Many families these days are involved in supporting their favorite charity, cause, or missionary family.
Making a difference for someone else through your efforts is always a great accomplishment. Speaking from 8+ years of missionary experience, I can tell you that your missionary is always grateful for your involvement. But for many, it may be hard to know what to do apart from praying or giving regular contributions.
Here are 10 non-conventional, “out-of-the-box” ways to support a missionary family.
1. Special gifts
It may come as a surprise to you that most independent missionary's income is not stable. People promise to support them for x amount each month, but may or may not send that amount, or send it when promised. The missionary must decide each month what things to pay first and may not have enough to stretch to that special need, project or outreach he'd like to plan.
Contact your missionary family to find out what special one-time giving needs they have. You may never know unless you ask that they have a need for chairs, tables, VBS supplies, a replacement appliance, a special transportation need, an unexpected medical bill that their insurance didn't cover, money to rent a building for a two-day evangelistic event, songbooks, a projector, Bible study materials… Maybe your family can't commit to monthly support but could work together to meet that particular special need or a part of it.
With the popularity of email correspondence these days, the stamped envelope mail is quickly becoming an icon of the past. However, your missionary most likely has a few (we have about 55) individuals who still want to receive his ministry updates via regular mail.
If your family could partner with the missionary to do those mailings it would bless him by saving him time and money. Even if he reimbursed you for the expenses, the cost of mailing from the States versus from his country would be much less.
3. Affiliate links
Many companies and organizations offer affiliate commissions in exchange for free advertising. For instance, our family puts a link for Christianbook.com Home (CBD.com) and other places on our sites. If you click on the CBD link and decide to purchase something from them, CBD will pay us a small percentage of that sale. Your price does not increase for having reached them through us, but we reap a small benefit. (The same works for the recommended resources you see on our sites.)
Every little bit helps and this is a way that your dollars can be stretched to purchase what you normally purchase AND support your missionary at the same time. I encourage you to write to your missionary and find out who their affiliates are, and how to do your normal online shopping through them.
4. Used books, homeschool materials, Sunday school materials
Libraries may be quickly becoming a thing of the past, but they are a huge resource that many missionaries must do without. Many missionaries have needs for books in their mother tongue (especially if homeschooling). Wholesome movies with their country's language or subtitles, and other things found in US libraries and church libraries are needed, but they may not have the funds to purchase them new.
If you have old materials that you or your church no longer uses or needs, consider offering to mail them to a missionary.
5. Items hard to find in their country
Something as insignificant as a can of pumpkin puree can be a HUGE encouragement to a missionary. Find out what your missionary needs or would like to have from “home” that he/she cannot purchase on the field and offer to buy it and mail it to them. Think of things like specialty food items, vitamins and supplements, special tools or clothing needs.
International shipping costs are on the rise. USPS to Mexico was expensive but DOUBLED its rates and increased them again in the last 3 years. And then there are importation taxes too (17% of the total retail value on goods imported to Mexico).
If you have the capability through your business or organization to mail things internationally for lower than normal rates, or if you could offer free mailing to your missionary through your business, that is paramount to an increase in support for them!
They could place their own family or ministry orders online, ship their orders to you, and you could then consolidate the items and make one shipment to them on the field, for a much lower price, either absorbing the cost or passing on the lower cost to the missionary. What a blessing!
7. Arts and crafts
Do you enjoy doing crafts? Why not have a crafting party and make up 500 or so wordless book bracelets, gospel Christmas tree ornaments, Easter crafts, pretty homemade cards, or VBS craft kits to send to a missionary? It might take him weeks to produce the same quantity of attention drawing items. He could easily print the Gospel message on a small paper to go with your crafts and hand them out as invitations to a special event or as an alternative to normal paper tracts.
Do you have a certain magazine, periodical, or web-based subscription that you really enjoy? Consider offering to purchase the same subscription for your missionary family (or for their children). These are the kinds of continuing education things that often get left out of the missionary budget.
Becoming a penpal with your missionary family (or your children with theirs) can be a source of great emotional support and encouragement. Far from home, with no family close to share in birthdays, special occasions, or even just to share babysitting with, can be a very lonely place to live. With the modern technology of Skype, Apple's Facetime, Facebook Video Calling and Magic Jack, international phone calls are not hard or expensive to make! Regular communication and quality friendships can be a great encouragement to your missionary.
10. And lastly, Estate Planning
Most missionaries process their monthly support funds through organizations that can provide tax-deductible receipts to the donor. But you may also want to investigate including your missionary in your estate planning. We suggest contacting Dave Ramsey for more information.
What other ways are there to non-conventionally support missionaries? What do you do? If you are a missionary, in what out-of-the-box ways have people supported you that have been a blessing? Please share them with us.
Looking for more information about missions or missionaries? Click here to see my other posts on the topic.