Friday, March 11, 2005

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Christianity Today reports that missionaries abroad are "pinched" as the US dollar declines against foreign currency:
Missionaries in Europe, parts of Africa, and the Middle East are spending their dollars faster than ever. As the dollar declines relative to foreign currencies, many overseas missionaries are finding their buck doesn't go so far as it used to. Many have had to cut back on spending or even return to the U.S. to fundraise. Mission agencies are also finding they need to spend more money to maintain their overseas operations.

"The decline in the dollar is affecting our international development programs, in some cases quite dramatically," says David van Vuuren, vice president of international operations at World Relief.

Missionaries are "finding out that to have [what used to be] $60,000 buying power is costing them $80,000," LeRoy says. Missionaries have to make difficult choices when they find they don't have enough money to stay in a country. "We try to get them to be in contact with their donor churches to see if they can increase the amount of money that they're giving. In some cases, if it cannot be done by telephone or email or letter writing, they have to return home." Sometimes, one member of the family will return to raise money, while the rest stay in the field.

Though the most significant decline affects Europe, the dollar has fallen against other currencies as well, says World Relief's van Vuuren. "In Mozambique—a country that has its economy linked almost directly to the South African rand currency—operations funded by our US dollars are caught in a pincer of the declining buying power internationally of the U.S. dollar and the appreciating South African rand."

The dollar is declining for many reasons, but prominent among them is the Bush administration's deficit spending. As currency traders lose confidence in our government's ability to pay back the loans it receives through Treasury bills, they move their investments into other currencies. It'll be interesting to see if conservative evangelicals connect the dots on this one.

On another note, it's interesting to see that evangelical denominations have the same missionary issues as the former mainline churches. The dollar falls on the just and the unjust, we guess.


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