Story and photo submitted by the Rev. Sharon Langfeldt
Senior Pastor, Christ Church United Methodist, Denver, CO
A few years ago, Christ Church
received a bequest from the estate of a longtime member. The wish of that person was that the money be used for mission and charitable projects outside the local church. The Social Justice Team at Christ Church has allocated money from this fund for many causes. The causes included building and renovating homes for families through Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, caring for LGBTQ youth at Rainbow Alley and women at the Gathering Place, providing diapers for children through the Rocky Mountain Diaper Depot, and supplementing the feminine hygiene products currently being gathered for Period Kits.
There have been several media pieces in the last few months about the issue of medical debt and the work of a nonprofit organization, RIP Medical Debt, to buy up and forgive the medical debt of people across the country. Last fall, the Social Justice team contacted RIP Medical Debt to offer support this mission. Christ Church donated $20,000 from the Social Justice Fund to RIP Medical Debt. Recently, we learned RIP Medical Debt was able to purchase and forgive $3.5 million in medical debt, freeing 1,306 people and their families in Alabama, California, and Texas from the burden of medical debt that they are unable to repay (RIP Medical Debt recently completed a campaign in Colorado and were unable to purchase more debt in Colorado at the time we contacted them).
Because of medical privacy laws (and common courtesy), the recipients will remain anonymous to Christ Church, but each of these 1,306 people received a letter saying that, because of the money provided by Christ Church, their debt has been abolished and they are free of any obligation to repay it. The recipients range from one household in Shelby County, Alabama that owed $701 to 291 people in San Bernadino County, California who collectively owed $830,485. All of them are now free from the strain of trying to repay their debt and the stress of demands from debt collectors.
Along with those people, the community of Christ Church – Denver celebrates this event of true liberation, forgiveness, and love. We continue to be the love that we are asked to carry out in the world, in God's name.