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Missionary Packing 101

By the time we return to our mission field, we will have been in the USA for two years.  It is easy to collect STUFF....and then have to figure out a way to get it back to Africa.  I have tried to not buy more than what was on our list of things we really need...a list we made while still there.  Otherwise I get overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF in the stores and am tempted to buy far more than I need or even really want.  However, there are things that we either can't get there or we can't find a good quality version of it.

I found out that a container will be shipped in May so I need to get anything we are shipping by container to them by the beginning of May.  That works perfectly for us because we go to Daniel's graduation on May 7, then move back to PA on May 16, and then John leaves for England on May 19.  So getting the boxes to the shipping place by May 1st gives me a good, do-able deadline.

We use to take everything in boxes with us on the plane and pay excess baggage.  But now it is increasingly difficult to do that.  So this time we're shipping stuff and trying to stick to the allowed number of pieces of luggage we are allowed to travel with.

Now, all you seasoned missionaries already know this, but if you're getting ready to pack up for the first time, or if you think missionary packing is easy, this blog will show you how complicated it can be.  If you've ever seen suitcases being literally thrown around by luggage handlers, squeezed on conveyor belts, and otherwise mistreated, you'll know that luggage needs to be carefully packed.  Even though this luggage is going to be on a container on a freighter, one has to consider the possibilities of some pretty rough handling on the trip, not the least of which is the trip on the back of a truck across West Africa to its final destination!

So, first off, you must get some very sturdy cardboard boxes or Action Packers....great plastic boxes with lockable lids.  Not only are these good to pack in, but they also are great for storage on the other side where termites will eat everything and anything made of cardboard, paper, or wood.  It also helps to lay out your stuff that needs to be packed so that you can see what item will fit in that odd-shaped empty spot that needs to be filled.

Everything that could possibly break needs to be wrapped in something soft.  
I also like to line the box with something large like a sheet or table cloth.  That just gives it a little extra padding.

To optimize space, put littler things inside bigger things.  These food storage containers came in graduated sizes, but smaller things can go in the littlest container.  Even things inside containers need to be wrapped in something soft. 

I put things like spices in a ziploc bag before packing it.  That way, if it DOES break, the bag will contain the spillage.  And NEVER EVER pack things like soap anywhere near things like pudding mix.  Unless you like pudding that tastes like soap. I don't take toiletries any more because all of that can be purchased there now....but just in case you do.....

When packing glass items, stuff the inside of the cups or glasses AND wrap the outside.  With plates, put a layer of something soft between each plate. 

Cut all the tags off clothes and, if possible, take items out of cardboard boxes.  You'd be surprised at how much extra weight all that adds to your box.

As you pack, keep a list of what goes in each box.  If a box doesn't turn up, you'll know what you lost.  Also, those packing the container need to know what you are shipping and if any of it needs special handling.  For example, we used to ship batteries and acid for our solar system.

Packing time is also a great time to get rid of stuff that you aren't going to take with you and that you don't want to store.  After all, it will probably be out of style four years from now! So keep a box or bag aside for stuff to be donated to the thrift store.

Finally, clearly label the boxes.  Otherwise, it may end up on the other side of the world somewhere!  This is my days work for Saturday....two action packers and three boxes of books and DVDs.  Oh, and speaking of books....smaller boxes are better or nobody can lift them!  The weight adds up quickly.


If the container comes up from Benin you can count on a lot of rough handling. The road is awful and we saw how those trucks with containers were traveling! FAST! On dirt, sandy roads, with lots of pot holes! So pack it really well!
Hannatu said…
Linda, I kept your post about the Benin roads in mind as I packed! :) What a mess.
podso said…
It hardly seems possible that you are packing to go back already. Good packing tutorial!
Oh .. I can't wait to read your posts when you go back home. I miss them. :-) I'm glad you were able to spend time with your family though.

I would have loved to see your list of what you thought most important to take back with you. :-)

I'd also love a post contrasting a US home with a missionaries home in order to help those of us American's who want to downscale more.

I don't want much .. do I!?!?! :-)
Dusty Penguin said…
I miss packing and helping others pack for Africa:) You can always donate the clothes to your sister:) Or your mother:)

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