This holiday season, a church is freeing Arizonans from millions of dollars in medical debt.
"I guess it all starts with a generous church," Compass Christian Church Pastor Brian Jobe told ABC15. The church has locations in Chandler and Casa Grande.
For several years, church-goers have put an extra dollar in the offering plate each week to help other Compass members facing financial difficulties.
The church calls it a "dollar club." Then, Compass leaders asked members to do something special for strangers this Christmas season.
They are putting all of their dollar club money toward paying down medical debt for random people in Maricopa and Pinal counties.
"You can talk about loving people, and then you can really do something about it," Pastor Jobe said. "This was an opportunity to really show that we're living out the mission."
Compass Christian Church connected with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit company, which buys unpaid medical bills from health care facilities. Like a debt collection agency, RIP pays pennies on the dollar for the debts.
"People are one illness or accident away from financial ruin," said RIP Medical Debt Founder Craig Antico. His company finds donors willing to pay off the debt at its much-reduced price, which frees the former patient and family from a huge burden.
Antico said the company vets the debtors, choosing to help people with limited incomes who have exhausted all possibilities for repayment. He said the average debt is $1,600.
Compass Christian Church raised $54,000, which will pay off more than $5 million in original medical debt. Jobe said recipients whose debts are eliminated should get a letter saying the church paid in the next couple of weeks.
"They're going to wake up with a Christmas miracle," Pastor Jobe said. "We're going to say, 'Man, isn't it great that instead of just being about ourselves, we truly lived at our mission, and we love people that we don't even know."
This story was originally published by Melissa Blasius on ABC15.com.