A Passionate Man Who Loves the Poor Like Crazy and that’s Why He’s Very Wealthy: An Interview with Bro. Rey Ortega
What makes a man wealthy? What is real success anyway?
It was a Saturday morning. I was doing some work in my home-office and for some reasons, I felt very disturbed and restless. My websites were infected by malwares and were down for two weeks. The least I could do was to constantly coordinate with my service providers from the U.S. and India. Since my business mostly runs online, I felt stuck and unproductive for the past two weeks!
And so I went to a priest for spiritual direction. I blurted out.
“Father, what is the essence of life? In life, we have dreams and we set goals. There are two things that could happen. One, we achieve our goals. Of course that would make us happy. Or two, we fail in achieving our goals. But if you have a positive mindset, you will still be happy because it’s a learning experience for you.
So what’s the essence of life? Is life all about setting goals and achieving something? Is it an endless pursuit of goals?”
The priest was silent for a moment. Then he gave a very beautiful and insightful answer that I’d like to share with you. He said,
“The essence of life is to use your talents to LOVE God and SERVE others. What is more important is not the result but who you are becoming. And the bottomline question is this: Are you BECOMING more LOVING?”
And this brought me back to one of the homilies of Pope Francis when he visited the Philippines on January 2015. He posed this question: “What is the greatest lesson we need to learn in life?”
He answered, “The greatest lesson we need to learn is to learn how to love and how to receive love.”
Woah! So simple, yet so powerful. Bottomline, it’s all about LOVE.
When it comes to the subject of love and loving like crazy, two names would come to mind — Bro. Bo Sanchez and Bro. Rey Ortega.
Bro. Rey Ortega is the founder of several humanitarian organizations namely Tahanan ng Pagmamahal, Grace to be Born, Inc., Jeremiah 33:6-7 Foundation, and Pag-asa ng Pamilya Scholarship Foundation, among others where he works hand-in-hand with Bo Sanchez. Rey Ortega is the author of the book Crazy Love which is about loving the poorest of the poor the way God loves them. He was awarded the Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 2012.
I invited Bro. Rey to speak in two of our public conferences and his simplicity, sense of humour, and his big heart for the poor held the audience captive.
Later on, we became friends. During one of our road trips to Bulacan (we went to Marina Cruz’s studio in Bulacan for her birthday), I had the chance to talk to Bro. Rey Ortega and ask him random things, mostly about his ministries.
It was a privilege to hear from the legend himself. His insights were worthy to be shared, and so this interview.
SHA: Hi Tito Rey! Can you share with us the different ministries you founded?
BRO. REY ORTEGA: Sure, Sha!
Way back in September 1979, I founded ALAY Scholarship Foundation Inc., now re-named as Pag-asa ng Pamilya Scholarship Foundation Inc. We are presently helping almost 200 financially poor but persevering kids go to school. 95 of them are in college level, including 24 Yolanda survivors now studying in universities in Leyte and Samar.
In the last quarter of 2006, my wife and I founded Tahanan ng Pagmamahal Children’s Home, an orphanage for girls in a rented house in Oranbo, Pasig. Three years later, we organized Tahanan orphanage for boys in another rented house in Munoz, Quezon City, and two years later we established Tahanan orphanage for abandoned babies in Dansalan, Mandaluyong.
In August 2008, my wife and I and Bro. Bo Sanchez founded Grace to be Born Inc., a ministry dedicated to saving the unborn from abortion and providing sanctuary for unwed pregnant mothers in crisis.
When I was given the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Award in November 2012, my wife and I organized Jeremiah 33:6-7 Foundation Inc. to provide long-term sanctuary for young girls who are victims of sexual abuse. We rented another house in Pasig.
I was shocked to learn in December 2014 that there are so many lepers in northern Luzon. I responded by organizing H.A.I.L. MARY INC., that’s an acronym for Healthcare Assistance for Indigents and Lepers of Mary. We provide not only medical care for lepers but also livelihood projects for the lepers ‘ families and college and high school scholarships for the lepers’ children.
I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in June 2015 and was given 6 months to live. I committed to the Lord the remaining time of my life to helping indigents suffering and dying from cancer. Thus came Jesus Christ Cares for Cancer Inc.; we provide spiritual, moral and financial help of P1,000 weekly subsistence allowance to cancer patients. And P40,000 monthly subsidy for the cancer patients being cared for by the Daughters of Charity in Asilo de San Vicente de Paul.
And in-between the establishments of those mercy ministries, I helped organize MOMS Foundation in Laguna, Bahay Sto. Tomas in Davao, and Dalampang shelter in Iloilo City.
SHA: Where is this burning passion to put up ministries coming from? Why do you have such a heart for the poor and less privileged?
BRO. REY: I was a school drop-out not once but twice due to poverty. My being a working student in high school and college, with wages way below minimum wage, fueled in my heart a burning desire to help out-of-school kids get college education. That’s to level the playing field for the poor. Hence the impetus for my scholarship foundation.
I lost my mother when I was 4 years old and even before that, my father abandoned us. So I know exactly how an orphan suffers. My brokenness led me to found three orphanages as I see myself in their shoes. My heart bleeds for parent-less kids.
I had experienced several of my college scholars dropping out due to unwanted pregnancy. And when I learned that one of them aborted her child, I was so overcome with mercy for the unborn that my wife and I and Bro. Bo Sanchez founded Grace to be Born ministry to help save the unborn.
Some very young mothers (as young as 12 and 13 years old) who gave birth in our GTBB shelter had nowhere to go after they had delivered their babies. Why? Because the perpetrators are still at large. And over there in Tahanan, DSWD told us to separate the “normal” girls from the abused girls. Those two reasons led to the founding of Jeremiah foundation.
It is easy to curse the darkness when we are lost. I had learned early in life that it is better to light one small candle to defeat the forces of darkness. And that’s what I have been doing, simply lighting small candles here and there. Very small drops actually in an ocean of grief and misery of this world.
SHA: I am sure putting up and managing these ministries were challenging. What was the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far and how did you overcome it?
BRO. REY: The biggest challenge was always financial. During start ups and there’s nothing I could show to potential donors, it was so difficult to ask for funding. It’s only when the foundation is up and running that people find it easy to contribute morally and financially.
And when we dreamed in 2012 of building our very own orphanage in a 500 sq. m. lot, with only P2million in the bank and the architect told us we need P18 million to construct a three-storey duplex building, I had lost so many sleepless nights. But God provided for us. He always does. The orphanage was built and finished without us incurring any loan from the bank.
So how did we overcome our financial challenges? We prayed and prayed and prayed and we begged and begged and begged. I am a professional beggar for the Lord.
SHA: God is good. In terms of finances, can you share how much you spend for each of the ministries on a monthly basis? How do you raise funds for them?
BRO. REY: I am hesitant to answer this question as my answer might scare and discourage those also planning to start their own mercy ministry. But since you asked, and in case one guy from the BIR gets too read this, I will answer your question. |For our Tahanan orphanage, we spend an average of P350,000 – 400,000 monthly. For JCCFC cancer ministry, we spend about P300,000 monthly. And for all other ministries, about P200,000 monthly.
Fund raising is done through direct solicitation, charity concerts, fun run events, sponsorships of a child or scholar, knocking on companies to include us in their corporate social responsibility programs, and direct tithing. If these measures still prove insufficient, baka po tumanggap na ako ng labada.
Bro. Bo Sanchez is always there for us. LOJ members, Feast attendees, their friends and relatives provide much needed financial support.
SHA: For you Tito Rey, what do you consider as your real wealth?
BRO. REY: Being given the privilege of serving the poor and seeing Jesus in the face of the poor – that is my real wealth. Being Jesus to the poor, imperfect as I am, that is my real wealth. And so I consider myself a multi-millionaire. And that wealth is not affected by inflation, fluctuating peso values and what-not.
SHA: If someone wants to put up a ministry, can you quickly walk us through what needs to be done?
BRO. REY: The first thing to do is ask yourself WHY do you want to start a mercy ministry. If the answer is clear and after praying much over it, then half the challenge is overcome. Write down your vision and mission. List bite-size goals, the doable things, and do so without losing sight of the grand vision.
Next gather 3 to 5 core believers. Never start a ministry alone. Work as a team. Learn from mentors, from those who have been there and done that. And prepare to humble yourself, to get pricked by the thorns before you get to smell the roses.
Then walk through the necessary legal process – registration in SEC, BIR, DSWD, Mayor’s Office, Barangay, SSS, and all those alphabet soup government agencies.
Hey I offer free consultancy service on organizing a mercy ministry. And I will hold your hand during the start ups and early years.
SHA: Wow! That is so generous of you, Tito Rey! How can we contribute to your ministries?
BRO. REY: We welcome contributions of time and talents. Please serve as a volunteer. We welcome financial donations. And most of all, we need your prayers. For those who wish to contribute funding, please remember: send one, just one kid to school. Feed one, just one orphan. Help one, just one cancer victim or one leper.
Potential donors and volunteers may contact me at 0917-816 4700 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As you are reading this, kindly pat yourself on the back. Because as members of the TrulyRichClub, you were indirectly helping these ministries. And of course, we are more than welcome to directly contribute and help out more to keep these ministries alive and enable them to help more people.
Ultimately, I believe that real wealth is not measured in terms of money or material possessions Rather, real wealth is measured in terms of love.
Like what Bro. Rey shared, “Being Jesus to the poor, imperfect as I am, that is my real wealth. And so I consider myself a multi-millionaire.”
Thank God for Bro. Rey Ortega. Thank God for the TrulyRichClub that reminds us of the real purpose of wealth — that is, to love others.
This is something very personal but I would like to share it with you anyway. At night, before I retire to bed, I used to ask myself, “Was I productive today? Did I finish what I needed to do today?”
Lately, I changed those questions to three things:
Did I love enough today? Did I receive love today? Did I make God happy?
And that would determine whether I succeeded today or not. Because again, love is the true measure of wealth.
If you wish to put up a mercy ministry and you need some hand holding, Bro. Rey Ortega would be more than happy to help. In his own words,
“I offer free consultancy service on organizing a mercy ministry. And I will hold your hand during the start ups and early years.”
I wish you success and happiness!
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