Good Neighbors

Holy Christmas Gift! Church Wipes Out Medical Debt For Thousands

5,555 people living in poverty in neighborhoods served by the church will have their debt wiped out, no strings attached.

For people who live on the margins, a serious illness or accident can be the thing that plunges them into debt, despair, even homelessness -- even if they have medical insurance. Members of a church in Los Angeles have made sure thousands of their neighbors won't have to worry about their medical debt anymore, thanks to an astounding and creatively conceived Christmas gift.

Members of Christian Assembly Church in Eagle Rock, CA have been raising money all year for a special project, unaware of exactly how it would be used. They finished with $50,000 donated. Co-pastor Tom Hughes did the "big reveal" about where the money would go in this video that was played at Christmas services.

The way the church did the debt buyout was creative. First they mapped out 28 communities where they have 15 or more active church households. Then they worked with a national non-profit, Rest in Peace Medical Debts , to identify everyone in those neighborhoods living at twice the poverty level or less who had outstanding medical bills. Rest in Peace bundles medical debt and sells it for pennies on the dollar. They helped the church use their $50K to leverage payment of $5.2 million dollars in outstanding medical debt in the targeted neighborhoods.

"This week all 5,555 houseolds are getting letter knowing their medical debt has been cancelled no strings attached," said Rev. Hughes (below). "All of this is being done in Jesus name, and that will be shared in the letter as well."

"I'd love to be a fly on the wall for someone receiving notification like this," parishioner Blythe Hill told ABC-7 News . She and others donated on faith all year, and were excited to finally find out the impact their money will have. Rev. Hughes believes it will be nothing short of life changing for people.

"As they recover from their illness, it will help them get back on their feet and avoid homelessness.

Most of us don't have $50,000 to pay off other peoples' medical debts. But Rest in Peace allows individuals to donate smaller amounts to help individuals, and according to their website ( click here ) has 152 organizations, like churches, running active debt forgiveness fundraising campaigns.

(Video and images: Christian Assembly Church Facebook page )

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