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They Avoided Bankruptcy and Did This Instead

Like many millennials, Stephanie and Allan Bortnick were in student loan debt. They were already up to $40,000 when Allan, an electrical designer, lost his job in a layoff. 

Stephanie recalls: "I was still in school; we were still struggling to pay off the debt that we had accumulated while he had lost his job. So it was–it was a hard time."

Allan took out a bank line of credit for basic living expenses and to keep up with Stephanie's continuing educational costs in genetic research. 

Allan says, "It definitely felt discouraging, and we felt like a slave to the bank really. I have this debt that I just can't seem to get under control."

After six months of unemployment, Allan switched careers hoping to create better long-term security and pay. But he took a 50% pay cut as an apprentice electrician. Allan searched the Bible for answers about money troubles, and he came away, convinced they needed to tithe.

Stephanie disagreed, "Oh, my attitude was definitely I didn't think we should be tithing. It was hard for me to grasp this idea of giving away what it felt like we didn't have."

They negotiated a compromise of giving 5% of their income. Stephanie admits, "But it still–it didn't make sense to me." 

After Stephanie graduated, they moved to a metro area that had the best job opportunities for genetic researchers. They paid basic living expenses on their line of credit. 

Stephanie remembers, "I could not find work, and we got into a significant amount of debt at that point."

Eventually, Allan found a job while Stephanie worked part-time in a coffee shop. Finally, after nine months, she was hired in a great research position. But, three months later, she was laid off when 10% of the workforce was slashed.  

Stephanie says, "It was terrifying. It was...it just made you question. It was very hard to stay focused in that time and just say, 'God, I know you have a plan, we are waiting patiently, uh but hurry it up a little bit.'"

Their debt increased until Stephanie landed her dream job in genetic research. Allan's pay also increased as a journeyman electrician. But, by then their debt had swelled to $80K! They could barely meet their monthly bills. That's when their bank suggested they consider bankruptcy. 

Stephanie remembers, "We were told at one point from a bank when we went to talk to them that you don't come back from this kind of debt."

Instead, Allan saw this as an opportunity to reintroduce the idea of tithing. 

Allan recalls, "And I think that's what God wanted us to do is to take that step forward when we couldn't see what was in front of us. She wanted to prove that we still can't afford to do 10%." 

Stephanie explains, "I'm a scientist. I need to do experiments. I have a hypothesis. I test it. I have to see a concrete answer."

Allan remembers, "And I think that's when things started to really turn."

Stephanie recalls, "Somehow money would show up. We would get a random check from the government because there was a tax mistake, or Allan would be offered a small side job. So God always meets us where we need to be met. He showed me every month when I added up that total that there was a little tiny bit of green, it was incredible! I just kept saying to Allan, I was like, 'This does not make sense.' If I look at this, this is too many coincidences for it to say this wasn't a God incident."

So, instead of defaulting on their student loans and declaring bankruptcy on the rest of what they owed, within six years, the Bortnicks paid off their $80K debt in full!

Allan says, "I feel like Stephanie's heart has changed with giving now because it's often her idea to give now, not mine."

Stephanie agrees, "We would not be out of debt if we didn't tithe. I'm incredibly thankful to be able to pass that on to my sons now. It doesn't feel like a challenge, it feels like a thank you. 'God, thank you. Here's the first 10%, not the last.'"

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