Mercy ministries have been a vital part of the Church since the first century. Acts 6:1-7 details how the first church set up the logistics for caring for members with physical needs. In fact, during his earthly ministry, Jesus commanded his disciples to care for the poor and the needy. One church located in Alexandria, Va., is doing just that. Demonstrating one of the ways that churches can obey Jesus in the 21st century, Alfred Street Baptist Church has paid off $100,000 in student debt for 34 seniors at Howard University.
College is expensive. Too expensive, thanks in part to FAFSA and the student loan racket. You don’t have to agree with my diagnosis of the problem to agree that the cost of a college education has reached absurd levels. It’s also true that a college education greatly increases an individual’s chances for financial success. Without a college degree in our economy, good paying jobs are scarce. This is why the generosity of Alfred Street Baptist Church is a timely example for all Christians.
According to a report published by the independent local Washington, D.C., news agency DCist, the money erased the debt of “34 full-time students who demonstrated genuine financial need and held a grade point average of 2.0 or higher. The money went to seniors with balances of $100 to over $3,000, preventing them from graduating on time.”
Alfred Street Baptist raised the money during a campaign called “Seek 2019.” Taking place over thirty days, the church asked its members to forgo small luxuries and donate the money. The roughly 4,000 church members stepped up to the plate and donated a whopping $150,000. The remaining $50,000 is being sent to Bennett College in North Carolina.
The church’s act of mercy is already paying dividends. Speaking to DCist, Howard University student Dante Petit-Hommes explained being called into the university’s Office of Financial Aid:
“It was unbelievable. I thought it was just an opportunity to obtain more info on how to obtain money or apply for scholarships, but I didn’t think it would be anything like this.
It was a huge burden because I also live off campus. So I had to think about rent and transportation. I have to pay for my cap and gown and transportation and accommodations for family and friends coming for my graduation in May. So, it was hard to try to pay for everything else and still have this balance hanging over me.”
Until Jesus returns, churches will need to provide food and clothing to the poor and needy. Changing times, though, require churches to consider changing their approach and looking for other needed avenues for mercy ministries. Alfred Street Baptist Church is providing an admirable example of loving Jesus by loving others in a 21st-century context.