No doubt about it, the healthcare system in the US is “ahem” broken. In my opinion, it’s going down like the Titanic. Held afloat for a bit of time, and now sinking to the depths with too many innocents on board.

In the fall of 2014, we looked to leave our health insurance company/plan for another due to sky rocketing rates. It didn’t take too long to realize that all companies and plans were expensive and the stuff of sleepless nights and bad dreams for this ranching family. That’s right. We are self-employed. And, our health insurance premium was the biggest bill we had to conquer each month. After shopping and praying, and talking, and more shopping and praying…we decided at last to take an enormous leap of faith. We walked away from traditional health insurance.

You see, several friends had shared information about a solution to traditional health insurance. At first I was skeptical, the idea sounded outrageous. But, the more we read, and talked to members, and prayed about it, the more the idea grew on us. And, in February 2015 we officially joined Samaritan Ministries.

Now, I could go on for hours about Samaritan Ministries and all that they do to serve the people of the world. I could discuss in technical detail how their health sharing program works. But, I am no paid spokesperson, and no one asked me to write this. I just want to speak straight from the heart.

The tenent of SM is simple. Each member family gives a set amount per month to an assigned recipient who has a financial need related to health care costs. One month per year, the monthly portion is sent to SM’s headquarters to fund their facility, staff, and operating costs. We receive a monthly newsletter that shares about what is happening within the membership (over 53,000 members now) and a description of the situation for the person who you are assigned to send your share to. I have always loved to get the mail, but the enthusiasm that comes each month when the newsletter arrives cannot be described in words. It is a breath of fresh air in this troubled world. The answered prayers, the needs met, the ministry being provided all over this country is truly remarkable. In addition, I look forward to seeing who our family will support. You see, part of your monthly assignment, aside from sending your share, is to encourage and pray for the recipient.

When We Walked Away From Health Insurance...

It wasn’t long after we joined SM, that the miraculous news came that we were expecting our Lucy Mae. I was fearful and skeptical as we began a long course of doctor visits. I questioned that the people of SM would really be there for us as we began to pay our bills. That’s right. Another part of being a member of SM is that the individual tell their provider that they are cash paying, and ask if a discount for services is possible. After you get past the perplexed looks, you often can find a discount when paying in full. I diligently prepared all the paperwork to submit, and sent it off…and waited.

Within days of receipt, I had a phone call from the office at SM. I tentatively answered. The first words were “Congratulations Mrs. Peterson!” Have you ever heard such words from an employee at one of our nation’s health insurance providers? The representative wanted to thank me for sending in the paperwork, ask a few questions, and wanted to close the call by PRAYING with me over the phone for a healthy pregnancy. Never in my life have I wept with a stranger, or felt such peace and gratitude. It touched my soul.

The next month, our needs were published. It wasn’t many days, and gifts began to roll in from across the country. Every penny of our need was covered. Beyond that, were notes, cards, even hand drawn pictures from children with words of support and encouragement and congratulations.

When We Walked Away From Health Insurance...

The following months of my pregnancy progressed much the same. The people at Samaritan Ministries were some of the first to know about the test results that sent us to the perinatal specialist in Omaha, and the answered prayers when everything came back ok. They were some of the first to know about Lucy’s birth, and to offer their congratulations. And again, at the end of our financial need in 2016, the people of Samaritan Ministries all shared of themselves to help us cover our need. Meanwhile, our own family has sent our monthly shares to those with a baby in the NICU, others battling cancer, and some recovering from the bumps and bruises that inevitably come along in this lifetime. It feels so freeing to send our hard earned funds to fellow Christians who have need.

Samaritan Ministries may not be the solution for everyone who is trying to figure out how to provide for their healthcare needs this year. But for us, it was an answer to prayer. A reminder of the goodness that still exists in this country, and a blessing that we were able to bring a baby into this world without an enormous financial burden.

I invite you to look at what Samaritan Ministries can do in your life, and what you can do in the lives of others. As you are undoubtedly evaluating your goals for 2016, perhaps SM membership could join that list.

God bless you in the new year.

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.