Close your eyes and picture dark chocolate chips, fresh walnuts, slick butter, golden-brown sugar and flour heaped high in a bowl. Even as you mix the ingredients together you smell a cool chocolate chip cookie perfume. You drop the dough onto a cookie sheet (after snitching a little) and slip the sheet into the oven. Soon sweet smells start escaping through the cracks of the oven door, through the vents. You open the door and pull out the cookies, soft and warm, chocolate melted a gooey brown. And for a few golden moments, life seems a bit closer to heaven.
Your job, should you accept it, is to capture those moments as best you can and ship them off to a missionary.
“It was always exciting to get packages in the mission field because you knew someone was thinking of you,” said Kim Boyd, a returned missionary from the Netherlands Amsterdam Mission. “You really didn’t care what was in the package. Even the broken cookies were good.”
Just knowing that someone is thinking about you makes the cookie crumbs sweet, say most missionaries. And an unexpected care package may be just the spirit-lifter a discouraged missionary needs.
“A Beehive class sent me a can of goodies for Christmas when I was in Thailand, and I thought it was great,” said Vaughan Camp, returned missionary from the Thailand Bangkok Mission. “I wasn’t expecting it because I really didn’t know the girls. That made it even more of a treat, to know they cared about me.”
You may run into a few problems sending treat-filled packages, though, as many missionaries will tell you. Sending care packages by air mail to certain countries is extremely expensive, but sending packages by boat, a less expensive method, can take months. Certain countries, especially in South America, charge a fee (affectionately labeled a “cookie tax” by some) on goods that come into the country by mail, cookies included. Theft can be a problem in some countries, too.
“I’m still waiting for a box of cookies that my mom sent me,” said Clay Hatch, returned missionary from the Eastern States Mission. “That was seven years ago.”
Most missionaries are glad just to know that friends or family at home are thinking about them. And that’s usually more important than whether the coconut bongo bongo bars or the prune tarts are stale.
Missionaries in certain parts of the world are just as excited to receive package mixes as baked goods, so you may wish to find out what a particular missionary prefers. “Bisquick, macaroni and cheese mixes, and brownie mixes were always a real treat,” said Alan Hoki, returned missionary from the Japan Nagoya Mission. “Package mixes didn’t get banged around in the mail as badly as goodies. It’s important to send a personal note along with a package, too.” (If you place the note outside the box, first class postage will be required only on the letter, not the entire box.)
“Cake mixes were always a treat to get in Amsterdam,” added Kim Boyd. “The cakes and cookies there were very different from those in the U.S., and it was great once in a while to make them like we do in the states.”
“In England we were always glad to get Mapeline (for syrup), root beer extract, and taco shells,” said Kay Ashton who served in the England Bristol Mission.
Packing things carefully, though, improves the chances of goodies arriving in the condition they were intended. Be sure you mail the treats in a sturdy container. The U.S. Post Office recommends mailing goodies in well-packed, double-corrugated boxes. Some people pack the goodies in an empty shortening can, which they send in a sturdy box. The cans generally come with plastic lids and can be decorated with wrapping paper or shelf paper.
To cushion the jolts the goodies are bound to get, unbuttered popcorn, placed in small, clear plastic bags, is great. It also provides an additional treat, especially in countries where popcorn is not readily available.
Wrapping the cookies or candies individually in plastic wrap will usually help keep them fresh. Generally you’ll want to avoid sending cakes, anything with frosting, and delicate or crispy cookies, as they do not travel well. And it’s a good idea to separate the goodies from nonedibles such as clothes if you’re sending them both in the same box. (One missionary in France received candy-coated ties from his mother when some hard candy melted en route.) Plastic bags or even separate boxes in a larger box can help you avoid that problem.
Check with your local post office on how to wrap the package for mailing. Currently the U.S. Post Office has requested that no string, masking tape, or scotch tape be used on packages, and that they not be wrapped in brown paper. They suggest writing the address directly on the box, placing a slip of paper with the address being sent to inside the box as well, and using strong paper tape to seal the box.
If you send a package under two pounds from the United States, ask the post office about “small packet mail” which is considerably less expensive than regular air mail rates. (For a few countries, the limit is one pound.) Ask for the green customs label 2976 on which you’ll need to declare the contents of the package.
If you decide to send goodies to a missionary, you’ll probably want to check to find out what his or her favorite confections are. We’ve printed a few all-around favorites, too, that might help cheer a few missionary mailboxes. (If you need metric conversions for the recipes, check a reliable cookbook for a conversion chart.)
Puffed Wheat Balls
Combine: 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. corn syrup
Boil together for 5 seconds
1/2 c. peanut butter
Pour mixture over 3 cups puffed wheat; mix well. Form into balls, and place on buttered surface to cool. For variety add 1/2 c. chocolate chips and/or use puffed rice.
Stained Glass Candy
3 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. corn syrup
1 c. water
1 tsp. flavoring oil (purchase at drug store or health food store)
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water to 300° F. Remove from stove, add oil and food color. Mix well. Pour onto 2 cookie sheets that are well dusted with powdered sugar. Sprinkle top of candy with powdered sugar. When cool enough to handle but still soft, cut into bite-sized pieces.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 c. shortening or butter or 1/2 c. butter and 1/2 c. shortening
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream above well.
Beat 2 eggs into creamed mixture.
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda (dissolve in 2 T. hot water and then pour in)
1 c. nuts
1 pkg. milk chocolate chips
Stir together. Bake at 375° for approximately 7 minutes.
2 1/2 c. walnut halves
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Heat nuts in a 375° F. oven 5 minutes, stirring once. Butter the sides of a 2-quart pan. Combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water. Cook and stir mixture until it boils, then stop stirring. When it reaches a soft ball stage (240°) remove from heat. Beat by hand for one minute or until the mixture gets creamy. Add vanilla and warm nuts. Stir quickly to coat nuts, then turn out on buttered cookie sheet and separate nuts at once using two forks. Cool. Makes 1 pound.