WEST MONROE, LA (01/06/20) Christmas has come and gone, some residents across the ArkLaMiss will be receiving another present soon. It’s not something you wrap in paper or put a bow on, it’s the gift of medical cost relief. First West Church is patterning up with the non-profit RIP Medical Debt to cover $3.5 million in debt across Ouachita parish. This was made possible through nearly 4500 members of the church, as well as volunteers and donors.

“They’re able to go in and purchase up medical debt that has been moved to a collection agency, really for pennies on the dollar so it helps us to maximize the generosity of our people and those who attended the Christmas celebration” says Michael Wood, lead pastor with First West.

It may not seem like a big deal to some, but medical debt is a big problem across the parish.

“There’s more medical debt in Ouachita parish than in any other parish in the state of Louisiana. In fact, they’re 23 million dollars. For us that’s more than just a big number. We understand that represents families that are being held in bondage because of debt they didn’t ask for. It’s just because of the reality of a crisis happening in their life, and it’s put a huge obstacle in their life” says Wood.

The money will not only relieve some of the burden caused by medical debt, but it will also help the recipients in other aspects of their life.

“That also effects your credit score, which effects the ability for you to apply to maybe purchase a home for a family, or to do other benefits such as a job applications and others” says Worship Pastor Brad Jett with First West.

First West is thankful their faith has allowed them to help the community in this way.

“It just makes me excited to be part of an organization that makes a difference like this” says Jett. “To come in and at least impact a little bit of that big number and to be a blessing to these families for us was a great way to demonstrate the Gospel with the goodness of Jesus” says Wood.