Devalued Dollar Impedes Covenant Missions

Post a Comment » Written on March 26th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (March 26, 2008) – The devaluation of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies is reducing the money missionaries have to work with.

“The decline has made it more difficult for us to do ministry, and the problem has become more acute in the last three months,” says Byron Amundsen, director of administration and finance for the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Department of World Mission (CWM).

Between 2003 and 2008, the dollar has dropped anywhere from 11 percent (Taiwan) to nearly 42 percent (Czech Republic) among mission fields served by Covenant missionaries, according to CWM figures. Imagine your income being cut by that amount, Amundsen says.

Stated another way, it is akin to a family planning a trip to the Czech Republic only to learn that they have 42 percent less money than they thought.

While Argentina, Mexico, and Ecuador have seen minor or negligible increases in the dollar’s value, according to CWM, those gains have been offset by inflation.

The decline means missionaries must raise increased support while cutting back on projects and even daily needs, Amundsen says. The drop also means short-term missionaries have to wait longer to leave for the mission field.

“Everything costs more,” says Pete Ekstrand, regional coordinator for Africa. In the last year, the dollar has lost nearly 11 percent of its value against the central African franc (CFA), the local currency.

“Our rent, utilities, vehicle expenses, local fees, wages for guards, resident cards, plane flights—whether commercial or with the Wycliffe mission plane—are all paid in CFA,” he says.

The effect of the devaluation is worsened by other economic realities, as well. “At the same time as the exchange rate is dropping, actual costs have risen, which is a double blow to our budgets,” Ekstrand explains.

The missionary children’s hostel, which boards Covenant and Free Church students along with students from other organizations, has been forced to raise rates to cover expenses, Ekstrand adds. Plans to construct a new school for missionaries’ children have been delayed.

In planning future budgets and projects, missionaries have to consider what the exchange rate might be, as well as any inflationary pressures, according to CWM.

The following list identifies changes in the value of the dollar since 2003 in many Covenant mission fields, according to CWM. The department’s figures represent an averaging of salaries for all of 2003 compared to 2008. They do not account for the loss of purchasing power due to inflation. Decreases in value appear in parentheses.

  • Argentina, 7.22 percent
  • Colombia, (34.82)
  • Czech Republic, (41.68)
  • Ecuador, 0.200
  • Japan, (11.67)
  • Mexico, 0.278
  • Sweden, (23.75)
  • Taiwan, (10.58)
  • Thailand (24.24)
  • France and Spain (26.15)
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