Missionary Care Package ideas

Do YOU want to be a missionary?
You need the Global Mission Handbook!

You want to send something nice to a missionary, but what? Well, it's time for some missionary care package ideas! The best thing about these is that they're ideas from the missionaries themselves - missionaries from everywhere, living everywhere. In 2007 I asked missionary bloggers to share their missionary care package ideas, and boy did I get some GREAT feedback!

Quite a few missionaries wrote ideas in their blogs, and I was in for some surprises. For example, what's it with Americans and their craving for taco seasoning? Did you know missionaries like things that smell? Do you know how to increase your chances of having a package actually arrive? Read on for some great missionary care package ideas!

Disclaimers

Before posting their missionary care package ideas, many missionaries wanted to make it clear that they're content - they don't need you to send them stuff. One missionary writes: ...[this] is not a plea to send me things. I am very content already. God is always good, whether or not there are DVDs in the drive or Marmite on the baguette (Habakkuk 3:17-18). (from Voice in the Desert on Care Packages)

Also, missionaries really want to fit in to their new culture, not always wear clothes from their native land, perfume from their native land, and eat food from their native land.

So why send a care package? The greatest thing about care packages though is the little glimpses of home they offer. They scream "we miss you," "we are thinking about you," and "we care." I guess that is why they are called "care packages" and not "things-you-need-to-survive packages." (from following an unknown path on care packages)

Before you start

Ask the missionary before sending your care package.  This is important for a few different reasons.  First, there are some things for which the missionary may end up having to pay a duty or other tax.  Second, if the missionary is in a sensitive location, they may prefer certain things to be delivered to a different address (to be hand-carried in).  And finally, you may be sending the missionary something which they can already get in country.  We were once sent toothpaste and a large box of tissues - both of which are in abundance where we were.  Try to find out from the missionary what items they really can't get where they are.  Trust me, most will not be shy about telling someone what they really want if they are asked! (missionary care package ideas from Jungle Pop)

More great advice from following an unknown path on narrowing it down - Don't be afraid to ask the missionary specifically for help.  For example, "I'd like to send you some reading material is there a book or magazine you've been wanting to read?" OR "We are wanting to send you some personal items, do you need razors or deodorant? If so, which brands and scents could we get for you?"  By asking specifically, it helps us not be so shy in telling you what we need.  It is really hard to answer the question "what do you need us to send you?"

Shipping/packaging

Often packages have to travel through several countries before they reach their destination.  They may be thrown around, crushed, opened, and tax might be charged.  They may even have specific things stolen, or they may not arrive at all!  So how should you ship things?  Here are a few ideas that I gleaned from everyone:

  • Envelopes are best.  If something is small enough to fit in an envelope, even a big bulky one, it's less likely to be opened.
  • If you have a lot to send, use more than one package.  If one is lost, you won't lose everything!
  • The consensus seems to be SEAL things up.  That way they're more trouble to open.  Tape up the package, then wrap everything inside separately and tape them.
  • You may be able to remove the original packaging to make the package smaller/lighter.  Just don't forget the instructions, if such a thing is needed!
  • If you must send liquids, triple bag them!
  • Consider sending food in a different package from soaps, etc.
  • Label with an address in the language of the target country (possibly as well as your language).  Have your missionary send a copy of the address, and simply print it out or photocopy it.
  • For shipping companies, DHL seems to be the number 1 choice for reliability.  After that, USPS has some good overseas shipping options.

What NOT to send

A few things not to send - unless you must.

  • Money - there are better ways than sending cash and cheques (checks) through the mail
  • Liquids - if you must, as I said above, triple bag
  • Chocolate - ok, you can send chocolate.  Everyone wants it.  But remember that it will likely melt along the way.
  • Heavy stuff.  Heavy stuff is ok if it's being carried in, but be careful if you're mailing it.  Will it cost more than it's worth?  Will the recipient be able to carry it home?  One missionary recommended a maximum of 10 lbs/4.5 kg.  This rule doesn't apply if you can carry it in yourself.  And if it cost a fortune, the receiver won't enjoy it as much.

Missionary care package ideas (content)

The best missionary care package ideas are things that are personal or local. That is, local from the sender. Remember that as we continue....

  • Food items: This is usually something from the person's native land that they can't get at their current location. For example, those from the USA seem to like things like taco seasoning, Oreo cookies, coffee, and brownie mix (note - the last one is generally considered too heavy to mail). Canadians might request Tim Hortons coffee, Spitz, maple syrup or whole wheat flour. From the UK? How about some Marmite. The Australian may prefer Vegimite or Tim Tam. You get the idea.
    Food and drink mixes were a favourite. Keep in mind the weight though. One good idea? If an expatriate wants Kraft Dinner, just send the cheese package.
  • Electronic: Sermon MP3s or CDs. You can send MP3s via the web, or even give someone iTunes (or whatever) credit for music. However, DVDs are still great to mail. Many people mentioned DVDs of TV series. Like it or not, TV series are a big part of culture in many countries, and when you can't watch you feed disconnected. However, naturally you should ask the missionary first about what's appropriate (especially if you're sending a show or movie for the kids!)
  • Personal: I love the way this post said it...the first thing I ever look for in a package is a note! People don't always realize that a hand-written letter or note is often more appreciated than any goods that you can send. Add a picture, and wow, you've just made my week! (If there's no danger of it breaking, a framed picture is even cooler!) (from Simplicity (link no longer available)
    Note - one person said not to send a letter, because it turns the package into first class mail! Another reason to ask first.
    More personal stuff - personal items are great missionary care package ideas. For example - something your kids made, a church bulletin (awesome if it contains news - our church emails them every week!), church news, a recording of your voice.
  • Local: Local stuff can be a great ministry tool. National dress (from the person's home country), T-shirts, anything related to a national holiday (ie decorations, cookie cutters, etc), posters of the country.
  • Misc: Reading material in the missionary's first language is a great missionary care package idea. A magazine is great (news magazines included). Supplies for the missionary's hobby. Small games and puzzles. Items to give out, like good quality second hand clothes, or basketballs/footballs (American or soccer). Sending balls? Deflate!
    Remember the kids in the family when you're getting together missionary care package ideas. Stickers are often a winner with young kids, and so easy to send.
    Some people asked for smells. We're talking perfume, essential oils, even air fresheners. The scent of home is a big one.
  • People: This was mentioned by more than one person. The best thing you can send is you! Three ideas - go and visit, go to help, or go to help long term. You can't imagine what a big help it is to have someone help with the kids (remember, usually a missionary can't drop them off at Grandma's house!). And it might be argued that helpers in the field are on God's wish list!

Wish lists

Some missionaries have wish lists, either on their website or one another site.  Amazon.com has a wish list function.  Depending on where the missionary is, it might be a great missionary care package idea to simply order something from Amazon and have it shipped right to them.  Ask them if they have a wish list online (if not, maybe you can inspire them to get one!).

Incidentally, books are one of the best missionary care package ideas, because they're often in small packages, they're less likely to be taxed, don't get destroyed easily, they're less likely to be stolen, and they don't melt or get broken en route.

One more thing

No matter what you do, remember that your care package may not arrive.  Insurance, special shipping options - in the end these will have little influence in most countries.  Try not to get upset if your package never makes it.  And don't be afraid to try again!

Missionary care package ideas - in their own words...

For many more missionary care package ideas, let's hear some missionaries say it in their own voices.  I'll start with some of the posts that I think have the best general tips, then I'll list the rest that were a part of this project.  Finally, I'll include a few that didn't write for this article but still have some good ideas!

If you only read 5, these ones have some great ideas...

More great missionary care package ideas!

Thanks to everyone else that posted about missionary care package ideas - these were great posts!


I'd like to point out just a few more posts that weren't part of this project, but that still might give you some great ideas.  Here goes...