Church forgives nearly $4M of medical debt

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

EMMETT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Battle Creek area church is providing some relief to people struggling to pay off medical debt.

Victory Life Church announced on Sunday the congregation had purchased and forgiven nearly $4 million in medical debt.

Lead Pastor James Sunnock says the program helped more than 3,500 people living in Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Branch, and Eaton counties.

“Rather than getting their debt sold to a bill collector and being harassed, we took that pressure completely out of their life. Instead, they got a letter from Victory Life saying your medical debt is completely paid for, you owe nothing, no strings attached,” Sunnock said.

The church worked with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit broker, to purchase $3.89 million of debt for just $15,000.

The pastor learned about the program from a friend at a church in Texas. The congregation also covered the cost of eye surgery for Barbara Kitley, a member of the church who had trouble paying the bill.

Sunnock says seeing the challenges of paying medical bills within the church itself inspired them to try and help more people throughout the area.

“I was surprised at how much of an impact medical debt is,” Sunnock said. “When talking with the people of the Battle Creek food bank, they said half of the people that come for food are strapped with medical debt and it’s forcing them into that situation.”

The broker was able to eliminate the debt by negotiating with the companies at just pennies on the dollar.

“This was really the efforts of the people here at Victory Life Church,” Sunnock said. “Their generosity is what made this happen and their willingness to want to make a difference in the community.

The money for the program was pulled from the church’s advertising budget and was not removed from another outreach program.

The church hopes forgiving the medical debt inspires others to help people in need.

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