I'll preface this post by saying straight out that I am no economist, but I do know what I have experienced over the last ten years in living and working in Brazil. My comments are based on that experience. Many of our ministry partners assume that missionaries around the world can do so much (living + work) with so little ($). I am sure there was a time in which that was true. I have read the stories, and heard many of them first-hand, of missionaries going overseas and building schools, hospitals, orphanages, and churches with very little money. There still is a "cheap" world out there, but there is also an "expensive" world out there. There was a time when the "3rd world" was the "cheap" world and that everything else was "expensive". That reality is long gone. We live and work in Brazil, which still is a third-world country, but it has slipped into the "emerging market" or "developing world" category over the last 20 years or so. Our friends and family are blown away when we tell them how much we actually pay for food, clothing, and living in general. In fact, I've heard, "you're joking, right!?" more times than I can count.
I am not going to tackle how much everything cost here in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but I do want to shed some light on the currency exchange situation and why it matters. When we arrived in Brazil in 2005, US$ 1.00 was worth R$2.65. In May 2011, US$ 1.00 was worth R$1.65 (U.S. Dollar worth 38% less vs the local currency). This week, US$ 1.00 is worth R$4.05 (U.S. Dollar worth 145% more vs the local currency since 2011). Take a look at a shorter time-frame. In January, US$ 1.00 was worth R$2.60 and as I just mentioned, it is now R$4.05 (U.S. Dollar worth 56% more vs the local currency in 9 months). Those are the numbers over the period of 10 years, but the rates changes every single day, up and down. You can go HERE to see how it has fluctuated over the years. In a year or two the U.S. Dollar could lose 50% or more.
The whole point of this math exercise was to show how much the cost of living fluctuates. In real numbers, I paid US$ 1,038.00 for rent in January 2015, and last week I paid US$ 667.00 - in the same house in a country where real inflation hovers around 10%. Six months from now I could be paying US$ 1,200.00. The cost of ministry also fluctuates. About a year ago we started raising money for a building project. At the time our goal was US$ 60,000 to build a basic building to house some classrooms. We didn't raise the funds we needed. In fact, we are still trying to raise the money. Due to the exchange rate change over the past year, now we only need US$ 33,000 for the same project. Yeah, you read correctly - we get more bang for our buck! Its working in our favor this time, but it rarely does. I can remember a few years back when I raised enough money for a particular project in a few short months, but in between raising the money and actually putting the money to work (2 months or so), the exchange rate shifted back 20% and I didn't have sufficient funds for the project.
As you can see, it is almost impossible to work with a neat and clean monthly budget because you are never paying the same amount on ANYTHING month to month. Someone in the U.S. recently asked me, "How do you make it with such volatility?" The answer - THE GRACE OF GOD! I can't give you a "I know what I'm doing" answer because I do not have one. We do not work through a mission board that pays us a salary, we receive free-will offerings from churches and individuals. We are grateful for what we receive, but the amount varies month-to-month throughout the entire year. We rarely receive the same amount of financial support from one month to the other. So how do we make it? Once again - THE GRACE OF GOD! God has always met our needs and even when we can't see how things are going to work out, they always do - ALWAYS!
With the positive change in the exchange rate we are experiencing an unusual window of increased opportunities to make God's money go farther in reaching Brazil for Christ. Will you pray, will you give, and will you help us mobilize others to do the same while this window remains open?
Thank you for your partnership in our lives and ministry.