With Christmas season fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to put together some information on missionary care packages. For most missionaries, getting a letter from a family member or friend is the highlight of the week. And getting a care package is an even more momentous occasion!
One of the greatest things about getting a care package is the little glimpses of home they offer. These tastes, sounds, and smells from home are comforting, and shout “we miss you,” “we are thinking about you,” and “we care.”
Sending packages to missionaries in foreign countries usually takes a minimum of two to three weeks, but in many instances could take up to eight weeks. Check with your postal delivery service for more specific time estimates to the country where your missionary is serving. But remember that there can be unexpected delays so send your care packages early!
What to Send
It is usually a good idea to talk to (or email) the missionary before sending your care package to ask what he/she wants or needs. For missionaries in a foreign land, you may not want to send them something that they can already get in that country. I was once told of a missionary who was sent toothpaste and a large box of tissues, which due to it’s weight and size were not cheap to send. God will surely bless those senders, but both items were readily available and inexpensive in the country.
Also, depending on the circumstances in the particular mission, the missionary may prefer the package be delivered to the mission home, rather than his/her specific apartment. Try to find out from the missionary what they want and where they want it sent. Most will not be shy about telling what they really want if you ask them. If you need some ideas, here is a list I compiled of some of the most frequently requested items:
- Kool-Aid packets
- Home-made cookies or other favorite foods from home
- Candy (Jolly Ranchers, Starbursts, Twizzlers, gummy bears, etc.)
- Snacks (Candy bars, chips, Combos, Oreos, chocolate covered raisons or peanuts, etc.)
- Peanut butter
- Chocolate (in whatever variety your missionary prefers, but remember that it might melt along the way)
- Prepared mixes (sloppy joe, taco seasoning, salsa mix, ranch dressing, Italian dressing, gravy, etc.)
- Instant oatmeal
- Pop tarts (though I can’t imagine they would survive shipping well)
- Chewing Gum
- Fruit roll ups
- Jell-O packets
- Over the counter medications (Ibuprofen, cough drops, Airborne, vitamins, etc.)
- Holiday related items (simple decorations, traditional Easter, Halloween, or Christmas candy)
- Scented items (e.g: small candles, potpourri, or Plug-ins. It’s nice to have a “smells like Christmas” feel around the holidays. But be aware plug-ins might not work due to differing electric currents in other countries.)
- Church DVDs (if appropriate, for your missionary to show to their investigators)
- Church CDs (Mormon Tabernacle Choir, etc.)
- Toiletries and personal items (Deodorant, mascara, etc. if suitable items are unavailable for your missionary)
- Books (from the approved missionary reading list)
- Pictures of family and friends (hard copies, as opposed to emailed photos)
There are, of course, many other possible items you could send, so remember to ask your missionary what he or she needs. They may have some seemingly unusual needs or desires. Take, for example, on my mission to Argentina. We were teaching a very poor family that had a flea infestation. My companion wrote home and asked his family to send flea collars to keep the bugs off of us while we visited them. Boy was I grateful when that care package arrived!
Shipping and Packaging Considerations
Packages go through a lot en route to their destination. They may be thrown around, crushed, opened, taxed, or travel through several countries before they reach their final destination. Here are a few ideas on packaging and shipping:
- Padded envelopes are often the best packaging material. Some people have found that if items are small enough to fit into an envelope, then it’s less likely that the package will be opened by unauthorized personnel. If you have a lot to send, it may even be better to send multiple padded envelopes, rather than one big package. Plus, if one of the envelopes is lost or stolen, you won’t lose everything. Remember, you may be able to remove the original packaging from store bought items so as to make the missionary care package smaller/lighter.
- Try not to send liquids, but if you must, double or triple bag them.
- Consider sending food in a different package from soaps, toiletries, etc.
- Label the package with an address in the language of the target country. Many foreign country address formats differ from our own, so be sure to enter the addresses carefully and completely.
- The US Postal Service as well as all major shipping companies ship packages over seas. Be sure you speak with them about any questions you might have. And be sure to fill out all the paperwork they may give you.
Other Considerations and Warnings
Care packages to Mormon Missionaries in third-world countries can be very unsecure. Unfortunately, care packages are sometimes stolen or lost during delivery. So be sure not to send extreme valuables or irreplaceable items. At times, the country’s postal service may require the mission office to pay duties (taxes) before releasing the care package. Be sure to communicate with your missionary or the mission office with regard to how this should be handled. As the sender of the package, you’ll need to do everything you can to understand the rules and laws for package delivery to the country you are sending it.
Let’s all remember our missionaries and show them how much we care and appreciate their service to the Lord by remembering them in our prayers, writing to them, and sending them care packages!
Special thanks to Missionary-Blogs.com for many of these Missionary Care Package ideas and tips.