Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This Debt is Killing Me

The sickening look on the young man’s face was evidence enough of the pain that he was feeling. As he described the almost hopeless feeling of having this large debt hanging over his head he shook his head slowly from side to side saying, “This debt is killing me.”

He accrued more debt since his college days. In college he had come out owing and had not been able to get free of the student loan. At the time he got the student loan it was the only way – he would graduate and then get a good job – paying off the loan easily. But not now – the debt mountain was impossible.

How did it happen? Well it was so easy it makes your head spin to hear the story.

After graduation he met his wife to be. They hit off right from the start. One date led to another. They didn’t need "e-Harmony" – they were lucky – they found each other without having to pay any “hooking up” price to find each other.

When they married he came into the marriage with $25,000 school debt. She had another $18,000 school debt. That is suddenly $43,000 to take care of with one “I do”… with not so good of an income.

She also had a car that she had bought new on a special long term kind of low payment offer the dealership was giving to those that qualified. She had bought it with a down payment out of her student loan and then kept up the monthly payments with her on-growing student loan. It was justified in that instead of paying the costs of travel on a bus or in car pooling to the University – the money was going into her own car – which some day would be paid off.

The odd thing was the financing on the car was not through a normal place of financing but somewhere that you had to keep paying a certain amount on the lease/purchase payments. It was now 5 years old and she owed more than the car was worth if she could sell it and the car had problems that would cost a lot to fix! It was their only vehicle.

Though they were graduates she didn’t get the best job in the world. She was working at something far less than her education would offer – but that was all she could find – and this job didn’t pay that well. The owner of the business was known to be fugal – or tight – very tight with his money. The reason he did okay in business is that he paid little.

Then it happened. It was pure joy at first with the unexpected announcement – she was pregnant. A baby was coming.

They hadn’t really checked into what would happen if she did get pregnant. Maternity leave was to be theirs – but the amount paid to them for her maternity leave wasn’t as much as she was making for sure – the salary she was making was cut. Her maternity leave benefits were 55% of what she was making…which had been about $24,000 a year or about $460 per week… which then went down to $253 a week at the 55% mark… and that lasted for the period of her maternity leave.

Then there was the problem of what it cost them for day care and where would it be. All the day cares were full up… the one that they did get cost $25 per day…not bad.

His salary had remained pretty much the same since graduation, making $36,000 per year. There was a hope that maybe there would be a raise at the end of the first year – but nothing so far. The company’s performance had not been what head office had expected and the down turn in their market had made the raise not possible.

To get by over the first year and get settled they had bought a few things. With the new credit card they had paid for a few things more. Then they borrowed some money from her brother. The new High Definition TV was a blessing – now they could watch great movies at home and no more $35 night outs at the theater… with the cable package they had they had lots of movies….

The story went on and on. As it unraveled there was little or no hope for them to start paying off more student loans – if any. The calls were coming about missed payments so were the letters – and the brother that loaned the money was moving and needed his money back.

I could see why the debt was killing him. The love for each other was evaporating and she was not as responsive to his desire and love making any more.

What a mess.

One thing about it – they did attend church. They were involved somewhat. But when the church needed to ask for the extra offerings and itself was falling behind on its cash flow – they couldn’t help. They just felt like staying home and not hearing the pastor’s appeals for everyone to work together and give just that little bit more.

The young man looked at me and confessed, “Pastor, we have not been able to give much to the church at all. We do not and cannot tithe. We are so maxed out that I can’t find any money to give anything – let alone more.”

When our Northview Pentecostal Church built its structure and became known as the New Church up there on that hill – in 1980 it was not the same for young couples then. And at that time the older couples – middle age and beyond were solid givers. You could do almost anything with faith and in faith. The $1,350,000 debt was doable… and even the 20% interest being paid on that debt was possible.

No one would have guessed then that the next generation would face the obstacles that they do today with finances. And no one had thought it through far enough to see what it means to have to keep up payments without the solid growing base that is needed.

No one thought that “the base that gives” in a church would eventually be so far in debt themselves and be using their own Line of Credit so much that they couldn’t worry about a Church Line of Credit.

Sure… Sure… I know that God can give us a revival and a wonderful move of His Holy Spirit… and that will likely happen soon. But unless that move of God includes a Revival of Local Salaries and pays our young people more – it will not see a great tithe or offering coming in …. And unless they get a hold on their debt – they might want to help but for the most part it will be almost impossible… almost…

I talked with one pastor that told of the need they have locally. Almost all of their bright young adults and young couples have considered moving to Alberta and other places where they can make more money and pay down some of their bills.

Yesterday’s further announcements about the further unfolding disaster in the USA financial world made me quiver and shake a bit.

The last Saturday’s sudden rise in the price of Gas – up 13 cents a Litre in one jump – nearly floored us. That was done even before there was a problem with supply somewhere in the USA… and in actual fact it will not make any difference to our Gas supply in Canada AT ALL.

“NOW… next Sunday – I am asking you to double your TITHE of 10% at church and then give a special OFFERING this MONTH on top of that… next month we need you to do that again – only this time you need to double your TITHE of 10% to 20% two Sundays to help us face the first snow storm and the plowing…”

As I thought that thought out loud… I settled back down… I am no longer the pastor and I don’t have to say that anymore… Whew! There is some relief today…

~ Murray Lincoln ~

“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

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