By CBF Foundation
The heart of University Heights Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri, has always been one of service and ministry to the community. Situated in the historic Rountree neighborhood across the street from Missouri State University, the church has a unique position in Springfield to connect to a diverse population.
When Pastor Danny Chisholm preached from Luke’s gospel about announcing “good news to the poor,” church members took it to heart. The church, already connected with Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri, began studying the local poverty problem. To educate themselves, a group of church members attended a poverty simulation, rode city buses, watched videos and read books about poverty. This led to the birth of University Hope.
“We decided to focus our efforts on the working poor and felt we could be proactive about payday loans,” said church member, Bob Perry. “We felt our church could do something to make a difference for at least a few people,” Perry told local news media. So University Heights members dug into their pockets to raise money for the University Hope account at Educational Community Credit Union near the church. With the University Hope funds providing collateral to back the loans, the credit union is able to make loans at a reasonable rate to those caught in the predatory lending cycle.
“The church does not make a cent on the loans,” said Dr. Chisholm. The church and credit union partnership provides “rescue loans” to families paying as much as 450% interest. One family, for example, found hope in breaking a loan cycle when they received a loan for $573 through University Hope. That loan was used to pay off a payday loan for $500 which had been made two years prior. The family had spent a couple of thousand dollars trying to pay off the original loan. For months, they had made monthly $200 interest payments and then had to make a subsequent payment of $679 the next month to pay off the loan. Every other month, they would have to re-borrow to pay the $679, thus continuing the cycle. With the University Hope loan, the payment was slashed to $18 and the loan was paid off in a reasonable amount of time.
Through University Hope, small short-term loans with reasonable interest rates and fees are made without credit checks. To qualify for the program, the borrower must have some source of income. If they have an existing loan with interest of more than 36% and a balance of $1000 or less, they can qualify for a loan that can be repaid within one year. By making regular on-time payments, the borrower’s credit rating is improved, allowing loan recipients to meet future needs without resorting to payday or title loans. They also work with a University Heights volunteer to receive financial counseling and evaluation of their ability to pay. A mentor is assigned to help when problems arise and to give advice on budgeting, finding community resources or just being a friend in time of need.
By spring of 2017, 30 loans have been made and all have been repaid or are in process. When University Hope loans are repaid, the funds used to guarantee the loan will be used to help someone else. One recipient paid off her loan and walked across the street to the church and presented University Heights with a $100.00 gift to say thank you. One family has since joined the church, another family member has been baptized and other families are attending some church activities.
University Heights Baptist Church and Pastor Danny Chisholm will be recognized by the CBF Foundation at its Annual Heritage Society Breakfast during the CBF General Assembly in Atlanta, June 30, 2017. Both church and pastor will receive the Patricia Ayres Award of Excellence for Generous Giving.
Register to attend the 2017 CBF General Assembly in Atlanta June 26-30 at www.cbf.net/assembly. Learn more about and register to attend the CBF Foundation Heritage Society breakfast by emailing Jennifer Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.