You may or may not be aware that the dollar is taking a beating internationally. Nowhere is this more evident than here in Brazil. When we arrived here in October of 2005, the dollar was hovering at around 2.20 in the local currency (the real). That following summer, it even got up to around 2.40. Since then, however, it has been in a virtually uninterrupted free fall. As of this writing, it as showing up as 1.97 reais per dollar.
In layman’s terms, this means that every $1,000 that comes from donors in the US is now only worth R$1970, as opposed to the R$2200 it was worth in late 2005–a loss of R$230 (roughly 10%).
Meanwhile, prices continue to rise here in Brazil. For example, while I could buy diesel for my truck for R$1,80 a liter in October of 2005, now it costs about R$1,97–an increase of about 10%. The same applies to the cost of other things as well.
If you are keeping track, this means that your missionaries in Brazil have suffered a financial hit of about 20% since October of 2005.
So how does this play out in the day-to-day life of the missionaries? In some very interesting ways.
The Economic Difference Between Brazilians and Americans Diminishes. An example: My (Brazilian) pastor goes every year to a large conference in S�o Paulo–similar to the Shepherd’s Conference in the US. He pays his own way. I have wanted to go, but have lacked the funds. Please understand that I am not complaining. I think this is a good thing. It is now easier for Brazilians to see missionaries as co-workers, and not cash cows. Not too long ago a Brazilian friend of mine asked why I did not visit him in Jo�o Pessoa. I told him I didn’t have funds to be traveling that far very often. He smiled and said “Now that’s contextualization!”
Brazilians Step Up to Support Brazilian Ministries. I was encouraged at a recent pastor’s meeting to here the area pastors discussing ideas on how they could support missions and send more missionaries. The ideas did not include trying to get funds from the US. This did not happen overnight–but the weak
dollar is certainly contributing. We are trying to take advantage of this at the camp by encouraging churches to take up various repair projects. Of course, contributions from the US are still quite welcome, and put to good use. But seeing the Brazilian churches take up the reins is very gratifying.
Missionaries are tightening their belts. Itacyara and I have done some serious re-evaluating of financial priorities–especially with a new baby on the way. As a result, we have decided to move out of our house. For eight months we will stay in the home of a missionary who is on furlough, during which time we will look for something smaller and cheaper.
I am also selling things. My projector was the first to go–to be followed up shortly by my Palm Pilot. We are not the only ones in this situation. One of our colleagues just sold his house!
Many of our larger projects–such as the new chapel on our campus–are
funded by large donations from the US. A donation made a year ago to
cover all the expenses of a construction project now covers 20% less of
that new project.
Everybody Wants to Buy Electronics in the US. It works like this: The strong real against the dollar makes electronic items from the US (laptops, projectors) cheaper for Brazilians. They are not cheaper here in Brazil because of exorbitant taxes. E-bay makes it quite easy for Brazilians to buy goods in the US. The only problem is getting the merchandise here once it has been purchased. Here is where the missionaries come in, for while we have less buying power, we still have access to the US. The result is that at least twice a week I have someone approach me asking if I could help them get a digital camera/laptop/pen drive.
It gets old.
So, these are interesting, nay, exciting times to be a missionary in Brazil. There are unique challenges and just-as-unique opportunities. One thing is for certain–God is working the good, the bad, and even the ugly for His glory.