Local church helps with debilitating payday loan debt

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Imagine paying up to 450-percent interest, with no end in sight.
A longtime Springfield church is stepping in to help those drowning in payday loan debt.

Pastor Danny Chisholm at University Heights Baptist Church was giving a sermon on Jesus bringing good news to the poor. Then he says a light came on in his mind -- of how to do just that.

"I live paycheck to paycheck, but yeah, that made me feel good," said Sandie Cartwright.

"Everything is good now," she said.

Cartwright is driving her truck debt free -- a feat she never thought possible.

"I was paying $70 a month, and $15 of it went to the principle," she said.

That was her situation with her monthly bill to a payday loan company -- until her paydays stopped coming.

"I had got the loan for our truck, then I lost my job, so I was needing money," Cartwright said.

And, with that, she lost hope of ever getting out of the bad decision she says she made to go to a Title Loan company.

"I think I owed them about $4,500, with no way to pay it anymore."

Then came a Godsend. She was told about a church with a plan to help people like her who are drowning in high interest debt.

"Some of the averages go up to 450-percent interest," Pastor Chisholm said.

He was hoping for a way to break free from that bondage.

"The wonderful thing about it is that the new loan that they are paying back is at a substantially reduced rate compared to what they had been paying," Chisholm said. "The money is provided by our church, the loan is generated there at the credit union, and the person, when they pay the new loan back, they are actually paying the credit union."

University Heights Baptist says it's a way to show the love of Jesus in a tangible way.

"When you've been in this loan for a long time, you don't think you'll ever get out of it, and it consumes you. You think about it all the time and, for her to be liberated from that, it's just been remarkable," he said.

Chisholm has seen many in Cartwright's shoes -- and has plenty of testimonies from others to tell.

"She was able to get some assistance for her loan and, as a result, she continued with a connection to our church, so not only did she get some financial help, but she got some emotional and spiritual help as well," he said. "She made some friends in our church and she has continued to be involved, and it has been a beautiful thing."

Chisholm hopes other churches will start doing the same program.

About 25 or 30 people have gone through the program so far. They also get a mentor to help them along the path.

If you are interested in finding out more about getting, or giving help, you can call the church at 417-862-0789.