When I was a teenager we had a lot of missionaries stay in our home. It was something that was very influential in my life at a critical time when I was considering my future direction. I believe the Lord used the influence of missionary families to reinforce His call on my own life to serve in the field of missions.
As missionaries on deputation, we often rely on the generosity and goodness of others to help us down the road to the next stop. The Lord always places the right people across our path at the right time to take care of our needs. But just like the Lord, He so often doesn’t just give us the necessities – He gives us blessings in abundance upon what we actually need. Many times this comes in the form of gift baskets or “care packages” from our hostesses and often from the church at a mission’s conference. We have truly been blessed by many generous people this year. My kids love opening a “care package” and going through all of the goodies.
Before we started traveling I didn’t understand how much a small gift could mean. They are often the encouragement or “token for good” that the Lord provides to encourage us at the right times. Now that we have been recipients of many of these gifts, and as we continue to live on the road, we appreciate certain types of gifts a whole lot.
Please note: This post is only meant to be a help to others as you seek to be a blessing to others. It might even be helpful as you stock your missionary closet. They are a few tips that you may not have considered before. This is NOT a complaint about anything we have received from others. We have been blessed beyond measure and humbled by the generosity of God’s people to our family.
--Gift cards are very helpful. They are small, portable, and allow us to use them to fill a need when it arises. Gift cards for Wal-Mart, Target, gas stations, and fast food restaurants are very helpful. Sometimes missionaries have personal preferences on a toiletry item, or special needs. A card to Wal-Mart or Target helps to meet the need but gives the freedom to pick their own items. It also allows them to not purchase it until it’s needed, instead of carrying the item around in the van for a while before it is needed.
--Small, portable items are best. Laundry soap is great, but not a family size bottle. Just a travel size will do! Even just a small gift is welcome. While we feel spoiled with the laundry basket of goodies, we often don’t have room for it. One ladies group gave me a small gift bag with a pen, book of stamps, package of note cards, purse pack of tissues, and purse size hand sanitizer. It was perfect – items I can and do use, but not too many of them!
--Consumable items are appreciated. This way we are not just constantly filling our vehicle until we happen to make it home. We are using them up as we go. Travel tissues, toiletries, diapers, baby wipes, hand sanitizers (please don’t buy the dollar store brand – it smells really funny), gum/breath mints, etc. If you are offering toiletries in your missionary closet, make it a “take what you need and leave what you don’t” policy. Then there’s no pressure to take things we won’t use, in order to not offend you. But we feel the liberty to take as much as we can use on the road without feeling greedy.
--Our kids love to be spoiled. They enjoy being made to feel special. BUT…as parents we don’t like them to be too spoiled, and not at every stop. Small gifts are best for them too. Not the giant baby doll or biggest bath boat. And art supplies are not great for car travel!
- One church we were at gave each of our kids a 6” Sesame Street stuffed animal. It was the perfect size to fit in their back pack.
- Another gave us bubbles and glow sticks. Perfect! We can use them, have fun, be entertained away from home, and not fill up the vehicle with too many toys. And as much as they like coloring books and crayons, we usually get them at every church…so we have quite a few by now!
- Window clings (usually available for the different holidays/seasonal décor) are fun for the kids to stick on the van windows.
--Fruit baskets are great, but they don’t have to be huge. We love having something non-fried or fast food to snack on. But most places we stay only 2-5 days, so we can’t always eat up all of the fruit we are given. Some of it is portable in the car, others are not. We don’t like to waste it either. My kids particularly love the grapes that come in fruit baskets!
--Think outside the box.
- One church we were at gave us a chocolate gift basket. Instead of fruit, we enjoyed a decadent treat of chocolate dipped Oreos, chocolate covered pretzels, toffee, candy apples, and other chocolate treats. It was nice to have something out of the ordinary! (Though we would be huge if every church did that!)
- One family that we stayed with gives a roll of $100 postage stamps to missionaries. This was a HUGE blessing since we send a lot of mail!
- Quarters for the laundry mat, which was also helpful for the places we stay without laundry facilities.
- Dried fruit is better for car snacks than all of the individual serving packs of cookies, crackers, etc. It’s better for us. Ben likes dried fruit because he has to chew it more, so it helps him if he’s a little sleepy when driving.
- Blank note cards. We leave a hand-written thank you card each place we stay. We can always use note cards!
- Music. We always listen to something in the car to help entertain when we cannot move around. It’s nice to have something new to add to our own favorites. Several people/churches have given us sacred recordings which we have enjoyed!
--Some things that are not as helpful…
- Consider that we will be eating/drinking items in a moving vehicle. My kids love juice boxes. I do not – at least not in the car. One squeeze and its everywhere. We prefer water and non-crumbly snacks for the vehicle.
- Home items, like doilies, candles, breakables, and home décor. I won’t be home to enjoy it, but I have to find a space for it in the vehicle.
Some people have the love language of gift giving. If you are one of those people, what special things do you love to do/give for the people in your life? If you are a missionary or travel often, what are some things that you love to receive from God’s people? Leave a comment…I love new ideas!