I know you have questions, I just don't know what they are. So feel free to ask by commenting on this entry, and I will answer them as quickly as I can.
1. What is the best way to send a package to my missionary?
Good question! We can't predict when your package will arrive without any problems, or when it will be stopped (and possibly returned) by customs, or even disappear. We've had huge, heavy boxes arrive without customs fines, and we've had small, light boxes arrive with fines. But here are a few tips that may help:
- Small boxes or envelopes are better than big boxes. Big boxes seem to attract attention of customs agents.
- Mail packages to your missionary's apartment address, but ONLY AT THE BEGINNING OF A TRANSFER. Ask your missionary for the address and timing.
- Complete the customs form required by the sender, and underestimate the value of the contents.
- Don't use the title "Elder" when you ship--just address it to your missionary's name.
- Never label your shipment as "medical supplies" or "medication". Spanish laws prohibit individuals from receiving medication by mail. If you feel you must send some type of meds, label it as "vitamins" or "tablets". Again, this is unpredictable. One Elder received a 3-month supply of medication with no problem, and another mother sent a box labeled "medical supplies", which had simple first-aid supplies like bandaids and ointment, and it was returned to the sender.
- If you are sending a pair of something, like shoes, consider sending them one at a time. Then you can honestly state a very low value!
- Please send mail to the mission office address below. You can mail a package to the mission office also. Usually packages and mail are delivered to individual areas within two weeks. When mailing packages to the mission office, always include the name of the mission, so that if it does get delivered with a fine, someone from the mission can retrieve it without having to get written permission from the missionary. This is not so important for letters, as they never are assessed fines. The mission office address:
Spain Malaga Mission
Avda Jesus Santos Rein, 2, 3 D-E
(Malaga) Spain(I have changed the numbers after Santos Rein a few times, but this one is the real one. Our letterhead is printed incorrectly.)
2. How do missionaries get their living money each month? If we wanted to put money into their account for Christmas instead of sending a package, how is the best way to do that?The missionaries have a debit card issued to them by the mission, and they receive on that card 140 Euros each month. That pays for food, haircuts, personal toiletries, etc. They also use that money for bus and train tickets, but they are reimbursed for travel expenses.
Most missionaries come with a personal card from home, and that would certainly be the best way to give them money for Christmas. You can deposit money in their personal account, or if they don't have a card at all, work with your bank to get one and send it to your missionary in the mail. Be sure the bank knows that that card will be used in Spain.
3. What do U.S. missionaries wish they had brought with them once they get to Spain?I will keep asking this question and update the blog with more answers, but here's what I heard from Elders Schoell, Bleazard and Wilson recently:
Deodorant. Most missionaries (both Elders and Sisters) from the States don't like the deodorant here. It's expensive, and it doesn't include an antiperspirant--it's only deodorant. So bring a little extra, and put one in your next package to your missionary. We will all thank you! ;)
Maple syrup extract. We can buy maple syrup here, but it is hard to find and too expensive for a missionary's budget ($6-$8 for about 2 cups). With one little bottle of this extract (costs about $2 in the States) they can make 48 cups of syrup.
Only bring one suit. Nearly every Elder buys at least one Spanish suit. It's a popular thing to do, it's less expensive, and because suits are cut differently here, the Elders feel like they fit in better with a locally-made suit. If your missionary is 6"5' or taller, it will be difficult to find one here. Smaller Elders, or those who are heavy won't have any problem finding a suit.
Pictures of family. I think this is mentioned in the call packet, but a few of our newer missionaries said they didn't bring any, and they really wished they had a few family photos. Many missionaries tape one inside their scriptures. Members, investigators, and the Mission President's wife always like to see pictures of the missionary's family!