The thing is most missionaries I know would say they don't "need" anything. Living overseas has taught us to learn to do without a lot of what we thought we needed before coming to our new countries. Also, there are now so many things that we are able to find here. Here in Taiwan, we have a Costco near-by where we can get brownie mix and extra chunky peanut butter.
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."
So, even though most missionaries I know would say they don't "need" anything, we all delight to receive stuff from back home because it is a reminder that we are not alone. And, little bits of comfort are nice. :)
I brainstormed about things we'd like to receive in a care package with a good friend of mine who has been a missionary in Taiwan for 12 years--she is married and has 3 small kids. Together we came up with the list below, so please know that this is NOT an Amanda wish list).
Things that might bless an overseas missionary family:
- (Sugar free) Koolaid packets
- (Sugar free) Jello packets
- Envelopes of prepared mixes (sloppy joe, taco seasoning, salsa mix, ranch dressing, Italian dressing, gravy, so on)
- Instant cooking things (ex: Shake and Bake)
- Other dried foods, like cereal, oatmeal, or poptarts (Here in Taiwan, we have a good supply of oatmeal and cereal, but in other countries these things are not so easy to get a hold of.)
- Extra-active yeast (for making bread)
- Hair stuff (clips, barrets, pony tail holders)
- Candy (things like Jolly Ranchers, Starbursts, Twizzlers, Smarties)
- Sugar Free candy (Lifesavors, things like that)
- (Sugar free) Chewing Gum (in Taiwan we have trouble finding Spearmint and Cinammin flavors, I'm sure children would appreciate strawberry or grape bubble gum)
- Magazines in English (My grandmothers occasionally send me copies of Woman's World and Reader's Digest)
- Scented/Smell good things (for example: small candle, potpourri, or Plug-ins, with the plug-in device unless you know they already have it. Scents are so important to me now. Especially at the holidays it is nice to have a "smells like Christmas" feel in my home. But, something like plug-ins might not work in other countries, Taiwan has the same electricity system as the US)
- Decorations for holidays (holiday plates and napkins, even something like a paper 4th of July table cloth could be fun. My grandmother also once sent me Easter clingies to put on my windows.)
- Other holiday related items sent near that holiday (like an Easter egg dying kit before Easter or candy canes near Christmas).
- Things that are "American" or "Canadian" or in my case "Texan" . .
. you get the idea. (I loved it when my mom sent a very Texan "fixin'
do list" pad and some chili mix.)
- A memento from their fave sports team
- DVDs (especially for children, might want to ask if they have a Region 1 DVD player if you are sending DVDs from America)
- CDs but itunes credit would work too
- Books in English
- Over the counter meds (cough drops, coldeze, aleve)
- Children's books in English, small toys (match box car or stuffed toy), or things like fruit roll ups or gummy bears (IF they have children)
- Hobby supplies (things for scrap booking, quilting, cross stitch, card making or stamping--IF they have those hobbies)
- Small games (new card games or logic puzzle to solve)
- Online gift certificates (amazon.com and landsend.com both ship overseas)
- My friend even suggested a including a list of websites or blogs they might want to check out when they have online time. She said she doesn't have time to search and find good sites, but loves being encouraged by sites that do get recommended to her.
Tricks and Hints
- You don't have to send a lot to mean a lot. A small envelope with a few packages of gravy mix and a card would mean a lot.
- 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?"
- If they have children, try to include at least something small for them. It is nice for them to know that they are remembered too.
- The USPS has an international shipping envelope--Priority Mail International--that up to 4 lbs costs a flat rate. Each country is different--to Taiwan it is $9. If you ship this way, you can send it on Monday, and we will have it by Friday. Wow! That is awesome. They also have a box with a variable charge rate, but it costs more.
- If you are sending big packages, consider sending it by ground and not by air to save on shipping.
- You can cut and paste the address in the country's language--ask the missionary for an image of their address (well, if they are computer savvy). Just add in all caps the name of the country in English underneath the foreign language address. (This is how my family sends me stuff.)
That is all I can think of for now. If you are an overseas missionary, and have thoughts on things that would bless a missionary or some other tricks and hints for sending stuff, please either comment here or even blog about care packages on your own blog.