Economic cri...baby?

The economy sucks. I know that.

For one, I own a home in California. A home that has lost about $300,000 in equity in the past 2 years.

Secondly, we don’t even open our retirement portfolio anymore because it makes El Chupacabra very, very cranky. I’m pretty sure we owe Wall Street money. Our future as shriveled up old people racing electric scooters through a crowded mall looks bad. Really bad.

AND third, I’m a support based missionary which means that I feel it deeply on a daily basis, right in my back pocket, when the economy takes a nose-dive.

So, what I’m saying is, I get it. I know that it’s bad. CNN tells me it’s bad. My In-laws, and my missions pastor, and my paycheck all tell me on a regular basis that the economy is horribly, terribly, awfully bad.


When we’re in the states. It just didn’t seem that bad.

El Chupacabra and I had a running joke about the economy. Like if we couldn’t find a parking spot - out of 3 million parking spots - at Target, or Old Navy, or at any of the 3 malls we went to - one of us would say something like, “Man, this economy is terrible.”

And then we would snicker. (Yes, we’re kind of evil.)

But the thing is, while we saw a bunch of for sale signs, and some vacant store fronts, we also never - not even once - walked into a restaurant where we didn’t have to wait for a table. We never walked into an empty shopping center. We were never the only people in line...well...anywhere!

Basically, we saw lots and lots of shoppers spending lots and lots of money. We saw tons of brand new stores in giant, busy malls that had remodeled, added entire wings, and parking structures, and all that stuff. Buses and light-rail were moving along empty, no one was walking or biking or doing any of the things I had anticipated seeing in light of the dank economy. Everywhere we went, people were carrying disposable Starbucks or Pete’s cups instead of home-brew in a travel mug.

Is everyone crazy? Am I crazy? Or is the economy in the crapper, and people are losing their houses in order to keep their habits? Are people who have lost their jobs still buying $4 coffee?! Or, is it just not as bad as everyone says? I’m just so confused...I guess I thought, after hearing so much, for so long, about how "different" things are now, that it would actually look different. Ya know?

Has the current economic climate affected you, personally? Have you been forced to make changes in order to accommodate a different lifestyle? Are there changes you should have made, but haven’t because the “habit” means too much to you?

And what does all this look like for those of us who follow Christ? How would you feel if your church said,"We aren't going to serve free coffee on Sunday mornings any longer." or "Sorry, we just can't afford to support our missionaries anymore." ?

What's your take on all of this?


  1. That.... is a very good question. I live in Dallas and supposedly the bad economy hasn't affected us as much, and down here I see very little affect. I know some of my friend's in Chicago have had their corporations scale off a lot of employees, but I haven't seen any of that here.

  2. I am in the financial arena, and I have seen my clients deeply affected by the downturn. While Texas is not as affected as other parts of the country its very real. I have seen businesses shut down, scaled back, and myself have almost 20% of my annual sales out in receivables right now.

    Many who have been living off their credit cards are no longer able to do it. The county that my office is in, is in the top 5 in the country in foreclosures. Lots of predatory lending here that is now coming around. Interest only loans on homes worth half of what they have loans for. So they will just let the bank have them. In rare cases, lenders are restructuring the loans to keep people in homes they can't sell.

    Retirement accts are down, so older people are not spending as much. In tough times, the amounts given to others are the first to stop. The payment to support the missionary, or the dog rescue society or the local shelter stops before Starbucks gets shelved. Of course, addiction is tough to beat. haha

    Sorry to hear you are having issues. You are not alone.

  3. Well, my dad's Interior Design/Furniture store of 4 generations of Petersens went under while we were in Chicago after two really hard years of loans and struggling... my mom is working at Old Navy b/c she can't find something that can take her on full time and her health insurance runs out in the spring and no one will pick her up (for any sort of a feasible price) due to her cancer history 10 years ago... so, I know a few people who are in trouble at the moment and have cut back, have had to.

    But I would agree... while we were in the States things didn't seem horrible out in public. Interesting.

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  5. I know this has nothing to do with what you asked for, but did you know that you are not only google-able, but if you type "jamie the v" it fills it in and basically ASKS you to google you. You must be one popular chick.

    I thought that would make you smile.

  6. Malia and I have the same running joke! Amazing!

    The two times we went to the mall last year it was so packed we could hardly find parking spaces... and so I had to say it "Man... this economic climate... how can anyone stand it?!"

    To me the biggest difference in the average household is paper wealth. I.e. how much am I worth on paper? That has taken a big dip as the stock market and the housing market have lost value significantly.

    It's alot like the game Monopoly. We never played a game where one of my siblings (or me) didn't end up crying by the end or another one gloating over his profound "wealth".

    Isn't the "current economic climate" just like that?

  7. Unfortunately the church will probably axe or reduce its support to the missionary before they start charging for the coffee. That's what we're finding anyway, speaking as the missionary who's having their support reduced.

  8. I'm so sorry to those who HAVE seen major suckage due to the general lack of funds in the states! thanks for sharing, I hope things look up very soon.

    Theo - I LOVE the Monopoly picture of todays state of finance!! It's

    Hazel - I'm saddened/offended on your behalf! There is no bigger frustration in missions than when you can't get churches to INVEST in the global arena. So sorry to hear about your support reduction. :(
    May God provide.

  9. First of all... let me say that I have been stalking your blog for the past few months and always feel I was too late to make comments, but you are amazing. I feel that one day I will maybe be a missionary (my wife is on a missions trip to Kenya as we speak), but like you posted the other day (it was probably a month ago, but that is when I read it), I gotta lot of junk to clean up before I go or else its coming along.

    Anyways, I think you should set up a paypal account for donations. I am sure you have a base church or denomination that handles your donations, but I would gladly donate to you. I am not rich by any means (in fact, quite the opposite), but I am sure $20 bucks here and there from your readers would help you guys out.

    Keep writing (you should write a book),

    P.S. You are certainly not the worst missionary. In fact you may be one of the best. Because of your transparency, you have given me something to strive for that actually seems realistic rather than a fantasy.

  10. The economic thing is so funny to me because I'm so used to being dirt poor that I'm now in a far better state than many of my friends. I have no home to speak of, but no debt either.

    I think what we're all missing so hugely is that the lives that we're living (in the states at least) are too far removed from reality. We want so badly to hang on to the comfort of these damned barcaloungers and cable and we don't realize how much oppression is involved to have this phoney existence. Which is bad. We all know that God hates it and here we sit.

    And I truly believe we're here because we already knew before now that we'd put more money into the building fund or the coffee grounds than the missionaries if we were ever faced with this sort of crisis. Which sucks. But keep fighting the good fight. You're lovely and this world needs more of you.

  11. Hi Zac. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave such an encouraging comment! It's always cool to meet someone else that wants to join the ranks of missionaries on the field. I hope your dream is realized. :)

    Paypal is a good idea. I'll look into it. But would it be weird? like self-agrandizing weird? begging weird? desperate weird? I don't think so. I mean, I AM a support based missionary, and that's just another avenue for support, right? Ok, cool. I'm glad we had this little chat. :)

    Hi Alex. Thanks for reading and commenting. You are SO right! (except for the part about the world needing more of me - that would be frightful!!) But the U.S. has been enslaved by a "phony existence". Well said.

  12. Don't scoff at the idea of Paypal. I make payments on occasion to missionary works via paypal.

    Its just easy to do when the idea strikes. As opposed to longer, much more time consuming channels for donating. You might be surprised.

  13. thanks deemus. i'm gonna do it. I just need to get up the nerve. the whole asking for money thing is, in my very earthly opinion, the hardest/worst part of being a missionary. it's oogy. but necesary!

    You'll be seeing a "donate" button on the right very very soon! :)

  14. You keep making me laugh, and I will make sure I find it. Deal?

  15. Jamie,

    Members of my family were likely among those at the Galleria looking for gifts for Christmas when you were there. We are certainly not living in the poverty of Haiti and I almost laugh outloud when people compare our current problems to the Great Depression. I also have no doubt that we will be strengthened in the things that are most important and most important to God through our present struggle. But, we are not untouched. I am a teacher who has been furloughed from work several days this year. Over 100 young and very qualified teachers lost their jobs through layoffs in my district alone. I have three children. Both of my sons and my son-in-law have lost their jobs due to closures or lay-offs. They have had to take lower paying or parttime jobs to support their families. One will soon be without medical insurance. One is loosing a home to foreclosure. My husband is a therapist. He sees so many people of all ages whose relationships are strained and unemployment or finances is often a major stressor in their lives. I think sometimes a cup of Starbuck's or Peet's coffee is a type of comfort food....people find a way to have it even when things are not going well. Having said all of this, I trust that God knows our needs (and your needs)and He is more than enough to meet our needs. I think of manna and quail and water in the desert.

  16. I say it hasn't affected us at all. That's how our normal life is anyway. We already eat beans and rice all the time because it's so cheap. (plus my husband's a tico so he loves it.)
    --Deborah K.


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