Forgive Us Our Debts: The Debt Counseling Experiment – Part 3

I was on a quest to find out whether debt counseling services actually provide help for consumers with large credit card bills [Read Part 1 here]. Then I discovered a large number of Christian debt counseling services, which help people reduce their debt through “honesty, honor, and financial responsibility.”

I called the number I found on this Christian debt page, but soon discovered it was not actually Christian at all.


The page marketing copy mentioned the law firm Ovation Law Group (OVLG) and so I called the 800 number.

I was connected with a brusque Irish gentleman named Samuel, who seemed to want nothing more than to be finished with our call.

I told him my story: the $40,000 in debt, the girlfriend, the pain.

“Are you looking to maintain a good credit rating?” he asked.

“Of course,” I said, growing suspicious.

“Then our service is not for you,” he said bluntly. “We only deal with debt settlement, which would have a negative effect on your credit score.”

I had to ask a lot of questions, but eventually I uncovered the truth: these guys take over your credit card accounts, then refuse to pay them. As your creditors lose hope about ever getting their money back, these guys then negotiate a settlement, paying them off for pennies on the dollar. So you do get out of debt, but the downside is that it kills your credit rating.

“So if we’re just talking about not paying credit card bills,” I said, “why do I need you guys? I can do that myself.”

He was clearly growing impatient with my questions. “We can negotiate better settlement offers than you can.”

“And who gets all the angry phone calls from the collection agencies?”

“We handle those, sir.”

Collection Agency Phone Call

At least you won't have to face this guy.

“So why…”

I heard a click as he hung up on me.

Unfazed, I called him back.

“I’m so sorry about that, sir,” he said. “We got disconnected somehow.”

“So this is a Christian debt consolidation firm?” I asked, not missing a beat.

“No, this is a law firm.”

“Are there any Christians on staff that I could talk to?”

Pause. “Yes, there are Christians. But this is not a Christian organization. A Christian debt consolidation firm takes care of debt using religious ethics and religious values. We don’t do that.”

“So you don’t have ethics or values,” I clarified.

“Probably, yeah.”

“Okay, I was confused by the Web page where I got your number. It said CHRISTIAN DEBT CONSOLIDATION.”

“It was probably a Web site where we advertise our services. And many of us are Christians, sir. I’m a Christian.”

“Terrific!” I said. “Now we’re getting somewhere. So you don’t have a problem with this company and your Christian faith?”

“Definitely not, sir. We’re registered with the Better Business Bureau, and we have an excellent rating of A-.”

“But not an A?” I asked.

There was a long, uncomfortable pause.


"I swear on the Bible that you're not getting paid."

“So if I want to use your firm, I can call you back anytime?” I asked.

“Absolutely, sir.” We exchanged contact information.

“Terrific. Now let me just close us with a quick word of prayer,” I said. “Dear God, thank you for this talk with Samuel…”

“You have a wonderful day,” Samuel interrupted me.

“Hang on,” I told him. “In the middle of a prayer.”

“Oh, sure.”

“Thank you for my talk with Stephen, and his excellent guidance. And I pray that you’ll help us all make the right decision on whether I should pay off my debts honestly, or just rip everyone off and let these guys make some lowball offer, ruining my credit rating. We’ll both be waiting for your guidance on that. And please keep Lindsay Lohan out of trouble. Amen.”

“Okay, sir,” he said, clearly wanting to get off the phone.

“Thanks, Samuel. Good night.”

Lower interest payments: NO
Break up with girlfriend: NO
Pay off as much as you can: NO
Cut up credit cards: NO

In conclusion, some debt counseling services really do want to help, and some want to help themselves. Before signing up, do your research, ask for references … and, if all else fails, close your eyes and pray.

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