Desperation Church cancels medical debt for more than 2,000 families across state

Pastor Andy Heis preaches at Desperation Church. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Meggs/Desperation Church)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Desperation Church recently made good on its promise to purchase and cancel the outstanding medical debts of families in need across a five-county region around Cullman with one minor change in plans: instead of five counties, the congregation’s debt relief reached 57 counties. In all, 2,009 families across the state will see more than $2.8 million in debt canceled through a program that allowed the church to purchase that debt for pennies on the dollar.

On Thursday, Desperation Church issued this statement:

Desperation Church partnered with the non-profit organization RIP Medical Debt to purchase and forgive $2,873,390.75 of unpaid medical bills for 2,009 Alabama families. The partnership began after learning medical debt is the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy in the United States. Medical debt has destroyed the financial stability of our most vulnerable Americans including: the sick, the elderly, the poor as well as our veterans. Desperation Church meets in locations in Blount, Cullman, Marshall, and Walker Counties and has a heart to serve the community in practical ways. Initially our goal was to eliminate medical debt for those identified by RIP Medical Debt as meeting criteria for financial hardship in the counties we serve. The generous hearts of Desperation Church donors enabled expansion to neighboring counties and then to other locations across Alabama. 

Credit scores are damaged when a person is unable to pay medical bills. Damaged credit scores have a trickle effect on getting an apartment, a job, a loan and lower interest rates. These negative effects will begin to change in the next few weeks for over 2,000 recipients when they receive notification that their debt has been acquired and eliminated thanks to the generosity of Desperation Church.

In the five original counties

The list includes county, number of families helped, total debt cancelled and average debt per family.

  • Blount County . . . . . . . . 41 families . . . . $125,078.30 . . $3,050.69
  • Cullman County . . . . . .   58 families . . . . $209,087.36 . . $3,604.95
  • Marshall County . . . . . . 403 families . . . $415,245.48 . . $1,030.39
  • Walker County . . . . . . . 63 families . . . . $104,379.87 . . $1,656.82
  • Winston County  . . . . . . 16 families . . . . $10,804.62 . . .  $675.29


Out of all 57 counties, Marion County had the largest number of families helped at 506, and the largest debt amount total at $856,281.97. Macon County, with only five families, had the largest per capita amount at $12,448.54 per family average.

Families whose debt has been relieved will be notified by mail, if they have not already, by RIP Medical Debt, with a note in the letter indicating Desperation Church’s payment.

On Thursday, Pastor Andy Heis told The Tribune, “We know that people with the medical bills and stuff have a lot of- they’re in bondage to it. They have a lot of fear, anxiety, stress, and whenever you pay medical debt, it relieves a lot of that stuff. 

“Obviously, it hurts them more with their credit. If you’re hurting their credit, they can’t own stuff; they can’t own cars, they can’t own houses. It keeps them bound up. We’re hoping that in some way, form or fashion, it helps them get some freedom in the area of debt.”

Why do it?

Said Heis, “It honestly reveals how Jesus paid our debt, in a smaller way. But the bigger thing is to let them know, number one, that somebody loves them. And number two, more than anything else, that Jesus loves them and to show them that, hey, we want you to understand more than anything else that Jesus Christ loves you. We love you. We may never meet on this side of earth; hopefully, we’ll meet in Heaven one day, but we just want to let you know more than anything else that you’re loved.

“It’s a way to get the Gospel in, and hopefully, prayerfully, they’re going to look at our website. We’ve got an area on our website where, if anybody’s looking for medical debt updates, whatever, they can click on it. It’s a great possibility the 2,009 people may want to come see ‘who is Desperation Church.’”

According to Heis, the church’s website will feature a video message from him “about how Christ loves them, how we love them. Hopefully they’re going to watch some of our videos, get tuned in, give their life to Christ; understand who Jesus is, more than anything else, and see larger debt get paid.”

From the church’s press release:

Desperation Church is led by Pastor Andy Heis and has multiple central Alabama locations. Over the past 10 years, the church grew from one location in Cullman to four locations including Arab, Hayden, and Jasper, as well as a worldwide online audience. For more information about the church visit or to learn more about the medical debt forgiveness.

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W.C. Mann