Moravian generosity helps relieve nearly $11 million in medical debt

More than 13,400 families in the U.S. and Honduras will see nearly $11 million in medical debt erased, thanks to a project of the Moravian Church in America.

The Debt Jubilee Project, a collaborative effort developed by four agencies of the Moravian Church, raised more than $100,000 from church and community members across the U.S.

Through a partnership with RIP Medical Debt, the raised funds were used to purchase – and forgive — $10,960,390.60 in long-term medical debt owed by individuals living in U.S. counties with a Moravian presence (through a congregation or ministry). Funds were also used to eliminate debts owed by patients of the Moravian medical clinic in Ahuas, Honduras.

The initial goal for the Debt Jubilee Project was to raise $50,000 in 50 days. Instead, the project doubled its goal, raising $102,424.27!

Two hundred eighty-four donations were received from 71 Moravian congregations. Contributing to this project, not knowing exactly whose debt would be forgiven or what their circumstances might be, was a tremendous act of grace and hope.

The Debt Jubilee Project: For the Healing of the World was coordinated by The Board of World Mission, the Southern Province Commission on Congregational Development, the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America and the Interprovincial Board of Communication. 

The effort was inspired by the work of Trinity Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., who recently erased more than $3 million in medical debt for those living in several surrounding counties. (see Issue 2 for the complete story.)

When introducing the project, the team behind it shared, “The Debt Jubilee Project: For the Healing of the World is based on our biblical call to care for the sick and our belief that healthcare is a fundamental human right. This project was designed to offer grace and hope to those burdened by medical debt in our communities in the U.S. along with Moravian medical ministry in Honduras.”

Eliminating medical debt was possible in the U.S. through a partnership with RIP Medical Debt, an organization that purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar and erases that debt, which would otherwise have been sold to for-profit debt collectors. 

Seventy-five percent of the funds raised through this effort went to relieving medical debt in the U.S. Through RIP Medical Debt’s process, 13,485 recipients in 37 U.S. counties will see their medical debts erased. The individuals and families who owe the medical debt purchased will receive a letter informing them that their debt is forgiven.

The remaining 25 percent will be used for debt forgiveness for patients of the Clínica Evangélica Morava, the medical clinic serving the Miskitu people in Ahuas, Honduras.  The clinic’s staff recommended a priority list of those most in need; 44 families, with patients ranging in age from 6 months to 91 years old, will receive support.  Along with eliminating the debts of those patients, the funds will be utilized to cover purchases of medicines and medical equipment for the clinic.

“The response to The Debt Jubilee Project illustrates the generosity of those in the Moravian world and demonstrates that when we pool our resources and efforts, we can have a great impact,” said Justin Rabbach, executive director of the BWM. “We hope that the success of this project will encourage others to find tangible ways to help relieve suffering in their communities and around the world.” 

Why I gave…

Moravians share why they gave to the Debt Jubileee Project:

  • “It’s life-changing help for those in vulnerable economic situations. Want to support Ahaus, also.”
  • “Because each dollar has such a positive impact on the families and an unbelievable return on our small investments.”
  • “This will have an immediate and life-changing impact on people who most need help – those who had a major illness or surgery and did not have the funds to pay for it. I can barely imagine the effect on someone who gets the letter saying their debt is forgiven! Praise be to God!”
  • “As a Moravian for most of my life, I love our motto, and want to spread the love. I’ve seen what medical debt can do to families, and I’m glad I had an opportunity to help.”