Oh mercy, what do you give as a gift to your friends who live thousands of miles away, or maybe they are local, but they are in that unique and peculiar career field of MISSIONS?
Here’s a quick look at the kinds of ways to bless people like this –
First, For Those Who Are Outside the USA
1) Air miles. By chance do you have air miles that can be gifted – most major airlines allow that now. Missionaries who come home on “furlough” or “home assignment” need to be face-to-face with all kinds of people, donors, training opportunities, conferences, and seeing family. Gift them air miles – or just tell them, ‘hey, we are setting aside enough points for two tickets anywhere in the USA: just let us know when and where you want to go!
2) AMAZON actually delivers in more places than you might think – check their Amazon wish list (you may have to ask them for it), and you might be amazed at what they are asking for – it might be flashlights, fire extinguishers, auto accessories (GPS), all manner of things that we can get our hands on easily.
3) Laptop or tablet. Keep in mind that most missionaries now return to the states every year — if you can get a deal on a new powerful laptop or tablet, or even cell phone – you can “gift” it now, buy it, and hang on to it until they return.
4) Make them an offer they can’t refuse: “Next time you guys come home, we will loan you our extra car (or van), or provide a suite in our house (or our weekend home) or we will host a meeting and bring our friends over while you are here and let you share your ministry and vision with them (OH, that would be an awesome present- and no pressure on your friends- they will all have a good time, and those who God already calls will respond and become partners.) What a gift you would have given to these workers.
5) What about a service… a “missions support” gift in the form of your talents and skills?
Are you good at graphic publications on the desktop? (Most of them are not). What if you offered (as a Christmas present) to edit and send their e-support letters for a year? They would send YOU the raw text and photos, and you would turn that into art…
Second, For Those Who Reside In America
1) Gift Cards. Smash the piggy bank and buy them the biggest gift card you can find to a major department store – for clothes, shoes, and household items. Keep them out of Goodwill Stores and let them buy critically needed items (for kids mostly) that they would not normally be able to do. It would be really tricky for you to try to select stuff – rather, this is why GOD invented gift cards- they know precisely what they would really appreciate but are not likely to purchase on their own (thin) dime.
2) A fancy dinner. Send the adults to a fancy dinner (on your gift card) and offer to keep the kids. That’s a double blessing to any married couple! Or take their whole bunch with your whole bunch to some special Christmas event- you both go together.
3) Drop-shipping. Okay.. so they are in the USA but across the nation. Did you know you can drop-ship an entire Brisket or Ham or Selection of Delicious Desserts — (I recall receiving a giant load of bar-b-q from the legendary “New Braunfels Smokehouse” in Texas. It was vacuumed, packed, and shipped second-day air, and was a gift that lasted for days….
Third, for those GETTING READY to go out of America
1) CASH. Oh, mercy, this is the group that needs the most and often has no idea of what those things are going to be. I remember the proverbial story of a young about-to-go missionary asking a veteran, “How much stuff can we take with us overseas?”
“All you can hold in your hands,” said the mentor, “but nothing that you have to hold in your heart.”
The catch here is that the “about-to-go” missionary may not know the answer if you ask them. CASH for sure speaks volumes to these guys, as they not only face the need for monthly living costs, laboring to develop a battalion of people to provide “monthly support” but also massive one-time “Launch” expenses – everything from extra shots to plane tickets and extra baggage costs.
2) Ask a veteran missionary. The other option would be to find a veteran missionary and ask them, “Hey, what are some good ideas for personal gifts to our young friends about to head out?”
As a practical guideline, I caution against anything that takes up space, either in a room or on a wall. Don’t assume that their living quarters will resemble yours – likely, in Europe or Asia, their square footage (and wall space) will be a fraction of what we are accustomed to, so keep that in mind.
And One Personal Thought: (and this is just my humble but accurate opinion)
Missionaries do not need anything religious as gifts.. seriously. Please! They have enough Bibles, Devotional books, Scripture Cards, journals, whatever. Trust me; they have all of that already. You would not give a Dentist “oral hygiene tools” for Christmas… nor wrenches to a car mechanic….
Missionaries are regular people… attempting extraordinary work. They live on very modest incomes and if you ask “what they need?” they are likely to say “nothing.” So give them fun things – or if not things, “experiences.”
If nothing else, look at your own wish list. Ask yourself, what do YOU enjoy receiving as a gift? Then translate from your situation to theirs. And if you are still drawing a blank, ponder this: no greater gift could lift their spirit like a commitment from you to give monthly support to them, for one year. (Yes, you can commit for a year.. and truth be told, you can stop anytime. But you don’t have to commit for a lifetime. Just start.)