508 to be exact. That is how many CFA we can currently get for 1 of our American dollars. The CFA (SEE-fah) is our local currency here in Togo. We get paid in American dollars just like everybody else, but we must then withdraw money from the ATM here in town to pay for anything and everything. Living in a 100% cash society has it's challenges, and the fluctuation of currencies is just one of them.
For several months the exchange rate was about 420 CFA for each dollar, which meant that we had a lot less money. Let me give you a simple math example. If I take $1,000 worth of CFA out of the ATM at 420 CFA for each dollar, I get 420,000 CFA. If I take out $1,000 worth of CFA at 508 CFA for each dollar, I get 508,000 CFA. The difference in these two transactions is 88,000 CFA, or about $175!!! As you can see, a lower exchange rate greatly reduces our buying power here. Considering that we take thousands upon thousands of dollars out of the ATM each year becaause we live in a cash based society, having the CFA back up around 500 is a huge blessing to our personal lives here, and it also lets us help people more in our benevolence ministry.
It's interesting to me that the quick rise of the exchange rate has come hand in hand with the economic crisis is America. I'm not an economist, and I don't claim to know why these two events are linked, but they are. We have been praying for everyone in America as the financial crisis continues, but it may help you to know that your missionaries are a little better off now than they were a few weeks ago :)