Missionary Money: Easier to Give, Worth Less than Ever
Financial turmoil in global markets continues to play havoc with the value of the U.S. dollar, but technology continues to make the transfer of donor dollars to missionaries quicker and easier.
American missionary income in China has dropped 25 percent in recent years because of the dollar's decline against the Chinese yuan, said a missionary leader who requested anonymity. "In 24 years of missionary ministry, I have never seen things as tough as they are now."
"It's a complaint we hear almost every day," says Bill Bray of Christian Aid Mission, which supports indigenous missionaries in 122 nations. "They need more money because of the exchange rate."
Yet the continued global expansion of electronic banking means missionaries no longer have to wait for months while the check clears.
"When we served in Indonesia, we got paid once a quarter," said Elmer Lorenz, chief operations officer for The Evangelical Alliance Mission, which supports more than 600 missionaries. "Getting our money was an arduous process. Today we pay everyone electronically."
The United Methodist Church's Global Ministries has steadily moved in an electronic direction, accelerating the pace three years ago when it eliminated many regional financial executive positions. The Assemblies of God maintains a credit union that enables its missionaries to withdraw salary payments for less than the wire transfer fees at a commercial bank.
In addition, donors are more willing to make electronic payments. Orlando-based Pioneers, which supports nearly 1,000 missionaries, today receives 45 percent of its donations electronically. Financial vice president Johnny Fowler has also seen a spike in giving by credit card, although he prefers electronic funds transfers because they are cheaper for Pioneers to process.
"I've heard of people receiving $100,000 gifts over the Internet by credit card," Fowler said. "It's amazing what people are comfortable with putting online."
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