“Because deep in our hearts, our most basic need, found in our DNA, written in our genetic code, is the need to belong to a community, a friendship, a network, a club, a family.
“Forgive me for being flat-out corny, downright mushy, but whether you know it or not, whether you admit it or not, you have a desperate need for LOVE.
“You were born with it.
“Everybody has it.
“Male or female, you need love.”
So why do people follow him on Facebook, in public events and in various media through his blogs, books and other publications? Why do thousands here and abroad listen to his preaching and follow his advice on how to pray, how to love God and neighbor, make things work and live happy, progressive and successful lives?
The answer is simple: Sanchez says things simply and makes them look and sound easy. And most of all, he shows us why something-like making money, for example-could be good and godly.
For “If God is with us, who can be against us?”
Eugenio Isabelo Tomas Reyes Sanchez, a.k.a. Bo Sanchez “the preacher in blue jeans,” is not the fire-and-brimstone kind of preacher who shakes the ramparts to mesmerize followers. Unlike many breast-thumping Bible-quoters, he does not try to impress his audience by rattling off Biblical verses and scriptural passages from memory. For him, one or two verses could be enough to fill a Feast.
Bo’s own personal life could explain how the guy can speak to everyone like he finds God in their most mundane everyday concerns.
Born on July 11, 1966 in Caloocan City to Eugenio and Pilar Sanchez, Bo is the youngest and only boy in a brood of six. He recalls with great humor how he was “the most ungifted kid in the whole wide world.” He was poor in math, among other things. But at a young age he opened himself to grace.
In his easy-to-read “My Conspiracy Theory: A Brief Autobiography at the Middle of my Life” Bo begins: “I wrote my first book at age 20. I led the first prayer meeting of the Light of Jesus Family at age 14. I began preaching at age 13. I had my conversion at age 12. I was toilet trained at age 1, but that has nothing to do with this book.”
It is amazing how Bo has been able to sum up his life story into a booklet of 97 pages. “Chapter 1: My Childhood: Being the Most Ungifted Kid in the Whole Wide World” is as hilarious as it is heart-tugging. “Chapter 2: My Conversion—How God Became More Real Than the President” is just as interesting.
But the whole point of his autobiography is his warning “that there is a conspiracy of grace at work in this universe and heaven is scheming to bless your life.”
Now 46, Bo has been married to Marowe for 14 years and has two sons, Benedict and Francis. He is the author of 25 books, many of them best-sellers-that are inexpensive, easy to read and understand inspirational and how-to books. The preacher, Catholic lay evangelist and entrepreneur was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) in 2006.
“We now have 110 small Light of Jesus (LOJ) communities all over the world,” he delights in saying. “We want to have more Feasts all over.”
The Feasts are regular weekend gatherings that begin with a Mass, followed by inspired preaching and other sharing activities. Bo visits each LOJ group every chance he gets. LOJ Feasts are held in such diverse places as the US, Canada, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Australia and Hong Kong.
The founder of a spiritual movement and several charity institutions is careful to separate his spiritual life from the material, and is scrupulous about donations.
“I have been told to get an allowance like our other preachers but I declined,” he says. Contributions go directly to LOJ activities and projects such as the Feasts and their venues, two orphanages, a home for pregnant women in crisis, and Anawim, a home for the poor elderly, some of them abandoned. In Metro Manila, the Sunday Feasts are held at the Philippine International Convention Center.
Sunday Inquirer Magazine visited and featured Anawim, a sprawling haven of rest located in Rodriguez (Montalban), Rizal, some years back. Generous donors have made Anawim flourish to a point that the LOJ is planning to put up spiritual retreat facilities there, Bo reveals.
But Bo has no qualms about being in media. “Media for the Soul” is LOJ’s foray into broadcast media, with Kerygma TV on IBC 13 and TV Maria, the Archdiocese of Manila’s cable channel. There is also Gabay sa Bibliya sa Radyo on Veritas 846, Nakita Ko, Mustard TV and Inside the Fish Bowl, also on TV Maria.
LOJ’s Shepherd’s Voice Publications publishes K-FAM-Kerygma, a Catholic inspirational magazine, Fish (“the zany side of loving God”), All Stars and Mustard (“sowing seeds of fun and faith”)—all very youth oriented.
On the personal side, Bo has his home schooling project (with 200 enrollees), his books and other business investments. He also lectures on how to make money in the stock market. His book “My Maid Invests in the Stock Market and Why You Should Too” is the number 3 best-seller in National Bookstore’s Top 10, and can now be downloaded for free as an e-book (trulyrichclub.com).
He sees no contradiction between his good deeds and his business savvy. “Do you think the stock market is for billionaires only? A lot of people think that way,” he says.
“I teach people how to be wealthy over time,” he adds, referring to his “How to Make Millions Through the Stock Market” seminar (see sidebar) that, he says, is not a get-rich quick scheme. Many people lose money in stocks, “but if you follow the specific investing method that I will teach you, you’ll be able to create your millions for your future.”
Misery and poverty, he says, should not be our lot. It should not be a choice between being poor and being corrupt. For Bo, there is such a thing as “holy money” just as there is “holy sex.” All for the glory of God.
So how did he come to this?
When he turned 30, Bo decided to plot his life’s direction. He was an experienced preacher by then and joining the priesthood was an option. “I finished Philosophy at the Ateneo,” he says, adding that it was some kind of preparation in case this vocation was for him.
But, he adds. “It became clear that I should remain a lay (person). Priests focus on the spiritual. As a lay person I could show people how to be good Catholics in the world.”
Summing up his goal, he says, “I want to speak to the un-churched.”
Having decided that, Bo found himself falling in love with Marowe who was with the LOJ staff. Marriage and family, he realized, were indeed for him.
Looking at this happily fulfilled husband and father, one can easily forget that he had experienced sexual abuse as a child. It is something that he has mentioned a few times in his preaching to convince people that there is hope for healing, and that a person should not wallow in victimhood but instead strive to be happy.
But Bo does not rely mainly on personal experiences for his preaching.
“I do research, I read books. I write down everything that I intend to say and this may take several hours. Then when I am out there preaching, I do not carry notes.”
His life story is proof that “Grace happens every day,” he says. “Open yourself to extreme, excessive, extravagant grace.”
If that’s not enough inspiration for you, you can get more of God’s “unique, inspiring, powerful, personalized message everyday” by signing up at www.GodWhispersClub.com. •