Usually we shy away from those things that look a little too self-serving. For this reason, we don’t often talk of finances or of needs, especially the physical ones. However, recent events in the financial climate as well as our first-hand knowledge of how these events are dramatically affecting ministries operating here, have necessitated my writing this informative piece. Many times we Americans don’t know a whole lot about how the world functions outside of our borders. Even if we are seasoned business travelers or vacationers we only experience the other countries we visit from the small window of opportunity those things offer. Today, I wanted to take the time to tell you a little about exchange rates.
Many of you may support ministries outside of the United States and if so I want to share a little bit of how those financial blessings operate once they leave the good ole U.S. of A. While there are several countries outside the USA that use the U.S. dollar for their official currency (Panama, Ecuador, El Salvador etc.) and while there are many places that accept the dollar for payment, the majority of countries require the exchange of that dollar to the local currency in the event you care to make a purchase. The United States is a world power economically. Being such, when the economy is poor or shaky in the States it filters down throughout the world. Locally you may experience higher gas prices or a slight bump in food cost. Pay raises may be slower and smaller. Interest rates will be higher or the requirements to get a loan will become more stringent. All these things as well as the general “doomsday” morale being perpetrated by the media lead to a general “woe is me, we can’t make it” feeling.
Now let’s think about the missionaries and ministry organizations you support. They have to take that dollar you give to the local exchange house and turn it into whatever currency they need to operate. I will give you the specifics of Paraguay since we live here and I know it best. The Paraguayans as a rule aren’t bothered with the fluctuating dollar. It does cause some prices to climb on imported goods but their general life and livelihood are hardly inconvenienced by it. The missionaries and ministry organizations that operate here who have funding coming into Paraguay from the USA are bothered by it. In fact many are downright harmed by it. For instance, in October 2010 the rate of exchange here was Gs(Guaranies)5000 to $1. That meant when someone exchanged $1000 dollars they received 5 million Guaranies. Way cool huh?! This also meant when a ministry went to the local market and bought a kilo(2.2 lbs) of ground beef for the kids in their children’s home for 25,000 guaranies, it was the same as paying $5 for that meat. Or let’s say that a ministry went to fill the gas tank on the mobile medical office they use as a tool to enter communities and share Christ, and they bought 40 liters of gas at 6500 guaranies per liter (260,000Gs total) . That’s $1.30 per liter, $52 for 10 ½ gallons. Yep, we are paying a little over 5 bucks a gallon for gas here.
Today we were in town and I saw a sign for an exchange location that boasted a rate of 3900 guarnies to one dollar. In less than 6 months, the dollar has lost 22% of its purchasing power here. Let’s take the two examples above and rework them with the new rate. First the children’s home ministry buys 1 kilo of ground beef for the same Gs25,000 but now they have to use $6.41 to buy it instead of $5 dollars like before. Next the medical missionaries fill their van’s gas tank. The same 40 liters of fuel that was $52 now costs them $67. These changes occurred over less than 6 months.
The point to this exercise is to point out that while we are all feeling the pinch of the downturn in the economy what would it feel like for you if everything you bought suddenly went up 22-25%? I bring this up not to “drum up business” for the Hagermans in Paraguay but to mention to the good people, the world-wide donors, who support ministry in foreign lands to take notice. If the ministry you support is something that is close to your heart then ask them how things are going for them financially. I don’t know the state of exchange rates in all the countries where God’s people are working, but I suspect that their purchasing power has been dramatically affected of late. It may be a time in your life that giving more is just not an option for you, but you may be able to lead a campaign to raise finances for that children’s home or those medical missionaries or whatever other ministry God has put on your heart to partner with. I know firsthand that the missionaries we have met in the field think of the word partner as more than a check. They regularly lift their partners to the Lord in prayer, they think of each person as a vital part of the ministry, and they love when those people can come to see the work with their own eyes. If you are partnered with a particular ministry, engage them and pray that God blesses their work and ask HIM to show you your part in their work.