How to bless your missionaries during the holidays? This is an interesting question because there are so many factors to consider. Gifts for missionaries depend on likes and dislikes, home and host culture, and the location of the missionary. Regardless of the factors - it is the thought and intentionality that counts. As a person who served overseas as a missionary often every gift felt like the right gift and blessing.
Here are some tips of what my missionary friends and myself enjoyed receiving over the years.
We always appreciated to get a Christmas card and even more a Christmas letter and photo from family and friends. The most treasured cards contained a seasoning packet like taco seasoning, Hidden Valley Ranch or French Onion soup mix. These packets contained a taste of home and comfort often cherished when being far from loved ones.
Emails with photos and video greetings! We always enjoyed videos that were unedited and candid. It felt more like being there in person. If the missionary doesn’t have an adequate internet connection - consider uploading the video to Youtube or Facebook for easier access.
Send a digital gift like an e-gift card so they can buy digital music, movies or books. You may be able to buy a digital library card or subscription for access to online entertainment. Make sure that such a digital gift is usable from their host nation as national restrictions can apply. If in doubt, send the gift of extra financial support to their missionary account.
If a family is coming home on furlough - consider buying them an annual or seasonal pass to the local zoo, swimming pools, water park, museum, amusement park or similar experience.
Care packages were always a blessing but sometimes a challenge to get out of customs. These were filled with many different items.
Christ centered Christmas decorations and decorations in general. Often a missionary is limited on suitcase space when moving to a new location so these items are sometimes forgotten or in minimal amounts. Something as simple as paper plates, napkins and cups with Christmas themes can be a blessing. Small candles with holiday scents and hand towels also brighten up a home. My favorite with this was receiving the 12 Ornaments of the Names of Christ from Family Life Ministries.
Travel games for all ages - games primarily are for entertainment but they also sow seeds of connection and community. Missionaries can plan weekly or monthly game nights to help meet new people. The games can also be useful in language acquisition or even teaching English.
Various kinds of food treats like homemade holiday cookies and candy. Apple Cider packets or Hot chocolate packets with marshmallows along with flavored powdered coffee creamers. One time a church youth group sent a case of peanut butter and glass bottles of maple syrup to their missionaries. This priceless and sticky gift revealed that unbreakable powders and plastic containers are most preferred.
New or nostalgic candy - as a missionary it is always helpful to hear and stay up on new items - for me - Hershey’s Kisses were new in different flavors like Cherry Cordial and Caramel filled. At the time it helped me feel more connected to my home culture. My nostalgic candy was the peanut roll or Twin Bing candy or penny candies. Again a taste of home filled with memories of sharing this candy with family and friends.
We hope this gives you some ideas for encouraging and caring for missionaries that you know and support. Regardless of what you choose to do, it will lift their morale and help spread the message of Christmas around the world!
Mike Carr, Communications Director Converge Heartland
Lives in Sioux Falls, SD and attends Central Church. Missionary for 31 years.