CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — During the worst of the pandemic, the lights were off and pews sat empty each Sunday in Madison Street United Methodist Church's sanctuary. But the mission work of the church never dimmed.
"I knew this was something we prayed about and hoped we’d have an impact," said Rev. Harriet Bryan, Senior Pastor of Madison Street UMC. "And if people were having to decide between putting food on the table or paying their bills, we knew we were called to help."
Rev. Bryan saw eliminating medical debt as a way to help during the biggest medical crisis of our lifetime. "I realized that one dollar could wipe out 100 dollars of medical debt, so with that in mind, I reached out to RIP Medical Debt and said -- hey what can we do?"
RIP Medical Debt is a nonprofit that is able to buy outstanding healthcare payments, pennies on the dollar. At first, Rev. Bryan hoped this could have a local impact in Clarksville.
"Because of NewsChannel 5’s great generosity, there was not as much medical debt in Middle Tennessee as we originally thought, which led us to expand throughout the state of Tennessee," she said.
That ended up being a blessing in disguise, because in more rural counties -- hospitals continue to close as medical bills mount.
Much like the parable of the feeding of the 5,000, the church was able to take the $24,000 they raised and wipe out $2.4 million in now forgiven medical debt.
"We were able to wipe out $2.1 million of debt in Tennessee and almost $400,000 of debt in Mississippi," said Rev. Bryan. "I started crying. I went and started telling staff members -- look at this, look at this -- this is what we’ve done."
While the congregation will likely never get to meet any of the people they helped, Bryan gives "thine", and her congregation, the glory.
"Those who are blessed are called to be a blessing. We were in a place to help those who were hurting and that’s who we are and who we want to be," said Rev. Bryan.
If you received one of the yellow envelopes telling you your medical debt is forgiven, NewsChannel 5 would love to hear from you.
Please send an email to: Chris.Davis@NewsChannel5.com or Newsroom@NewsChannel5.com.