A Southern Baptist church in Florida has raised over $7.2 million in crippling medical debt impacting over 6,500 individuals and families living at or below the poverty line in five Florida counties. Additionally, the church will also fund three foster homes for the next year.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on Wednesday that around 6,5000 low-income Florida residents from five counties — Volusia, Lake, Putnam, Marion and Flagler — will have their medical debts paid off in the coming weeks by the Stetson Baptist Church in DeLand.
“It’s one thing for us to say, ‘God loves you, it’s another for us to show that.” Dan Glenn, a senior pastor from the church, told the newspaper.
Since the church’s fiscal calendar ends in June and begins in July, Glenn told The Christian Post in an interview that the church’s calendar in 2018-2019 was blessed with 53 Sundays instead of the budgeted 52 Sundays like most calendar years.
With that extra Sunday service, Glenn said that the church’s council voted to approve a plan to collect offerings during its Sunday, June 30th service for the express purpose of giving that money away.
In early June, the congregation was told about the initiative and that the church would split its June 30 offerings
Half would go to an organization called RIP Medical Debt in order to pay off medical debt for people in poverty living in the church’s home county of Volusia.
The other half of that money would be donated to Florida Baptist Children’s Homes to support a foster care home for an entire year with funding to pay for things like diapers, groceries and utilities.
As medical debt is one of the leading causes of financial difficulties for thousands of families across the U.S., RIP Medical Debt works with organizations and donors to buy up the medical debt of impoverished families for just pennies on the dollar. And in return, the organization forgives the person or family of their debt giving them a reprieve from the financial burden.
What happened, Glenn said, was that the church’s initial goal of raising $48,000 combined for both programs was vastly exceeded.
The donations ended up totaling $153,867.19.
He said enough money was raised to not only pay off medical debt for impoverished people in Volusia County but also those in neighboring Lake, Putnam, Marion and Flagler counties as well.
And while the church planned to support just one foster care home for a year, enough funds were raised to support three foster care homes for a year.
“This was something that really struck a chord with our church,” Glenn told CP. “Medical debt is something that I think everyone can get behind. But our church is unique in that we have an undercurrent in our church of fostering and adoption, both from the perspective of families that have fostered kids and adopted children but also through adults who were foster children or adoptees.”
Glenn said that at the end of the June 30 service, $144,000 was collected in the offering. But over the course of that next week, nearly $10,000 more was raised.
“God’s people just really were very generous and poured their hearts out into this opportunity,” he said.
“In Jesus’ ministry on Earth, that’s what He did. He helps people. And so for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus means that we’ve got to use the resources that God has given to us, both individually and corporately, to make a practical difference in people’s lives.”
The pastor said that it is crucial for Christians to “put their faith into action.”
“I think it’s a responsibility that we have to show people in a practical way that God loves them,” he added.
Recipients, people who are living below the federal poverty level, will be notified by mail.