November 21, 2007

Ministering to Missionaries - Sending Christmas gifts

There are so many people around the world telling others about the great gift of forgiveness that God offers.

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.

  • Music

  • 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)


Robin said...

Speaking of parcels... I just popped in to let you know that your parcel arrived this week, and my daughter and niece both love their new zipper pulls.

Thanks again :).

Barbara H. @ Stray Thoughts said...

It's funny, I posted about this today too! But more from a how to organize it from a church or ladies ministry angle. You brought up a lot of good things I didn't mention.

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

What good thoughts! I grew up in South America as a missionary kids. Some of the things we loved receiving:
* Newspapers, especially with comics.
* Taped TV shows (WITH commercials! :-)) Even just hearing the English in an accent we were familiar with meant a lot to us!
* Things we couldn't buy in our country, like kool-aid or sauce/seasoning packets
* Pictures of familiar things that have changed. My grandmother always sent pictures of our hometown, so we could follow with the changes. It made it seem not so far away.

Don't use abbreviations when writing the address. We had a few packages that made it to "South Africa" and "South Australia" because someone had simply written "S.A." on it.

Don't send soap and food in the same package!

We had a missionary friend who received USED tea bags one time. :-)

Kathleen Marie said...

This is just wonderful! Thanks for putting this together! Hugs!

Laane said...

Great post!

Feel welcome to visit me at:

Laane on the World

Happy Thanksgiving!

toblerone said...

Thanks so much for posting about this - it's SOOOO true! Receiving packages and letters from home completely makes our day. Some other thoughts:

• Family photos with your Christmas cards - it's so fun to see faces you miss but haven't seen in forever

• TV shows with commercials. With DVR now, it's pretty easy - my SIL sends us CDs with random shows from Food Network and Nick Jr. It's fun just to have it on in the background.

• Christmas decor, if you're sending it on time - especially in countries that don't celebrate Christmas at all.

• Little food/drink/seasoning packets - Ranch dressing packets, taco seasoning packets, hot chocolate packets, chai packets - I love getting those!

• Books and crafts in English for kiddos

• I love getting magazines!

• Be really vague about what's inside - mostly because customs people like any excuse to ask for a bribe

• Write about everyday life stuff - what's new in your city and your family, etc. etc. Sometimes people try to be super-deep because we're "m-ssion-ries." We're totally normal people!

Great post.