Our total monthly budget for the foreseeable future is only $1650, covering the costs for all four of us.
We’ve begun a new work among the Antakarana people on the remote, undeveloped island of Nosy Mitsio in northwestern Madagascar. As members of YWAM Madagascar, we’re partnering with AIM to lead a team to reach out to the people of Nosy Mitsio. We’re all living in the rural village communities of Nosy Mitsio, among the Antakarana people, sharing the abundant life of Jesus with them through indigenous church-planting and sustainable small-scale community development. Because of the uniqueness of this location and ministry, some of our budget costs are higher and some are much lower, and it’s all explained in more detail below.
Here’s an average breakdown of our current monthly budget:
As you can see, our housing/lodging budget is very low at just $150 (9% of the total) a month. Because we’re living in a village on a remote island, our housing is also in the same style and generally same construction as the other houses in the community. Essentially, we’re living in a hut with a thatched-roof, all made from local materials. Not only is this incredibly cost-effective, but it helps us better understand and better integrate into the Antakarana community, which should help us better share the Good News of the God who came to live among us as one of us. Our housing budget has allowed us to buy those local materials and provide a good wage to those who have helped us construct our house, to perform occasional maintenance as necessary, as well as purchasing and maintaining solar power equipment so that we can power our communications devices. In addition, the same budget is used for lodging in cheap local hotels when travelling on mainland Madagascar for various team training and organizational needs.
Food, clothes, and basic needs is about $285 a month (17%). Because Nosy Mitsio is an undeveloped island, we also don’t have easy access to good nutritional variety. People on Nosy Mitsio eat mostly just rice and seafood and they have no market for food purchases! We have to buy and transport quite a lot of our food from the mainland markets in order to maintain our family’s own healthy diets. Because of the rough local environment and the constant walking, we often have to replace or repair our clothes and sandals. And with the salty humid air, so many things in our home constantly corrodes or molds – so this budget helps us to replace items as necessary.
We have $100 (6%) in our budget for communication each month. On a remote island, it’s important to maintain contact with the outside world, both for health and safety and also for communication with our sending organizations and our friends, family, and supporters like you. We’re relying on solar power and batteries to store electricity for our computer and phones, and we also have a satellite phone we can use in case of emergencies, as Madagascar’s cell network doesn’t reliably extend to Nosy Mitsio. Much of this budget also goes towards communications while in town, where data over cell networks (the only availability) is quite expensive.
Our transport budget is $80 (5%) a month. Living on a small island means few choices for transport, and so this budget helps cover the costs of boat travel on occasional trips off the island of Nosy Mitsio, and public transport while on mainland Madagascar. A motorized boat has been purchased for use by our team; this transport budget goes towards covering our portion of the fuel and maintenance for the boat. We travel to and from Nosy Mitsio and the mainland about once or twice a month. On the island of Nosy Mitsio itself, our only choice is walking everywhere. When travelling in mainland Madagascar, this budget also pays for travel by the “taxi-brousse” public transport system, where we’re literally “rubbing shoulders” with the rest of the Malagasy around us!
Every month we pay about $230 (14%) to a “Team Dues” account to be used by the team we’re leading. Each of the other team members also pays the same amount. This fund goes towards all of our activities and expenses as a team, including: expenses for team ministry projects to the local people, safety/emergency equipment, learning materials to be used by the team, occasional retreats/meetings that we take as a team for debriefing, and any other team equipment and resources for our ministry as a team.
We have $190.00 (12%) set aside monthly for our Health/Emergency account. International insurance is currently not feasible due to the very high cost and the difficulty of approving treatment at overseas facilities. We believe having our own savings account for medical expenses (including emergencies) is more effective for us to receive treatment in country (which is much cheaper) when available, and to be med-evac’d to another country for emergency higher-risk procedures. Neighboring African countries and islands (such as South Africa and Réunion) have a high quality of medical care but at significantly lower costs than America and we’ll be using them for any more serious medical conditions that might occur (such as when David was born). We already have a good medical/emergency savings account that we’ve already built up and we plan to continue this fund throughout our years in Madagascar.
All in all, you can see that our general living expenses in Madagascar are quite low, especially compared to those same expenses in other countries. Part of the reason is because of the much lower economy here, but the other reason is because of our lifestyle choices. Our goal throughout the years of our work in Madagascar is to live at or very near the same level as the people we’re living among and working with, whether urban or rural – living as they live, with or without electricity or running water or any of the other things we often take for granted as Americans. Jesus was born and lived his life as an average Jew, certainly not a wealthy one. He spoke the local Jewish language and was part of the Jewish culture and community, and through that ministered to the entire world and brought the Kingdom of God to earth. We believe we should also have the same general lifestyle as those we’re working for and with, together for the Kingdom of God. For this stage of our work, that means living for years in a village on a remote island with no access to running water, no access to constant electricity, and very limited communications. We’re taking some precautions for health and safety concerns that are a little different than the general lifestyle of the island’s inhabitants (such as purified water, a nutritious diet and solar-powered communications), but other than those few things, we’ll truly be living as the Antakarana people live and in their villages with them.
Another consistent expense in our budget is savings for plane tickets / furlough (21% or $350 a month). To travel round-trip between the US and Madagascar can cost around $3000 a person; very expensive because Madagascar is mostly undeveloped and is not a popular destination. So, although this portion is one of the most expensive, it’s necessary so that we can accumulate enough to pay for the extra cost of travel. That way we can visit home every 2 1/2 years or so and maintain contact with our families, friends, churches, and supporters like you!
We also have regular expenses to pay for our residency visas in Madagascar (6% or $100 a month). This is unfortunately a necessity for us as foreigners to live and do ministry in Madagascar. As a developing country, Madagascar is constantly changing their procedures and fees for foreigners (like us) to live and work in Madagascar. This can make the process very frustrating and it means the actual costs fluctuate all the time. However, as we budget this much every month to go towards our visas in Madagascar, it’s usually enough to cover the direct and the associated costs for us to submit and process our paperwork and thus be approved by the Madagascar government.
Finally, one more thing that you can see in our budget is labeled “Malagasy Ministry.” We know that in order to do our work we’ll have to rely on financial contributions we receive from our supporters. But, rather than being receivers only, we want to also be constant givers, and not only of our time and efforts, but our finances as well. Therefore, at least 10% of our budget (or ~$165) each month will be set aside to support the efforts of Malagasy people who are devoting their lives to ministering to their neighbors and fellow countrymen. Most Malagasy people, including Christian workers, have no international connections and their national economy is poor enough that they can rarely receive financial support in-country. So, we’re doing what we can to help individual Malagasy people follow the call of God to minister in their own country.
If you have any further questions about our budget, don’t hesitate to ask! Click below to donate online or click here for more info on other ways to donate.