Filipino Catholic lay evangelist Bo Sanchez has a message for Kiwis: “God has a plan for their lives. The blessings are available if we just open our eyes.”Mr Sanchez was in New Zealand on June 30 for the Grand Feast of the Light of Jesus Family (LOJ), a Catholic prayer meeting, at Auckland Girls’ Grammar School.

“I think, all over the world, whether in New Zealand or Australia or the Philippines, there is a tendency for us to get stuck in our own problems or trials,” he said. “We get stuck and we lose hope and we despair.”

“God has a plan for your lives and it’s a great plan. Jeremiah 29:11 will be my key verse. That God plans good stuff for us. Plans for prosperity, not disaster, plans for well-being. We just need to open ourselves to that avalanche of blessing that is already available,” he said.

Mr Sanchez is well-regarded in the Philippines as a “blue jeans preacher” on practical Christian living, said Auckland LOJ feast builder Hector Camacho.

A “feast”, Mr Camacho explained, is what they call their prayer meeting.

In New Zealand, there are about 200 members in Auckland. There are some members building their feasts in Tauranga and Christchurch, said Mr Camacho.

In an interview with NZ Catholic, Mr Sanchez said their group had its roots in the Catholic Charismatic movement. LOJ was started 36 years ago in a garage by his parents when he was 14 years old.

The ministry grew and has now gone international. 285 feasts are being held in Asia, the Middle East, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Oceania, Canada and the Bahamas.

“I don’t consider us as a big community but we do plan to have 100,000 feasts one day. No deadline. It’s just something we’re surrendering to the Lord,” Mr Sanchez said, his eyes crinkling with a smile.

The name of the group comes from Matthew 5:14, when Jesus told the crowd, “you are the light of the world”.

“(To) every single Catholic, your call is to go out into the world and be a missionary, whether you be a manager, a dishwasher, an accountant,” he said.

He said many Catholics think being a missionary is the role of priests and nuns. “That’s totally wrong. That’s a misunderstanding of our calling and of our Baptism,” he said.

He added that not only are Catholics called to shine our light, they are called to look for the lost sheep.

“The Church is supposed to be the light of the world. The Church is supposed to be the salt of the earth. Jesus said in Matt 28 and Mark 16, go out into the world and make disciples. What we’ve been doing is we’re staying in the church,” he added.

The first thing Catholics should do is to decide to reach out to the sheep which are not part of the 99 in the sheepfold, who are outside the fence, he said.

Mr Sanchez said to shine the light is to simply be good, “to show your good works, so that you may glorify the Father”.

One’s good works and joy may inspire someone outside the fence to come inside.

“Hopefully, that person says, can I have what you have? Can I go to church with you? That’s the dream, that every Catholic becomes contagious,” he said.

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