Coordinating building banquets for the Every Nation Building Phase 2 project was not difficult for Partner Relations Coordinator Ria Catalasan; it was listening to the nightly invitations to partner in faith that tugged at the former bank executive’s heart.
“Every night,” she says, “ a different pastor would pray, but nobody knew my situation. It got so bad,” she adds, “that I didn’t have enough money to buy a pair of shoes.”
Things weren’t always so tight for Ria; only a few short years ago, she had a thriving career at one of the country’s largest banks. While she was sole breadwinner and responsible for sending her brother to school, her family’s finances were manageable, even earning enough to secure a house and lot along C5, which, rented out, generated additional income for her family.
In 2001, she decided to start a business with her cousin. She handled the daily operations; he converted his condominium into office space. From the get-go, the business struggled; envisioned initially as a call center, it transitioned into a human resources consultancy, then a virtual office.
“I didn’t pay myself a salary,” Ria says, “our household expenses were all paid using credit cards.” After months of financial bleeding, in, Ria’s cousin decided to sell his condominium, effectively terminating the business arrangement and leaving her tens of thousands of pesos in credit card debt.
“The failure of the business was very difficult for me,” Ria recalls. “I cried so hard.”
In, determined to rise above her situation, Ria threw herself into her new job – Partner Relations Coordinator at Every Nation’s Partner Relations Office – with passion and fervor. At the same time, she and her family decided to put their C5 property on the market.
“It wasn’t easy,” Ria says. “The property was for sale for several months, but we had no inquiries. Meanwhile, the summer was difficult; we didn’t use air-conditioning. I sold all my jewelry so we could buy gas. The worst part for me,” she adds, “was not being able to give to the building.”
In July 2012, Ria had a conversation with a friend from the bank for whom she used to work. That friend reminded her that she had stock options she hadn’t claimed; the value was close to Php32,000.
“I couldn’t believe I had money! I converted it to cash,” she says, “so I would have two to three months of worry-free living. But then I was prompted by God to give it to the building.”
“How could I do that?” Ria said to herself. It didn’t sound like something she could do.
Banquet after banquet passed as Ria mulled over what God was asking her to do. Finally, after one particular banquet during which Pastor Paolo Punzalan of Victory Fort Bonifacio prayed, she decided to obey God in faith.
“I said, ‘Lord, You’re my source.’” Ria smiles, “Wala na. I had nothing to bank on. I just prayed, ‘Lord, increase my faith, I know this is just temporary.’” She gave the full Php32,000 to the building fund the very next day.
“I didn’t have money,” she says, “but I had peace. I knew He would sustain me and my family.”
The next few months tested the patience of Ria and her family, but also featured miracle after miracle. Despite no additional income, Ria and her family found resources to meet their monthly needs. Her household expenses decreased as the family worked to become more efficient with their expenses. And after several years of being on the market, their C5 property finally found a buyer.
“The first thing I did was pay off my credit cards!” Ria grins, “Back then, I prayed to be a good steward of God’s blessings, even when I didn’t have anything. Yun yung nangyari,” she adds, laughing, “I didn’t have anything.”
“When you have nothing, though,” she adds, “it becomes even more meaningful when God reminds you that He will always provide something for you. I may not have had money, but I always had God. And that was more than enough for me.”