Remember the feeling of getting a care package at college? Long before anyone made a big deal about “unboxing” on social media, it was exciting to get a taste of home at just the right time.
Now, imagine living thousands of miles from home. The work is hard, and the challenges are many. Sometimes, cultural isolation is intense.
If you can picture that, you can understand the importance of missionary care packages.
Settling First Things First
When you think about it, missionary care packages make a ton of sense. After all, most believers have a heart for missions and missionaries. Even those who can’t become vocational missionaries or get a full-time missionary position appreciate the ministry and sacrifice of those who do. We want them to know that we love them and are praying for them. We want them to be encouraged.
Plus, sending a missionary care package allows us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. It gives Christ followers back home a chance to invest in work happening in another nation. By encouraging the missionary with a care package, we’re encouraging the work of the kingdom.
But before you act on your good intentions and start buying a bunch of stuff, you do need to think through a few basic guidelines. For example, how much will it cost to ship a box to a long-ter another country? Do a little research to make sure you don’t blow your monthly budget with one missionary care package.
While you’re at it, find out how much it might cost the missionary to receive your care package. The duties in many countries require recipients to pay for packages depending on size or value. You wouldn’t be the first person to have a care package politely declined and returned because it simply cost too much to receive.
What to Consider for Missionary Care Packages
• Make sure you have the correct address for your missionary care package. Some missionaries have a P.O. box, while others have a home address. Check with the missionaries or their sending organization to make sure you have an address that works for what you’re trying to do.
• Consider how long it will take the package to arrive. That could influence what your missionary care packages should include.
• Know what you can and cannot send. Just like our nation is careful about what enters its borders, other countries have rules about what you can send. If you send something that off limits, it will get confiscated. In some cases, it could also get the missionary in trouble with local authorities.
• Don’t send money (or anything expensive, like electronics) in a care package. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Most missionaries would prefer getting money electronically or through their sending organization.
In general, the missionaries or their sending agency can give you the best information on how to get started on a missionary care package. Then, once you get the basics covered, you can start thinking about the fun part: What to put inside!
Making Your Missionary Care Package
The possibilities for stocking missionary care packages are as wide and varied as the missionaries who could receive them. But there are several items that are usually safe to send and a joy to receive. We’ve broken some options down into two categories: general ideas for all missionaries and some specific ideas for medical missionaries. Taken together, you’ll have 11 great ideas for your missionary care packages.
General care package ideas for any missionary:
- Food, especially stuff they can’t get locally. Nothing says love like a taste of home, and edibles are a great way to demonstrate how much you care. It can be as simple as your missionary’s favorite candy or something as unique as a special spice or seasoning they can’t find in the field. Baking supplies also tend to be a hit.
- Candles and other décor. If food excites the taste buds, scented candles can bring the smells of home closer to the mission field. Also, items from home that missionaries can use to decorate their little corner of the world can be an incredible encouragement for those long days or when homesickness sets in.
- Seasonal and holiday stuff. Since they are living in a different culture, missionaries don’t always get to observe holidays like they did back home. They might get to experience new holidays in their adopted homeland, but many of the traditional holidays they know and love are just another day on the calendar where they serve. Having a some red, white, and blue for Independence Day or a few turkey-themed plates and napkins for Thanksgiving can keep the festive spirit alive far from home.
- Toiletries and beauty/health products. This is where you might need to do some research about what’s allowed and what’s not. But providing some basic hygiene and cosmetic supplies could be an answer to prayer for some missionaries and their families. What we might shrug off as a normal part of our day, they would see as a treasure—and a blessing.
- Hand-written notes. In this case, the answer is inexpensive and cannot be overdone. Of course, you and your family can write your own notes, and that’s great. But why keep it to yourself? Enlist a small army to write a card or note and include all of them in the missionary care package. Another idea would be sending colorful postcards from different parts of the country. It’s just another way to provide a taste of home.
- Board games and books. For many missionaries, access to English language games and books can be rare. So, a care package with some fresh reading material or a fun game can be great. In addition to reconnecting with life back home, board games and books provide a way to unplug with family. They also might be useful in starting a conversation with local friends that can lead to a kingdom opportunity.
- Stuff for the kids. One great way to show love for missionaries is to show love to their kids. If your missionary has children, be sure to pick out some care package items that appeal specifically to them. For example, among the books and games and snacks, include some age-appropriate offerings. You also might consider things like sidewalk chalk or small toys. As always, check with the parents for an appropriate option.
Specific care package ideas for a medical missionary:
- Something practical. Doctors and nurses go through supplies on a regular basis. So, while a gift like gloves or masks might seem boring to us, it could mean a lot to them. If you want to get a little more personal, consider a set of scrubs or some thick, comfortable socks for medical missionaries who spend a lot of time on their feet.
- Items they can share. Among the challenges of medical missions is building relationships and winning the trust of local patients. So, consider including some items your medical missionary can share in your care package. This could be something like small toys for kids or hard candy for adults. Even the smallest token can break down a wall and jumpstart a ministry opportunity.
- Photographs of people from back home. Just like we’re fascinated with the residents and cultures of other countries, the people on a medical missionary’s field are probably interested in life back home. For decades, missionaries (including medical missionaries) have used photos of families and friends to start conversations and build connections. People love stories, and photographs open the door wide to all kinds of encounters.
- Pens. This gift seems so simple, but it makes so much sense. Medical professionals always use pens, so you’re providing a basic need. Again, they don’t have to be fancy. Even the cheap kind will do. But it could be a meaningful addition to your care package for medical missionaries.
Don't Worry About the Surprise
As noted earlier, this list is just scratching the surface. The options are virtually endless, but the impact could be transformational. Again, if you want your care package to be a success, start with the missionaries. Let them tell you what would work best in a package for them.
Sure, trying to surprise might be nice, but making sure your missionary care packages get through and meet a need is even better.
What is Medical Missions?
We help connect your professional skills and biblical calling to the largest database of healthcare mission organizations, professionals, and thought leadership. Join us at the Global Missions Health Conference to find your Medical Missions calling. Or, browse our full list of partner organizations to find the right mission for you.