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What would you love for me to blog about while I’m in South Africa?


On Wednesday of next week (January 14, 2015), Lisa-Jo, Jackson (Lisa-Jo’s 9-year-old son), Joy, and I will be boarding a plane for an 18-hour flight from DC to Johannesburg, South Africa.

{Yes, we opted for no layover to cut down on travel time… but that’s going to be one long, long flight!}

We’re getting really, really excited. Unlike my usual pack-the-same-thing-an-hour-before-I-leave routine (one of the benefits to having a really simple wardrobe and basically bringing the same things on every trip I take!), this time around, I actually wrote out a packing list earlier this week and am already starting to collect everything I need to take in a spot in my closet.

{By the way, thank you, thank you, for all the great ideas and information in the comments on this post. You all covered some things and shared some ideas I hadn’t thought of. Things like the fact that bathrooms wouldn’t have toilet paper… yikes, I’m clearly such a newbie international traveler! :)}

Ty Clark_HON_SouthAfrica-3119

We’re staying with Lisa-Jo’s parents and will be spending most of our days meeting the amazing local leaders who work with them as part of the Take Action Ministry and seeing the work they are doing in the communities there.

We’re excited to be dreaming and planning for how we can come alongside them long-term and partner with them in their much-needed ministry in South Africa (more on that in the future — I can’t wait to share more with you about the projects and opportunities we’re discussing right now!)


For those who have asked, we will be in Pretoria mostly in Hammanskraal. It’s supposed to be around 95 degrees there — which will quite the contrast from the cold we’ve been experiencing in TN. It’s hard to think about sun dresses and tank tops in this coat and glove weather!

I’m grateful to be traveling with Lisa-Jo and Jackson who were both born in South Africa and who have extensive international traveling experience (Lisa-Jo has lived all over the world and speaks 5 languages!) And I’ve heard that the hospitality in South Africa is amazing. So it sounds like we’ll be in great hands there!

There are definitely things I’m anxious about, but there’s so much peace in my heart about this trip. I’m already falling in love with the beautiful people of South Africa and have a feeling I’ll be leaving part of my heart there.

I also have a feeling that it will be an eye-opening, American-comfort-bubble-bursting, life-changing trip. I want to go with an open heart to whatever God wants to teach me and am praying that my heart would never be the same as a result of this trip.


As one of our goals from this trip is to introduce you to South Africa and the wonderful people there, we want to be your eyes and ears on the ground.

There will be SO many things I could blog about when I’m there, but I’d love to know what you’d most like to hear about. So help me out:

  • What questions do you have about South Africa?
  • What pictures would you like to most see me share from my South Africa trip?
  • What would you most like me to blog about while I’m there?
  • What questions do you have about this trip?

I can’t promise that I’ll be able to cover everything you suggest, but I will definitely do my best to capture as much as I can in pictures and blog posts so that you can feel like you’re joining me virtually in this adventure!

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  • Julie says:

    The need of the people in South Africa. And how to donate or ship items that will get to those with the most need. From reading your blog, we know that you are a minimalist (I don’t mean that in a bad way) you will feel like you have “tons” of items/stuff compared to others. Hope you have a safe and wonderful trip. You will be truly blessed by it.

  • Kristie says:

    The one thing that I most want you to blog about is Contentment. I spent some time in Zambia a few years ago. Even now, I still remember happy, but very poor, children being content to play soccer with a ball made from plastic bags. With what little they have(compared to our extravagant amount of things), the people are still content with the blessings God gives.

  • Dana says:

    Crystal, if you run into any South African homeschoolers, I would love to hear more about homeschooling in S.A. From what I have heard from customers, it sounds as if the government is restrictive. I wonder if over the last few years if it is getting any better and whether the culture in general looks down on homeschooling or not. Thanks! Have a safe and blessed trip!

  • Mary says:

    A comment on family life or structure

  • One of my friends from high school was from South Africa and actually lived there during the apartheid. I would love to hear more about the dynamics of live there now. She remembers a mostly violent country that her family had to flee from so I’d love to know more about how the country has changed/grown since then.

    I think it’s amazing that you get to go! I’ve only been out of the country twice and the itch to board a plane or boat with the destination unknown is calling me! I’m happy that you’re willing to allow me to live vicariously through you! 🙂 Happy and safe travels!

  • Nancy says:

    Food. Meal times. Food no matter how little or what kind always ties everyone together. I would like to see pictures and stories that happen during meal times. Think Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations.

  • Bobbie says:

    Your experiences with the local food and customs!

  • Katy says:

    I’d love to see pictures of the kids!

    And, blog post idea, I think you may come away very educated about what to pack in Operation Shoeboxes. That would be fun to share. For instance, I learned when I went on mission to Haiti that sending black flip flops in the shoeboxes isn’t a good idea because black shows so much dust and the Haitians I met were very meticulous about cleanliness of their shoes.

    God bless!! It’s going to be amazing.

  • Marie says:

    I just want to hear from you. What you are seeing, hearing, eating, experiencing! Meeting the people and the children will probably be the most impactful and will probably give you much to share like, “How they are content with what they have.” What we may see as little might be much to them. I’ll be praying for you. Makes my heart miss Romania.

  • Michaela says:

    I’d like to hear about the people. The People which I met in Kenia were amazing happy (even if tey’re very poor).
    Nearly 20 years ago I visited Kenia (some helping project’s, for ex. a school project, a medicine project). I was very impressed about the people, the wonderful landscape, the stars at night. It was hard for me to leave (with a feeling, I could only help a little – like a drop in an ocean) and go on with daily routine. This experience changed my life forever and I’m so thankful for it. Wish the same for you.

  • Peggy says:

    I would love to see what they eat and how it’s prepared!

  • Cheryl says:

    I would like you to blog about what we can do here that can help them over there. (Since I’m sure I’m not able to be going there in the future) Thanks!

  • Kim says:

    I’m so excited for you!! Just a tip regarding the long flight. Your feet may swell on that long of flight. Wear comfy, loose fitting shoes that you can slip off & on, & of course comfy clothes for the long flight. And get up & walk around once in awhile. Also, listen to the Holy Spirit when you’re there. As Mary said at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:5), “Whatever He says to you, do it.” A missionary once told me how often they avoided a bomb when obeying God when He said to take a different route or go another way. I’ll be praying for you!

  • STEPHANIE says:

    How long will you be going for? Have a wonderful trip. Can not wait to read about it. Praying for you and your kiddos while your gone

  • Christine G. says:

    I would love for you to blog about everyday life there. I would love to be able to read them to my girls, so they can learn about another culture, especially the kids.


  • Need A Nap2 says:

    A little comparison between the cities, Johannesburg is such a major city but we always think of Africa as being mostly mud huts. Are you going to any townships? How is life different there?

    Little things I sometimes forget to pack: q-tips, fingernail file, fingernail and toenail clippers, stuff to put hair up (barrettes, ponytail holders, etc), flashlight, bug spray/wipes (we found the wipes to be handy when visiting Uganda), glasses and glasses case, sunglasses and case.

    Assuming your husband is caring for your kids: I like to leave a menu for him so he’s not lost every day. 🙂 You might take a picture with each kid and leave it. A note card with a lipstick kiss might be nice too (I don’t usually wear lipstick but I know a lot of moms would do that when dropping their kids off at day care – put a kiss on their hand).

    My husband (when we were engaged) made a note for me to open every day when I was gone on a mission trip to Mexico. You could make note cards for your family with activity ideas for every day. 🙂

  • Rebekah says:

    I have traveled to many parts of the world through missions trips but south africa was the one trip that stole my heart. I fell in love with Africa. I love the people, the culture, the heart, and the landscape. God knew that one day, ten years later, I would marry a man originally from Africa. God is amazing.

    I would love to see pictures from your trip!! Enjoy your adventure and experiences in Africa!

  • Nora says:

    I think it would be amazing to spotlight certain women, and how they get by/cook during the day and how much time they spend doing things etc.

    Also, just having conversations and listening to what they want to share, and sharing that!

    • Nora says:

      Also, the joys and struggles of the mothers!

      My dear friend who has a non profit that does sustainable development programs in Africa and Asia says that it can be difficult for some of other cultures to open up to strangers sometimes, but id still love to be witness to those conversations!

      • Shannon says:

        You’re the backbone of Money Saving Mom. Let us know how they save money. What are their frugal tips for getting great deals, getting along with less, and making more out of what they have?

  • Suzanne H says:

    Anything and everything about the children – their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes but mainly what their impressions of Westerners are – are we just fat, selfish Americans to them or people who bring them hope or ??? I’m curious.

    Travel tip (you may already know). Take several empty water bottles through airport security in your carry on bag. You can fill up before you board at a water fountain or in a bathroom. You will need A LOT of water on an 18 hour flight (can you tell I get dehydrated easily and panic over lack of water?!?!). This should save you from buying tons of $10 bottles of water at the airport! Good luck.

  • T says:

    The food… what the kids have available to eat and what you will be eating. The games or activities the kids do, their homes, etc. Basically a day in the life of the kids. Pictures would be great if you can swing that too.
    Have a safe trip.

  • Kim says:

    I just want to wish you safe travels, have a wonderful journey and experience.

  • Jamie S. says:

    I would love to hear from her son that is traveling with you. His perspective would be awesome.

  • Staci says:

    Take pictures of the food, bug and animals, countryside, and any service you may perform for them.

  • Christine says:

    What it’s like being so far from your children. This will sound very judgemental but I cannot imagine traveling so far from mine. On the other hand, I’m at work all day and they are in school, and you probably can’t imagine that! How do they feel about this trip?

    • That’s a GREAT question… they are actually really excited about the week, not because I’m leaving, but because we’re all driving up to DC together and then Jesse and the kids are going to explore DC while I’m in ZA. And they are *absolutely stoked* about that as they’ve really been wanting to visit DC for the past few years. So it makes it a little easier leaving them knowing they are going to have a blast with Jesse all week (he’s a history buff and loves DC!)

  • Robin Y says:

    I really want to know about what everyday life is like for women and children there. I would like to see what a market, school, home, sanitation, etc. looks like.

  • Jenny says:

    I want to see how you handle your flight in a blog post- what you do (or what Lisa Jo does as she’s experienced to pass the time!).

    I want to see what you eat and drink. If there is any easy recipe using similar foods to what we have here it would be fun to see you do a recipe post or two (either there or when you get home remaking some of the meals as you share that part of your trip with your kids AND then with us!).

    I want to see where you sleep and shop– market photos– if you go to a market, those are always fun visually to see!

    Have fun!

  • I would love to hear about the cultural differences, especially if there are things you like better than the way we do it here.

  • Cathy F. says:

    I personally would love to learn more about the day to day lives of the mothers and their children. Their struggles, as well as their joys. I would also like to learn more about the orphanages there and any needs that they have.

  • Rose says:

    Our youngest son, Eric is currently on deployment to Liberia with the army.

  • Karen says:

    I have been to South Africa on a missions trip! It was a life changing experience! If you should have some extra time and find yourself near the village of Temba there is a neat orphanage called Bethesda Outreach. You’ll fall in love and be burdened for the needs that are so plentiful! Praying your trip goes well!!

  • shannon says:

    One of the things my kids just cannot grasp is how good we have it in our corner of the world! Any pictures and experiences that would help to convey to them how blessed we are with the basics (food, clothing, shelter, hygiene) and variety of our lifestyle.
    And the landscape beauty of Africa.

  • tonya says:

    I would recommend that you try to read “Serving With Eyes Wide Open” before, during and after the trip. Best book I’ve ever read on short term missions. Have a great trip. Be a receiver and observer more than a helper or doer. More uncomfortable but much more valuable.

    • I’m so humbled to have the opportunity to go as a receiver/observer — to listen, to ask questions, to see with my own eyes, and to learn all I can about South Africa and the beautiful people there. I feel like I’m going to learn and grow and *feel* so much. And it will be life-changing, but so, so good.

      Thanks so much for the book recommendation — I think I’m going to download it to read on the plane! We’re so excited about what is unfolding for a long-term relationship with this community and with the local leaders there on the ground. This first trip is just the beginning of much, much more to come. I can’t wait to share more in the months to come!

  • Ann Marie Knapp says:

    Blog about the kids. Do they have an AWANA program? Oh, bring a couple bags of hard candy like jolly rancher or something similar for the children. You will see a spirit of gratefulness in them unlike anything you’ll see here. Our church went to Africa and those sweet kids waited in line (orderly & polite) for a sweet treat and they were SOOOO happy! Have a safe trip, and I know God will bless your team’s efforts over there.

  • Karen says:

    I’m excited that you’re able to go and I’m praying you’ll have safe travels. Glad your family will enjoy DC.

    I’d like to know what we should pray for such as the local ministries needs or prayer requests.

    Personally, I’d read anything you’ll blog about. Write from your heart. Pictures say a 1,000 words.

    Look forward to your upcoming blog.

  • BeckyG says:

    If you happen to connect with a particular child while you are there, would you share some of that child’s life with us? I used to go on a ministry trip to NYC every summer & I found that connecting with the kids there really moved my heart for that city… and I know that it makes their lives & their struggles more real for me – and probably for others. 🙂

    I’d love to see pictures of the kids playing & having fun – and ESPECIALLY any peaceful nature photos… the moments when God displays His wonder & majesty in His creation… and if you happen to catch a sunrise or sunset – those are the best!! 🙂

    Excited for you… and looking forward to your sessions at the Hearts at Home conference in March!! 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    And please be safe!

  • Anna says:

    I’d love to hear about what the Christians and the church there are like and any lessons you learn from meeting and talking with them. I’d also love to hear about what things were different than you expected, any cultural differences or surprises.

  • Emi says:

    I would love to hear things from the point of view of the 10 year old on the trip.

  • Tori says:

    I just watched a TED talk on impoverished nations and growth of the world population. I would be interested to hear of your experience with mothers and there feelings of how many children they want to have, expected to have and actually do have. Also the education and birth control they have access too. Here it the link or google TED talks and religion and babies (although its not really about religion)

    Enjoy and remember every minute of your adventure! Looking forward to following you!

  • Vanessa says:

    I’m so happy to hear about your trip to South Africa. I was born & raised in Cape Town, SA and I’m so shocked to hear how foreigners perceive our country & it’s people to be. It is nothing like what is shown on tv. Firstly, we have many European ways (esp British) and also foods are European, Middle Eastern, Indian with a few South African foods thrown in. We don’t eat as much junk food in SA. The food/meals is much healthier & served in purer form. My American husband always raves about the food, when we visit my family in Cape Town. SA is one of the top 3 countries in the world with the safest tap (faucet) drinking water. Most South Africans are bilingual (English and Afrikaans – which is actually Dutch with a hint of German) or multilingual. You can find facts about South Africa here:

    Sounds to me like you’re going to a township, where life is definitely different from the city. While Johannesburg is a big, fun, interesting city, Cape Town is definitely the place to be. CT is the biggest tourist attraction in SA.

    Safe travels Crystal & enjoy your time in SA.

    • I’ve heard RAVE reviews of the food, the people, and the beauty of the country from people who have traveled there or live there. I’ve been told that once I go, I may want to move there. 🙂

  • Vickie says:

    I would love to hear about the weather. It always looks so hot and dusty there and if it is how do the people get any relief. I think we are a bit spoiled here with fans and air conditioning. Do they have them?

    • I’ve been told that there isn’t air conditioning in any of the places where we’ll be going/staying… so I’m prepared for hot, hot weather. I’ll let you know if that ends up being the case!

  • Mel H. says:

    Crystal I just want you to be you. Process it as you go and take it in. And let us know…

  • I’ll admit that I don’t know much about the culture and needs of other countries, and the reasons for them. I think it’s great to share about the gardens planted, water shed project, etc…..but I want to know “why” are those needed? What hinders communities in other countries from developing sustaining practices & development on their own? (ie. lack of knowledge, cultural barriers, lack of government or government oppression? etc.)

    Also, I want to “see” how God loves all the little children….all the children of the world. I’m praying for heartbreaking relationships….both good and life changing. Cause I know, for me, when my heart is broken….it leads to conviction, which then leads to action.

    Safe travels!

  • annie says:

    I thought it might be fun to read a blog post from a local mom’s perspective similar to what you post, ” A Peek into Our Week”, with lots of pictures.

  • Amber B says:

    I have heard from others who work missions in Africa, that they do not eat meat very often. ( only on special occasions) and since I make goat milk soaps, lotions, ect. I often get asked about Africans animal husbandry skills. The last woman I talked to who was in Nigeria said that they don’t have sufficient butchering/processing skills and NOBODY MILKED THE GOATS! Which I thought was missing out on a huge protein/calcium source for needy folks. I would love to know how they are making out in that aspect in the area you are involved in. One day I will go and teach,,,,when I am done homeschooling my 5 kids. God bless and praying for a safe journey.

    • Hannah says:

      Just a quick note: I grew up in Niger, which shares a border with Nigeria. You’re correct in noting that meat is reserved for special occasions. If you have only 10 goats, or even 20, you can’t just eat one whenever you feel like it. When they kill a goat, they eat pretty much the entire thing, including the head, which is reserved for special guests. My dad has eaten eyes and ears, and I have eaten stomach, lungs, intestines, etc. Skins are processed and made into rugs, or saved until there are enough to sew together to make a tent. If that is not efficient butchering, I don’t know what is. And they most certainly milk the goats. Maybe the lady you talked with just wasn’t around when it was being done.

      I love homemade goat’s milk soap. Is that what you’re hoping to teach someday? That would be a great project. I have a friend who was a missionary with us in Niger and she also makes goat’s milk soap and shea salves using shea butter purchased from contacts in Burkina Faso, which helps them economically. Helping Africans use their resources to sell to a wider market would be a fantastic thing for you to do.

  • Mary Ann T. says:

    I’m so looking forward to hearing about your visit to South Africa. As mentioned by someone else, a picture is worth a 1000 words. I think any impressions/revelations you experience I’d love to hear about/see. Think of us as your friends (which we are)…what would you want us to know, to see or experience. Because it’s important for you to absorb and experience so many things, I wouldn’t expect you to spend a lot of your time writing/blogging–just be present in every moment, open to whatever God wants for you and know that whatever you tell us about will be just right,
    Have a safe and joyful trip.

  • elizabeth says:

    May the Lord be with you. Shalom

  • Jen says:

    I am so interested in what day to day life looks like there. Also maybe a list of the top 10 moments/things that moved you emotionally throughout your trip.
    I would also like to know what we can do to help here and what the people are truly in need of. And what aspects of their lives we can learn from.
    Have a wonderful trip!!

  • Ellen says:

    While you are there, I would encourage you to blog about your experiences (conversations, meals, excursions, etc.). Those things are best captured in real-time. But I’d also encourage you to privately journal your thoughts and emotions so that you’re able to remember, process, and — eventually — blog about them.

    This trip will be so eye-opening for you. Soak in the cultural differences. (Here’s a blogging idea for you: try to figure out how much of the advice you give on MSM works cross-culturally!) Listen and observe. So many of the things we value as Americans (timeliness, efficiency, task orientation, etc.) aren’t highly valued elsewhere. Try to figure out what values you’re observing.

    Most of the jetlag and deeper learning will actually happen when you get home. The adrenaline and euphoria will wear off, you’ll be wrecked in a good way, and you’ll have to put the pieces back together. That’s when so much of your journey will begin. Focus on reconnecting with your family first, and then you can start to share your thoughts and feelings with us.

    Sorry if I’m too opinionated. I lived overseas for a while, and global thinking is something I’m passionate about.

    I guess in short, be a journalist while you’re there and a philosopher when you get back. 🙂

    Oh, and skip all the melatonin and Tylenol PM and all that stuff. Jetlag isn’t so horrible that you have to dope yourself up.

    • While I’ve only been short distances outside the U.S. in the past (to Belize, Mexico, the DR, etc.), those trips truly sparked a global vision in me. In talking with women of different cultures and leaders in those different cultures, I truly believe women around the world need the same message that I share with women in America — a message of hope and practical help to live for something more than just trying to survive each day.

      Since our trip to the DR in 2012 when this all sparked in me, we’ve been praying and dreaming and planning and talking to those who live/work/serve in other cultures and thinking and praying some more. I’ve not blogged on it yet because it’s not been time, but just know that there’s a global vision stirring in our hearts.

      We’re excited to slowly see pieces of that coming together and this is one of those pieces. God is opening up some pretty big doors right now and we’re humbled and thrilled to keep taking the next step and seeing where the future leads. In the mean time, I keep praying, learning, asking questions, and — most importantly — I want to go walk among other cultures, listen to them, learn from them, soak it in, and then seek God’s direction for what the next step is.

      • Ellen says:

        You’re absolutely right. Coupons and Swagbucks may not be very cross-cultural, but a life of intentionality and purpose is. (It is kind of fun though to think about what being a “money saving mom” looks like in another culture — there’s no such thing as shopping the sales when you have to barter or haggle!) I have been blessed through my African friends, and you will be too.

        Excited for you and excited to hear more as everything unfolds!

  • Debbie says:

    Would jut like to read about real life in South Africa. Don’t try to sugar coat things.

    I personally have been fortunate to have done a lot of international missions trips in my past. The best ones were those that I got to know the people. I was so humbled by the way that most don’t live my American life. The first day or two usually I had to deal with some culture shock and once I got over that…that is when I just fell in love with the people and learned so much!

  • Camilla says:


    My name is Camilla from Germany, I am a big fan of your page and if that what I will offer you is not appropriate, I am so sorry, please delete it in this case.

    Are you interested in visiting “Känguru Institute for the Disabled” in South Africa? Känguru aims at giving quality life to children with severe physical disabilities.

    I work for the provider of the home. It is a charity called IFB, a non-governmental, non-profit organization that stands out in Germany in the field of working with persons with disabilities for more than fifty years.

    Maybe you and your readers like to get a glimpse to this wonderful institution. If so, feel free to contact me, so I can make contact with my colleagues in the home. If not, just delete my comment and sorry again, if it is not appropriate.

    Have a wonderful trip and a save journey.

    • Thanks so much for the offer! That sounds like such a wonderful organization! It won’t work out this time, as our schedule is already filled up for each day of the trip, but I’d love to visit the Institute sometime — maybe on another trip in the future!

  • charity says:

    I would like to hear how the spiritual conditions are over there and something like a day in the life of an african child post.

  • brandi says:

    What is it really like? We see things on the news and read in books, but honestly, what does their life look like? Are they farmers, what is their education, churches etc like?

  • Katie says:

    I would love a photo summary of your day to day an also details of what I at home can do to help further your mission.
    Good . Luck and God bless,

  • Steve Kobrin says:

    Thank you so much for asking. I would like to know what makes them happy.

  • Cari says:

    What the life goals are for the people you are visiting. Does their economy allow them to better themselves? Are there opportunities for them? If not, what do they focus on? Just surviving as best they can? Just doing the best/finding good in/being content with what they have? Is there bitterness, hopelessness, envy, discontent? How do they cope with their situations and how different is it in how we cope with our situations?

    Have a wonderful trip!

  • Leanne says:

    I’m putting you on my prayer list. What an exciting adventure! God has good things in store for you and those you have the privilege to minister to.

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