Do you know any MKs in college? I'm thinking especially of those whose parents are still serving abroad. They're in a fairly unique position--and so are you. Here are 10 ways to encourage and bless MKs in college, and by extension, their families also who continue to serve the Lord abroad:
1. Discipleship. Live near the college? How about inviting them out for coffee every now and then and just talking about life. Invite them into your home for dinner. Just the simple act of sharing moments of life and being a stable friend is a huge encouragement. Maybe you don't live near the college, but near where they spend the winter break: no problem. try and connect once a week for the three weeks they're off. The impact might be greater than you think!
2. Adopt an MK for Holidays. Holidays can be very uncomfortable for MKs. Often times, they have nowhere to go, especially for shorter holidays, like Thanksgiving. Everybody is asking where everyone is spending the summer/winter/holiday... it can be hard to have nowhere to go. Maybe you know the missionary family, or maybe your son or daughter are friends are classmates/roommates with an MK. Ask them to join you for a holiday. They might already have somewhere to go... or you might catch the huge sigh of relief in their eyes when you ask.
3. Give Them Responsibilities In Church. Most MKs are no strangers to ministry. But many feel uncomfortable about the idea of serving in their church, because they still feel so out of place. Approach them and invite, nay, challenge them to get involved in a specific area or two. Make sure to give them some responsibilities for continued growth. This could be anything from helping with the children/youth, to greeting people as they come in, to folding bulletins, to being a part of the missions committee.
4. Offer Them A Job. MKs usually haven't had the chance to work on the mission field. Either visas don't permit, they pay is not worth the time (I was offered a job at somewhere around .50 an hour in high school), or its not an option for other reasons. Offer them a job mowing lawns, gardening, doing house chores, or if you own a business offer them a job doing small things around the shop. I worked for an elder in my church when I got back to the US who offered me a job mowing lawns at his rental properties. The responsibility was really good for me, and the money helped me get on my feet before school started.
5. Invite them on a family vacation. This takes #2 to a new level. It was so encouraging to go on a family vacation with family friends my first summer in school. With my family all abroad, they just adopted me as their fourth kid for the week and we road-tripped to New England!
6. An alternative to the above is to give them some airline miles. They can either fly to friends or maybe even home for a holiday. I was able to visit a good high school friend due to a close family friend giving me some airline miles one summer. What an enormous blessing came out of this gesture.
7. Store their stuff. One of the awkward MK moments is when you arrive on campus with more stuff than anyone else. In the summer there's nowhere to put it. The truth is that I couldn't leave stuff at home, or at my grandparents. Granted, some of it needs to be purged, but for MKs this can be a process; stuff can be what ties them to 'home'. If you have an empty closet, or a corner in your unfinished basement consider asking an MK if they need a place to store anything.
8. Send a care package. It doesn't have to be elaborate or fancy. Maybe it's just a box of homemade chocolate cookies, or a book you enjoyed. Maybe it's just a hand-written letter of encouragement (anyone would benefit from that!). When their parents live abroad, they're not expecting anything in the mail. So anything that shows you thought about them is a big deal!
9. Help orient them to taxes. I was up for two nights my first tax season trying to fill out a 1040, then switching to a 1040EZ. Then I panicked when my numbers said that needed to send in a thousand dollars!? No, more reading and googling got me the right numbers and I found out that the government actually owed me a hundred bucks. If you can help walk them through a 1040EZ (instead of just sending it to H&R block) it gives them a good intro into the world of taxes.
10. Listen to their stories. It important for any MK at any life stage in every geographical location. Ask, and listen. Then ask to see picture. They might get teary eyed looking at them. Their sense of home is lost (if it was ever there). That's OK. Just ask to see more.