‘Huge burden’ of minister’s seminary debt relieved through Board’s assistance

A Board of Pensions program helps give a Pennsylvania pastor ‘three years of my life back’

by Janet Hadden, Board of Pensions | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Jane Anabe, at left, is pictured the day she graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. (Contributed photo)

PHILADELPHIA — When the Rev. Jane Anabe — associate pastor at Silver Spring Presbyterian Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania — first heard about Minister Educational Debt Assistance through The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), she didn’t think she would qualify. One of the many programs the Board has implemented to provide support to ministers, particularly newly ordained ministers, Minister Educational Debt Assistance, offered through the Assistance Program, helps ministers repay educational debt, making it easier for them to accept a wide range of positions and wholly commit their best gifts to ministry.​

In mid-2018, the Board expanded the eligibility guidelines for Minister Educational Debt Assistance and increased the maximum amount that a minister could receive to $25,000 over five years. These changes represented a significant expansion of the program — and reflected the Board’s ongoing commitment to ministers’ financial wholeness.

As a result of this expansion, Anabe now qualified for the assistance. “My friend posted on Facebook saying, ‘Hey, the qualifications for this program have changed.’ So I started looking into it myself and, sure enough, it looked like I qualified,” she said.

Hear more about Anabe’s experience with the program by clicking here.

Anabe was hoping to pay off debt accrued from earning her Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. The daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, she had long felt the call to ministry.

“I actually began to feel God calling me to ministry when I was in high school, then when I was in college, I began to feel more of an urge and a desire to go to seminary,” Anabe recalled. “But I also felt a strong call to serve more directly.” So, after earning a Bachelor of Music in cello performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, she began to travel to do mission work.

The Rev. Jane Anabe is pictured with her family. (Contributed photo)

Anabe’s journey took her to La Paz, Bolivia, where she lived and worked as a missionary, primarily working with children in Bible clubs, camps, retreats and other youth work. It was there in Bolivia that she met her husband, the Rev. Joaquin Anabe Lopez. They are now the proud parents of three children, Isaac, Irene and Ian.

After returning to the United States from South America, Anabe enrolled at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. “It took me about 10 years to get there, but I felt God calling me to that educational training the entire time,” said Anabe, who graduated from seminary in 2013.

About four to six weeks after applying for Minister Educational Debt Assistance in late 2018, Anabe was informed by the Board of Pensions that she had qualified for the program. She was then contacted by PeopleJoy, a financial wellness/educational debt reduction firm with which the Board has partnered, for student loan debt coaching.

“I was a bit nervous going into it, but the coaching process was easy and painless,” Anabe explained. Working with her coach, they came up with an amount that Anabe was comfortable paying toward her student loans each month and an amount the program would pay every month.

“I continued paying what I had already been paying on my student loans, and the program actually started paying double what I was already paying each month,” she said.

Payments from the program began in early 2019, and by spring of 2020, Anabe’s student loan debt was paid off — three years earlier than if she had paid the debt on her own. “It’s like getting three years of my life back,” she said.

When Anabe received notification that the debt was paid off, “I remember wanting to broadcast it — to tell everyone that my student loans were paid off and that such a huge burden was relieved — but I also wanted to be sensitive to the situation of others in this time of pandemic, knowing that so many people are struggling right now,” she said.

“It reminded me how fortunate I have been,” she said. “I took a screenshot of the notification saying that my debt had been paid off and I sent it to a few friends and family as a way of celebrating. That was a really great feeling.”

The reduction in debt has positively affected both Anabe’s personal life and her ministry. “It has helped my family and me focus on some other financial needs and priorities that we’ve had to postpone for a long time because we needed to pay off the debt,” she said. “It has freed me to be more focused on my ministry and what God has called me here to do.”

Anabe also found attending CREDO for recently ordained ministers, sponsored by the Board of Pensions, to be an important part of her work toward financial wholeness. One of the eligibility requirements for Minister Educational Debt Assistance is to have completed a CREDO conference or the Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations program.

“Being a part of CREDO was really a blessing,” she said. “A member of the CREDO faculty … had a wealth of knowledge about finances and was able to answer a lot of questions that I had about financial planning and personal financial health. He also gave me some resources about church finance. I found it to be very, very helpful.”

Anabe expressed gratitude for these programs through the Board of Pensions. “I am so grateful to have the debt paid off and have this burden lifted,” she said.

Janet Hadden is content strategy lead at the Board of Pensions, which supports wholeness in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) community and care for Benefits Plan members. For information, contact info@pensions.org.


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