Moving to the Field
The question of sending a container and the kinds of things missionaries take to a foreign field has as many answers (probably) as there are missionaries. So when you ask me this question, obviously my answer will be biased toward my own opinion, but I will try to share some reasons and thoughts on the question.
First there are different levels of the question. There are big furniture items vs small kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom items. There is electrical questions which include transformers. There are things that take a lot of space in a container versus things that fit easily.
Then there are questions that depend on what you can get in your host country. When we went to Rhodesia, it was under sanctions and we could not buy refrigerators, washers, or cars in the country so if we wanted it we had to take it with us. Another African team is finding that furniture is almost prohibitive in price. All the furniture they have has come second hand from some missionaries leaving. Otherwise they just have cheap plastic chairs to sit in, which doesn’t allow for much comfort or lounging at home. Wood is hard to come by so the missionary has made bookshelves from pallets that were used in the container.
So after these questions are answered, one must ask logical questions like, ‘Is this item worth paying to ship overseas?’ At first one may think nothing is, but maybe we can break down the discussion a little more.
Let’s look at both sides of the question.
The pros of buying in the host country:
David and Jenna Reese ready to pack their container for Tanzania.
Container arriving in Angola at missionary home.
Many things in Africa are not the same quality we are used to using. They are also usually more expensive. So if we look at buying what we need there we must realize it will cost us more money and we will probably not get as good of a quality as what we already have.
If we are shipping some things anyway, like what we cannot get in our host country, then we might as well add a few other things. The difference in cost will be minimal.
Angolan mission team excited their container has arrived.
This one may sound a bit strange but it is important to note: Churches and supporters will normally give money for shipping, when they may not as easily give money for buying. This was the case when we came home from Africa. Our congregation said they would pay $5,000 to ship our container of stuff home, but were unwilling to just give us the $5,000 to buy stuff on this side. So we were blessed with shipping home mementoes and things we loved from Africa that have continued to bless our lives and our home. We felt like our home came with us and not that we had moved and left it all behind.
In In case you can’t tell, I am on the side of a container. I would however moderate the large items shipped unless you already had them. I would not take items like heirlooms from a grandparent that cannot be replaced. Some things are best left in a safe place at parent’s homes.