Look around your congregation this summer. If your church supports missionaries, chances are that you’ll notice some faces that you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe you’d like to give your visiting missionaries an extra-special welcome, but you’re not quite sure how? Today, some of our workers share the best gifts that they’ve received during home service — some tangible, some intangible, some big, some small. All entirely meaningful.
More than their ministry: Missionaries don’t like to feel odd. (Really, who does?) And, while they are back to share about how God is working in their part of the world, they love it when people see them as more than their ministry.
“I was blessed by weekly coffee time and lots of conversation about life … not necessarily missionary life. “ — Jayne in Ukraine
“The best gift we have received on home service is friendship.” — The Eipperles in Ukraine
“I loved when people got together and we didn’t feel pressure to talk about ministry. We could just be ourselves, play games, etc.” — Jami in Russia
“I was thankful for people who provided a safe place where I could just be ‘me’ and be ‘normal.'” — Darlene in the Philippines
Going deep: When you’re back at a church, a LOT of people will ask, “Hey, how’s it going in (insert foreign land).” And that’s great — but it’s a question that can’t really be answered in a few seconds. Missionaries appreciate those folks who set aside time to carefully, patiently listen.
“My best home service gift was having a prayer supporter ask for prayer requests we can’t put in a newsletter. She truly wanted to know what was on my heart. It literally brought me to tears. Then she put her arms around me and prayed. I felt loved and cared for as a person and not just as a missionary.” — Karen in Japan
“I loved it when people really asked about me, the ministry and everything in a real and authentic way. Asking deep and insightful questions and listening is so appreciated.” — Leah in Ukraine
The gift of rest
So many options here! You might consider sending a whole family away on a holiday: “Someone let us use their vacation house on beautiful Lake Michigan for free … and the best ‘gift’ part was that they offered and invited. We didn’t ask.” — A worker in Eurasia
Or give a husband and wife a little time together: “My mother-in-law gave us a weekend away in the mountains of North Carolina while she cared for our four children. Good grandma time for them and a wonderful respite for us.” — Leslie in Taiwan
Or make a personal retreat possible: “My best gift was a weekend away in a private cabin on a lake. For this worn-out missionary and mother of four small boys, it was heaven. Undistracted time with God surrounded by creation was the medicine my soul needed.” — Jenny in Croatia
A home away from home
Wow, do missionaries ever appreciate having their own space during home service — and they are extra thankful for folks who offer free or reduced-price housing.
“My parents’ neighbor cleared out of his house for five months so we could live there.” — Jami in Russia
“The most precious gift was having the place where we were going to live for a year be completely set up (even food in the fridge) when we arrived. We were able to spend our first night in ‘our own’ beds. That was a huge blessing especially because that was an extremely difficult home service for our family.” — Kim in Ukraine
“My parents bought a trailer and parked it just outside their beautiful garden so that we would always have a place to stay during home service. Now our kids consider it their second home.” — Josie in Ukraine
Missionaries definitely have to travel a LOT to visit supporters and churches during home service, so a car to drive is a huge gift.
“One of our best gifts was a Cadillac for $1.00!” — Joyce in the Philippines
Gift cards: Home service gets pricey. Not only is the cost of living in the home country often higher, the special things that missionaries only get to do every couple of years add up. And the necessary things (like trips to the doctor and dentist) come at a cost, too. Plus, this is also the missionary’s opportunity to stock up on goodies, English language books, medicines, etc. All that to say: A gift card is always welcome.
“Our church gave us a gift card shower — Target, gas cards, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. We lived off of those for months!” — Beth in Taiwan
Something to make life a little easier: Think of the culture where your missionary serves. Is there something that you could provide that might make life there a little bit more comfortable?
“We live in a culture where we walk a lot, so cheap shoes just don’t cut it. I will never forget the day over lunch when a dear friend said, ‘God told me to give you this money for you to buy new shoes.’ She went on to explain as she contemplated our culture and how much she knew about me, that this was something she knew I needed but would never invest in.” — Cindy in Spain
Stocked shelves: When you move into a new house, your grocery bill is enormous because you have to buy all the basics (oil, flour, sugar, butter, salt, peanut butter, jam, coffee, etc.) all at once. It’s wonderful to arrive to a stocked cupboard so that your first batch of chocolate chip cookies doesn’t end up costing $25.
“Having a furnished house provided with freezer and cupboards full was such a blessing! Grocery shopping can be super overwhelming coming back to the States.” — Jenny in the Yukon Territory of Canada
“This may sound silly, but we arrived home just as strawberry season ended. Several ladies from our church gave me homemade strawberry jam.” — Elaine in Japan
The gift of ministering to you
This can be a tricky one. Some missionaries would value a break from teaching and preaching — but others love the opportunity to use these gifts in without having to speak a second language. So don’t be afraid to offer opportunities, but please be understanding if your missionary needs to decline.
“I appreciated being asked to lead Bible study (in my native tongue) and to speak at a women’s retreat.” — Jayne in Ukraine
A little bit of pampering
Pampering means different things to different people. (Some people love a pedicure; others would rather die than have someone touch their feet.) But treating a missionary to a splurge of some sort has value beyond the actual price.
“We’ve had several bests! Free use of a relative’s vacation home, money to buy brand new clothes, the freedom to refurnish the missionary apartment with NEW furniture. But the best part of all of these is the attitude behind these gifts. The giver is saying, ‘You are a missionary and I want to do something special for you! You deserve new and nice!’” — Elaine in Japan
“My best gift was a ‘pamper Betsy’ day. I don’t want a massage or my nails done. The perfect day to me was when a pastor’s wife took me on a fun drive along the Massachusetts and New Hampshire coast, stopping in little towns, treating me to a really nice lunch. She let me order and then she ordered extra things ‘just to try’ because she knew I’d never do that on my own.” — Betsy in Michigan
”This last home service I felt totally pampered by SEND International itself! For ReConnect, we were put up in lovely hotels and treated to all kinds of yummy meals that we may not have enjoyed over the past four years. Yeah, I know we use our work funds for all of this, but I loved being treated so special. I loved SEND telling us that we are worth it.” — Eileen in Japan
It’s the thought that counts
A thoughtful gift can express your affection and support without having to cost a lot.
“My daughter’s sister-in-law brought me a bag of mangoes. She remembered I love mangoes. And my daughter had dark chocolate waiting for me when I arrived in Canada.” — Bertha in Ukraine
“A pastor’s wife donated her photography services to take our family photos.” — Jenny in the Yukon Territory of Canada
”When we were back in the States over Christmas, one family was a secret Santa to us and left surprises on our doorstep every night. They were such HUGE blessing to my family during a stressful period in our lives.” — Julie in Ukraine
“Meeting us at the airport! A welcome banner on the garage door!” — Joyce in the Philippines
Whether it’s coffee and a long chat, a homemade goodie or a place to rest and rejuvenate, your thoughtful gifts to your missionary can help them feel welcomed and loved as they step off the plane and into the intense home service season.
We’d love to know: Do you have a gift that you love to give visiting missionaries? If you’re a cross-cultural worker, what have been some gifts that have been precious to you?
Keep reading …
How we home serviced: Our approach changed drastically as our family grew and the length of our furloughs shrank. Find out what we did right — and what we did wrong.
The Internet affects furlough, too: Being able to keep in constant communication sometimes makes it hard to know how to share when you’re face-to-face.
Six pitfalls to avoid when welcoming missionaries on home service: A few suggestions for those of us who tend to open mouth, insert foot — maybe without even realizing it.
Cabin photo by Kristin Ellis
Grocery photo by Peter Bond
Banner photo by Mink Mingle