Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.
Yesterday we talked about donating to missionaries, and today we’re going to continue to talk about supporting overseas missionaries, especially the fun stuff, like sending letters and care packages, writing encouraging words, hosting missionaries for meals, and praying for them.
If you don’t already have a missionary or two in your life, check out yesterday’s post for some ideas for how to “find” an overseas missionary to encourage (like asking at church or calling a missions organization).
a note about safety
You may know someone helping others in a “difficult” area of the world. If this is the case (or if you’re not sure), please use caution as you implement these ideas. When in doubt, be sure to ask the person before you send a care package filled with overtly Christian materials or when posting about the person on the internet.
Pray for the missionary!
A simple, meaningful way for you and your kids to encourage your missionary is to pray for them.
As I shared yesterday, my family serves with a missions organization (currently in the US for medical treatment for our daughter, but we plan to head overseas soon.)
I can’t tell you what a blessing or encouragement it is when someone says, “I pray for your family every day” or “I have your photo posted above my desk as a reminder to pray for you.”
Many missionaries have a “prayer card” with a photo. They also likely share prayer requests through an email, newsletter, blog, facebook account, etc.
If you don’t have a prayer card or don’t receive these newsletters, contact your missionary. (You could also just print off a photo from their facebook profile or web site.)
Read the prayer requests together with your children and display the photo somewhere in view of your children (like a map prayer garland!)
Read the missionary’s letters, emails, or blog posts.
As I already mentioned, your missionary likely writes some type of newsletter, email updates, or blog posts.
Share these with your children. For non-readers, you can share videos or show photos from the newsletters. For readers, you can pass the letter around at the breakfast table or encourage your teenager to sign up with their own email address or follow the missionary on facebook.
Encourage the missionary through emails and facebook messages
As a family, send an encouraging email or facebook message to your missionary.
Your children could dictate a note to include in the email.
You could have your child draw a picture, then snap a photo (or scan it) and attach it to your email.
In the photo above, my daughter had drawn a picture for a missionary kid we know in Indonesia who was turning two. We took this photo and posted it on her mom’s facebook page.
Send a letter or card to the missionary.
Find out your missionary’s international address and send Christmas cards, birthday cards, or everyday cards in the mail. (Because international shipping can be very slow, your Christmas card will likely arrive in March. That’s okay).
You’ll need international postage, of course. Here in the U.S., as long as you are sending a lightweight letter, you can buy some international Forever stamps at the post office (or online) and then send them with your regular mail. For a package (see more below), you’ll need to fill out a customs form.
If your missionary works for a large organization, you may even be able to send a letter to a U.S. address for the organization (with just a normal postage stamp), and they’ll forward it to the missionary. It’s worth asking!
Younger children can draw a picture or put stickers on the envelope.
For an extra special card, an older child or teenager could create photo cards through Shutterfly or Cardstore. For about the same price as a regular greeting card, you can insert photos of your own family and/or the missionary family and customize with your own message.
Send a care package.
Receiving a dose of snacks, toys, and special treats from their home country can be a great mood-lifter for missionaries serving overseas.
Plus, it’s a great way to include your children as they help you select items and you pack them up into a box together.
Check with your missionary whether or not they can receive care packages. Then check for details regarding what to send, how to fill out customs forms, and any other special information.
I was hoping to put together a whole post about “How to Send an Amazing Missionary Care Package,” but then I realized there are just too many variables regarding what to send and how to send it.
So check with your missionary! Even if they never mention it in newsletters, they may just feel sheepish about asking for one – so go ahead and ask! Send an email or facebook note that says, “We’d love to send a care package to you. Is this convenient for you? What would you like us to send?”
Be aware that occasionally, people in certain countries won’t be able to accept care packages. Customs taxes on incoming goods can be quite high, or the mail service may be too unreliable. So please don’t be offended if the missionary says “No, thank you.”
Provide for the missionaries needs when they’re back here for furlough.
Missionaries usually return back to their home country for a few months every one to four years. This is called “furlough” or “home assignment.”
When they are “home,” it can be hard. They are likely not in their own house and may be traveling around the country to share about their work and thank ministry supporters. They probably have lots of doctor appointments and shopping to do. Theoretically, this is supposed to be a time of rest and rejuvenation for them. All while experiencing “reverse culture shock,” as their hometown probably doesn’t feel like home after their experiences overseas!
Consider ways you could help. Do you have a home with plenty of space? Or will you be out of town and could let them stay in your home? Do you have a spare vehicle? Or perhaps you have connections through work and could offer a free meal, movie tickets, or theme park or zoo tickets.
If they’ll be sharing about their ministry, offer to host a presentation in your home for your small group, friends, or family. Or, offer to help coordinate an event at your church.
Your children could help you host a missionary family for dinner – a great chance to practice hosting manners! (We are still working on this in our house, as usually having people over results in my daughter hoarding all her toys in the closet so she doesn’t have to share, haha.)
Simply attending a missionary’s event, like a church presentation, would be a great encouragement and something you could do with your children.
If you are able, consider a special “love gift” donation straight to the family to use for something fun or for a special furlough need. (Sometimes a gift through the organization cannot be used for these special needs, but is instead designated for basic living expenses… so give cash or ask the family how to make sure it gets straight to them.)