregation suggested the idea earlier in the year. The church used it’s 2018 annual Christmas Offering to pay off the medical bills. Each year, the offering is used for the community.
“Sometimes it’s local with our church fixing roofs torn by hurricanes or fixing air conditioners,” said lead pastor Jason Burns. “Other times it’s to build houses, orphanages and churches in Third World countries.”
Access Church worked with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization, to find residents eligible for help. The past-due medical debts were owed by Lakeland city resident with incomes at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, which is about $8,500 for a couple and $13,00 for a family of four.
There was more than $3 million in medical debt.
“I was absolutely blown away, blown away,” Jordan said. “Everyone falls on hard times and health care is a need.”
Because of federal privacy laws, Burns said the identity of the Lakeland residents helped by the funds is not released.
“I don’t think it’s giving unless you give with no strings attached,” he said. “By not knowing who these people are, there are no strings attached.
Jordan added: “We don’t expect anyone to pay us back. If someone showed up and tried, there would be no one who would accept it.”
Burns said he hopes the act will be an example of God’s love.
“As we enter the holiday season marked and characterized by generosity, what an amazing thing for families to open mail to say the debt that’s been laying heavy on them is gone as a church was looking to show them God’s love in a practical way,” Burns said.
Photo courtesy: Alexander Mils/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.