Shameless plug from someone living overseas? Maybe. You be the judge ;)
Since we moved overseas six months ago, we have seen how difficult it can be to maintain relationships with those we love and care about the most- but also, how big of an impact a small action can have!
Many of us know people living overseas- whether serving in some kind of foreign aid position, working, or as missionaries. I have to be honest, when I lived in the states, I often felt at a loss as to how to bless them, even when I really wanted to!
That said, I want to humbly offer a list of things people have done for us that have helped bridge the gap and make us feel really loved, even at a distance. I hope it inspires you to show your overseas friends some love, too!
SEND THEM A PHOTO OF THE TWO OF YOU
This is so easy and so meaningful! I love when friends will take the time to message me an old photo or something that came up on TimeHop and just say they are missing me and encourage me a little bit. The memories are sweet and the friendship is sweeter.
Sure, it takes forever and is really unreliable, but getting snail mail or packages when you live overseas is the BEST. It doesn’t have to be elaborate- even a birthday card can make someone’s whole day. If you’re unsure how to go about it, talk to your overseas friend or your post office worker and they can help you figure out details. Ask your friend about turn around time, too! My Grammy is a boss at this- she can land a birthday card here in Rwanda within 2 days of a birthday. She’s amazing 🙂
REMEMBER IMPORTANT DATES
Things like birthdays, anniversaries, and even important events can go largely unnoticed by stateside community. Make a point to invest in the goings on of your overseas friends- pray for big projects they have coming up, and follow up with them! Birthdays and anniversaries, too- especially when forging a new community, it can mean a lot to have some familiar love from back home.
ASK WHAT THEY NEED (OR WANT!)
I will assume that most expats are like me and have a running list on their phones of things they need or it would be nice to have from the states. This could be anything from a favorite chocolate bar to nutritional supplements to shoes for their toddler. It’s a huge blessing to have a willing person ask what we need at any given point- even if it might take a while to get here. And yeah, sometimes we just need some chocolate!
AMAZON GIFT CARD
This might seem a little off the wall, particularly if your overseas friend lives somewhere that Amazon doesn’t ship (like Rwanda). But hear me out- this is useful in a few ways. First of all, with Kindles (and Kindle apps) and with computers and phones- this is a really easy way to give a friend access to new entertainment they may not be able to get any other way- a new movie, a new book, new music. Many places in the world are English entertainment black holes and we resort to swapping movies with friends and never having new books to read. Amazon gift cards are so great for this! A friend recently gifted me a book on Kindle. I didn’t even know you could do that, but it was SO awesome!
In addition, these can also be used to ship things quickly to visitors or contacts that are coming through the country. It’s an exciting day when a friend texts and say “Hey! I know someone coming through town if you need anything, ship it here!” Cue Amazon Prime shipping to said friend and some goodies coming our way.
And really, the bottom line: especially for those of us living on missionary support, we don’t always have the budget to buy a new movie for our family night of a new book to entertain us and encourage us. This is an easy way to circumvent that.
WRITE OUT A PRAYER OR ENCOURAGEMENT
So, so meaningful. I have a few friends that faithfully send me Scripture, check up on me, send me written prayers and encouragements and general take it upon themselves to keep a pulse on my emotional health. If you can have that relationship with your overseas friends, fill that role for them. It’s so necessary.
ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR ABSENCE
We miss a lot of fun things happening in our communities back in the states. It’s sad for us, and we would be lying if we said we didn’t care. We aren’t asking to be photoshopped into group photos, but even a sweet text saying “hey, you were really missed tonight” or “you would’ve loved this” can mean the world, especially on a hard day.
ITUNES GIFT CARD
See Amazon gift card. Same idea. Someday, I’ll own that new Beyonce album….ha!
HELP ORCHESTRATE DETAILS DURING TIME IN THE STATES
This is a little more abstract, but just as meaningful and helpful. As we are preparing for our first quick furlough back to have our son, I am realizing what a crapshoot it can be to balance a schedule and jetlag and kids and seeing people and….it can be really overwhelming. Reach out to your overseas friends if they are planning a trip back, and see how you can help. Airport rides, offer to host, cook a meal, whatever- everyone’s needs will be different but your willingness will speak volumes.
REPOST, COMMENT, LIKE THINGS THEY POST ABOUT THEIR WORK
It can get lonely over here and the gratification of overseas work is far from instant. When your friends share about the work they are doing on social media, vocalize your support and let them know what they are doing is important and valued! Share a photo or a story. Comment. Give it a little heart like! We see these things and it fuels us. Promise 🙂
I hope this list was helpful and inspiring to you to love your overseas friends well! Wherever they are and whatever they are doing, your friendship is important and your love and support are crucial to their success.
*One final note. If you know your friend’s love language, hone in on things that might speak that to them. It can be hard to spend quality time with someone thousands of miles away, but a Skype call could do the trick! You might just have to think outside the box*