Editor’s Note: As the members of Class 31 begin to leave for mission, we thought it would be helpful to write a post geared towards friends and family members who have or will experience sending loved ones overseas for an extended period of time. What can you do for your missioners before and after they leave to make this transition a little easier for them?

Do you have a friend or family member going overseas? Do you find yourself wondering what you could do on your end to help prepare them for mission? For many, it’s hard to think of the best way to reassure your loved ones that despite the physical distance, you’ll be walking with them every step of the way.

Do some research ahead of time about the country they’re going to so you have a better sense of the environment they’ll be in. Try to cook a traditional meal from their country before they leave home. Look into some of the customs in their country and try to think of ways to implement some of them into your own routine.

A simple (and easy to pack) idea is to send your missioners on their way with a variety of cards or letters to take with them and open as needed. For example, even though you might not be with them on Christmas or their birthday, they’ll still be able to open a card from you on that day and feel like you’re with them. 

However, don’t just limit these cards and notes to birthdays and holidays. While they’re on mission, there are going to be times when all they want to do is come home. Times when they wonder if they made the right decision. Times when they’re overwhelmed by cultural differences and stressful adjustments. For these moments, send them with a variety of “just because” cards. Fill the cards with stickers, prayer cards, inside jokes, or inspirational quotes. Give them a reason to smile and the strength of knowing that everyone back home is rooting for them and praying for them.

Missioner Jeff Sved, who just began his fourth year of mission in Bolivia, shared that something that has helped him a lot is having pictures of friends and family. “One of my college friends made me a photo album to bring with me,” said Jeff. “I’m generally pretty bad with pictures and they probably wouldn’t have made it onto my packing list without the album. On many occasions I have been glad to have the book to look back at memories with friends.”

Pictures, like letters and cards, can make all the difference in the world during those moments of sadness or doubt.

But most of all, more than anything tangible, they’ll need to know that they’re in your thoughts and prayers. Even if it’s just a quick email (Wi-Fi providing), make a point of regularly checking in with them to see how things are going. Tell them about what’s happening at home. Ask if there’s anything special you can pray for. Ask what’s going well and what they’re most excited about in their ministries. Read their blogs and keep an eye out for any pictures that they post. Your steady presence will reassure them that although a lot of things are going to change while they are away, the support and love of their friends and family is something they can always count on. 

Check back for the flip side in the next post – “What Missioners Can Do For Their Loved Ones”

*Featured image: Adaptation of photo by Pixabay user condesign – labeled for reuse