On Sunday, the senior pastor of Stetson Baptist Church in DeLand, Florida revealed to the congregation how many lives will be impacted by their generous giving. Over the course of a single week, the church, which has only about 350 members, managed to raise enough money to pay off all of the medical debt of financially struggling families in five counties — some 6,500 families who were being crushed by a total of $7.2 million in debt — and fund three foster care facilities for a year.
"In the coming weeks, some 6,500 people in five Central Florida counties will get a letter in the mail telling them the crippling medical debt they owe has been paid off, no strings attached," the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday. "It’s not a scam. It’s an act of faith worth $7.2 million to the struggling families."
The idea for the special offering was prompted by the church having already met the financial needs of its annual operating budget this fiscal year, and the year containing 53 Sundays rather than 52, as is more common, the outlet reports.
So on June 30, the church asked for a special offering that would be directed to the community through two nonprofits: a faith-based foster homes provider, One More Child, and RIP Medical Debt, which pays off medical debt — at a rate of a penny on the dollar — financially struggling families owe to health-care providers and debt collectors.
By the end of the week, the church, which only has about 350 members, raised $153,867.19, more than three times the amount Senior Pastor Dan Glenn thought they'd be able to raise.
As Glenn announced last Sunday (video below), that money is enough to pay off all of the medical debt for 6,500 families in five surrounding counties and fund three of the One More Child foster care facilities.
“It’s one thing for us to say, ‘God loves you.' It’s another for us to show that," Glenn told the Sentinel. "It was awesome. I can’t wait for some of those families to receive a letter that says: 'Your debt has been forgiven.'"
Video of Glenn's announcement of the total amount raised below:
The Orlando Sentinel notes that Stetson Baptist isn't the first church to help pay off medical debt; a church in Kansas was in fact the inspiration for the Stetson church's leadership to work with RIP Medical Debt.
RIP Medical Debt, founded by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, describes itself as working "on behalf of individuals, foundations and corporations to abolish medical debt and provide relief for those in need." The group specifically seeks out medical debt "that is most crucially in need of relief," in other words from families who are least likely to be able to pay it off, as the group's communications director, Daniel Lempert, told the Sentinel. The group takes no cut of the money donated, directing all of it to paying off the crushing debt.
“For the most part, hospitals don’t have the infrastructure to pursue the debt they have on the books," he explained. "More and more they’re outsourcing it. Sometimes it gets sold several times before it comes to us. We only buy debt for those who are the least likely to be able to pay."
The stated mission of One More Child is "to bring hope to hurting children, to show that the love of Jesus changes lives and to impact the life of One More Child."
"From the opening of our first orphanage in 1904 to our present-day ministries that have expanded to provide safe, stable, Christian homes and services to children and families in need across the state and around the globe, we are honored to be helping children in tangible ways," the One More Child webpage states.