Through a partnership with RIP Medical Debt, First West and the attendees of the recent Northeast Louisiana Christmas Celebration will help eradicate $3.5 million in medical debt in Ouachita Parish.

The Northeast Louisiana Christmas Celebration took place on Dec. 20-22, 2019.

“We’re excited that nearly 4500 people helped us make a difference in the lives of those in the most need,” said First West Lead Pastor Michael Wood. “We want our community to know that our church and the people of Ouachita Parish care about those in need — that they matter to God and us.”

RIP Medical Debt is a nonprofit that works with debt collectors to resolve medical debt that sits in collections for people in a specific area. First West chose to work with RIP Medical Debt to help resolve debt in Ouachita Parish.

The parish sits as one of the highest parishes with unresolved indebtedness in the state, with nearly $23 million in collections.

“There’s a huge need here. This indebtedness hits credit reports and prevents families from securing adequate housing. It leads to higher insurance premiums, and potentially being denied from employment,” said Wood.

“We want to help people get back on their feet,” Wood said.

RIP Medical Debt will take the collected money and work with creditors to resolve the debt of Ouachita Parish’s neediest first. Recipients of the debt forgiveness will receive a letter that their debt has been paid for by the church and those in attendance at the Northeast Louisiana Christmas Celebration. Hundreds in the parish should be affected by debt forgiveness.

“We want people to know that this is a picture of the Gospel,” said Wood. “Jesus shows His grace and cancels our sin debt when we trust Him as Savior. Jesus cares for every person.”

It will likely take six to eight weeks for RIP Medical Debt to process the donation from First West and the NELA Christmas Celebration and to let those know who may receive debt forgiveness.

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