Church effort raises $61K to erase more than $6M in medical debt

A Cape Girardeau church had a goal of raising $24,000 last weekend to help eliminate about $2.4 million worth of medical bills for more than 2,200 families in an 11-county area.

But response to the church’s fundraising appeal was so overwhelming, church officials now plan to expand their medical debt relief efforts to more than twice as many counties and several thousand more people in parts of three states.

Cape First Church — which has locations in Cape Girardeau, Sikeston and Marble Hill, Missouri — announced last week it would have a one-day missions offering Sunday that would be given to a debt relief company that would, in turn, erase outstanding medical bills for qualified families and individuals.

The company, RIP Medical Debt, headquartered in Rye, New York, is in the business of purchasing delinquent medical debt from collection agencies, often for pennies on the dollar, and “selling” that debt to churches and other charitable organizations.

Instead of raising just $24,000, Cape First lead pastor Gary Brothers announced in a Facebook video Wednesday that $61,388 was donated to the debt relief campaign.

By substantially surpassing its goal, Brothers said the church is expanding the reach of its debt relief efforts to more than 25 counties, or “every county in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky that our Discovering Life television program reaches.”

Although the church is still working with RIP Medical Debt to define the geographic area where people will benefit from the debt relief, Brothers said “It’s going to take out over $6 million in medical debt in the tri-state area.”

People whose medical bills are erased through the debt relief program will receive letters from RIP Medical Debt in the coming weeks explaining they no longer owe their outstanding balances courtesy of Cape First Church.

The Southeast Missourian reported on a similar medical debt relief project earlier this year in which the TCT Television Network based in Marion, Illinois, worked with RIP Medical Debt to wipe out about $2.5 million worth of medical bills for hundreds of families — including more than 200 people in Cape Girardeau County.

RIP Medical Debt was launched in 2014 as a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization by a pair of former collection industry executives who decided to put their collection experience to work to forgive debt rather than collect on it.

Families and individuals are selected for program inclusion by RIP Medical Debt based on their income, debt and assets.

“We, as a church, do not know who is affected and who will receive the benefits,” said Cape First communications director David Urzi. “We are not in control of who gets help; it’s all done by the debt relief agency.”

According to RIP Medical Debt co-founder and chief operating officer Craig Antico, more than $900 million in debt has been abolished nationwide through the organization’s efforts since 2014.

Urzi said the church began looking into the medical debt relief project a few months ago.

“I have some friends who had done this before elsewhere and loved the results, so I brought it to our team and asked what they thought,” he said. The Cape First leadership saw the debt relief project as an opportunity to fill a need at the local level.

“We prayed on it and decided our church could raise $24,000,” Urzi said. “Obviously, God exceeded our expectations, and the people showed how much they care about their community and their neighbors.”

He said it seemed as if every member of the Cape First congregation gave.

“We’ve never seen that many envelopes come through our offering. There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of envelopes with mostly gifts of $20, $50 and $100. Everybody played a part.”

More information about RIP Debt Relief, including answers to frequently asked questions and a “get help” section, can be found on the organization’s website,

Do you crave business news? Check out B Magazine, and the B Magazine email newsletter. Check it out at to find out more.