Monday, November 21, 2011

Sending Gifts

Missionaries, I need your help writing this post.  Comments are not only welcome, but strongly encouraged!

With the holidays fast approaching, I want to encourage my readers to think about adding a missionary family to their list of "people to shop for" this year.  [And, if you add my family's name to that list, friend, I'll never speak to you again....I promise.... This post is not for my family!]

On my recent post Surving the New Adventure, we discussed the missionary families who have been on the field less than five years.  Later, I got to thinking about how easy it would be to encourage them during the holidays.  So, while you are out shopping over the next couple of weeks {think Black Friday soon}, why not pick up a little something for a missionary and send it?  In fact, you can even wait for those mega clearance sales that start up just after Christmas when stores are eager to sell out their leftover holiday goodies at deep discounts.  Trust me, missionaries don't mind receiving something from the states.... at any time of the year. {wink} 

I hesitate writing this post for fear of sounding like I need a gift {I already have five amazing gifts by the names of hubby, Davey, Nate, Brianna, and Micah... and each are non-returnable.  I also have more blessings than I could ever list for you in a lifetime!}.  However, I am taking the risk at the chance one of you just might take me up on the offer and decide to send a little love package in the mail to a missionary.  And, who knows?  That may be just the encouragement they need to show them they are not forgotten!

So, what kinds of things are appropriate for sending a missionary?  What kinds of things do they miss?  How expensive is it to ship?  What about customs costs once they go to the post office to pick up their package?  With the help of my missionary friends, we are going to help you out with these questions.  [Here's your cue to chime in with your thoughts, missionary friends.  Please feel free to correct this list, add to this list, comment, etc.]

Ideas of what to send a missionary family:

1.  Think "English"

     Most missionaries serve on a field where English is not spoken.  This means that things that are in English are a special commodity, such as books, DVDs, CDs, home decor, puzzle books, games, magazines, etc... and are always a welcome gift.

2.  Think "personalized"

     We have very few items that are personalized with names available in our country, and the items that we occasional find personalized are distinctly Russian names here where we serve.  If you know the names of the missionary children, a unique gift from America would be something with their name on it.... pencils, cups, clothing, blankets, stickers, ornaments, etc... 

3.  Think "lightweight"

     It is definitely expensive to send things to another country.  If you have ever done it, I can just see you nodding your head in agreement right now.  It can be very easy to spend more in shipping than you spent in buying your gift if you are not careful.  I won't even start to try listing lightweight things here, but if you can stick with lightweight AND flat, it would be easy to tuck your little gift in a regular envelope to send.  This could be very inexpensive!   (Think about a package of hot chocolate, a seasoning packet, a package of stickers or baseball cards.)

     Here is a link to calculate shipping costs through USPS.  But, don't forget to talk with your missionary about other shipping options.  Sometimes the missionary is experienced and has found other methods for shipping at less expensive rates than the good 'ole post office offers.

4.  Think "American"

     Many of the stores and products you see on a regular basis are things missionaries miss the most.  Why?  Because those things are specifically American products and only sold in America.  This may take a little bit of research on your part, but a few ideas might be: Bath & Body Works, Cracker Barrel gift shop, etc... 

5.  Think "special treats"
   
     I think that most of the time, missionary families miss the tastes of America more than anything.   Whatever used to be a favorite snack when a missionary lived in America becomes a craved for, tangible piece of "back home." I loved Reese's peanut butter cups when I lived in America the first 23 years of my life.  But now, because we do not have them here in Ukraine, when I eat one I suck on it and let the flavors just ooze slowly down my throat.  Honest.  They are that good!  For my hubby, it is Starbucks coffee beans that he finds pleasure in grinding, then smelling (over and over again), and then slowly drinking.  And, for as many missionaries as there exist, there are that many longed-for-"back-home-only" flavors.  Don't believe me?  Go check out this post at Mrs. JohninGhana where 63 comments were left for a recent giveaway for missionary mamas only.  In that post the missionary mamas were asked to leave a comment telling of the best thing they could ever receive in a box from America.

6.  Think "Christian"

     Basically, anything that you can get at a Christian bookstore is something that most missionaries can not get on their field.  Things like Patch the Pirate CDs, Adventures in Odyssey CDs, or any other type of listening pleasure for the children would be fun.  Have a favorite Christian DVD?  Your favorite missionary family might like a copy too (sometimes, just hearing the English is a pleasure all in itself)!  And, of course, great Christian books are always welcome in missionary homes!

7.  Think "holiday"

    Things that you see all around the grocery store aisles during the holidays are usually not the same things missionaries are seeing in their grocery stores / markets at that time.  Think about Valentine candies, Easter bunny chocolates, candy corn at Thanksgiving etc... Most of these traditions are American-only traditions!

I really hope I have inspired you to send a care package soon.  If you do, let me know!  I'd love to hear about it!  And, if you're a missionary, please share...

What would you enjoy receiving in a box from America?

20 comments:

  1. Wonderful post! I also thought about sending Christmas gifts after reading you post about missionary's and the rough time they have. I was thinking of how homesick I would be around the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanks for the great ideas!

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  2. This is such a good list of ideas! We are adopting a missionary family for Christmas and encouraging our children to learn to give. It is so much fun!

    Love, Hannah

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  3. What a marvelous idea! How much fun it would be to 'adopt' a missionary family each Christmas. Hmmm. Time is short, but I do hope you get as many Comments on this as you did the other. Whatever is done this year we can learn and can set up a good program for next year, too!!

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  4. Another great post, Jolene! I know we have been blessed so many times to receive packages from America. They always encouraged my heart to know someone was thinking about us. Even if it was "only" a card with Kool-Aid. We would all gather around to see what flavors they sent. :) Another idea I had while reading your blog was giving a gift certificate to an online Christian book store, where the missionaries can download audio books for the kids or themselves. www.christianbook.com is a good resource for that. Just an idea. Thanks again. I always enjoy your blog!

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  5. What a Wonderful post! I just wanted to add that there are flat rate boxes available at the Post Office. Flat Rate means that no matter what the package weighs - if you can fit in in the box, you can ship it for that price!

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing those ideas! Not at all did I think you posted that for your benefit. Who better then to hear ideas than from a missionary! I always welcome any ideas to help our missionaries that our church supports.
    Love you and praying for you always,
    Roberta Ortiz

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  7. Wow, you took the words right out of my mouth! I have a special post coming up related to this very subject which I have to wait to share. I totally agree! Wonderfully said, Jolene!

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  8. We live in Zambia, Africa and what I really enjoy in packages are sugar-free anything. Even just Splenda so I can make my own treats. :-) Diet food is unheard of in this area! And anything seasonal. I liked your suggestion for music, etc, too!

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  9. Thank you, thank you, Jolene, for this post and your other about culture shock. I feel that these words are so needed, but very few are speaking them! I'd love to add you to my blog roll if you don't mind!
    Patty Sommer

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  10. Well said, Jolene, in a very kind way. Online gift certificates are nice, so that the missionary can choose what they really need. Another download story site like Jacky mentioned is www.lamplightertheatre.com/. I highly recommend their stories. Everyone enjoys getting packages from the States. To capture the excitement that erupts when daddy walks in with a package would be priceless. Our thanks to all who have blessed us throughout the years with such thoughtful packages.

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  11. Jolene,
    I am always so glad when you post things like this.:)I am happy for ideas on what to send to missionaries.I did wonder about postage too.:)Thanks for all the information.

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  12. Jolene, this is so helpful! I'm printing your list!!! Thank you and a blessed Thanksgiving, to you my dear sister in the Lord! *Hugs*

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  13. Jolene, you hit the nail on the head once again. As missionaries in Africa, it is always a blessing and an encouragement to receive mail and packages! One of our churches just sent a little game and stickers for each child for Christmas; all three children were on cloud nine! The flat rate boxes do seem to work well; I think there is a 20 lb. weight limit on those boxes, but one would be hard pressed to fit 20 lbs. of stuff in one of those boxes. We just received some special holiday baking items in a package (pumpkin, chocolate chips, baking chocolate, Velveeta). That was a special treat!

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  14. Hi Jolene, Just a note to say thank you for writing this post. I have enjoyed reading your blog from time to time, having found it on another "missionary blog". :) I think all of us missionaries can totally relate. And we're all afraid to say anything because it sounds like we're just wanting things!! :) Here in Haiti we talk about it sometimes that the longer you're on the field the fewer and further between the emails and letters get, gifts are almost nonexistent. Once you're there a few years, it can feel like no one back "home" even thinks of you anymore! Sometimes I don't know if that's one of the selfish quirks particular to missionaries, that we even think about it, but I do know that if the ones back home just realized how very special and encouraging it is to know that someone thought of you long enough to send an email or even a small gift, there would be a lot more of that done! You can feel SO ALONE at times and those things can be so encouraging! Several times I've had friends send B&B shower gel or hand soap. Just a chocolate bar, or some other small treat... It doesn't even have to be a gift... Emails, cards, and letters mean so much! I always tell my friends, write anyway even if you can't do more than a few lines! It can be so encouraging just to receive a note saying that someone thought of us today and praying for us! Blessings!

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  15. Thank you Jolene!! We look forward to putting some of your ideas to use :). I had no clue that those flat rate boxes worked world wide!! That is great news. Now, for one more silly question :) your post and several comments mention chocolate... how do you pack that so it does not melt along the way ???
    -Joleena :)
    PS. One of my kids saw your name and said, "That is not you Mom" :)another mentioned I spelled my name wrong :)

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  16. Sometimes, the chocolate chips become a "block" of chocolate, but they break apart and still work fine. If you put things like that in a Ziploc bag, it protects the other things in the package if something does melt.

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  17. Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you ever been running a blog for? you make running a blog look easy. The whole look of your website is great, well the content material!

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  18. We spent several years on the foreign field & are now serving state side in church planting. But boy do I remember those special treats from America! Peanut butter, taco seasoning, velveeta, pumpkin, books, twizzlers. Oh my! So many things. We had people wrap all our items in Christmas or birthday paper so we didn't have to pay as much tax or whatever it was they charged. Plus, in Sri Lanka, they open all of your packages. What a great post!

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  19. I have been enjoying all things "pumpkin" as friends sent us care packages filled with our favorites.

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  20. Great post, Mrs. Jolene! Thanks for caring so much for other missionaries as you serve yourself.

    Have a great day and a wonderful Thanksgiving. I pray for you and your family regularly and look forward to your posts to see what God is doing in your lives.

    In Christ,

    Bro. Garry

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Thank you for your encouraging comments! "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." Proverbs 25:25