International (MNN) — The economic standing of the U.S. is directly affecting missions work.
As if a national rise in downturns wasn't enough, the U.S. dollar could now be facing a significant depreciation. In an attempt to boost the failing economy, the Federal Reserve has vowed to print $600 billion and pump it into the country by purchasing Treasury bonds — an initiative they've dubbed Quantitative Easing 2 (QE2).
Part of the reasoning is that with more money in the system, the dollar will essentially cost less to purchase, so foreign investors may purchase more in U.S. exports. Interest rates in the States will also go down, hopefully encouraging more small businesses to start, and thus more jobs to be created.
There's another side to this coin, though. The devaluation of the dollar hurts the cause of Americans living in foreign countries, such as the missionaries with Pioneers USA. If the dollar-to-foreign-currency ratio is lower than these missionaries originally anticipated, the support they raised may no longer be enough.
The weakening of the dollar comes at an already tough time for foreign missionaries. Many, especially those funded mainly by ministries rather than personal donors, have already suffered as job cuts have forced some long-term supporters to cease their giving. Missionaries seem to have adjusted to those changes, but QE2 will raise the need for additional compromises.
"We've kind of come through that phase of 'tightening belts' already, because of the downturn," says PIONEERS president Ted Esler. "Now with the fall of the U.S. dollar, those who are living in some of these various places around the world are really feeling the pinch at this time."
On top of this difficult hurdle is a rise in the cost of healthcare. Esler says PIONEERS has found that even missionaries under international healthcare have had to obtain U.S. policies, significantly increasing their costs.
"A missionary living overseas who has something catastrophic happen will return home. And when they return home, they will go onto a U.S. policy, as opposed to where they were, on an international policy. The results of that are the U.S. policy tends to have a number of people in it with greater health insurance needs, and that pushes the premiums up," explains Esler. "So the whole system is set up, in one sense, to work against anybody who could be trying to raise funds for a stateside position to support missionaries on the field, because our rates are going to be substantially higher."
To top it all off, some missionaries are being asked to pay local taxes for the national healthcare within the countries they are living. "So there's also some concern that missionaries will be taxed both in the sending country and in the receiving country on their income." These practices are already taking place in France and Indonesia.
A combination of job losses and pay cuts of previous donors, the depreciation of the dollar, a rise in the cost of healthcare, and a change in foreign government taxation policies could slow the pace of overseas ministry. Already, missionaries have had to make compromises by eliminating project ideas so they can simply have enough to live. Others have come home early. What kind of effects will we see in the future?
Esler says, "[It] probably won't be people that come home from the field and don't go back. But you'll see missionaries who are on a schedule to return home to work on support raising, who will move that schedule up so they'll be back earlier. And it may take them a little longer to raise additional funds than it would have in a different situation."
More time spent raising funds means less time on the field, less time spent spreading the Gospel to those who are most desperately in need. Pray for PIONEERS missionaries and other missionaries you may know. Pray that the Lord would provide them with all they need to be most effective in spreading the Gospel across the globe. Pray that economics would not be a big enough obstacle to keep the Gospel from moving forward.