ArticleMissionary Life

8 Things Missionaries Wish You’d Send Them

Missionaries don’t just need prayer and funding. They need to feel loved—tangibly.
Missionaries, like anyone else, can feel homesick.

Faithful missionaries wouldn’t trade their new home country for the world, because God called them to it. But when a Christian is thousands of miles away from their home church, vibrant with love, support, prayers, and familiar faces, the distance can produce real heartache. Perhaps that’s why the “laborers are few” (Luke 10:1-2).

One of the ways that the Apostle Paul cultivated a sense of support and solidarity among churches was by collecting gifts. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem” (1 Corinthians 16:2-3).

Giving gifts to believers in need is a biblical priority. But Paul’s reasoning for giving gifts goes deeper than “showing support.” Giving gifts, whether to those in need or those following God’s call, actually extends the love of Christ to them.

Tangible gifts—such as care packages—export Christian edification to those far from home. Just as grandma’s cookies remind you of home, care packages from supporting churches remind us of the aroma of our heavenly home with Christ.

If your church is supporting a missionary, or if you know a missionary, use these eight gift-giving ideas to encourage and equip your brothers and sisters in the Lord.

1. Food items

Food is one of the first things that feels different on the mission field. There might be a McDonald’s here or there on the field, but you can forget about home cooking, your favorite sandwich shop, and your go-to ice cream date place. This makes food a fantastic item to send to missionaries.

However, you need to know what food you can send overseas. For example, if you send coffee to a missionary in Ukraine, it might get confiscated. You also need to be careful not to send perishable foods. I know a missionary who received a care package with perishable food. Needless to say, they were disappointed to receive a cardboard box of inedible food.

You can send canned spices that don’t normally ship to the country in which the missionary serves. More than that, if allowed by the country, you can send unique brands of canned goods such as distinctive Trader Joe’s items, stateside mac-and-cheese packages (you could even make a “homemade” pack of dry ingredients), or Oreos.

2. Holiday Decorations

Many countries don’t celebrate the holidays that Americans celebrate—and if they do, it is with very unfamiliar decorations.

Send your missionary a year’s worth of holiday decorations—including Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. This will give your missionary a chance to make their own home feel like the states and share a bit of American culture with those whom they host during those seasons. More than that, many of these holidays serve as conversation starters that lead to meaningful gospel conversations about the birth of Christ, his resurrection, and our gratitude for his grace.

3. Letters from Your Church

There is almost nothing as heartwarming as a handwritten letter expressing love, prayer, hope, and encouragement. Spend a month asking your church to write letters of encouragement to your missionary. You could make a specific goal of writing 365 letters so that they have one letter to read every day for an entire year.

Make it fun for your congregation so that they are encouraged to support your missionary through letter-writing. The more participants you can get, the more material your missionary will have to draw upon each day. Don’t overestimate the encouragement your missionary will experience when they open a box bursting with letters from brothers and sisters in Christ outpouring their affection for God’s work through them and their family.

4. Portable Board Games

Missionary work isn’t all apologetics and street evangelism. Most long-term missionary work has just as many moments of boredom as everyday American life—but there may be a lot less access to electricity and the internet.

One way to help missionaries connect with their neighbors and families during down-time is to send them portable board games that can pack up easily in their own containers. Examples include Bananagrams, magnetic chess and checkers sets, and even sudokus.

This kind of missionary gift might even be the kind of tool to spark a relationship with a neighbor with whom your missionary can share the gospel.

5. Practical Gifts

Sometimes, a missionary really needs tactical gear just to survive. Consider sending them a portable tent, high-quality Merrill hiking boots, durable walking shoes, a multifunctional utility tool, a portable grill, or high-power, long-lasting flashlights with several packs of batteries. This kind of missionary gift can make the difference between life and death.

6. Ministry Tools

Once they’ve deployed to the field, your missionary might have everything they need except the ministry tools that make their primary work easier and more comfortable. For example, your missionary might have packed 100 small Bibles to give away, but wants to give a study Bible to a new Christian in his or her community. Most missionaries would just give their own study Bible to that Christian. Consider sending a few high quality ESV Study Bibles or a quality preaching Bible.

A little more costly, but highly effective option: consider ordering your missionary a P.A. system for their church in order to host events, preach more effectively to a growing body of believers, or lend to other community events as an evangelistic opportunity.

Ask your missionary if they’re lacking any critical item that would make their ministry more effective? What is it? How could you get it to them?

7. A Subscription Box

Whether it’s a monthly makeup kit or a men’s-themed outdoors box, subscription box services are currently enormously popular and many offer global shipping. This monthly gift could be a simple creature-comfort that uplifts their soul and gives them a taste of home to sustain them when ministry is tough.

Ask yourself—or someone who knows your missionary well—what they enjoy, and if they would enjoy receiving a monthly box like this.

8. Means of Documentation

A means of documenting ministry work is a very powerful tool for a missionary’s long-term success. These tools include video cameras, voice recorders, and even computers. While these are higher-ticket items, the return on investment is enormous. They can record their weekly sermons, evangelistic efforts, and monthly updates that they send to churches in order to maintain strong relationships with their supporting churches.

These items don’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to buy them Christopher Nolan’s arsenal of cameras and microphones. A simple portable video camera, smart phone, or satellite internet device could be the very tool that makes the difference between radio silence and engaged listeners back home.

Conclusion

It is good to give to missionaries. Paul writes in response to a gift he received from the church in Philippi:

“I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (Philippians 4:10-14)

“It was good of you to share in my troubles,” Paul writes. Be good to your missionaries. It’s easy for missionaries to become out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Follow the example of the Philippians and “renew your concern” for your missionary—and show it by sending a gift.

Who knows what how it might encourage them to press on in ministry?

About the Author

P.C. Maxwell is a writer and theologian. He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor’s in biblical languages from Moody Bible Institute. He resides in the Chicago area with his wife and contributes regularly to ABWE’s blog and communications strategy.

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