Archive for the 'Helpful Items' Category

Furlough/Support Raising Trip Checklist

We were “home” on furlough last summer, and let’s just say that it was a major learning experience for our family. Despite what I thought was good planning on our part (we started months in advance), we founds ourselves absolutely exhausted by the end of the summer and having to ditch plans right and left for lack of time or energy. Our major failing was a lack of concrete scheduling on the front end. We were bombarded with more good opportunities than our schedules could possibly handle, and they all seemed to snowball out of control at the end when we and everyone else realized that it was about time for us to head back. Since that experience, I have vowed to myself to be a much better planner for all future trips back “home.”

I have compiled a checklist of things to plan for when heading back for furlough/support raising/home assignment based on some of the things that we were happy we planned well for and other things where we failed miserably. I hope this list might help some of you prepare well in advance for a successful next trip back “home!” And remember, it is much better to plan as many of these things ahead of time as possible! (Which is why I am posting this in March in preparation for summer, a prime furlough time for many). The goal is to get back and know what you are doing and when, so you don’t miss out on accomplishing your priorities and don’t end up stressed out and burned out at the end of your furlough. Here is the checklist, but you can also download it in the blue “Downloads” box on the lower right hand side of the page (scroll down a ways and it is under the map of visitor locations). I saved it as a Word doc so you can edit as would best suit you.

Do you have any other suggestions for planning well for furlough?


Where will we live?

Do we have all of the furniture that we need?

Do we have dishes and  linens?

Do we need any baby/kid-gear, such as a pack n’ play or highchair or baby gate?

What car will we drive?

Do we need to borrow car seats?

Where will we purchase car insurance? (It is simple to purchase insurance online or over the phone.)

Phone number/website: __________

Which churches will we visit and when (arranging your visits before you even leave the field will help you schedule your time well!)?

Total monthly support needed:


Total one-time support needed:


Our first support appointments (Again, it is often much easier to set some appointments up before you leave rather than to try to do it when you are adjusting to life in the US. I know you don’t believe me, but you will when you hit the ground exhausted and are trying to settle your culture-shocked family into your new life!).

Names and Date/time:

Dates of parties or gatherings with current supporters (times to say thank you and share ministry updates):

Date, time, location:

Send out Evites for supporter parties, and/or include a notification in your newsletter if possible:

Check when invitation is sent:

__ Gathering #1 (Date:_______, Time_______, Location _______)

__ Gathering #2 (Date:_______, Time_______, Location _______)

__ Gathering #3 (Date:_______, Time_______, Location _______)

Family Vacations and Times of Rest (get them on the calendar and guard them with your life!!!)

Dates and perhaps your tentative plan:

Personal Goals:

Friends to see (list names and even dates if you decide to make plans in advance):

Places to visit:

Items to buy and bring back to the field:

Medical/dental appointments to be had:

Documents to renew (aka. driver’s licenses, passports, visas, debit/credit cards, international driver’s permits, wills and other financial documents, etc.)

Starbucks consumption goal: (kidding… or am I?!)


Kids’ plans: (this will differ a ton for each family, so I will just leave blank space for this category. Think through things like schooling if necessary, sports or other activities and lessons, camps to attend, or any other opportunity that you are hoping that your children will have while “home.”)

Holidays while we are in town:

What holiday, where and with whom?

(Post by: Ashley)


Make-It-Yourself: Travel Items for Kids

travel bag

There is a nice market out there for products designed to make travel with children easier. These ideas are genius and I am always excited when I hear of new products in this realm. There are two problems with many of these items though.  1) They are expensive, and 2) they are often difficult to find overseas, depending on your location. Here are some make-it-yourself alternatives!

M.I.Y Potty-topper- This is a great item to have throughout potty-training and toddlerhood when visits to less than ideal bathrooms are frequent. Rather than buying 10 for $5, if you can even find them, make your own out of waxed paper. You might need to tape two pieces together to make it wide enough, but it is easy and cheap.  Make a big rectangle, cut a hole in the middle, and voila! Test the first draft on you toilet at home for size. You could even make it U-shaped since most little kids only sit on the very front part of the seat.  You can hold it onto the potty with tape or a sticker if you want.

On-the-go dish soap wipes- We got a box of these awesome “pre-soaped” disposable dish rags that were wonderful for cleaning bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups  and the like in airports and such. You can easily make something similar by adding squirts of dish soap to  sturdy paper towels and sealing them in a plastic bag.

Disposable baby spoons- There are a number of “toss or save” sorts of utensils on the American baby product market, but in my opinion they are way too nice (a.k.a expensive) to toss.  Sometimes you can find disposable sugar spoons for coffee that are way cheaper and about the same size if you are looking for disposable.

Stand-in pacifier clip- If your child loses theirs and you are desperate, why not attach a piece of sturdy ribbon  to a diaper pin and tie it to the binky? Two safety points: 1)make sure it is shorter than the distance around your baby’s neck. 2) only use a real diaper pin that has a locking feature. If you are crafty you could probably devise a cuter clip than most on the market by exploring “classier” clip options and stylish ribbon designs.

Recycled formula dispenser- My son was a bottle baby for the second half of his infanthood and I quickly learned that traveling with all of that bottle gear is a pain! I loved our Avent formula dispenser cup with the nice little spout that was small enough to pour into a bottle without making a mess.  Much easier than a ziplock bag! You could achieve this same thing by recycling a small-ish pill container, depending on the size of the mouth of the bottles you use and the size of the pill container.

Take n’ Toss changing pads– Again, waxed paper is your friend.

Home-made disposable leak-proof  odor-free diapers- Just kidding!

Do you have any money-saving mom-saving items that you toss in your bag for travel? Any ideas of things we can make for ourselves to save on time, stress, and money?

Online Resources For You!

Today I wanted to share a list of sites that I think will be very encouraging to you as missionary moms. You may know of a lot of them already, but hopefully there are some new and encouraging things for you here.  Click the icons to be taken directly to each page. Enjoy!


Missionary Women is a new site started by Jami serving in Ulan-Ude, Siberia. She is a dear friend of our family and has an amazing heart and passion for loving God, loving her family, and loving the lost. I think you will be very blessed by here wisdom and creativity!


This is another wonderful and fairly new site that was started up by Ana, a loving missionary mommy in Brazil. There are several women who contribute to this site, and each of them have some great things to share. It is great place for missionary moms, and all moms alike! Check this site out for encouragement, fun recipes, homeschooling tips, and more!

WOTHI am guessing that most of you women have hopefully heard about this fantastic ministry. It is a ministry dedicated to serving and encouraging women in cross-cultural service. Check out their site to sign up for their online magazine, join an online Bible study, and hear about their amazing expense-paid retreats for missionary women, among other things.

Coffee girl header photo-JPEG

Coffee Girl Confessions is the blog featured on the Women of the Harvest site. It is fun, encouraging, heartfelt, and honest. Come to read about all sorts of experiences that missionary women face on the field.


Families In Global Transition is a site dedicated to resourcing families overseas to help them have a positive international experience. The resources and articles part of their page is  a gold mine of helpful information on topics such as intercultural issues, family mobility issues, information regarding third culture kids, challenges, benefits, and strategies for cross-cultural living… It is a great site with resources by people highly educated on the subject.


This site is a great resource about navigating life overseas. It isn’t a Christian site, but it has some great resources and opportunities to connect with other expats in the areas that you live. There are articles and resources about moving internationally, language learning, international education, visas… lots of stuff!


TCK World (Third Culture Kid World) is a place that both parents and kids can learn about what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. This site also has opportunities for TCKs to connect with one another through TCK forums. The site is currenty being re-constructed, so not everything that it offers is accessible at the moment, but it should be up and running soon. The forums are open and there are still some great articles available.


Barnabas International is all about “providing pastoral care to missionaries, MKs, global servants and their families.” They have some great retreats devoted to MKs and re-entry, etc., and have an online magazine called “Encouragement.”

Do you know of any good sites out there that you would like to recommend? Please share!

Wearing Your Baby


Ironically, this week in language class we got onto the topic of the benefits of “baby wearing.” I think I have mentioned it before, but I am very much an advocate of wearing babies for the sake of mother-baby bonding and the general health and happiness of mom and child, not to mention for the sake of convenience. Our sidewalks are terrible for strollers, so the sling was so nice sometimes! Since the topic came up, I thought I’d share some thoughts and resources with you in order to do my part to promote global baby wearing (which I am sure most of you can share from experience, is in actuality already a very multi-cultural practice.)

Some reasons to wear your baby:

-Closeness and bonding (there are a number of studies out there that show that wearing your baby can help with postpartum depression and is very beneficial for the overall bond of mother/father and child).

-Convenience. It is easier than hauling a stroller out the door if you don’t need one. Also it is easier to get things done around the house if you have your hands free yet can be holding your baby at the same time.

-Comfort. Most moms find it comforting to have their babies close to them, and most (probably all) babies love being close to mom/dad.

-Colic… I wasn’t intentionally going with the “c” theme, but it seems to just be working that way. My son was really colicky and I called the sling his “happy place” because it was the only way that I could get him to stop crying on numerous occasions. It worked far better than anything else to soothe him!

-Development (moving farther on into the alphabet). It has been shown that wearing your baby promotes emotional, physical, and intellectual development and is especially beneficial for premature infants.

….and there are many more advantages, but I am out of time, so here are some links:

The Baby Wearer

Natural Child

Here are some other good links that I have found that help you to make your own wraps/carriers/slings.

Ring sling sewing instructions (I think one of you linked to this as well recently!)

Several make-it-yourself carriers

African Kanga (Kikoy) wrap instructions (using just a large piece of fabric)

There are also TONS of great ones that you can buy if you happen to be back in the US.  Some are the Ergo carrier, Moby Wrap, general pocket sling and ring slings, Mei Tai style carriers (like this one), Baby Bjorns… Find what you like and wear it!

(And in case it is of interest, though my kids spent much time in their slings, we did most naps in their own beds. Some sites recommend having your babies nap in their slings, and while this is great and something I did a lot at first, some moms prefer teaching their kids to sleep in their own beds early on for the sake of routine. I was just writing this little disclaimer to say that you can be a baby wearing mom on any end of the spectrum. Any time spent wearing your baby is good, even if you don’t wear them all day!)

Do you or did you wear your baby? What are your thoughts?

Medical Resources

Medical Examination 1940It seems to me from talking to my other missionary mom friends around the world, that wading though a foreign medical system is one of the most nerve wracking things for moms overseas. I know it has been for me! It has definitely been one of the greatest areas where I have had to trust God and also where I have had to learn to be resourceful! Here are some useful resources that I’ve stumbled upon over the years that have really helped.

Web MD- This is a website with a ton of medical information. I use it most frequently to cross reference what doctors here have prescribed with what is prescribed in the US. They have a section on their page where you can search medicines by name or by the illnesses that they treat. I wouldn’t recommend self-prescribing, but it is great for making sure that what you’ve been prescribed is safe (which on a number of occasions has not been the case for us).– This has lots of information on world health concerns, travel health issues, healthy living etc. I had some concerns about TB this year, as far as wondering how effective the vaccine is and how the illness is communicated, and how much at risk we are, and it was quite helpful.

Online vaccine charts for all ages- These are the standard vaccine schedules that our doctors in the US use. This is also on the CDC site and is very helpful if you are wondering if the schedule in your country would be recommended by the US health care system.  We have found that getting vaccines here in Russia is far easier than we would have imagined, even though we don’t have any foreign/international medical centers in our city. I wonder if it might be the same in many parts of the world. There are a small number of pharmaceutical companies that produce the majority of the vaccines worldwide, so it is actually often quite a bit easier than one might think to figure this out cross culturally. I can’t speak for all countries, but our pediatrician said that the vaccines throughout Europe especially should be quite standard compared to the US vaccines, and perhaps even better since they often combine multiple vaccines into one, which diminishes the number of pokes your little one has to endure. Obviously, talk with your doctors on this one, but basically what I am encouraging is to look into doing vaccines where you live if you can so you don’t have to rely on trips back to the US, don’t have to be late on vaccines, and can save some time on your next home assignment by taking care of this stuff on the field. Obviously your judgment on this issue is best for whether your medical system is trust worthy enough.

International SOS- Our organization provides this medical/evacuation insurance for all of its staff members. My team has used its service many times in the past few years. Whether it be just to ask medical advice, have over the phone medical consultations, to find reputable doctors or hospitals in your places of residence, have them be mediators as your are undergoing a medical procedure, or even to provide evacuation for a medical emergency, this company is skilled at handling medical as well as political emergencies in foreign countries. I am not exactly sure what the yearly fee is, but it might be worth looking into if you feel like you have particular need for such services and don’t already have it.

American Academy of Pediatrics- The AAP is probably pretty well known by most of us as it is referenced in so many books and online articles on child health and development related issues. Whether or not you agree 100% with them on everything (I have heard plenty of friends who have differing views on vaccines and parenting and such), it has some great resources. They have lots of interesting articles on developmental stages and various special needs.

Ok, I have a few more, but the kiddos just got up from their nap and it’s time for me to post what I have!

Gifts: Thinking Outside of the Box

Babushka Dolls, Riga, Latvia, Baltic States, Europe by Yadid Levy

We are getting ready for a trip back to the US in a couple of months, and are in the process of thinking of gifts to bring back for friends, family, supporters. I love giving gifts, but we’ve run into the problem where the variety of souvenirs available to us is limited, and where we’ve already given everyone back “home” the traditional gifts that we think would be most enjoyed. We’ve started thinking outside of the box to find fun, inexpensive gifts that people might enjoy. Here are some not-so-traditional souvenirs that we’ve come up with:

-Old used books with cool covers. They make a good mantle piece and are inexpensive, though are unfortunately a bit on the heavy side.

-Newspapers and magazines. I especially like the idea of bringing back magazines for people similar to the ones that they would read in English. I would love to receive a parenting or home decorating magazine in a language/culture that I am unfamiliar with!

-A family photo at a significant monument or framed by the unique scenery in which you live.

-A photo capturing natural or cultural beauty unique to where you live.

-A church bulletin

-A small cookbook with pictures of traditional dishes

-Interesting foods that you can’t get in the US (ex: caviar chips, fish-jerky…)

split-pants3-Traditional clothing. I love how there is often beautiful clothing unique to each culture! My personal favorite on the more humorous side of this category was receiving a pair of “split-pants” from China for my baby girl. For those who are unfamiliar with split-pants, they are pants with a large slit in the rear so babies don’t have to wear diapers but can easily squat down to go the bathroom when needed without you having to rush to get their pants off in time.

-Children’s picture books. We have a beautiful picture Bible here that is perfect!

-CDs of traditional music or Christian music if you have recordings available in the native language.

-Bookmarks and postcards with Bible verses in the native language.

-Have a friend write out their testimony in their own language and provide and English translation. Include a picture of them as well. This could be especially encouraging to supporters if the testimony is related to the ministry that they are faithfully supporting.

-A recipe card with a traditional dish and the accompanying American measurements. Include a picture if you have the time.

-Cool empty jars or containers that might look decorative and add some nice foreign flare to an American home. You can also use them to protect fragile items that you are trying to transport back to US safely.

-A short video of your friends and those you minister to saying hello and perhaps sharing a brief  ministry testimony.

-Laminated pressed flowers native to your region.

And the list goes on…. feel free to share your ideas!

(art used with permission from

Keep in touch!


Like most of you I assume, probably the hardest part about living overseas for us has been being away from family and those whom we love, and especially the fact that our kids don’t get to see their extended family as much as we would like.  If it were up to us, we would love for our kids to see their grandparents and aunt and uncles every day!  Thankfully we live in this day and age where there are so many amazing resources available that make the world feel a bit smaller. I have often thought about God’s sovereign plan to have me born in this generation, as I seriously doubt that I would have had the ability to survive as a missionary back when the only means of communication was letters carried overseas by ship and where responses took months on end, if they ever arrived. Praise God for email, blogs, internet photo sites, etc. that make it much more possible for people like me to be missionaries!

I thought I’d take a little time to post some creative ideas for helping your kids build and maintain their special relationships with family and friends back “home,” as well provide some online resources for keeping in touch.

Ideas to help your kids keep in touch with loved ones:

-Send artwork and school projects.

-Make home videos to mail back, or if that is too time intensive, just send 30 second video clips via email of latest milestones and other fun moments.

-Give family members a blank photo album and periodically order them photos from an online photo processing company (like to fill their album.

-Go to or and create a nice coffee-table photo book, a calendar, a photo mug, or any of the various other photo gifts.

-Use the video chat option on Skype, Gmail Chat, or other various sites.

-Create a family blog ( or are easy to use).

-Have the kids put together a package of special things (candies, souvenirs, postcards…) from where you live to send back to grandparents, etc.

-phone calls!

-Have you kids’ grandparents read stories to them over the phone (obviously you both need to have the book).

-Have your kids fill out the Dr. Seuss “My Book About Me” and send it to their grandparents/family members as a gift.

Some online resources that are useful for keeping in touch:– online photo processing and photo projects– online photo processing and photo projects– create your own blog– create your own blog– create your own book, or even turn your blog into a book– free computer to computer calling, cheap computer to phone calling– get your own US telephone number and pay $25 per month for unlimited calls to and from the US (and free to many other countries as well)– cheap calling cards. You program certain phone numbers into your online profile, and then family and friends can call you “pin number free.” We did this so our family could call us whenever they wanted, free of charge on their part.

I know this is just scratching the surface of what is actually available out there. Feel free to suggest other resources that you have found helpful and fun!

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