I went to a Kerygma Feast last night.  It was my first time to attend and listen to Bo Sanchez and I was really excited about it.  I’ve read most of his works and listened to his tapes, but I haven’t really listened to him in person.  The affair started late, but the audience waited patiently.  It began with a praise and worship and everyone was soon on their feet singing and praising God.  It was led by one of the members of the Light of Jesus community here in Bacolod and although I’ve heard better worship leaders, it wasn’t so bad. 🙂 

When Bo finally came on stage, he asked the audience to pray with him.  I cried so hard during the prayer when he said, “Lord, fill my cup.”  I cried because I realized that my cup is close to empty now.  I’m not just talking about money, but more my cup of blessing.  I feel that I haven’t received enough blessing from the Lord lately, what with Nanay’s situation and the financial problems that accompany it.  Maybe God has been blessing me in ways I have not seen, maybe I’ve just been to blinded by my pain to see it.  As I prayed, I truly felt that God was there, listening to me, and when my friends hugged me afterwards, it was His arms that enveloped me. 

Anyway, Bo talked about the steps to financial freedom.  He said that, like the Israelites, we go through a journey in life.  The first stage is the desert, where we experience pain and suffering.  Just when we feel that everything is hopeless, God sends us manna.  This is the second stage – manna in the desert.  Manna comes freely.  We don’t work for it, but God sends it to us.  I thought about what Bo said and I realized that my desert came when Nanay got sick and we didn’t have enough money to pay the hospital bill.  But we were given a guarantee note by her employer and so we were able to bring her home from the hospital.  We didn’t owe the hospital anything, but we owed her employer naman.  That was my desert.  Honestly, I didn’t know how we would be able to pay off her debt to her employer because our regular expenses for her medicines, therapy and attendants were taking up most of our savings and earnings.  Manna came in the form of a pardoning of this debt.  Every centavo of that debt – and all other debts she still had when the stroke happened – was written off by her employer.  For me, that was manna.  We didn’t work for it.  It was freely given.

But according to Bo, manna in the desert is not the final destination.  The final destination is the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey.  He said that eventually, the manna will stop coming, just as it did for the Israelites.  And he’s right, we can’t keep on waiting for people to give us money for Nanay’s upkeep.  Moving into the Promised Land means we have to till the soil, plant the seed, water it, and when it grows mature, harvest it.  He said we shouldn’t be content with just being in the desert with manna. 

The talked changed my perspective about money.  Bo told us that the main reason why Filipinos remain poor is because we are religious.  For us, being religious means that we consider money as evil so we shouldn’t talk about it, we shouldn’t worry about it, because God will provide anyway.  But, this is daw the wrong perspective of money.  We shouldn’t think of money as evil because the ultimate purpose of wealth is to share it with others.  We shouldn’t be afraid to accept God’s financial blessings – it’s not going to make us evil – because we can use this money to bless others.

He talked about how one time he wanted to help a friend who badly needed P700 for her daughter’s tuition but the only help he could give was to pray over them because he only had P20 in his wallet.  I experienced the same thing when my sister asked me if she could borrow money to pay for her plane ticket which needed to be paid for immediately since it was a promo fare.  I felt really bad that I couldn’t help her because I didn’t have enough money.

This is turning out to be a very long post, but the words are just flowing so, here’s more…  According to Bo, financial freedom means having zero bad debt (debts that don’t put money back into your pocket, like borrowing money to buy a car or that latest Nokia phone) and being able to give freely to those in need.  He said we shouldn’t be satisfied with having enough money, because to have enough means we don’t have extra to give to those who ask for our help.

So, after changing our perspective on money (that’s the first step by the way), we have to aim for zero bad debts.  For me, that means paying off that burgeoning credit card balance.  He said we have to set a target for when to pay off these debts and we should aim to get rid of those debts with the highest interest rates (again credit cards, at 3.5% per month!).

The next step is to learn to live on only 70% of our income.  Whoa!  70%?!  I thought, that is impossible!  Will I ever learn to do that?  So where does the 30% go?  10% should go to tithes and 20% to savings.  And mind you, there is a biblical basis for the savings of 20%.  Remember when Joseph interpreted the Pharoah’s dream and he told him that there was going to be 7 years of plenty and then 7 years of famine?  When the pharoah asked him what they should do, he said that for those seven years, the Egyptians should save a fifth (meaning 20%) of their produce.  And that they did.  And they were the only ones who had enough grain when the famine came.

Bo also said that our savings should not be kept solely in the bank, which has a savings rate of only 1% p.a. (less 20% for withholding tax).  He mentioned mutual funds, which yields higher interest (as high as 12% p.a.) than ordinary savings accounts – and even time deposits.  Half of this 20% savings should be kept for emergencies (sickness in the family, for instance) and the other half should be set aside for our retirement because we cannot rely on the pension we will get from SSS. 

He also said that the earlier we save, the better.  If someone aged 22 saves 20T a year for 6 years, at 12% interest p.a., he would have saved 9M by age 62! (Please check the calculations.) I agree with him on that point and I wish I had started saving when I was younger.  He also said we have to protect ourselves from unexpected events by getting life insurance. 

Since manna no longer comes in the Promised Land, when we reach it, we have to work hard.  This means that we should aim to increase our income by selling something or getting into rackets (those of the legal kind, of course).  This, I believe, is sound advice, because with the way our economy has been going, being a salaried employee is not enough. 

The talk really gave me a new way of thinking about money.  And somehow, I left the venue empowered and believing that I can be financially free.  I know most, if not all, of the people who went there feel the same way I do.

I hope what I shared in this really long post (must be my longest post so far) are inspired, too.