An Alabama church says it will be paying over $41,000 in debt for 48 families and individuals, including both members and non-members of its congregation.
The Worship Center Christian Church, located in Birmingham, Alabama, has a program that seeks to help those in debt due to payday loans, a type of short-term loan that can carry high interest rates and other associated fees.
The generous initiative was spearheaded by Pastor Vanable H. Moody, who told The Christian Post that the purpose of the initiative is to be the "hands and feet of Jesus" for those in need.
"We felt led to eradicate that debt because we want to give people a fresh start and help them get out of that hole," the pastor told CP, adding that his church has often been dedicated to charitable causes, including visits to local prisons, feeding the homeless, and coat giveaway events.
"We just had a desire – and this is really what our church is about – we want to demonstrate the love of Christ in very tangible ways. We always look for opportunities [to do this]," Moody said.
The initiative started in February, when the pastor began teaching a series on financial management.
Moody says that statistics show a lot of people have resolutions and goals related to better financial management, including the ability to save more, spend money wiser, or have a smarter financial plan in general.
"We had a teaching series around [finances] and one of the messages was living debt fee. In that message I began dealing with the pain that debt really causes for people who are under the burden of debt," Moody told CP, noting that "[debt] hinders your quality of life in a variety of ways."
"I also began to explain to people how often debt becomes a trap, particularly when you get into predatory lenders," Moody added.
The pastor told CP that he was especially moved when the members of his church were able to donate the $41,000 needed for the families struggling with debt, saying "our church just overwhelmingly responded."
Those receiving the debt help will be required to take financial counseling, the church said in a press release.
Alabama's House Financial Services Committee recently approved a bill that would lower the charge amount required of payday loan customers.
According to Al.com, customers in the state could previously be required to pay fees of $17.50 per $100 borrowed, with the deadline for paying back the loan being two weeks.
The new bill puts a cap of $15 per $100 borrowed and extends the deadline to pay the money back to 30 days, Al.com adds.
Stephen Stetson, an analyst for Alabama Arise, an advocacy group for low-income residents, told the media outlet that the new legislation is a much-needed regulation of certain loan types in the state.
"It's needed reform. It's not what we want, but this is the best shot at reform of payday lending in the House," Stetson said.
Moody added to CP that he believes there "absolutely" needs to be more regulation for payday loan companies.