Missionaries live with their feet firmly planted on two plots of ground.
Most people don’t realize how much missionaries become attached to the countries where they work. In fact, missionaries change and begin to share the values and worldview of their host country. The host country starts to feel normal, and sometimes even more normal than their home country.
Nevertheless, no matter how long a missionary has been on the field, there will be items and products from home that they dearly miss. For this reason a missionary care package is a great idea.
For example, I miss Dr. Pepper as it cannot be purchased anywhere in the country. We were in Australia a year ago and I saw a Dr. Pepper at a specialty candy store. I decided that on our way out of the mall I would grab a can. Unfortunately, by the time I got back, the store had already sold their last can of Dr. Pepper and didn’t expect another shipment for a week – after I was going to be gone.
A wonderful way to bless a missionary is to send a care package.
Must Know Facts Before Sending Care Packages To Missionaries
Things you need to consider before sending anything to a missionary:
- What are the customs requirements? Every country adapts their own policies when it comes to what they will and will not allow into the country. For sure, don’t send any perishable food items. First, they aren’t likely to get past customs. Second, they aren’t likely to be in good shape when they arrive.
- How often to packages get through? Some countries have horrible deliverability rates. In my opinion, there is no reason to send a package to a country where only 50% of the packages arrive. In our case, the packages often eventually arrive, though sometimes contents are missing. Last year someone at the post office or customs took the M&M’s out of a package we received.
- What is the shipping time? You probably have no idea how long it can take to ship some packages overseas. For the last three years, we have received packages as late as 6 months after they were sent (Airmail). In fact, last Christmas one of our Christmas packages didn’t arrive until after we left in April for furlough. When we got back in September, our Christmas package was waiting for us.
- What is the postage going to cost? You will have a heart attack right there in the post office if you’ve never sent a package overseas. Get online (www.usps.com) and estimate the shipping cost. Consider using a flat rate shipping box. You fit as much as you can into a specific box, and you pay one rate regardless of weight.
- Are there likely to be any duty charges for the missionary? Many countries will charge the package recipient a duty charge. In PNG, for example, we pay 35% for electronic items. Needless to say, we discourage people from sending electronic items.
- What do you miss? If you’re going to go to the effort and pay the money to send a package, then just confirm that the items are ones that the missionary would enjoy. Most missionaries I know have no issues with saying what they miss.
- How do you complete the customs declaration forms? In light of duty and other government restrictions, it is important how you fill out the form. Always check “gift” and use words like ‘used’. In addition, be honest, but vague. For example, rather than listing the titles of 5 DVD’s, write 5 used DVD’s.
11 Missionary Care Package Items To Consider
- A good (used) book – Here’s a guide on how to find the best price on books. A friend once sent me a newly released John Grisham book. Before I moved, I mentioned in passing that I like Grisham. It meant a lot to me that he remembered that fact and sent a book. Since we have no local library, reading options can be sparse.
- Sermon recordings – Depending on the missionary’s destination, they may have access to online sermons, but many missionaries do not have the web speed necessary to download sermons and such. Once a month, download some of your favorite sermons from church and send them to your missionaries.
- Music – While missionaries adapt to their new cultures, I think most missionaries still have a deep affinity for the style of music from their home country. (Legally) burn a CD and send that to a missionary.
- DVD’s - If I have to watch another movie with Mandarin subtitles, I’m going to go crazy. Our hometown doesn’t have a movie rental place, and you can never get a movie with a decent image or without English subtitles.
- Magazines – Someone sends our kids children’s magazines packed full of games and activities. While some magazines won’t ship overseas, you can subscribe and then personally send them overseas (every couple of months to save on the shipping).
- Koolaid and Candy – delicious and unavailable in many places.
- Clippings from church bulletins, newspapers, or magazines.
- Buy from Amazon – While many online retailers don’t ship overseas, I’ve found that Amazon has an amazing number of countries that they ship to. Be prepared to pay an arm and a leg. Amazon charges $11.95 shipping and handling to send a book to PNG. However, they often have delivery time guarantees and I’ve never had a package make it in that time frame. If it doesn’t arrive on time, Amazon refunds the shipping.
- Toiletry items – You need to be careful with this one because liquid stuff can easily be halted at customs and liquid stuff is also heavier. However, my wife wears contacts, and we can’t buy contact solution here, so it must be sent in from overseas. Just little items that are unavailable overseas are much appreciated.
- A letter from the heart.
- Games, toys, books, and puzzles for missionary kids.
As you can tell, some of these items require your time, but not much money. For less than $5, you can probably download (legally) some sermons online and send them to a missionary. Perhaps you make a habit of collecting bulletin articles for a month and sending those.
You can bless a missionary even if you don’t have much disposable income.
Tips For Writing Letters To Missionaries
Since many people want to include a letter in their care package, I thought I’d give a few missionary letter writing tips. Writing a missionary can be hard because you have so little interaction with him or her, so it is hard to know what to say. Hopefully, this short list will get your creative juices flowing:
- Tell them about what is going on in your local area. What’s the big news? What buildings are being built? How many new families are there at church?
- Tell them about your activities and hobbies. Let them know what you enjoy doing with your time.
- Tell an interesting story about something that recently happened in your life.
- Share encouraging things that are happening at church.
- Ask if there is anything you can pray for on their behalf.
- Ask if there is anything they need.
BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: I always write in a personal way where I share my preferences and experiences. Please don’t in any way interpret this post as my asking you to send me something.
I am encouraging you to consider sending a care package to ANOTHER missionary – not THIS missionary.