Missionary Care Packages - Sending a Care Package Overseas

Sending A Care Package Overseas

This is NOT a plea for care packages OR a complaint of the packages we have already received.

I’ll just lay that out there at the front end of this post so we are all on the same page. This is NOT a secret way of asking anyone to send us anything! Or in writing about it, am I being ungrateful or unhappy.

#forinformationpurposesonly #weareallonthesameteam #missionaryhelpingstartconversation #practicalmissions #teammeeting

Our #buggingyou team actually quite rocks the whole package thing and we are encouraged every single time a package slip or letter arrives in our post office box. We are blessed. Thankful. Happy.

I can’t tell you how fun it is to get something from our home country. Like the happiness of a college care package times 10… or 20. or 100. Like that fun.

tips for sending a care package overseas

Like an adult size teeter-totter fun. For Jeremy, anyway.

We haven’t been on US soil in a long time so ANYTHING from home smells good, looks good and makes the day just a bit brighter.

We don’t expect them but we sure appreciate them.

And, every time a package arrives, I see more than just a box full of things.

I see someone who took the time to collect and/or shop for the items in the box.

I see someone who not only put the box together but put their money, generally A LOT of money, into sending that box.

I see the person, the group, the church giving deeply and with all their love to send us something from home. We literally FEEL the love.

Each box reminds me that the thought really does count. The items inside mean something to the person who sent it and means something amazing to us as we receive it.

The thought, the work of sending and the items themselves encourage us in ways I can’t even explain.

But even that isn’t why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post for you. For supporter’s back home.

Because you have missionary family and friends who you deeply care about. You want to send them something. But you don’t know how or what to send.

Yes, the thought matters to you but you really DO want the things inside the box to bless, help, encourage, uplift and make the days easier for the people you are choosing to send the box to.

It isn’t about the money or the expense…

It is really about making sure you send things that missionary needs or wants from home. And your heart is to do it well.

You just don’t know how. You might not know what questions to ask. Your missionary might feel awkward sharing all the ins and outs of sending a package overseas.

(In fact you might have landed on our blog because another missionary shared this link with you or your mission’s director at church shared this with you because of your heart to send a package. That’s awesome and nice to meet you!)

For some reason, our blog has become a resource for missionaries and support teams and it is connecting the two in very practical, useful ways. Things NOT to say to a New Missionary or Social Media and Missions… covering topics not normally covered by missionaries. Topics that are hard to write, not always fun but still crucial to building better relationships between home and abroad. Topics that help you and us communicate in stronger ways which in turn makes healthier support teams and healthier missionaries.

Both VITAL to an on-going, long term missions endeavor.

So this post is to help you have the knowledge to send an overseas package. This post is so that you can bless any missionary you feel led to send a package to as God lays someone on your heart. This post is to remind you that although hard and expensive, sending a package overseas can be done and it can be done well.

I’ve compiled this tips post not just for West Africa, but for around the globe. One care package does not fit all areas of the world. Something we need here is not something someone else would ever ask for or want. With this list, I’ve tried to help you think deeper, broader in your package purchases and help you discover what someone could need or want depending on where they are in the world.

Missionary Care Packages - Sending a Care Package Overseas

Missionary Care Packages

1}  Think like a missionary in another country. Ok. You live overseas. Mail is complicated. Even if you are in a developed country, the system can be very unlike what you are used to. There might not be actual mail delivery. You might have to go to a post office to get the package. But wait. You might have to first visit the small post office to check your box. And check it 15 times on different days because you are expecting a package and have no idea when it will arrive. You keep checking because the longer it sits there, the more you pay to take your package out of the post office. One day, the slip arrives saying you have mail. Then you might have to go to a bigger post office to actually get your package. You might have to go to customs at another location. That is many trips in crazy traffic, hot weather, bad weather… hours sitting on the road. Then, whatever post office you end up in, you have hours waiting for the post office to help you get your package and let you in to customs. Then, you have to sit in a small room with a customs agent, possibly 2 or 3 customs agents who cut the box open in front of you, sort through it, open things and then make you pay whatever they deem worthy before you can get your box. You feel slightly weird having them go through your stuff and wince when they burst open an expensive box of gluten free flour. Or, something in the box was already open and there is white dust over everything to which the customs agents get immediately suspicious and starts questioning you adamantly. Getting a package for a missionary is time consuming, tedious, expensive and often a trying experience. But I’ll tell you a secret… the joy of carrying that sweet bundle out to the car and back home is pretty awesome. Seeing the kids open a letter and chew some gum from home is rewarding. The reminder of being loved from across the ocean is a huge encouragement. Seeing the girls go off to school in an American youth group t-shirt from a supporting church so they have that reminder of love ALL DAY LONG is heart-wrenching and real. So yes, think like a missionary when you start thinking about sending a package. Think about what it will take to get it through customs and also think of the joy it brings.

2} Size matters. Small is generally better. We like to say shoe box size is perfect. Partly because shipping is less and partly because it is less likely to cause a stir in customs. It also makes it easier to arrive at its destination and not get stuck in some warehouse somewhere.

3} Price matters. When you ship something overseas with different customs processes and laws, be careful how expensive the things are inside the package. Take tags and price stickers off all items. Don’t be afraid to take them out of packaging and think used when listing prices for items. Remember, just because you put it in the box does not mean it will stay in the box. Refer back to the customs search above.

4} Research Mailing Services. Does the country you are sending to have a special delivery company like DHL? If so, even if it costs $5 more, it may arrive much, much safer and simpler for all than trying to work through the local postal system or customs. Other things to think about… is someone flying there and you can add another suitcase? Is there a container company that regularly ships things to that country? Get creative! And if you can, get a tracking or shipping number. Send that number to the missionary. Why? Well, they can watch it online and know when it should be at the post office which saves TONS of extra trips and it also helps the missionary find it if the package is lost in customs. Generally an office somewhere will be able to find it if there is a number on the package.

tips for sending a care package overseas

*stopping for a soda at the local “7/11” or as our friends called this place “the crack in the wall”

5} It takes a long time. So if you want to send a family something for Christmas, start planning in May or June. Seriously. It can take a long time to gather everything, mail it and then you are at the mercy of the shipping time which could be days to weeks to months. A birthday? Again… send it in plenty of time. I have a pile of birthday presents in hiding for Elayna because they arrived in plenty of time. Way better than stressing over a late package!

*This is changing. Things are arriving at known addresses in capitol cities faster. We’ve gotten things in 2-3 weeks recently! But still planning ahead is a great idea not matter where it’s going.

6} Get creative in packaging. Pack everything inside ziplock bags or big Hefty trash bags. Use bags of cereal or Cheeze Its or a new kitchen towel for bubble wrap. Use notes from the kids at church rather than packing peanuts. Use plastic Easter eggs and green plastic grass for filler. A Christmas table cloth to cover the top of the box. Birthday decorations… Fill all space inside cups or bottles with American candy or spices. Don’t leave any space empty! If you need something light to fill space, there are many fun options! Line the box with printed activity pages or newspapers or empty gift bags.

7} Have fun with the items you put inside the box! Seasoning packets, Chickfila Sauce or Taco Bell packets (again, inside a ziplock), baking spices, chocolate chips, cinnamon candy, candy bars, peanut butter/Reeses, holiday items, church t-shirts, coffee, fun things from your state {Starbucks mug, magnet for the fridge, sports team memorabilia}, baking powder, books or magazines, Sunday comics, stain sticks, chapstick, sunscreen, vitamins, essential oils, kids medicine, small candles with homey scents, crafts, Chrystal Light packets, Starbucks Latte vias in the holiday flavors, beefy jerky, pepperoni, real bacon pieces, new make up, Ziplock bags, tupperware containers, nail polish, first aid items, DVDs/CDs (having movies/music that is not dependent on internet! but take them out of packages and “hide” them inside a book or a folded t-shirt)… have fun and remember that ALL of these little things are not at all little to a missionary family!

*But don’t have too much fun… on a whim, I asked my sister to throw some dryer sheets in the next box. Because I can’t get them here and in dry season, the dryer makes everything super static-y. BAD idea. Everything arrived tasting and smelling like a dryer sheet. Think dryer sheet flavored candy. I totally could have just searched DIY dryer sheets on pinterest. So yeah… don’t put strong smelling things inside your box. #lessonlearned #totallymyfault

*Check expiration dates. I don’t mind one bit getting something from your cupboard that you already have but haven’t used. But sending it expired across the ocean isn’t fun for anyone.

*Think logically about food choices. What do they have there already? If they have it, you don’t need to send it. You will always win by sending clearly American type food products and brands.

*Remember, anything the missionary themselves can not use, will be shared with another missionary family. I promise!

*and pets. Zander loves getting real dog treats and toys that will last longer than an hour.

8} Ask good questions. Allergies? Gluten free? Medicine needs? Favorite sports team? What holiday is coming up? What can you not find in your country? What does your family miss? Do you have a guard or a neighbor or another missionary who might need something special? We LOVE seeing our guard sport his Detroit Lions jersey that my mom sent him! It is VERY fun for a missionary to bless someone ELSE with the items in their package. My girls share crafts with other MKs or bring their root beer candy to school so the other kids from all over the world can give it a try. We’ve used cinnamon candy as a ministry tool to start conversations with new friends who’ve never tasted cinnamon candy before. Can you bless other MKs who maybe don’t have grandparents who send them anything? Can you supply candy for a birthday party or send a gift for a single missionary who often gets left out? Lots of great questions you can ask… And then listen to the missionary. If they have the courage to say something specific like a brand of chapstick or a kind of medicine or a type of tool, it’s probably pretty important and they need it. If they give you instructions about how to send, where to send, when to send… believe them. Especially if you are sending your package along with a missions team or someone who is traveling to that country. Be respectful of size/weight restrictions.

9} Just a note. For 3-4 Forever stamps (give or take a few), you can send a regular card or letter. Nearly 100% of the time it arrives on time and with no problems. No customs agents. No high cost. No hassles. But a HUGE HUGE HUGE encouragement. The smile on my girls’ faces when a real, legit birthday card arrives is precious. I have a little stack of hand written notes and cards in the back of my journal. I keep them. The girls hang them on the wall. We put pictures on the fridge. Just regular mail is a wonderful way to encourage, bless and help a missionary family. It doesn’t have to be a big package… sometimes a note says just as much. All of that to say, if you can’t afford a package, do not fret. You can still do something extremely important for a missionary family by sending a card.

10} Don’t forget technology. Rather than spending $70 on the shipping for a shoe box, you might rather put that money into a missionary’s account. Seriously, it could save everyone a lot of hassle. Ask about ways to personally bless them financially in place of a box. They might have a tax deductible way of giving directly to them for birthdays or Christmas or just because. Or an Amazon gift card by email. Or a picture of an iTunes gift card number sent via facebook message so they can buy a movie for family night. These are quick, easy ways to let your missionary know you care and sometimes, a much more practical option than sending a physical package. You can get creative in sending presents with the technology available today.

Well, other than things you can’t send like snow or Chickfila lemonade or Chili’s unlimited chips and salsa or Sonic half-price milkshake… I think this list of tips will go a long way in helping you think through something as big as sending a package overseas. It isn’t an easy thing for you or for the missionary.

But… sometimes hard things are STILL good things. Things worth doing. An important ministry you could have that is a blessing to a family living overseas.

Here are a few other resources… I’m not the only crazy one who has written on this hard topic:

Top Ten Items to Include in a Care Package – also read the comments!

Missionary Care Package Ideas

and for your missionary families stateside – 5 Things Missionaries Need

Sending a Care Package Shopping List

Whew… that is a lot of information! But, I’m learning the sending of missionary care packages is a sore point for a lot of churches, families and missionaries.

As in, I’ve heard a lot of stories… funny stories, hurtful stories, sad stories… all about packages. From people sending AND from people receiving.

Which again makes us ask… do we just not send them?

Well, many missionaries have made that decision. They actually say no when someone asks to send a package because of how complicated, expensive and challenging it can be for everyone. They don’t let teams bring family packages because family tends to ignore size/weight directions. They won’t carry something in for another missionary because it has again and again been abused by the sending party. Family gets tired of sending and paying shipping costs on lost packages. The missionary gets tired of standing in a customs line after hours in traffic only to walk away with something expired that they could buy at their local grocery store. A missionary gets embarrassed and doesn’t want any of their expat friends to know another package came… the guilt of getting new things, the cost of shipping and the needs around them is just a little too overwhelming to process. The missionary gets hurt by comments about what they need/want for their family so they never ask for anything. They feel the guilt of not being able to reciprocate the gift for each person, each gift so they refuse all packages. Or they’ve been on the field for so long that no one thinks of them anymore and they would never, ever ask to have a package sent to them this late in the game.

I guess I wrote this to help everyone know that with a little extra thought, some good questions and a lot of grace, sending packages is possible.

Sending cards, notes and small envelopes is doable and quite frankly, just as powerfully encouraging as a package full of things.

Also, technology makes it easy to still do something fun for a missionary even if a package isn’t possible.

So, jump in and have some fun and let God use you to bless a missionary family somewhere in the world today.

Now, I’ll be off wondering how on earth I get roped into writing these things?

Just kidding. I’m honestly blessed that I can write on these topics and help everyone on both sides do a better job at sending packages and graciously receiving them. That is my heart.

And I truly hope it helps.

Your turn… let’s talk missionary care packages.

Missionary Care Packages - Sending a Care Package Overseas

Have you sent a package and had it go wrong? Do you have a fun story to share? Please do!

Have you gotten a package and have another tip as to how it could have been done more efficiently or in a better way for your country or family? Please share!

Is there something YOU are dreaming of getting in a package? Leave that in the comments!





  1. My Name is Jane! I am involves activities as far as helping out young girls single moms with kids. My question to you I am making hair scrunchies and my goal is to make 500 and I was wondering if you could use this for your care packages when you send them overseas thank you for your time

  2. I liked that you had mentioned the importance of being creative with the packaging when sending out gifts because filling the space in the packaging can be important and it will help them out as well. My wife and I recently sent our son off on his mission and he’s loving it, but there are a lot of things that we want him to have while he’s gone and things that I’m sure he will miss. I’m not very creative so I’m worried I won’t even send the right supplies, I might have to look into finding a company that can send out full kits.

  3. For future reference aerosol cans cannot be shipped overseas. I only checked via USPS so I’m not sure if there are other agencies that ship overseas that would a)ow it.

  4. We call it the crack in the wall to distinguish it from the other Mauritanian guy’s store! We’re always glad to see pics from SL!

  5. When sending a card can you include small items in the envelope such as stickers or coloring pages? Or other small things that would fit in an regular envelope?

  6. My mom’s sent us a care package when we were in Honduras. She’s in Texas so it’s not too far. She added chalk for our almost 2 yr old, let’s just say it was dust upon arrival. And when sending friends in Central Asia a package I used zip locks as filler, as I know how valuable they are overseas.

  7. We’ve had one package and one team visiting a different missionary who sent things to us in-country. Both times it was just such a blessing to know we are thought of! We can get anything we NEED here, so the touches of home are so nice!
    That said, the money is costs is staggering. We spent 6 trips to the post office to get our package. Not because it wasn’t there, but because the workers just don’t like to go into the back room and actually get packages. Not kidding. My husband finally talked to a guy there for over an hour, helped with a medical problem (he is a nurse), and bought sodas for the three employees to get our package (and still had to pay a tax)!

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