The coronavirus pandemic has left many families and communities in dire financial straits.
Business closures and medical bills are a source of strain for people across the country.
But God’s people have stepped up to help!
In fact, one church congregation in Topeka is paying off their community’s medical debt.
Fellowship Bible Church of Topeka, Kansas, shut down in-person services several weeks ago to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
However, the 3,000-member congregation wanted to stay involved in the Topeka community and help their neighbors as the pandemic progressed.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, the church had raised approximately $4.7 million for community work. At first, the congregation wasn’t sure how to use the money—but it quickly became clear.
Medical debt was piling up in the Topeka area, and the church realized they had an opportunity to pay some of it off. It was a chance to connect with their community and display God’s love and mercy!
Fellowship Bible Church’s lead pastor, Joe Hishmeh, shared that the church decided to partner with a nonprofit called RIP Medical Debt after members heard about the organization’s work.
“We heard about RIP when a church member heard a message from a church in Columbia, Missouri, who paid a significant amount of debt for their region,” Hishmeh said.
RIP often works with churches around the country to purchase medical debt for pennies on the dollar. The organization then forgives the purchased debt, freeing debtors from the pressure of their creditors and helping them move forward with their lives.
Paying off debt is a sound Biblical concept and a wonderful witness to those in desperate need—and in this case, it’s cheaper than you might imagine.
“The capacity of a comparatively small amount [of money] to cover such a great amount of debt intrigued us and so we began to research,” Hishmeh continued.
He and his congregation knew that many families in their area—especially those affected by COVID-19—could be struggling to pay off medical bills for years.
“We simply wanted to help them out in a difficult time in the name of Jesus,” Hishmeh said.
Fellowship Bible Church decided to complete the effort as anonymously as possible, “because we did not want to communicate in any way that what we did would be conditional on them connecting with us.”
Initially, Hishmeh and other church leaders thought they would just be paying off medical debts for the Topeka region. When they connected with RIP Medical Debt, however, they were blown away by the possibility of affecting far more people than they imagined!
“What we discovered is that [the money we raised] will cover the debt for people in every county in the state of Kansas and some in southern Nebraska,” Hishmeh reported.
“Using the average of what RIP has been able to negotiate nationally for these efforts, we estimate that over 2,000 individuals will have their medical debt covered by this.”
What an amazing witness to the love of Christ!
Thanks to the efforts of Fellowship Bible Church, thousands of individuals and families across Kansas and Nebraska have experienced the grace of God.
And Hishmeh and his congregation are just getting started. Fellowship Bible Church is still “doing well [financially] amidst the crisis,” Hishmeh says.
The church intends to keep using its funds to bolster the community, recognizing that the pandemic offers a multitude of opportunities to give practical help to those in need.
“We have clearly communicated our priorities during this crisis and called everyone to give generously,” the pastor explained.
“We also have redirected resources used in gathering on the weekends and other ministries and projects to help people in our church family financially with rent, food, and utilities.”
God has continued to bless the efforts of Fellowship Bible Church, bringing new members in with the advent of online services.
“[We] are currently reaching more people with our weekend online worship services than were coming to our church before we went fully online,” Hishmeh said.
Praise God for the amazing witness of Fellowship Bible Church! Let’s pray that He will show all of us how to impact our own communities in practical ways during this time of need.