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The Year of Jubilee – by Bud Livers
Almost two years ago, church leaders first started planning for the King’s Grant Baptist Church upcoming 50th Anniversary to be observed October 6, 2019. Many ideas were floated as to how to best commemorate this special occasion. The challenge for church leadership then became how to identify a core element to the celebration. Without this critical component, anything else the Church did to observe the date – reaching out to previous members, special music, keynote speakers, good food – would just amount to a “party.” A big party, to be sure, but a party none-the-less.
In the Bible, God directed the Children of Israel to designate every 50 years as “The Year of the Jubilee”. The Year of the Jubilee involved a year of release from indebtedness. How could KGBC personalize the forgiveness of debt in a manner that could be in keeping with the original intent of the “Year of the Jubilee”? It was learned that there were organizations, collections agencies and the likes, that would buy up a creditor’s debt for pennies on the dollar, and then attempt to negotiate partial repayment, but enough to make a profit. Could the church do something similar? Could they identify individuals with crushing financial debt, buy that debt at a greatly reduced rate, absorb the cost and free the individual from that indebtedness?
No sooner had this idea come to light, but that it was closely followed by a whole host of questions. How would the church identify potential candidate? Ask for references? Check with the loan departments of local banks? Check with Hospital Billing departments? Could this information even be accessed in view of HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) the United States legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information? And what other legalities were involved? Could this be seen as establishing a business that might threaten the church’s tax exempt status? And then there was the question of what kind of debt would they target? Credit card debt? But what would prevent the recipient from being right back in debt again a few years down the road. Inherited debt, maybe – debt that would fall to the beneficiaries of an estate following the death of a loved one? Or perhaps medical debt from unforeseen and uninsured medical treatments?
Months passed, with no apparent solution to be found. There seemed to be no way for an individual church to pay off crushing personal indebtedness.
Then one day, about 4 months before the anniversary date, the daughter of a previous pastor at the church posted an article on Facebook about a debt relief organization. The post was seen by the church’s Director of Student Ministries who brought it to the attention of the Senior Pastor. RIP Medical Debt is a nonprofit that buys and forgives medical debt across America. RIP is a company that works with individual donors, philanthropists and organizations to purchase medical debt for pennies on the dollar to provide financial relief for those burdened by impossible medical bills.
This was an answer to prayer. Pastor Ken Pruitt contacted the organization and brought his findings before the Church body. A special offering fund was established and generously supported by members of the church. In honor of our Year of Jubilee Celebration, giving from the church family from May through August was used to pay off medical debt for many families in Virginia Beach and throughout the state. KGBC was able to abolish over $4.3 million in medical debt owed by approximately 3,000 individuals in 94 Virginia counties and 6 counties in North Carolina. Donors are never told the names of the individuals helped by this program. The recipients, however, are told who abolished their debt and they are then free to initiate contact if they wish. The hope was that by paying off someones unpayable medical debt, they would then be open to hear about the Son of God, the one who could truly pay off the individuals unpayable debt of life for all eternity.