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Eliminating $400,000 in Debt

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When Ed and Shelley Panas started dating, both were in the midst of financial challenges. Ed was drowning in debt from a divorce and going through a career change from a management position earning 6-figures into a technology career, barely bringing in $1000 a month. 

“I was in no position to provide for Shelly,” Ed admits. “There was just a lot of reservations financially because of that.”

Meanwhile, Shelley was a self-proclaimed spender.  

“I wasn't smart with my money,” she confesses. “You know, I never met a pair of shoes I didn't like. 80-90% of my meals were out. I traveled a lot, had a really nice house, had a great muscle car. I just spent like it was an unending faucet I could just turn on and money would come out.”

Outside of a 401k, she didn’t have much savings. So, when she decided to go from being a C.O.O to a realtor, she put most of her business and living expenses on credit. Still, Shelley and Ed eventually married, with a combined debt of $280,000. Then just months into their marriage, Shelley found out she had breast cancer and needed surgery.

She says, “I felt guilty. My husband was having to take care of me. It was hard. It was humbling.”

Ed adds, “And I don't even have the money to like even keep our basic cost of living covered while she's recovering. I just felt like complete failure.” He continues, “We were upside-down at least $2000 a month. I just wrote letters to the credit card companies and just said, ‘I can give you 25 bucks a month.’ I just kept picturing the Titanic. I was seeing the iceberg, and there was no steering. It was too late. I was convinced by 2019, we were going to be in bankruptcy. I was just waiting for any moment for us to be homeless. I was at the end of my rope.”

As their debt continued to grow, the couple started going to church and making small donations.

Ed explains, “I felt guilty because they're giving me free coffee. I was like, ‘I can't just come here and take, I've got to give something back.'"

Shelley shares, “We had to put all trust in that God was going to take care of us, that God was going to stop the storm so that the boat wouldn't capsize.”

They were surprised to see what happened when they gave.

“We would give $20 one week and then all of a sudden I'd get like some $38 check in the mail for some class action lawsuit that I didn't even know I was a member of,” Ed recalls.

Shelley shares, “I instantly felt God's hand in my life. I felt Him going, ‘You're being obedient. I've got you.’”

Ed got a few temporary jobs, while they regularly made weekly contributions to their church. And soon, Shelley’s health started to improve. Then, the couple took a class on biblical money management and started learning what the bible says about tithing.

Ed exclaims, “It's not our money. We’re just here temporarily. The money’s passing through our hands. It's just blessings God gives us. So, we're not donating to the church. We're not giving money to a charity or, you know, whatnot. We're bringing our tithe; we’re bringing it as an act of obedience.”

Shelley and Ed kept giving until they were tithing a full 10%. They stopped eating out, sold extra possessions, shared one car, and asked God to help them pay off their now $400,000 of debt.  

Shelley says, “I started praying, ‘God, I need contracts.’”

Shelley got them, and her income skyrocketed. Meanwhile, Ed got a great web development job, with raises. And in 3 ½ years, their debt was completely wiped-out.

“The reason that we were able to get out of debt, it wasn't because, just because we were giving tithes,” Ed offers. “It was because for the first of my life, I actually felt obedient to God.”

Money has taken on a new meaning for the couple.

“The person I used to be felt that money was an object to achieve, that it was a status symbol,” Shelley confesses. “Now I don't look at it in terms of what it can do for me, but what I can use it for to help other people.”

Today, Ed and Shelley teach others about giving.

“You can't just sit around thinking or reading books and just hoping things work out. You have to take action,” Ed says. He concludes, “So even if you’re in debt, if you can give a little something to start and then kind of build that as you go, you're going to find that generosity and giving is probably going to be the favorite thing you can do with money, because I know it's mine and Shelley's for sure.”

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Cheryl Wilcox Headshot

Cheryl Wilcox, Coordinating Producer, The 700 Club. I hail from a Jesus loving SoCal surf family 🏄🏻‍♀️. I’m the mother of two brilliant, business owning daughters. My heroes are the Great Emancipators and Corrie Ten Boom 🇳🇱. I scull 🚣🏻‍♀️ for life balance, (it’s a little easier than surfing) and I’m passionate about organic food 🥗 and gardening. Since 1989, I’ve produced feature stories 🎬 for CBN. In my free time I enjoy reading about the lives of Saints – like Julian of Norwich🇬🇧. I’m baptized Anglican. Christ is King! 💫

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Zsa Zsa Palagyi
Zsa Zsa

Zsa Zsa Palagyi loves to tell stories about the Lord. Originally from California, she moved to NYC to work in TV, where she committed her life to Christ and was later called into Christian media. Now a CBN producer and Christian radio on-air personality, she seeks authenticity and enjoys art, culture, travel, fitness, fashion, the beach, and cats.