Is there a missionary in your life you’d like to encourage over the holidays, but you’re not sure what to do for them?
Missionaries are truly thankful for your sacrificial giving to support them, and they are often reluctant to share personal needs—much less things they might want as a gift! The holidays are an excellent opportunity to show these partners in the gospel that we care about them personally—not just their ministry.
When the Philippian church sent the apostle Paul gifts for his needs, he rejoiced over their concern for him, adding that “it was kind of you to share my trouble” (Philippians 4:14).
The ideas below offer suggestions for how you can express care for missionaries during the holidays. Each part of the world is different, and life on the field is often unpredictable, so make sure to ask your missionary friend if what you’d like to do is feasible in their location. Your gift may not be a surprise, but asking in advance will ensure that it is truly a blessing.
The holiday season in North America is filled with special gatherings of friends, family, and co-workers. Why not also plan intentional time with your missionaries? You could schedule a video call for an informal conversation with them in a church group or one-on-one. If a video call isn’t possible, consider recording Christmas greetings on your phone and sending it to them, or uploading your video to a private YouTube channel.
Missionaries would love to know how you are and stay connected with what’s new in your life. One missionary suggested that families include their children in video calls to help them stay acquainted with friends in North America and smooth the transition the next time you’re able to see each other in person.
Sending a card is an easy way to let missionaries know you’re thinking about them during the holidays. Make sure to tailor your message for each recipient, considering their location, marital status, and security guidelines. While it may be tempting to write a quick greeting, especially if you’re writing multiple missionaries assembly-line style, consider how encouraging it is to receive a message intended specifically for you.
One missionary explained: “It’s always the thought that counts, but cards from supporters who took the time to personalize their messages and encourage me as a single woman away from my family on the holidays communicated their care more effectively than the generic cards addressed ‘to you and your family.’ And even better were the ones that included personal updates so I could stay in touch with their lives too!”
Books and Resources
New Christian books and resources are released in North America each year. Global workers often don’t have access to these new titles, and it can be difficult to stay current in trending conversations about ministry or Christian living. If you or your church have benefitted from a particular book or resource this year, consider sending a copy to your missionary friends.
Helpful topics include Christian living, missions, church ministry, lay counseling, Bible studies, or theological resources. But it doesn’t have to stop there! Many families would appreciate quality children’s books in English or specific genres for leisure reading.
Ask your missionary about the best way to deliver books. Some missionaries have e-readers and could receive e-books. Others prefer printed copies, which could be ordered from a company like Book Depository that provides free international shipping and does not incur customs fees in many countries.
Life on the mission field can be stressful. Speaking a different language, navigating different cultures, and operating in different systems for daily tasks can be tiring—in addition to a full schedule of ministry, work, education, and family responsibilities.
This pressure can feel particularly intense at the end of the year. Extra holiday ministries and the loneliness of being far away from family celebrations can add to the weariness of a busy year—even with the joys of the season.
To help your missionary friend refresh and recharge, you could contribute toward a short getaway. Whether they travel within their country or to a nearby location, a trip can help them relax and do something special for the holidays, even if they can’t be with family.
One missionary couple shared that they began traveling to a different city for Christmas the first year after their children moved to the US for college. This new tradition helped them enjoy the holidays alone as empty nesters.
It may be easy to think, my missionary friend already lives in an exotic country or a popular tourist destination. But remember: time away is crucial for the well-being of everyone serving in ministry.
Receiving a package with a taste of home can be exciting for the whole family. International mail varies widely, so always check with your missionary before mailing anything to ensure that your blessing won’t end up as a burden. Many countries charge high customs fees, restrict specific contents, or experience package theft.
If your missionary can receive packages, ask what they might need or want. Some popular items missionaries enjoy include:
- Dry seasoning packets (taco seasoning, ranch dip seasoning, Italian dressing mix, French onion soup mix)
- Favorite snacks or candy
- Powdered coffee creamer, flavored instant coffee packets, or hot chocolate mix
- Cooking spices
- Toiletries, over-the-counter medications, or first aid supplies not available in their location
- Hand sanitizer
- Small games
- Small candles or scented body lotions and hand soaps
- Beef jerky or bacon—dry-cured or fully-cooked packages that do not require refrigeration. Remember to be mindful of import rules in countries that forbid pork products
- Ziploc bags
- Holiday-themed products like napkins, hand towels, or small decorations
Luggage or Travel Accessories
Global ministry requires a lot of travel, and pulling luggage through crowded streets, airports, buses, and rickshaws can wear it out quickly. Consider offering to replace a suitcase or carry-on or give your missionary updated travel accessories like packing cubes, luggage tags, or a travel pillow.
If you’re looking for a gift with the most flexibility, consider a special financial gift. Missionary budgets tend to be tight, and extra funds to do or buy something special can be a huge blessing.
Ask your missionary about the best way to send a financial gift directly to them—mission agencies are not able to process personal gifts due to IRS regulations. Alternatively, you could send an e-gift card for missionaries to use on the field or on furlough.
Financial gifts can be encouraging for the whole family. One missionary dad said, “If you want to bless missionaries, remember their kids. One church sent us money for each member of the family at Christmas. We took the kids to the store, and they were able to pick out what they wanted to buy with the money sent for them.”
If you know of any specific needs or services that could benefit your missionary, you could ask them about contributing toward those expenses. For example, one supporter paid for a missionary to be debriefed by an experienced Christian counselor, which was a great help to them personally and in ministry.
And if you’re looking to make a tax-deductible contribution at the end of the year, consider giving to one of their ministry projects.
No matter how you decide to encourage your missionary during the holidays, they will appreciate the care and thoughtfulness you demonstrated by remembering them.