A Texas megachurch celebrated Easter by eliminating more than $10 million in medical debts for area families.
Senior Pastor Stephen Hayes who leads Covenant Church in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas, decided not to spend tens of thousands of dollars this year promoting Easter services at his church.
Instead, he wanted to reach out to the community differently, so he took the $100,000 that the church would have spent on advertising and donated it to a company that purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar.
"What if we bought up some of this medical debt and write on the letters, 'We are Covenant Church and we are local in this area and we can serve you in any way and we would love to be your church. But even if we don't get to meet you, just know that God loves you,'" Hayes told the Christian Post.
The church donated the cash to RIP Medical Debt and asked the company to pay off medical debts for local veterans and families.
"Right now, there is no veteran in our radius where we minister that will have [medical] debt from this day forward," Hayes told KXAS-TV. "It is already paid. Really cool."
Letters will be mailed this week to 4,229 area families notifying them that their debts have been paid in full.
"We decided to put up $100,000. Man, can I tell you it is the easiest decision we have ever made," Hayes said during his Easter sermon. "[I]t ended up paying off $10,551,618 in total debt that is paid and gone forever."
Hayes' family understands the impact of medical expenses.
When he was 17, Hayes was in a car accident that left him in a coma.
Doctors removed a blood clot from his brain and told his parents there was no hope that he would ever walk or talk again.
Twelve days later, Hayes woke up and spoke to his ICU nurse.
"I asked her for a drink of water and this nurse fell to her knees," Hayes said. "This woman had given 12 hours of her day for the last 12 days to care for me on rotation and knew my story — my family, my church, they'd been doing 24-hour a day prayer at the hospital. And to see me awake and talking and knowing my base, it just blew her mind."
Less than a week later, he walked out of the hospital.
He told KXAS that Covenant Church families had supported his parents emotionally and also donated money to help pay off their hospital bills.
Hayes' father, Mike Hayes, was the church's pastor at the time. When Mike retired, his son took over.
The young pastor said it was his own experience that led him to his decision to help others burdened by medical expenses.
"I felt the pressure of that, and just the thought — what brings me to tears — is the thought of people who don't have that kind of support but are under the same amount of pressure," Hayes said.
On Easter, Hayes explained one of the statements Jesus had made on the cross.
"When you were in debt to someone, when you reached the end of your payment plan and paid off whatever you were in payment toward, they would write like the big red 'paid' stamp they would put on the invoices, they would write the word, 'tetelestai,' Hayes told his congregation. "Jesus at that moment was saying 'guess what; it is finished,' the debt of sin had been paid."
Then he announced the gift the congregation had made to the community.
"The $100,000, you invested Covenant, paid off a total of $10,551,618! Gone, gone, gone, done!" Hayes said.