I know how encouraging it is to have people sending letters and little parcels while we were away from 'home'. So first let me encourage you, especially with Christmas coming up, to remember to email, write or send little care packages to the missionaries you support.
Other fun times to send things is birthdays, anniversaries or just becasue.
But it's important to think about what you send to people. While I've made this list specific for Christmas, it's can be used for any time you want to send something to a missionary.
The most important consideration is if the missionary you are sending things too is in a closed country, that is if they are in a country that is not sympathetic to Christians. If that is the case there is a few things to consider;
- Don't send Christmas cards that are explicitly Christian. Try and find ones that say Seasons Greetings, or Happy Holidays rather than ones that mention Christmas
- Be careful what you say in letters, when mentioning your church call it something like "your family at . . . " rather than your church name. Don't mention God or the Bible. If you want to let them know you are praying for them say something like "Everynight I speak to HIM about you."
- If the missionary has given you guidelines about what not to say, follow it!
- Be aware that your mail could be read by authorities (Not mentioning politics etc about the country either you or they are living in is also a good idea)
- If you not sure about something, always verge on the safe side and don't write/send it.
- This all goes for emails to, I have heard of missionaries having their emails screened
Most missionaries have a contact at home that you can ring/email to find out about what is or isn't appropriate to send, they may also be able to give you ideas about what would be appreciated.The parcel you send doesn't have to be big. Anything that shows that someone is thinking/praying for them is appreciated
- Always fill out the documentation that needs to done. It's better to be vague in the declaration, simply saying 'gift' or 'documents' is fine.
- Always put the value of the parcel as '$0', some countries have a high customs tax, putting the value as $0 will ensure that the parcel is indeed a gift and the missionaries don't have to pay tax. (one way to say tis is to write 'no commercial value')
- Smaller parcels are often better, they may have to pay to pick up larger parcels. The things I'll mention to send are smaller and easy to post.
- Before you send things like CD's, DVD's or computer programs check that they will be able to be used. (Most places are fine, but if your missionary is living simply in a village then they may not have electricity etc)
Some ideas of things to send to adults
- Tapes/CD's of sermons (not to closed countries)
- Magazines (Find ones that you think will interest them; craft, cooking, science, music, family related) (Once again make sure there isn't anything that could hurt them in a closed country.) It's a good idea to go through and remove any adds that are inappropriate, even a simple add about swimwear could be classified as p*rnography in some countries.
- Newspaper articles about their home town, their favourite sports team etc
- Books on preparing sermons or Sunday school lessons
- Nice stationary or cards
Some ideas for children
- CD's of kids music
- Stickers, coloured pencils, colouring/activity books
- Story books that are relevant to their age
- T-shirts, or baby clothes
- Paper dolls, hair bands, ribbons, simple jewellery for girls
- Marbles, quiz books, small cars for boys
Some other thoughts
- It's not a great idea to send food (unless asked to) We had many parcels destroyed by melted chocolate. (yes, it will escape any wrapping put around it. Believe me.)
- Nothing war related - this includes water pistols
- Remember where your missionary is. If they are ministering to people that are very poor it can be awkward to get lots of 'useless' gifts. Consider something that can be shared, such as a packet of balloons, or pens.
- Don't send money or checks
- Ask before you send. If mail is unreliable consider helping out some other way.
- Don't send junk. If you wouldn't want it, don't send it.
If you have any other ideas, please let me know. And for other ideas head to Rocks in My Dryers.(photo courtesy of alitaylor at stock.xchgn)