Clarksville church clears $1.5 million in medical debt

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – Whether it’s the lyrics shared or the songs sung, the senior pastor of Madison Street United Methodist Church in Clarksville hopes faith is at the center of everything they do. “We are constantly looking for ways to make a difference in our community because we believe that is part of what God calls us to do,” said Reverend Harriet Bryan.

So as soon as news broke that communities in Kentucky had been flattened by tornadoes, Reverend Bryan knew they had to take action. “Like everyone else, we wanted to do something to help,” she said.

Legions of volunteers seemed to have covered the debris removal, so she challenged her congregation to take a different approach. “We knew there would be others who would suffer that people might not think about,” Reverend Bryan said.

They partnered with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys unpaid hospital payments and instead of sending out more bills, sends out a bright yellow envelope announcing that those charges have been waived. “Who had lost, maybe, their house and who still had this albatross of medical debt, it seemed like a no-brainer,” she said.

You see, helping people after a devastating tornado is something this congregation knows all too well. Twenty-three years ago, the century-old shrine on Madison Street was shattered by a tornado that hit Clarksville. Rebuilding took years and was only possible through the kindness of others and faith. “It’s one of the ways we say, God hasn’t forgotten you. God cares and we care too,” Reverend Bryan said.

It is a faith they can now share with others. “If we can take a burden off someone who was hurting, we wanted to be able to do that,” Reverend Bryan said.

The Madison Street United Methodist Church was able to erase more than $1.5 million in medical debt in several counties in Tennessee and Kentucky. Many of them have felt the impact of tornadoes and flooding.

If you receive a yellow envelope from RIP Medical Debt, DO NOT THROW IT AWAY. NewsChannel 5 would also like to share your story. Please email [email protected] so we can contact you.

Jerry B. Hatch