Sending care packages

Helpful information

Friends and supporters often want to send packages to missionaries abroad, and in most instances they are appreciated. However, please read below before proceeding.


Basics
  • The best way for care packages to be transported to foreign destinations is via someone traveling to the country to visit, rather than through the postal system.
  • Always check with the missionary before sending a care package through the postal system! Due to logistical hassles and expense on the receiving end, missionaries in some locations request that NO packages are sent to them through the postal system. Also, some missionaries appreciate help during their home leave more than receiving packages while on the field. Learn the missionary’s preferences.
  • Questions to ask a missionary BEFORE sending a package:
    1. Are mailed packages acceptable?
    2. Fully list intended contents, and ask: What items should be avoided due to his/her country’s customs regulations or sensitivity issues?
    3. Are there items which s/he particularly needs?
    4. Does s/he subscribe to a mission mail service which handles packages for him/her?
    5. What is the best way to send a financial gift for personal use?
  • If a missionary indicates that receiving a care package through the mail would be problematic, inquire further as to how you might alternately be able to bless him/her. Would a personal financial gift be appreciated? A magazine subscription?

Ideas for Contents

Consult missionary and review the country’s customs regulations before purchasing items!
  • Favorite non-perishable foods, snacks
  • Items unavailable at outreach location (ask the missionary what is needed)
  • Flavored teas/hot chocolates
  • Favorite personal items
  • Brownie/muffin/cake mixes
  • Books
  • Photos of family and friends, especially at events the missionary has missed
  • Home videos (confirm that the format is compatible with his/her equipment!)
  • Magazines they don’t receive, newspapers, clipped articles
  • Puzzles
  • Holiday cards, decorations (ex: materials to create a simple manger scene).
  • Music—CDs they don’t have
  • Church bulletins and sermon CDs from his/her home congregation
  • Cards for special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries
  • Small toys
  • Computer games (confirm that the format is compatible with his/her equipment and that the missionary family does not already have the item)
  • Home school materials for kids (art supplies, etc)
  • Supplies for hobbies (e.g., scrapbooking, needlework)
  • Money gift to fund a night out, etc.

Do not send

ALERT! A country may return or seize mail containing articles prohibited or restricted within that country, whether or not notice of such prohibition or restriction has been provided to the U.S. Postal Service. For a list of items restricted by foreign postal services, country by country, visit usps.com (service guides/international country listings).

In general, do not send:
  • Liquids
  • Heavy items
  • Fragile items
  • Items which can be purchased on location
  • Perishable foods
  • Agricultural products

Packing tips
  • When several items are inside a package, they must be protected from each other as well as from external forces.
  • Fragile items must be cushioned to dissipate shock and pressure forces.
  • Enclose special tea bags, hot chocolate mix, drink mix packets as fillers (sealed in plastic bags in case of punctures).
  • Cut lids off of puzzle boxes. Place the pieces in a bag; enclose the flattened lid.
  • Pack items in sealed usable containers (i.e. plastic food containers).
  • Enclose clothing as a packing material.
  • Use an egg carton to package small items.
  • Send cookies stacked in a Pringles potato chip canister.
  • Pack all food in sealed plastic bags/containers.
  • If fluids must be sent (not recommended!), package in a sealed plastic bag/container. Breakable containers of liquid (4-32 fl. oz.) must be cushioned, with material sufficient to absorb all leakage in case of breakage, inside a sealed, waterproof container. Liquids over 32 fl. oz must be cushioned and sealed inside two waterproof containers. The outer shipping container must be strong enough to protect the contents and must be marked to show the liquid nature of the contents.

Packaging tips

Materials
Use durable packaging materials which can handle the weight of the items you are sending: paperboard boxes, padded envelopes (up to 10 lbs); reinforced envelopes, corrugated fiberboard boxes (up to 20 lbs) solid or corrugated fiberboard boxes (over 20 lbs). The size of the box must be adequate to contain the items and provide enough space for cushioning material. Good, rigid, used boxes with all flaps intact are acceptable.

Closure
Tape used for closure must be at least 2 inches wide. Masking tape may NOT be used for closure. Use strong paper tape, plastic tape, or strapping tape. Reinforce boxes around both the length and width of the package.


Addressing the package
  • As a precaution, place a card inside the package indicating the sender’s name and address, and the destination name and address.
  • Use permanent ink or type for the addresses. Write directly on the package, or make sure the addresses are well secured.
  • Use Roman letters. An address using foreign characters is permitted if the names of the city, province, and country are also indicated using Roman letters.
  • For both the destination and return addresses, the last line of the address must include only the full country name written in uppercase letters.
  • Unregistered items bearing a return address in another country are accepted only at the sender’s risk.
  • Always use a return address in the top left corner.
Sample Destination Address                             Sample Return Address
JACQUES MOLIERE                                            JANE SMITH
RUE DE CHAMPAGNE                                        1325 MAIN STREET
06570 ST PAUL                                                    FAIRFAX, VA 24331
FRANCE                                                               USA
 

Mailing tips
  • Allow lots of time!
  • Be sure the missionary’s name/address is readable and permanently attached (a layer of clear tape can protect the address from water damage).
  • Small items in padded envelopes generally cause the fewest problems
  • The postal service charges significantly more for packages containing personal letters. To keep the postal expense at a minimum, send letters separately.
  • Books, printed matter, and educational material can be sent more economically and usually without customs charges if sent separately and marked “books” or “educational material.”
  • Send some money separately from the package to help the missionary cover customs charges required to receive the package at his/her location. (Money enclosed in a package is at particular risk for being stolen.)

Custom tips

International mail is subject to customs examination and fees in the destination country. The U.S. Postal Service does not maintain or provide information concerning the assessment of customs duty in other countries.

A few suggestions:
  • Remove any new clothing from the store packaging and wash it at least once, so it may be classified as “used.” Report the value as a small fraction of the new price.
  • Remove sales labels and prices so it is clear the items are not for resale.
  • Send clothing unfolded so there is less suspicion that it will be re-sold (a concern for customs officials).
The contents and value of an item may be declared on the applicable customs form. Customs declaration forms are available (free) at U.S. post offices.

Be prepared to describe the contents of a package, including:
  • Specific description of each article (general descriptions such as “food,” “medicine,” “gifts,” or “clothing,” are not acceptable)
  • Exact quantity of each article
  • Dollar value of each article
  • Total weight of the package, if known
  • Full sender’s and destination names and addresses

Do your research

For the most recent information about sending packages abroad, see:
  • usps.com, service guides, international country listing
  • usps.com, service guides, international mail manual, international mail services