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Small church helps pay debts of neighbors

Musicians perform during worship service at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship. A small crowd is sitting in rows of chairs watching the musicians.
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VPM News Focal Point
Neighboring churches join forces to eliminate debt for thousands.

A church planted in the midst of a working farm, complete with horses and pigs, partnered with neighboring congregations to retire the medical debt of neighbors in four nearby localities. They worked through the New York-based RIP Medical Debt to give neighbors a fresh start. Pastor Justin Moore and his wife were inspired by other churches that had taken on similar projects.


♪ I bind unto myself today ♪

JUSTIN MOORE (PASTOR, PEACE HILL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP): We were very much inspired by Isaiah 58, where the prophet Isaiah says that the kind of religion that God likes best is the kind that frees people from unjust and oppressive systems, and the kind that lifts burdens off of people. It says that that's the kind of service that God really wants.

JUSTIN TO THE CONGREGATION: We all have many temptations that try to persuade us that some other thing is worth devoting our lives to and they all promise big, shiny rewards, and then they don't really deliver what they promise, or- 

In conjunction with other churches and groups and individuals, we raised about $14,000. Through the way that RIP Medical Debt leverages it was able to pay off, I believe, almost $2 million of medical debt for people in Charles City, New Kent County, James City County, and Henrico County. They got a letter that said, your medical debt has been completely wiped out, and you won't owe it. You won't face any tax penalty for having it paid off or anything. So, we were just so excited to be able to raise that money and have that happen.

I encourage you this week and this season of Lent to be Christ for each other, to imitate Christ- 

This was not just a one-church operation. In Williamsburg there was St. Martin's Episcopal Church, and then in Charles City there was St. John Baptist Church and the River Outreach Center and Westover Episcopal Church. And then, as I said, many individuals from around the state, and even some from around the country who donated.

♪ For all my dreams in my darkest hour ♪

I think that this campaign was eye-opening for the folks in our congregation, and everybody joined in from the kids to the oldest members. And we had people, you know, kids contributing a little bit. And I think it stretched us because we're thinking now, not just in terms of people's immediate needs, like, you know, like food and groceries at a food pantry, which we're happy to help out with, but things that are keeping them from moving forward on their own, like medical debt that can hold them back and can keep them from thriving. And so, it's not just about giving someone something that'll help them for a moment, but about maybe removing an obstacle or a barrier that was keeping them from thriving. And so, people were really excited to get involved in that. And it energized the whole congregation. We were amazed.




Angie Miles, Host/Producer, anchors and hosts VPM News Focal Point and special broadcasts.
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