Japan's Yen rate continues to climb, pressure missionaries

strong Yen, weak Dollar

- by Jeff Johnston -

The Japanese Yen (¥) rate is approaching the strongest level in 15 years recently — hitting ¥85.33 to US$1 earlier this month.

According to Bloomberg's Alex Kowalski, the Yen rate has climbed 3% against all 16 major currencies this year. He writes:

"The yen typically strengthens in times of financial turmoil as Japan's trade surplus makes the currency attractive as it means the nation does not have to rely on overseas lenders."

Though many experts view the 85-Yen mark as the time for the government to take steps to weaken the currency, it seems doubtful that it will do so.


Personally, we've seen a 25% reduction since arriving in Tokyo three years ago today. That means for every dollar received in 2007 (¥115), we're receiving 75¢ (¥85) now.

Meanwhile, missionaries struggle to keep support levels up against the stronger Yen. Donations given in US$ or other currencies simply don't go as far as they once did. Personally, we've seen a 25% reduction since arriving in Tokyo three years ago today. That means for every dollar received in 2007 (¥115), we're receiving 75¢ (¥85) now.

Combined with a bad economy and soaring health care costs, it's a tough recipe to swallow. It's a struggle for missionaries to stay on the field. You cut where you can and then pray you can survive the onslaught.

We're not alone, as missionaries are feeling the pinch in many places, not just Japan. Churches in North America have had to cut back their support to missionaries due to a difficult economy. We know of a dozen or so families across the globe have reluctantly had to leave the field because they can no longer sustain the level of support needed.

What can we do? Do we just fold up our tent and call it a day?

Actually, I think there are several things we should be doing to address some of these core challenges. Here are a few:

1) Pray for God to send laborers and to provide the funds for the laborers He has sent.

Matthew 9:37-38 "Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.' "

Pray also that the U.S. Dollar would strenghten against the Japanese Yen.

2) Give to missions where God burdens you. Praise God for many who are giving sacrificially to advance His work in the world.

3) Stewardship - Mission organizations need to continue to look for creative ways to achieve a greater degree of stewardship. J. Hudson Taylor said: "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies." If He's not providing, then maybe we need to look hard at what we're doing and make some changes.

4) Partnership in the Base Camp - That said, I think there are good missions doing good things, but they just don't have a good economy of scale. Organizations will need to consider whether they can achieve more together than separately. Leveraging resources and administrative support is one way to achieve a better economy of scale. These difficult economic times could be God's way of bringing together more partnerships in the base camp.

This is what Asian Access is now seeking to do. (See " Asian Access seeks sizable ministry expansion".) We have a great mandate in Japan, but think it's time to join together with others to accomplish something bigger for God than we could do separately. The risk for losing some control is there, but the potential upside to foster a movement could be huge!

5) Partnerships on the Front Lines - Missions is undergoing some real changes. A documentary I helped to produce, Missions: Redefined raised some of these issues. It was an eye-opener to see how Western missions have been perceived.  As the landscape changes, our partnerships with national-led movements might be a key to achieving something greater together.

Sharing our kingdom resources for the greater good seems like a God-thing.

I certainly don't have all the answers. There's much more that we can do to address the current economic challenges.

What do you think?  Please give me your ¥2 . . . because it's now worth more than 2¢!

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