In celebration of their own debt retirement, Bethel Baptist Church has taken it upon themselves to retire the debts of others.
The church borrowed money over 20 years ago to build a new sanctuary and family life center. As many of you remember, one of the deadly tornadoes that marched through the greater Birmingham area on April 8, 1998, hit Bethel Baptist Church demolishing the old sanctuary, much of the existing educational buildings and damaged the brand-new family life center and new sanctuary that was under construction. With the insurance settlement, the church was able to build much needed classroom space rather than rebuild the old sanctuary. Over the next 20+ year span, God’s people were faithful in their giving towards making the mortgage payments and retiring the debt. Bethel Baptist Church now stands debt-free.
About the mission: The pastoral staff wanted to bless the community in some way in celebration of such a monumental accomplishment with paying off the debt. This group felt that helping others retire debt would be a wonderful way to celebrate their own accomplishment when so many families are drowning in debt.
“Bethel, nor any church in our area that I am aware of, has attempted these type of ministry ideas. We wanted to bless the community, we prayed and found strategic opportunities!” shared Senior Pastor Josh Burnham.
The first opportunity was a Lunchroom Debt Payoff Initiative to pay off school lunchroom debt. In November, instead of mailing a check to the mortgage company, Bethel Baptist Church paid off the outstanding lunchroom debts of every student (free and reduced) in all of the Moody and Odenville schools of the St. Clair County School System. Because of this action, each family received a notice that their lunch debt had been paid in full.
The next opportunity in giving back was the purchase of medical debt through a company called RIP Medical Debt. RIP Medical Debt is an organization that buys debt for those in extreme need. Bethel Baptist Church made a donation of $5,659 which abolished approximately $560k of medical debt in Alabama impacting 431 households.
Each family received the following letter from the medical debt payoff: We are pleased to inform you that you no longer owe the balance on the debt referenced above to the above provider. We are a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that acquires and then cancels unpaid and unpayable medical debt. This debt has been cancelled and abolished with funds donated by Bethel Baptist Church in Odenville, Alabama. You can learn more about Bethel Baptist Church at http://bethelnet.com. Our forgiveness of the amount you owe is a no-strings-attached gift. You no longer have any obligation to pay this debt to anyone, at any future time. Because this debt has been canceled as a gift by a 501(c)(3) charity, you do not owe any taxes on the “cancellation of debt” income. A fulfillment report was sent to the church outlining the number of households and amounts abolished in each Alabama city.
Acquiring debt is one of the top financial issues in U.S. families and healthcare is at the top of the list. Helping families retire their medical debt can go a long way in helping them balance their budgets and get back on track. Bethel Baptist Church does not plan to build or renovate in the future unless it is a debt-free endeavor and they encourage others to work toward getting out of debt.
From the original church formed in 1832 to the large church complex that exists today, Bethel Baptist Church has been a shining light and a beacon of hope to the community sharing God’s love and restoration. Today, numerous ministries and programs exist for all ages and walks of life. LIFE Groups that meet on Sundays and other times throughout the week, Sunday worship, Wednesday night activities, UPWARD Sports, Belles & Beaus for senior adults, Celebrate Recovery for those struggling with addiction, Biblical Counseling, Food Bank, Missions Projects and more are available to the community.
Pastor Burnham went on to say, “Our mission is to share the whole gospel with the whole person with the whole world. I am thankful to lead a generous church that purposes to be a blessing to St. Clair County, because Jesus has transformed our lives.”
The church complex is located at 8332 Moody Parkway, Odenville, AL 35120. For more information about Bethel, please call 205-640-6553 or visit their website at www.bethelnet.com.