Church of Elyria clears $1 million in medical debt for Lorain County residents

Reverend Nathan Russell (submitted)

The Washington Avenue Christian Church, 301 Washington Ave. in Elyria, will eliminate $1 million in medical debt to residents of the region and eventually the entire state.

The church has partnered with a national nonprofit organization to participate in a debt cancellation program qualifying residents of Lorain County.

The Rev. Nathan A. Russell, senior pastor of Washington Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), made the announcement during his July 3 sermon, according to a news release.

“Let’s tell the downtrodden that their medical debt has been cleared and this is the year of the Saint’s favor,” Russell said.

Washington Avenue Christian Church began its partnership about three weeks ago with RIP Medical Debt, he said.

A fundraiser was held June 18 at the church and as a result Russell announced that the church could forgive $100,000 in medical debt, Russell said.

As a result of that rally, the church used $1,000 to eliminate $100,000 in medical debt across the United States, the press release said.

“People were really excited about it and asked if we could do more,” Russell said.

“After hearing the news of the cancellation of $100,000 in medical debt, members asked if it was possible to cancel more medical debt, according to the release.

“The church outreach committee accepted this incentive and set a goal to raise $5,000 which would be used to write off an additional $500,000 in medical debt,” the statement said. “Before this initiative was launched publicly, the church had reached its goal of $5,000.”

Inspired by the energy surrounding this effort, the church doubled its goal to $10,000 to pay off $1 million in medical debt, according to the statement.

“We were able to bump it up to $1 million,” Russell said. “That thrill is our heart to be able to do that.”

Cancellation of medical debt cannot be requested and is “random, depending on which collection agencies and healthcare providers are willing to sell or donate qualifying medical debt to the nonprofit organization. “, reads the press release.

Essentially, once the debt wallet has been purchased for the county, $1 million in medical debt will be paid off and the recipient will receive a letter in the mail notifying them of the zero balance receipt, according to the release.

“I would love to be a fly on the wall when they get the letter,” Russell said. “Imagine the jubilee they will have.”

As part of Russell’s sermons, he teaches his congregation about the “Year of Jubilee”, which is a seven-year cycle when the debt is forgiven.

Once the church clears all medical debts of qualified beneficiaries, it will contact surrounding counties and then the rest of the state if funds remain, Russell said.

“The Jubilee Year is being enacted in Lorain County and the State of Ohio,” he said.

Russell joined the staff of Washington Avenue Christian Church on September 1, 2018.

He graduated from the Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University with a master’s degree in theology (biblical studies) in May 2014 and was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), according to the church’s website.

In March 2016, Morehouse College in Atlanta inducted Russell into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers, the website says.

Washington Avenue Christian Church has operated in Elyria since 1881.

For more information about the abolition program, visit the church’s website at

Jerry B. Hatch