How to Email A Missionary

You might say, "What gives? I already know how to email!" Well, the reality is that you probably do know how to email, you just do not understand the particulars of emailing to missionaries in remote areas that do not have all the means of email access others do in developed areas.

Listed below are a few points you need to remember when emailing to missionaries in the third world. In many cases, they do not have Internet access, just access to an email server for which they pay a per minute fee or even a satellite phone that could cost them up to $5.00 US per minute. Many of the ISPs in the third world do not have all the sophisticated email "filters" and blocking tools the rest of us enjoy and that makes it very difficult for the missionary in a third world setting to defend themselves from expensive SPAM. But you can help them...

Foreign modem connections can be very slow (Uganda is 9,600 kps compared to at least 56,000 kps in the USA and many making the switch to cable or DSL)

Most phone calls withinin the third world are billed by the minute. This means that even if you call your next door neighbor, you are charged by the minute for the call. This can really add up when a modem is used to connect to the Internet or an email service while downloading a very long email. The recepient is paying twice already. Once for the per minute phone connection and again for the per minute ISP/Email connection.


  • Resist the temptation to hit the forward button every time you get a cute email from a friend.
  • When including a missionary in a mass emailing, be sure to send BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) to everyone. This way, the only email addresses the missionary will have to pay to download is that of the sender and his own. It is disheartening to take almost three minutes to download an email only to find out that it consists of nearly two pages of the email addresses of others. (This actually happened to me in Uganda)
  • Do not use HTML or "Rich Text" format in a missionary email. Plain simple ASCII text - which is the universal computer format - can be easily received and read by everyone anywhere. While it looks pretty to have all the colors and graphics, it takes much longer to download and therefore costs more. With Outlook Express® there is an option to turn HTML (Rich Text) on and off. Turn it off for missionary mailing. It also has an option of "Reply in the same format in email was received." It is a good idea to keep this option set all the time for even some non-missionaries wish to avoid the expenses of downloading HTML email. For AOL® and most Internet Email (Yahoo®, Hotmail®, etc.)this option is exercised by simply typing plain text in your email or reply. That is, no bold face or colors, no enlarged text, no underline, no colored backgrounds, etc. When you include any of these attributes in your text, AOL® automatically converts it to HTML format.
  • For missionaries in sensitive areas you should be careful with any email you compose yourself or forward. Do not write about politics, political leaders, religious freedom or other such issues in the missionaries host country. Words to avoid include: church, missionary, converts, evangelism, Bible, believers, worship, evangelism, or the names of prominent Christian leaders and institutions. (Do not send church newsletters, bulletin, sermon tapes, or Christian publications snail mail either) But do write, just avoid including words and comments that could cause the missionary difficulty or even expulsions from the country. I have some missionary friends who have developed a list of "code words" that can be included in an email that mean nothing to outsiders, but convey a very specific meaning to the missionary.
  • When forwarding is necessary, clean up the email. This mean delete headers, footers, the email addresses of others and if the item has been forwarded several time already, you should delete all the >>>> that some email programs insert every time an item is forwarded. Then reformat the email so it is one neat little package that is just the heart of the matter. In the example below, the message on the right contains more actual message words than the one on the left, but since it is a "cleaned up" email, it takes up one-forth the space and only requires one-forth the download time.
    >>>>Subject: Poor forwarding
    >>>>Date: 01/01/01 10:50:00 CDT
    ----------------------- Headers -------------------------------- Return-Path: Received: from ( []) by (v78_r3.8) with ESMTP; Mon, 09 Jul 2001 10:23:17 -0400 Received: from ( [57.515.63.57]) by (v79.20) with ESMTP id MAILRELAYINGHR8-3748532605; Mon, 09 Jul 2001 10:23:05 -0400 Received: from John J Smith ([]) by (8.1550/8.11.5) with SMTP id f69EN4Y154394 for ; Mon, 9 Jul 2001 10:23:04 -0400 Reply-To: From: "John J Smith" To: "Mission" Subject: Request to meet with the Board Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2001 09:21:16 -0500 Message-ID: MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-3853-1" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit X-Priority: 3 (Normal) X-MSMail-Priority: Normal X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook IGO, Build 9.3.2346 (9.3.2511.4) Importance: Normal X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.58.4582.1860
    Instead, "clean it up" and send just the message of the email and make it look like this. That is, use the "delete" key and the "cut" feature to remove all but the heart of the message.
  • When responding, do not send the missionary their own email back to them. They have already paid to upload it and send it off. Don't make them have to pay again to download their own message. If you see the need to reference their email, simply say "In your email prayer letter of April 9..."
  • Graphics and photographs are a no no unless you have first emailed and asked permission to send them. For example, a photograph that takes 15 minutes to download in the third world could cost the missionary almost $8.00 US ($75.00 if by satellite phone). I am sure the missionary is thrilled you have a new kitten, but they are probably not really ready to pay $8.00 (or worse yet, $75.00) for her picture. Send it regular mail!
  • Actually, you should not send anything that has to be attached in a "download" file. Whatever you send needs to travel in the body of the email unless you have cleared it in advance with the missionary.
  • Don't share missionary email addresses with others unless they understand "How to Email a Missionary"

A friend sent these to me as his New Year's resolution and I thought they were so great, I am posting them here.

  • I will maintain my anti-virus programs up to date and take all precautions to preclude sending viruses to you.
  • I will not publicize your Email address to others. I will use the Bcc line for addresses when there is more than one addressee. Except for small groups that know each other.
  • I will clean up anything I forward so that other people’s addresses, previous subject lines, etc will be deleted. I will also delete all the (thingees >>>) before I forward anything.
  • I will forward attachments from the base document so that you do not have to open several different Emails to get to the message.
  • I will not ask you to forward or send Email to other people. I will delete any part of a message that requires or solicits any action on your part. I will assume that you can make up your on mind about information you receive.
  • I know that many are being overloaded with Email and I will try to avoid forwarding mail that has been through the cycle before.
  • I will try to check for hoaxes and will advise the sender if something I receive is a hoax. (I have learned that in some area -- for example political subjects -- Snopes is not free from bias and that is sometimes reflected in their evaluation)
  • I will understand if you would rather not receive any Email from me that is not personal. So let me know.
  • I ask that you consider the above for me.