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A secret I’ve been keeping for a few months…

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You know that feeling you get when you know a secret that almost no one else knows? You go through your day and you keep feeling the corner of your mouth turn up into a smile. Because you know a really, really exciting secret and you can barely hold it in.

That’s how I’ve felt the last few months. I’ve had a secret I’ve been keeping and my heart’s been about ready to burst — because I’m excited and humbled and just plain in awe of how God orchestrates things.

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First, let give you a little background…

In 2013, my friend, Lisa-Jo Baker, had asked me to read a pre-release copy of her new book, Surprised By MotherhoodI loved it so very much that I wrote her and asked her how I could help promote it for her.

Well, the email she sent back just blew me away. She shared with me about this huge vision she has to impact the culture in South Africa — where she grew up, where three of her siblings are adopted from, and where her parents still live and minister.

As she shared about this massive dream she had to encourage women around the globe to come together to change a community of kids in South Africa, I knew I had to tell my readers about it.

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Lisa-Jo didn’t know I was going to blog about it. We hadn’t talked ahead of time about the best strategy or post time or anything like that.

She just put her post up, I followed up with a post encouraging you all to Fall in Love With the World Next Door, and then dozens upon dozens of our readers and blog friends shared those posts with their friends.

And then we were absolutely humbled and stunned and overwhelmed by the donations and emails that came in — from all over the world. Hundreds of you gave.

It was one of the most beautiful Valentine’s Days I’ve ever celebrated. Because of your giving hearts, a community center, veggie garden, and playground was funded for the Maubane community in South Africa.

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It still gives me goosebumps to think about.

But I had this nagging feeling that this wasn’t the end of the road for my involvement in South Africa. My heart kept feeling a pull that we were supposed to do something more.

I didn’t know what that more looked like, but I just felt like we weren’t done there yet. Lisa-Jo felt the same way.

So the past six months or so, Lisa-Jo and I have been emailing about what this looks like. We’ve been praying. And we’ve been talking with the folks from Help One Now about how we can partner with Take Action (the ministry on the ground in South Africa) to impact this beautiful community and country.

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And that leads me to the secret I’ve been keep for oh-so-many weeks now. Y’all: In 10 days from now, I’m GOING TO SOUTH AFRICA with Lisa-Jo!!!!

Yes, me. The girl who lived in Kansas all her life until this past year. The girl who is afraid of meeting new people. The girl who doesn’t like to go outside her comfort zone. The girl who doesn’t like unknowns. The girl who has never been on an airplane for longer than 5 hours.

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I’ll readily admit that there are many things about this trip that are scary to me. I have no idea what it will be like to be on a plane for 18 hours. I have no idea how my body will react to jet lag. And I’ve been told that our agenda once we get there will be packed from sun up to sun down every day so that we can learn and soak up as much as possible.

There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of things I could (and do!) feel anxious about. But I have this deep down peace in my heart that this is the next step in my journey. That I’m not just supposed to send money or encouragement from far away. That I’m supposed to step outside my comfort zone and GO.

To meet the local leaders and hear from them personally. To see the needs with my own eyes. To experience what life is like in South Africa. To better understand the struggles of this community. To bring encouragement and hope to those who are working tirelessly to make an impact.

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And so I’m going. And I’m going to be bringing you all along with me through my blog.

As Lisa-Jo wrote so beautifully in her post:

So we’re going. And we’re paying our own way. And we just want to take you in our virtual suitcases and let you see for yourselves what happens when between the loads of laundry and dishes and commuting and deadlines a community takes the time to love on their sisters who are also juggling laundry and homework and kids and dishes.

It won’t be a fundraising trip, it will be a FALL IN LOVE TRIP so you can see in person all that your love and prayers and donations and enthusiasm and encouragement have built.

It won’t be a fundraising trip, it will be a COME AND CELEBRATE WHAT WE DID TOGETHER trip as we enter this New Year reminding each other again that there is absolutely no such thing as “just” a mom – because “just” a mom couldn’t possibly have raised over $50,000 together for vulnerable kids in South Africa. And YOU GUYS DID THAT!

It won’t be a fundraising trip, it will be a MEET THE MOMS AND KIDS THAT ARE JUST LIKE YOU trip as we share photos and video of the community you are now connected to – virtual next door neighbors.

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We want you to come along with us as we share pictures, stories, and details on life in South Africa. We hope that you’ll not only be encouraged to see what your generosity has done for this community, but it’s our heart’s desire that you’ll prayerfully consider standing with us long-term to make a difference in this community (after we get back home and have time to unpack and process, we’ll be sharing more about what that looks like).

For now, won’t you come along and join us? To follow along:

I can’t WAIT to share this adventure with you all! {And if you have any advice for a newbie international traveller, I’m all ears. Please, no horror stories, though! But I welcome any and all tips for how to survive long plane rides and jet lag. And if you’re a reader in South Africa, I’d especially love to hear any tips or suggestions you have for me!}

photos used with permission from Ty Clark and Scott Wade

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135 Comments

  • Emily says:

    What an exciting opportunity! My cousin just got back from a mission trip in Africa and it was life changing. Her eyes sparkled as she talked of the country and the beautiful people. It will be fun to follow your journey!

    I’m sure the wonder of the trip will outweigh any nervousness 🙂

  • Susan in St. Louis says:

    So exciting! 🙂 My first international trip was to Africa (Liberia, actually) when I was 14, and I fell in love. The people, the land…there is just something about it. Don’t worry too much about the jet-lag. Stay hydrated, sleep when you can, and you’ll be fine within a day or two. And traveling with a friend will help the air time pass so much more quickly.

    Blessings to you as you go! Can’t wait to hear updates!

  • leah says:

    My husband and did SA for our honeymoon/mission trip 5 years ago and sometimes we just miss it so much. You will love it. I could just gush over right now thinking of all the things and its just beautiful beyond words. Praying for you.

  • Ginger says:

    Happy Snoopy dance!!!! And lots of prayers! 🙂

  • Shona Bracco says:

    Force yourself to get on their time zone as soon as you arrive. Take Tylenol PM to sleep on plane. Lots of hand gel, and meds.

  • Amanda Peterson says:

    I’ve heard that drinking lots of water helps with jet lag.

  • Jen Morris says:

    Holy moly! God bless you and keep you safe. May you make a difference in their world. I’m very excited for this opportunity for you. I keep having old Audio Adrenaline songs running through my head… 🙂

  • Laura Murfin says:

    I was in South Africa with Mercy Ships. It is a beautiful country.

    Say, “buy a donkey,” (that’s how it sounded to me). It means thank you in Afrikaans.

    Never turn down an invite to a braai…that’s like a picnic where they grill.

    You are so lucky to be going this time of year since it will be summer. I wish I could go.

    • Rosie says:

      Agree on the phrase. Even “donkey” would work if less formal. If using the full phrase, don’t separate the words, and remember that the ‘a’ does not says its name. 🙂 My husband laughed at me when I told him what it sounded like to my American ears, but it really is so true.

      • Karin says:

        South African here: yes, that is correct if you are speaking to an Afrikaans language speaker: “Baie Dankie” – it sounds like “Buy a Donkey” to the English ear 🙂

        In Hammanskraal you will likely encounter some Afrikaans speakers, although most of the locals would likely be Zulu or Xhosa speakers. Everyone here understands and speaks English though 🙂

        • Laura Murfin says:

          It was so much fun in S.A.

          As an American, I always find the British English accent (which includes S.A. and even Australia) to sound so sophisticated and intelligent.

          While in S.A., the people there would ask me to talk about anything so they could hear my American accent which they thought sounded so cool.

  • Shelly says:

    Okay please tell me I’m not the only one who thought Crystal’s secret was adopting an African child. 🙂

  • Mackenzie says:

    Yay, how exciting for you Crystal! I can’t wait to read all about the trip 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    That’s so exciting! Can’t wait to hear about how your trip goes!
    And I wouldn’t worry too much about the jet lag – the combination of being busy and on such a high about being there the first couple days will take care of that for you 🙂 Good luck and Godspeed!

  • Need A Nap2 says:

    Awesome! Try to sleep on the plane (try Tylenol PM at home (previous commenter) before trying on the plane). Walk a lot at the airport before boarding. Get up and move around the plane some. Make sure you have necessities and extra set of clothes in carry-on b/c luggage can get lost. Take empty water bottle thru security then fill at water fountain and ask flight attendant to fill for you. I’m sure I’ll think of more later. Try at your eye doctor’s office to get sample bottles of contact solution.

  • Kim says:

    How exciting. I love South Africa, it’s my home – moved to the states with my husband when we were in our thirties. SA holds a very special place in our hearts. You will love it!!! Where in SA are you going?

    • We’re spending most of our time in Pretoria mostly in Hammanskraal.

      • kim says:

        Beautiful area – it would be amazing if you could experience some of the African coast! Enjoy your time, the people, the food (so good!!). Praying for safe travels.

      • Becky says:

        I’m so glad I found this pin on pinterest and opened it! I spent a year in hammanskraal and I just read that is exactly where you are going!! So awesome you are going to help there to help the children of SA!! Where are you staying? I can’t wait to read all about your trip!
        My husband and our 3 kids were just there last yeat visiting the orphanage where I stayed for a year. Our kids have been begging to go back ever since.
        The flight is long but all worth it in the end. South Africa is amazing and you will love every bit of it. God uses people to help change others lives for His kingdom and you get to be part of that!! Have a great trip and God Bless!
        South Africa will definitely change your life and not a day goes by I don’t wish I was there!
        In His service,
        Becky

        • Jonna says:

          Becky,
          Crystal might even get to see where you stayed! Darin and I are a part of Take Action and will be along for the ride and hope to stop in at Tshepo ya Bana for a bit and maybe see some animals along the way!

          • Becky says:

            Jonna, I’m just so amazed that you answered me back on here and that we know each other from all the way across the world!!! What are the chances?? Lol
            How have you all been?? We think and pray for you so often. Hope all is well at TYB! Give all the kids our love:) so exciting you get to take part in the what Crystal is doing….what a small world!!
            Blessings to each of you this new year!!

  • Sara Furlong says:

    I am SO happy you’re doing this! I’ve had doing something like this in the back of mind for quite a while and can’t wait to hear all about your trip!!!

  • Jessica says:

    Get a pre-travel health exam 4-6 weeks before you go. You may need vaccinations like hepatitis A or anti-malarial drugs that you can get into your system before you depart.

  • Maria says:

    What an amazing opportunity for you!! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. God bless you.

  • Cheryl says:

    Yeah! So thrilled for you! God will do unimaginably great things in your heart!

    My best jet lag advice: eat when “they” (wherever you are) say eat, and sleep when they say sleep. Don’t give in to the temptations to eat and sleep on your “home” timezone except for very small snacks and naps to get you through. You’ll do great!

  • Liz Bernard says:

    I’ve only ever been outside of the States once in my life but I learned a few things:
    * Overpack any meds you take regularly *and* the ones you take only as needed. I learned the hard way that dosages and prices are so wildly different outside of the US, if you can even find the meds at all. Those UrgentRx powdered meds have been a lifesaver for me lately (and they seriously work!). Best part is they pack flat, don’t take up much room (or weight in your suitcase!) and the TSA doesn’t restrict them like they do liquid meds.
    * Drink plenty of water during the flight. It usually helps with the swelling I get after sitting too long.
    * Lastly: Don’t forget to enjoy the trip. 🙂

  • Sandra l. says:

    Pack your clothing using large ziplock type bags. Then if they search your luggage, they will usually just pull out bags and not empty them. then its easier to repack. I don’t know if its true but a family member swears that taking garlic capsules daily before he goes on overseas trips helps him to not have stomach issues while there. Hope your trip goes smoothly!!

  • Donna S says:

    I’m so excited for you Crystal!

    What an amazing opportunity, you won’t regret it for a minute. One of our (YWAM-Ireland’s) Outreach teams is currently in South Africa, they will be there for 2 months. It’s a beautiful country with so many beautiful people. I can’t wait to follow your journey! We will be praying for you and Lisa-Jo.

  • jane fields says:

    Pack an extra set of undies and a clean T-shirt In your carry on. Just in case your suitcase gets delayed.
    Check with your cc. Company to see if they charge interest on foreign transactions. Be sure to advise cc. Company that you are travelling.
    Wear your ID passport and some cash around your neck in a travel purse.
    Be aware at all times of your stuff!
    Have a blessed time!

  • Allyson H. says:

    Remember that there might be some “culture shock” when you come back to the States. A few days after coming back home, you might feel a rush of emotions both good and bad, make sure to keep in contact with Lisa-Jo and work through what you experienced together. Every time I come back from a mission trip, I experience it. Sitting down with my mom, who goes on the trips with me, and talking about all our experience together helps a lot. There are going to be a lot of things that you experience that you will not be able to express into words to those around you, which can be frustrating. Praying and spending time with our Heavenly Father is the best way to unburden your heart. I am so excited for everything that God has in store for you on this trip. {Drink lots of water, and journal as much as you can each night so you don’t forget the little things. Months from now, go back and read those notes. It will be a breath of fresh air after months of being away.}

  • Jayme says:

    You are tugging at my heart strings! I taught at a Christian school in Ghana for two weeks. I can’t wait to go back! Pack clothes that you can just donate to them when you leave. Then you have room in your suitcase for “treasures” you want to bring home. Pack plenty of Kleenex. WHEN there is a bathroom, there is seldom tissue. We gave out a lot of granola bars and hard candy. God bless your time there! “Go into all the nations and preach the Gospel!”

  • Christa says:

    That’s awesome! I’ve been to Guyana, South America twice. My husband and I are taking another team this summer from the church we pastor. It’s a amazing experience! Lots of snacks and staying hydrated were #1. In Guyana we ate a lot of fruit, so I made sure to eat plenty of it about a month before. They eat so different so preparing your belly before you go. And bringing necessary meds if needed:)

  • Oh I am SOOOO excited about this for you, Crystal!!! I signed up for updates and will be following closely along (and praying!!)! Yay, God!

  • Kate says:

    Bring a sling backpack to always have your essentials with you. Bring little packages of tissues – to use as Toliet Paper. And little bottles of hand sanitizer. (they are sometimes confiscated by airport security, so pack several in different places) Bring a little flashlight. Journal & Pen. Bring a travel size Bible – or several – they are often on sale for $5 at Family Christian. And be willing to give it away. And a backup power-supply is probably a good idea, too. Be prepared for God to change your life forever as you see a bigger glimpse of the world, the global church, and God at work. Enjoy your awesome opportunity!

  • Molly says:

    Jet lag shmet lag! You won’t even know you left your old time zone because of how incredible the experience will be! Get ready for your world to be rocked in the absolute best way possible. And prepare to never ever be the same again… in the best way possible!

    My trip to Romania in 2010 has left me forever changed. God did a mighty work in me over those nine days, and I know he will do one in you as you take this step and GO!

  • Megan says:

    What a terrific opportunity, Crystal! I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time – can’t wait to follow your experiences! I teach African politics and have spent a lot of time in East Africa, including leading a 4-month long study-abroad trip to Tanzania, though I’ve only visited SA once, for a week. One of the things I tell students when I take them to Tanzania is to be wary of the “heart for Africa” trope that can cast Africans as one-dimensional and in desperate need of our (meaning westerners’) help. I encourage them to look at the range of lifestyles Tanzanians lead (just as in South Africa there are many rich and middle-class Tanzanians) and to look at the ways in which Tanzanian-led efforts in business, health, education, and so on, are driving the country’s development. This is not to say that we ignore poverty, but rather that I actively seek to help them understand that there is not a “single story” that describes Tanzanians’ experiences (if you’ve not seen this Ted Talk I highly recommend watching it before you go: http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en). This helps free the students up to build authentic relationships with people they meet and to resist the idea that they are there to “help” or “save,” but are rather there to learn (I think you’re doing a great job of avoiding this trope in the way you’ve framed your trip).

    On a more practical note, the best travel tip I have when travelling in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa is to carry a mini-bottle of hand sanitizer and a packet of tissues with you at all times. You’ll likely encounter bathrooms that lack running water or tissue, so it’s best to be ready. Thus prepared, and properly vaccinated, you should feel free to taste whatever delicious foods (including street foods) you encounter! Have a wonderful trip!!

  • J. S. says:

    I fly to Japan 4 or 5 times a year and it’s an 18-hour flight. Don’t rely on the flight attendants to refill your water bottle since they have a limited supply of water and are busy enough. You either need to take 3 large (not 16.9 oz, but larger) empty water bottles with you and fill them after security or just go ahead and give yourself permission to buy 3. And then drink ALL of the water. Don’t drink any caffeine or alcohol. While you are on the plane, take off your shoes and put on slippers for comfort. The slippers need to have rubber bottoms so that you can easily get up to go to the bathroom (which frequently have wet floors so ALWAYS make sure to wear footwear and NOT just socks like some passengers do!) and/or to just walk the aisles to prevent any blood clots. The cheapest way to get local currency is from an ATM at your final airport. Log on right now to make sure you have your seat. If the airplane is a 3-5-3 seating arrangement, you should take a window and your friend should take an aisle and leave the middle empty. If someone gets assigned the middle seat, one of you can sit in the middle (if you want) and let the stranger have the window or aisle (trust me, the stranger will be thrilled with an aisle or window) but you might actually have no one between you. (Use http://www.seatguru.com to figure out the best seats to select, even in coach class. Although you are only a few days away from your flight, there still might be time to get “good” seats although I do this as soon as I buy the ticket.) Do online check-in 24 hours prior to your first flight as added insurance that you will actually get seat assignments. Take a photo of your passport’s info page and email it to yourself so if it gets lost, you have all of the info that the Consulate/State Department needs to quickly replace it. ENJOY!!

  • Jenny says:

    Frequent international traveler here–
    1) Don’t be afraid to get up frequently and walk back to the galley of the plane to get drinks (ginger ale, seltzer, etc) during the flight, If you’re awake, stay hydrated.
    2) Immediately switch to the time zone when you land– try not to take a nap, just plan to not accomplish much the first day and go to bed early the first night.
    3) Don’t eat raw vegetable salads in Africa. Also, consider taking something like immodium daily, whether you think you need it or not until you’re sure you adjusted.
    4) Enjoy and embrace your journey! I think you’re going to love all that quiet down time on the plane (I’d be interested to see how you handle it in a single blog post about how you spent your long plane ride to Africa!).

    Best of luck– this is very exciting news!
    Jenny

    • kim says:

      When in Pretoria and the big city salads will be fine, it is when you go to the rural part that you need to be careful.

      • Karin says:

        South African here – as long as you buy the salad or veggies in a supermarket or restaurant (these can be found everywhere) you will be fine (and only drink bottled water). South Africa is a country with a split personality: it is both very well developed / modernised with a paralel world of poverty & need in the wider population. You find sprawling cities and suburbia right next to kilometers of shanty towns. We have a lot of work to do here, thats for sure.

  • Deborah Auen says:

    I my goodness! A gal after my own

  • Deborah Auen says:

    O my goodness! A gal after my own

  • Jen says:

    I’m so happy for you, Crystal!!! I just know this is going to be a wonderful experience for you and I cannot wait to hear all about it! Best of luck and safe travels 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    I’ve been on 2 international missions trips that involved lots of hours travelling, busy schedules, and a healthy dose of jet lag. My advice is to sleep on the plane as much as possible, even if it’s out of routine and somewhat medicated! Your body will thank you later!
    Also, my prayers will be with you! This trip will not leave you unchanged! Praise the Lord, I am excited to get to follow along!

    just a mom 😉

  • Shannon says:

    Make sure to pack feminine supplies even if it isn’t “your time”. Traveling can cause your body to do unusual things and luxuries like that aren’t found easily overseas. Take lots of travel size hand sanitizer bottles. I always get the Bath & Body Works ones and end up giving them away. The ladies love them. Take TP in your backpack everywhere you go! Chapstick too… The long plane ride and different climate can make your lips chapped. Our doctor always prescribes a medicine for us to start taking the day we leave for overseas so we don’t get the stomach issues. We have never been sick!

    Have fun and take lots of pictures!!

  • I have done several missions trips to Kenya and South Africa, to several orphanages and HIV clinics. South Africa is amazing! I am so excited for you! I would recommend you listen to Miriam Makeba before you go, and check out the book, “The Pick Up” by Nadine Gordimer. I am so excited for you!

  • Lisa says:

    Crystal, prepare for your heart to be full. Also prepare for God to nudge you toward adopting one of those beautiful children.

  • E Frank says:

    So excited this opportunity came up for you!! I hope to do this myself in a few years, can’t wait to see how your trip goes and for now live vicariously through you 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    Wow- what an amazing, humbling experience!
    I studied in South Africa in college, and my wise professor told us that you will leave Africa so confused because it just shatters every thought and assumption you ever had. About justice, identity, God, everything. But it does it in the best way.
    My time there had a profound impact on the direction of my life, and I’m so happy for all the goodness that will come out of this trip.
    Blessings,
    Jessica

  • Debbie says:

    Follow the Jet-Lag Diet. I flew to Australia—–it worked! Didn’t follow it before flying home and was a mess for days!

    Happy travels!

  • Traci says:

    You will love it!!! I we t to romania twice After only having been on a plane once
    For an hour! You will be fine….. Fall in love ….. And want to go back!! Don’t drink the water and pack lightly! We took it all rolled in a backpack and left all our clothes there wgen we came home since they needed them

  • KJ says:

    Go with your testimony prepared. Take lots of tracts and be prepared to share the hope that is within you.
    You may be the only light they see, glorify God in your actions and words and don’t miss an opportunity to share the gospel.

  • Jennifer says:

    Good for you Crystal! I’m so inspired by you and love that even after achieving so much your heart is still focused on challenging yourself, growing and giving back. Can’t wait to read about your experience 🙂

  • Oh, Crystal, I am SO excited to read about your journey! As my Christmas gift, my husband has arranged for us to take a two-week mission trip to Africa. (Still deciding between Kenya and Uganda.) I am thrilled and terrified. I can’t wait to hear your stories! Your heart is where mine is right now, and I am so excited.

  • Jennifer says:

    Have a marvelous time! Can’t wait to read your observations and thoughts. Good luck and God bless you and Lisa-Jo on your journey 🙂

  • Marianne says:

    Do *not* take Tylenol PM. There are tons of OTC sleep aids available with the same sleep-inducing ingredient, so there’s no reason to risk your liver. You’ll feel silly, but an eye mask and a neck pillow are invaluable if you want to sleep on the plane. I bought a blow-up neck pillow somewhere, so it doesn’t even take up much room in my carry on. I’ve also seen passengers board with it already hanging around their neck.

    Honestly, though, you may not even need it. Once you get there and are busy all the time you’ll fall into the rhythm of the day. The harder part for me is always adjusting back when I get home.

    Be sure to take snacks for the plane (airline meals live down to everything you’ve heard), and you might enjoy having some of your own food at your destination as well.

  • Karin says:

    This is so cool! I am a regular reader of your blog and a South African! Enjoy your time here in our beautiful country, I look forward to seeing this place through your eyes 🙂

  • Wow – what an amazing adventure! May God bless you for your heart to serve His precious ones and bless you with a life-changing trip!

    I just got back from a mission trip to Thailand, so I can definitely understand your concern! Melatonin — and staying up when I landed in local time — was a lifesaver. I had zero jetlag when I landed after my 35 hour trip over and was back to normal by about my 3rd or 4th day back home. Oh, and pack light and bring small snacks like granola bars & beef sticks. Those are great for the flights when you get the munchies or in-between meals when you arrive in Africa.

    Safe travels!

  • Emily says:

    Congratulations! This will be such a wonderful trip. Bring ear plugs and a sleep mask and sleep on the plane as best you can. Remember to put your camera down and just experience from time to time. I visited Namibia, just north of South Africa, as a high school student and it was truly an amazing trip. It is such a beautiful part of the world. I remember feeling the sense of peace you describe while I was there. I hope that peace continues to grow in you throughout your journey and beyond. Best wishes for a safe and memorable trip.

    • Megan says:

      Yes! Giving yourself permission to put the camera down at times and just enjoying the experience is excellent advice!

  • How amazing! Will pray for you. Can’t wait to hear more about the trip!

    Blessings.

  • Melissa says:

    YAY! Africa is the place I never wanted to fall in love with. I don’t know you but I’m so proud of you. I’m a New England homebody, much like you, and when I went to Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) 4 years ago I was scared. to. death. I actually cried my eyes out the night before I left because I was so scared I was going to be sick, not sleep, etc. I went without my husband but with our church, so there was a little comfort level there. Let me tell you…God did AMAZING things in me, in our little group and in the lives of the people in East Africa. He showed me that I CAN do this and I CAN rely on Him and He CAN and WILL let me do these big things on my own. A couple of things I would say: bring snacks that travel well – protein bars, nuts etc. I lived on that stuff…mostly because I was afraid to eat the food. Bring disposable toothbrushes and hand sanitizer and TISSUES. The bathrooms might not have toilet paper. I don’t sleep well when I’m not at home so I brought sleeping pills…what a lifesaver, especially since our schedule was also very, very busy. Mostly…take it all in and HAVE FUN. African people are so warm and lovely. You’re going to LOVE it, especially if you loved Central America. I’ll be praying for you!

  • debbie says:

    Looking forward to following your trip. My Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes went to South Africa this year!

  • Emily says:

    It’s truly wonderful that you’re pushing through your comfort zone to go on this trip! I travel abroad regularly, and can attest to how inspiring and confidence boosting it can be. I agree with many of the commenters, but I thought I’d add a couple of tips and must-pack items:

    – To help with jet lag, take melatonin (if your doctor ok’s it). It’s not perfect, but it does help when the time difference is extreme. Additionally, if you can, try to begin switching your sleep schedule towards your destination’s time zone. I find if I can even start going to bed at 8pm (versus 10 or 11pm), it makes it just that much easier to adjust at the other end.
    – Bring a sleep mask and ear plugs: lifesavers on the plane and in new sleeping environments.
    – Take extra medications/first aid materials.
    – Pack extra ziploc bags (in case of leaks, etc.)
    – Bring caffeinated tea bags or another on-the-go caffeine source. I love to have these on hand when I need an extra boost while adjusting to the time difference. Of course, always use bottled water.
    – Wear compression socks on the plane. Make sure to try wearing them before the plane ride; they can take some getting used to, but they’re awesome for circulation on lengthy plane rides.
    – Bring a travel-sized inflatable pillow (not the neck ones): This can be a lifesaver on the plane (if you don’t want to use the ones provided), and at your hotel. Not sure what your accommodations will be like, but I find it’s particularly nice to have when I’m traveling “off the beaten track”.
    – Bring a full sized scarf/pashmina: I’ve brought this everywhere from Europe to the Middle East to Asia. It can act as an extra layer when it’s cold, be used as a blanket when needed, or dress up an outfit in a pinch.

    Best wishes!

  • Rosie says:

    The plane flight is … long. (We went for a visit a few years back. Due to the flight I said it would be a few years before we did it again.) You will beg for the torture to end and “just get there already.” The layover time also figures into the time, but doesn’t really help with it feeling shorter. It will feel like being a kid again and having the longest Christmas Morning ever – knowing there is a ‘gift’ to open but not being able to do it just yet.

    There is so much in SA that is similar to here, but then the little things really can throw you off and remind you that you are in a different country. Not sure I pumped my own gas the whole time we were there. When times came where the differences were too much, I would vent about the differences then list all the good things about the situation. If I was tempted to compare there to our home, I would have to remind myself that neither were perfect. I tried not to do the later too much, but to enjoy where we were and focus on life in the Now.

    I hope you have fun and enjoy your time there, I think you will as you seem like a fun-loving gal. AND it is summer there, basically like our June/July, so this cold weather season here is a great time to go there. Don’t forget sunscreen or hat. 🙂

  • Jenn says:

    We took our 2 kids ages 1.5 and
    3 to South Africa- 19 hour flight. It was the trip of a lifetime!!! The wealth gap is wide there- people have it rough, but what a kind and beautiful people!! We fell in love with Africa. I was so scared at first but would go back in a heartbeat. Stay smart and safe, and soak in all the beauty the lovely people and stunning land have to offer. It will change you as much as you enact change there.

  • Charlotte Whatley says:

    Congratulations!! I am so excited for you. My sister has taught overseas at Dubai for two years and more recently she is teaching in a country near Russia. After arriving to those countries, she became sick to her stomach for the first month while living there and then her body adjusted to the food and water. A funny thing happened though she came to visit us for this Christmas and she was sick to her stomach for the first few days after arriving in the U.S. because her body had to readjust to the food and water here once again. I just hope you adjust well on your visit and when you come back.

  • CindiS says:

    You will love South Africa! I am so excited for you to have this opportunity. Be prepared to leave part of your heart there…a piece of you that you may not see again until all of God’s children are gathered with Him in eternity. Our family lived in South Africa for about five years. We moved there when the kids were 7, 5, 3 and 4 months to set up a hospice for babies with AIDS. We were then asked to help with a church plant in a small town 30 minutes up the coast from Cape Town. I could happily have lived the rest of my life there, but God had other plans.

    Observations: Pretoria is lovely but it can get quite hot in the summer. Sunscreen and a hat that protects your neck and your face are a must. Not sure if jeans are your choice of attire, but I recommend cotton or other lightweight skirts and/or cotton capris instead. I hope you have a direct flight to Jo’berg because the flight is very long! Drink 8oz of water every hour you are awake. Stand up and walk around for at least 5 minutes every hour you are awake. Have a complete change of clothes, a washcloth (or wipes), toiletries, and toilet paper or tissues in your carry-on. I enjoyed Pilanesberg National Park (2.5 hrs from where you will be) but your hosts may have a closer option in mind. Take basic meds with you–Tylenol, bandaids, antibiotic ointment, etc. Not sure how you are being recommended to deal with the currency, but we were able to just use our ATM card while we were there(make sure your bank knows you are going). SA has a lot of natural resources and gorgeous scenery but they pale in comparison to the people there–I can’t say anymore without tearing up.

    Finally, I often recommend Neal Pirolo’s books to returning missionaries. Even though they are written to help churches take care of their missionaries while they are on the field or back in their sending country on furlough, it can be helpful to understand all the different emotions/reactions upon one’s return after a missions trip.

    I’ll be praying for you!

  • Suzanne says:

    So excited for you guys. The library emailed me today to say my book was in so I get to start reading “surprised by motherhood”!
    As far as travel goes, take benadryl or melatonin at night to help you sleep. That worked for me when we went to Korea.

  • So excited for you Crystal! I hope your trip goes really well- can’t wait to hear all about it. I’m in the middle of reading Lisa Jo’s book right now and am loving it! And honestly, it’s been making me want to visit South Africa and I’m not much of a traveler either. 🙂

  • Lisa Morosky says:

    You continue to inspire me with your willingness to leap (long-jump style!) out of your comfort zone in order to follow God’s calling on your life. Praying that you return changed and inspired and that you can out into words and images all of it so we too can be changed and inspired. <3

  • Kerri says:

    From one Kansas girl to another,
    Soak it all in and enjoy every minute! I am in awe of this journey you are partaking in. Congratulations and have an amazing time! Can I come along in your carry on?! ha. Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  • Samantha says:

    We did an African Safari and needed bug spray for the big horse flies – then left it there for our guide, or maybe Avon Skin So Soft as everyone says that helps w/ bugs. Don’t eat the salads – greens are washed w/ water that is hard on your stomach. Only bottled water that you open (not pre-opened) – use for brushing teeth too. Bring a washcloth – usually not provided. Bring a sample of liquid laundry soap to wash clothes in your sink. Make a copy of your passport and give to your friend and vice versa. Lots of stomach and anti-diarrhea meds. Flashlight. Extra ziploc bags – somehow we found uses/needs for them. Pencils and/or toothbrushes for the kids if you think you need gifts. Aspirin for the flight – thins your blood to help w/ circulation. I am sure you will have a great time!!!

  • stephanie says:

    I am so excited for you and looking forward to Instagram uodates. My husband and I travel fruently to Ethiopia and love the continent of Africa! Two recommendations: wear comfy airplane clothes with layers & go easy on the airplane food 🙂 Safe travels!!

  • Ann says:

    Congratulations!! What an exciting time!! Our missions pastor has encouraged everyone who goes on a missions trip to read a book called Toxic Charity. My daughter just recently went on a trip overseas and she said that the book was life changing in her view of missions. Might be something to read on the plane!

  • Angela M. says:

    My husband and I have gone on 5 different missions trips internationally. After you reflect back on those trips you don’t even think about the long flight! Having a good attitude is half the battle, my husband is a very upbeat person and loves adventure! Funny what you said about being a Kansas girl, my husband grew up in LA and I in Chicago, we now live in…. you guessed it Kansas. Living here for the last three years has been a much bigger culture shock (and in some ways much more challenging) than any trip overseas! You are going to have such an amazing time, may God Bless you on your journey!

  • Susan says:

    You’ll be fine Crystal. I’ve never been to Africa, but I’ve been to a number of third world countries in Asia.

    A number of your readers suggested melatonin for jet lag — unless you have experience with it, I recommend against that. People react differently to it, and you don’t want to be in Africa when you discover it doesn’t have the effect you want. It’s used to regulate sleep. When you travel like this, you don’t get on a regular sleep schedule for long enough for it to be effective (If in fact it works for you). If you have trouble sleeping, a Benadryl or a swig of Nyquil will do the trick for the short term.

    Long flights are not fun, but they’re not torture. If you can, splurge on an upgrade to business class. You’ll have quite a bit more leg room to stretch out. Be sure to get up and walk around at least every few hours. You can do laps on jumbo jets with two aisles.

    Take a refillable water bottle. You can take it through security as long as it’s empty. Some (not all) international flights do not allow you to take bottled water on planes, even those that you purchase in an airport. In my experience, flight attendants have always been very willing to fill water bottles for passengers. If you don’t have your own bottle, you may be stuck with the little water cups, which isn’t enough.

    Take some eye drops. Airplane air can be very dry.

    Take some reading material, music, games on your phone, and your own headphones. Full size headphones work a lot better than ear buds to listen to your own music or movies and drown out other noises.

  • Molly says:

    Definitely stay hydrated. Drink water every time the flight attendant offers. The way I “prepare” for jet lag (this is not for everybody!) is stay up the whole night before the flight. My flights are usually pretty early in the morning so by the time I get on the first flight I’m exhausted. I sleep as much as I can on the flights and by the time I get to where I’m going I’ve had at least a few hours of sleep. Then just go to bed at SA normal bedtime hours.

    It works for me, anyway!

    I look forward to hearing all about your trip. Prayers for you and Lisa Jo!!

  • Monika says:

    Congratulations!! I’m very happy for you. What an opportunity! I think long flights are so much fun. I’ve had my fair share of them, since I grew up as an MK in New Zealand. You should try this for jet lag:http://www.nojetlag.com/.

  • Oh, Crystal! That is so exciting! I have been to three missions trips, but none to Africa. I will be praying for you. My cousin’s husband’s family lived in South Africa for a few years as Bible printing missionaries, and we have missionary friends in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda.

  • Stephanie says:

    I cannot begin to tell you what amazing things God has in store for you. I went to Tanzania in Nov 2012,then Niger Dec 2013 on a mission trip with other church members. On that 2013 trip we had an unfortunate severe car accident where one of our missionaries died. I sustained multiple severe internal injuries and major pelvic fractures. I know you’re probably wondering “why is this strange lady telling me this awful story about her trip to Africa?” I tell you because God sustained me. Through 6 days in a less then desirable clinic is Niger, to our home church raising $75K in just 26hrs to bring me home and to being discharged from the hospital in just 3 days after returning home and the doctors saying I needed no surgeries to fix anything… God sustained me. People said “I bet you never do mission work again.” but they are wrong! I went back this past Dec, back to Niger, back down that same road… And God sustained me. My husband and our 2 teenagers leave this Sept 2015 into full time mission work. Selling everything we own and heeding the call of Jesus. So, with saying all that… I say this… God will sustain you. If you allow it… This trip will change the very DNA of who you think you ever where. This trip could potentially wreck you in a very humbling way. I look forward to reading about you adventures. Check us out on http://www.facebook.com/missionariesforhope

  • I am really excited for you! My husband got back from his 2nd mission trip to Ethiopia in October. His first trip was a little rough with the amount of malnourished people he saw at the feeding clinics they did. He fell in love with the people over there though and keeps feeling called to “go”. In fact, he came back this past time and told me that we adopted and sponsored a little girl in the ICA orphanage there.
    I’m sure you already know this, and it might be a little different in South Africa than in the North corner where he was (I’m not sure. . ). Make sure you bring your own sheets and allergen pillow cases due to the bed bugs that you don’t mind leaving there if need be. Also pack protein bars, crackers, and other foods just in case. You might not want to ask what you’re eating over there. 😉

    I’m looking forward to seeing your pictures and posts from the trip!

    -Megan

  • Heather says:

    Have fun! My only suggestion is to make sure you walk around on the plane (especially if it is a long flight). I will definitely be watching for your posts.

  • Tamboliya says:

    Chew gum before, during and after flying on the plane (and do pretend yawning) to help prevent your ears from getting plugged up and/or to help “pop” your ears if they do get plugged up. This will help you to hear better and /or to prevent pain from them being plugged up (mine always were in pain for about 3 hours after I got off the plane b/c they’d get plugged up from going up into higher elevations,etc. I hope that helps.

  • Tamboliya says:

    Not sure if this would apply to you or not, but when we were in a hotel overseas, it helped to bring a SINK STOPPER so that we could wash our clothes in the sink and hang them to dry since we were unable to do laundry for 3 weeks and we sweated a lot from the heat & humidity (wet, stinky clothes, etc.). A teacher shared that tip and I followed her advice;it totally was a life saver! 🙂

  • Riette says:

    Hi there Crystal. I’ve been following you’re blog for about a year now and was so surprised to read about your visit to South Africa – I live in Pretoria, South Africa. I’m not sure what advice to give, but I would like to say that I am sure you will enjoy yourself and the beauty this country has to offer. I pray that the Lord will be with you and guide you through your travels here. God bless you and the work you are doing. Blessings, Riëtte

  • Tamboliya says:

    1) To not eat any raw/uncooked and unpeeled fruits and vegetables, nor drink any unpasteurized milk. We got sick overseas from this b/c the vegetables were washed in water that made us ill. Is a good idea to bring a water filter and /or water purification pills. The water from brushing our teeth and showering made us ill as well so it is a good idea to purify that water as well or to use bottled water when brushing teeth,etc.

    2) Store $, passports, etc. in travel pouch around neck under blouse to hopefully prevent theft from pickpocketers.

    3) Bring lots of toilet paper and remove the cardboard tubing so that it can be smashed flat to save room in your luggage and carry-on.

    4) Bring travel Battleship or other travel games to play on plane trip to pass the time quicker & then you can give to the children in Africa as a gift before you leave. 🙂

    5) Bring lots of tiny gifts to give or trade with the kids or people there: Disneyland postcards, postcards from different states or American cities, buttons (the large type that pin to your shirt that have photos in them), baseball cards, etc.

    6) When I was in the USSR, the sun shone brightly even late at night (didn’t get dark until much later there in the higher hemisphere and the sun came up earlier=much less hours of darkness there). Therefore, it was so much more INCREDIBLY difficult, if not impossible to sleep. EYE MASKS can come in handy for this. 🙂

    7) Bring a small photo album or phone with lots of photos of your family, pets, what your house looks like (inside & out), what your city looks like, etc. They are always curious what your life and country is like and a picture is worth 1,000 words. 🙂 It is eye-opening to them (fun & educational) what your culture /home/life looks like. 🙂

    8) While you are in Africa, you can ask them for their recipe(s) of the food they cooked for you there so that you can try to recreate it at home if you get “homesick” for Africa, missing them and longing for their foods to eat again. 🙁 This might help you to feel that connection again, reliving the memories and sharing those experiences with your kids as you make those dishes for your kids. 🙂

    9) Bring GLOW LIGHT STICKS (are cheap at the Dollar store). These come in handy when/if there is no electricity at night. It can glow all night. No batteries required, lightweight, doesn’t take up as much space as a flashlight, etc.

    Can also help if needing to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night when it is too dark to see but when you don’t want to wake everyone up by turning the lights on or using too bright of a flashlight. 🙂 The light from the glow stick is much dimmer, softer. 🙂

    • Melissa H says:

      I am hoping Crystal sees this. Glow sticks are free after rebate at Menards right now, no limit. They are great quality you get 5 in a package for $2 and you will get Menards rebate check back.

  • Hi Crystal, you’ll be visiting the part of the world that I live in, and I can guarantee that you will have the experience of a lifetime here in South Africa. At present, we are in the midst of summer, so mostly light clothing will be needed – maybe 1/2 warm outfits in case the weather makes a sudden change (which it can do sometimes). Comfortable shoes are an absolute must – preferably athletic shoes or hiking boots – both will be equally practical. In most cases, the water in the main cities is safe for drinking, unless an alert is put out for any reason. However, there are plenty bottled water suppliers here. Plenty of sunscreen is recommended if you are going to be spending time outdoors, as our sun can be harsh on the skin! I hope you have an absolutely incredible time while here – I’m located in the coastal city of East London.

  • Karyn says:

    Wow – awesome! Any chance you want to come down to Cape Town on the coast and visit us here – maybe speak for us… The most beautiful city in the world 🙂

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Karyn, I’m originally from the most beautiful city in the world too 😉 (now living in the US). So nice to see a fellow Capetonian on here 🙂

  • Deborah Auen says:

    This has been a dream of mine all my life. I’m excited to follow your trip. So glad your Chasing Yout Lions

  • Elle says:

    What a wonderful opportunity. I can’t wait to see the photos and hear about your trip with Lisa-Jo. Many blessings to you and the people that you interact with!

  • DonnaJ says:

    How exciting! Here is my “overseas mission trip advice” ~ have fun, just sit back and watch sometimes, take tons of pictures, pray constantly, take some money and spend it locally, hand sanitizer and wipes should be your constant companion, if you use a backpack for your belongings ~ your hands will be free, its hard to prepare ahead of time for 3rd world poverty ~ keep praying, know that God is at work everywhere and we get to join in sometimes, if you will have power ~ remember your power cords, laptop, kindle, battery charger, etc, take a few familiar to you snacks ~ granola bars, packs of nuts, etc. ~ your tummy will thank you, make a small first aid backpack kit ~ Neosporin, bug spray, Benadryl, Tylenol, bandaids, allergy pills, drink only bottled water (most soft drinks served in restauraunts that come out of a soda machine (think machine at McDonalds) use filtered water for their drinks, so that’s ok), wipe the tops of your bottles before you drink out of them, a kindle loaded with books & your Bible is great for the plane ride, love on those you can. We go to Honduras every year ~ children are the same everywhere ~ they want smiles, hugs, a lap to sit in, they love for you to take their picture and then show them the digital image, paper, stickers and crayons will get you lots of friends ~ bubbles and balls will too! Bring your children back something from your journey ~ doesn’t have to be pricey….we’ve brought back packs of individually wrapped candy, gum, t shirts, fabric, small ceramic items, etc. And just because I’ve been there and done that ~ an important item not to wear going thru airport security, an underwire bra, the wire sets off the alarms….just regular! Take it all in, prepare for your heart to be touched in ways you never expected, you will be ministered to and blessed as much or more than you will bless others, Can’t wait to see the pictures. (We go to Honduras on Jan. 22! ~ Trip #6 and my daughters 2nd trip!)

  • MC says:

    Travel tips.
    1) pack a few meds with you. Favorite otc pain killer, alka seltzer, Imodium, Dramamine, and rx meds you might be on.
    2) drink a lot of water on the plane. Yes, it means getting up to pee more, but you can easily get dehydrated with such a long flight in that much air conditioning. Air planes are very dry.
    3) take some form of entertainment. Odds are that the plane will have movies, but I like to take something to read or a puzzle book like sudoku.
    4) sleep on the plane as much as you can. This will help with jet lag. Set your watch top the destination time as soon as you get on the plane. This will help you mentally adjust and remind you what time it is where your are going.
    5) consider getting a pair of compression socks. I’ve traveled plenty and thought they were silly until I went on a 12 hr flight. It’s a lot of sitting time, so the socks help. I’ve never had an issue with swelling feet under regular circumstances.
    6) pack some extra underwear. You just never know when you will need or want a fresh pair. Totally worth the space they take up.
    7) pack your deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste with you in your carry on. You really don’t want to be without these in case your checked bags get delayed/lost. On that note, pack a change of clothes with you, too. Maybe a spare tshirt and shorts to get you by for a night.
    8) to help with jet lag, go to bed at a normal local time the first night. If you land in the morning, do everything you can to stay up until at least 7pm. Try to stop eating 12 hours before you are supposed to wake up for the morning. And drink plenty of water.

    9) relax and enjoy the trip! Things can be replaced, but the experience will be unforgettable.

  • Shea says:

    You will love it. I lived in Zimbabwe for about 8 months in ’99 and part of my heart is still there. Beautiful land and humble, yet happy people. You will be blown away at the simplicity of life and joy they find. Be prepared for your world to be rocked with love. SO excited for you.

  • Jo says:

    That’s so exciting! I’m from Johannesburg in South Africa. You will love the different cultures, experiences and landscapes here. Just be warned it is hot here at the moment. Drink lots of water – the tap water is perfectly safe and wear lots of sunscreen and a cap. If you come to Joburg we are also having lots of thunderstorms. Where are you going and what are your plans. Have fun and travel safely xxx

  • Suzanne says:

    Crystal, I’m not sure if anyone else said this, but I wanted to mention that you should screw your essential oil lids on tightly. This past summer on my short city hopping flight my oils were fine, but when I flew 9 hours away the cabin pressure caused all my oils to leak in the ziplock bag. Then when I opened it–whew, it smelled terrible!

  • Linda says:

    Crystal,

    John, Laura, and I cannot express how excited we are for you. I’ve skimmed most of the posts here, and there’s little we would add in terms of advice, but this I will say, I have never yearned for sleep as much as when taking those long international flights. I have the hardest time sleeping in an upright position, so, if you find that difficulty as well, if your flight is not completely booked, do what many did on flights I’ve taken: once in air, and assigned seating is no longer an issue, see if you can find a seating space that has a number – at least two – empty spots so that you can lay down to sleep. A life-saver for me. If you have a long layover in an airport, seek out seating space, again, where there are not arm rests between chairs so that you are able to catch some winks. All the water reminders are great, both for drinking while in flight, and being careful to drink only bottled water in areas you travel that are not as developed as what you/we in the US are accustomed to.
    God is indeed enlarging your territory, you have been faithful with the gifts he has given you, and we pray for your continued effective influence for Him. We love Africa, all our experiences there, and know you will as well.

    You are loved! ~ Linda

  • Wendy Magrath says:

    You may want to check out Days For Girls, it’s an organization my church group did some service work with. They make re-usable feminine hygiene kits for girls and women for menstruation. They allow the girls to attend school which they could not do otherwise, many of them drop out because they miss so much school. Our local chapter is always looking for people to help get these kits to people who need them most. See daysforgirls.org

  • Jessica says:

    For the flight, buy a travel pack of Lysol wipes, and wipe down your seat handles, tray table, remote, etc. Kill the germs before you fly with them for 18 hours. Wipe down doorknobs and remotes in hotels. We went to China this summer (6 people, 4 of them under age 7) and we stayed healthy the whole time!! I think the Lysol helped!

    Have an awesome time!

  • Melissa says:

    I haven’t read all the other comments, so I may be repeating what others have said, but I do have LOTS of tips for international travel! Hopefully they will be helpful and not too overwhelming.
    1. An inflatable neck pillow is very beneficial! (This helps to insure that you don’t wake up with your head on the shoulder of the man next to you, as I did once before getting one of those! :-0) Also, I prefer getting a window seat in order to try to have a place to prop up my pillow and try to sleep, but if you prefer an aisle seat, than the neck pillow really comes in handy.
    2. Bring snacks–more than you think you will need (you never know when you will be delayed). Along with this, double-check with the airline companies that you will be traveling with if they are serving meals on board. This way you will know if you need to splurge on an airport meal, or if you can just eat one of your snacks to tide you over until the meal on the plane. It is very frustrating to overpay for an airport meal and then to not be that hungry for the meal that you have already paid for on your flight. Also bring books to read, projects to work on, etc. as you may be too tired or have unexpected good conversations with strangers, OR you may have much more time to read or work than you thought you would have.
    3. Try to put your feet up during layovers. If there are no chairs available that allow you to put your feet up, then put your feet up on your carry-on luggage bag to help lessen the swelling.
    4. If for some reason your flight is late and you miss a connecting flight through no fault of your own, ask at customer service for a meal voucher to be used in the airport. The time I asked, I think I was given a voucher for $25 or something like that.
    5. Take Airborne (or a generic brand) as you leave for the airport and throughout your day of travel.
    6. Accept all the food and snacks that are offered to you on the plane. You can eat them later or share them with someone else, if you don’t want them.
    7. Bring hand lotion and lip balm and drink water everytime it is offered (you can also ask for it anytime) as your body tends to dehydrate in high altitudes.
    8. If you are buying any souvenirs, gifts, or other items, keep track of how much you spend, as you will be asked to state the value of the items on the custom form that you are required to fill out when you re-enter the U.S.
    9. If you want printed pictures of the places you are visiting, sometimes it is easier to buy postcards as you get better representative photos than you could probably take yourself.
    10. Depending on the type of luggage you have, the condition it is in, and the weather in the places you will be traveling through, you might want to place your items in plastic bags. I have had canvas bags get tears and things in my bag get dirty, slushy snow on them.
    11. Be very careful about what kind of food is in your luggage when you return to the US, as this can cause a problem in going through customs. You are asked to declare it, and you are not allowed to have raw fruit and vegetables, meat, etc.
    12. Try to use the toilet and freshen up in the bathroom on the plane shortly before the descent begins and you are asked to stay in your seat (usually about the last half hour of the flight.) This way, once you land, you can focus on getting a cart (before they are all gone) and figuring out which carousel your checked luggage will be arriving at and being in position next to the luggage belt before it arrives.
    13. Keep asking questions in the airport to make sure you are headed in the right direction. It is best to go straight to your terminal and your gate and check that all is in order there, and then use the toilet, get a drink or something to eat, shop or window shop, make phone calls, etc. If you do the other things first, even if it seems like you have plenty of time, it is very easy for the time to get away from you and to have to rush to your gate and even risk being late and missing your flight!
    14. Don’t exchange money in the airport, as the exchange rate will not be very good. Exchange money at a reputable exchange house after you have arrived and never with someone on the street.
    15. If you will be taking a taxi from the airport, make sure that it is not a private taxi, but one from a company that you can see has lots of taxis. A private taxi will be much more expensive.
    16. Try to get on the schedule of the local time zone as much as possible as soon as you arrive. This means changing the times on your watch, phone, etc. (if you keep telling yourself something like “It is really 2 a.m. for my body clock” that will not be helpful) and going to bed at the local time instead of crashing once you arrive, if it is not bedtime.
    17. Some people take Valerian or some kind of a natural sleep aid to help them sleep and adjust to the new time zone. Others recommend a handful of dried cherries a half hour before bedtime, and others use Benedryl or Tylenol P.M. or something similar to help them sleep.
    There is probably more that I could say, but this is probably plenty of information for right now! Enjoy your trip!

    • Thanks so much for sharing all these tips! I SO appreciate the great advice for international travel here in the comments — I’m making a list out of everything I need/want to remember!

  • Christine says:

    how exciting !
    i’m guessing you have already gotten cdc recommended vaccines, confirmed your health insurance covers overseas travel and evacuation in med emergency. Considering signing up for US State Depts Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Add State Dept # to your cell phone 1-202-501-4444, like them on twitter too. make 2 copies of all travelers checks, credit card, id, prescriptions, health insurance card, passport, itinerary. Give one to family/friend at home and keep another hidden in gear in case lost or stolen. Register with US embassy.
    do not underestimate the intensity of the sun: load up on water & sunscreen, wear a big floppy hat, long sleeve shirts, airy long skirts. small photo book of family & friends & token gift you can give/trade, bug spray, cat flea collars (attach to pant leg or belt loop), lots of baby wipes (tp is a luxury), disinfecting wipes too, powdered gatorade, pb and crackers, protein snacks. not sure what your accommodations – mosquito nets might be in order.
    sounds corny but let go and let God – he’s got your back 🙂

  • Steve Kobrin says:

    Bravo to you. I think what you are saying is true: simply giving money can certainly help change the world for the better. Giving of yourself can help you change for the better – as well as change the world for the better!

  • Tamboliya says:

    When I traveled overseas and was staying in a hotel in the USSR, we needed ADAPTORS FOR SMALL APPLIANCES such as for: hair dryers, curling irons, alarm clocks, etc.. [Other countries’ electrical currency is different than ours and thus, the need for the adaptor. Otherwise, you will completely destroy your small appliances].

    Unfortunately, LOL, even though I remembered to purchase, pack and attach the adaptor, I had forgotten to switch it over to the correct setting for that country and boy, did I find out really quickly what happens when you don’t! LOL My hair dryer got louder and louder like a crescendo that scared the living snot out of me. I was afraid because it sounded like it was going to explode! LOL

    I jumped back away from it in fear for my life as did all of the other girls. LOL We were all freaking out. LOL It also glowed a brighter and brighter orange from inside the dryer as it appeared to get hotter and hotter. I was too afraid to chance getting anywhere near it to shut it off or to unplug it b/c I was afraid it was going to catch on fire or explode shrapnel into me! LOL No one else had the guts nor courage to do it either.

    My life flashed before my eyes as I saw my future: the Soviets would probably NOT be happy w/ an American starting a fire or an explosion during in one of their hotels–ESPECIALLY since our two countries had had so much tension over the decades over the Cold War. I don’t think they would have believed that it was an innocent, careless, accident/mistake I had made. I feared they would send me to the GULOG, to SIBERIA to spend the rest of my days rotting in a prison. LOL NOT funny.

    Therefore, I knew what I had to do. I HAD to go in there and “take one for the team”–or at least for our country–and shut it off–so that I did not start a third world war. LO L 🙂 Well, that, and I guess I was also designated by everyone else as the one that had to “risk her life” to shut it off since it was “my” hair dryer, so I finally mustered up my courage and ran toward it and sheepishly like a scaredy-cat shut it off or unplugged it as quickly as I could and ran away from it as fast as I could like a sissy as if it were a giant human-eating spider! LOL

    And yes, it did not blow up. I saved us all. Our 2 countries did not go to war. I did not end up in the Gulag or Siberia in a concentration camp. LOL 🙂 It is funny NOW to tell about it but it definitely was NOT FUNNY at the time. BELIEVE me. LOL

    IN CONCLUSION: my hair dryer is deceased. It is no more. May it R.I.P (rest in peace). It served me well when it was alive. LOL

    MORAL OF THE STORY: It is needless to say… bring an adaptor and more so than that– PLEASE remember to actually switch it to the correct setting. LOL 🙂 Good luck. No pressure or anything. LOL 😉

    Hey. If ANYthing…even if you DO forget to switch it over to the correct setting, you’ll have a HILARIOUS story to share at parties later (a great ice breaker–which might help you with your shyness when not knowing what to talk about). LOL 😉 Hope that helps. Be encouraged. If anything, I hope it helped you to laugh. 🙂

    [P.S. No one has my permission to reprint nor publish this testimony/story of mine as I am going to publish my autobiography etc. and I have the exclusive rights to this. I am merely sharing this to help Crystal for her trip].

    God bless you, Crystal and may God bless your trip and your life richly. May He bless all those you come into contact with, with all those you blog for, speak to and reach out to. May God be glorified in all you do, say and think. May you have a blast and the time of your life, enjoying your trip, your life and enjoying HIM forever. 🙂 Take care of yourself. 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    You’re welcome, Crystal! I thought of it as an opportunity to share with you since you share so much with us! Since I wrote, I have read some of the comments and others have mentioned some key things that I didn’t mention, but would heartily agree with (travel size hand sanitizer, travel size tissues to put in your pocket and use as t.p., anti-bacterial wipes, etc.) I think you’re covered!

  • What an adventure awaits. Looking forward to following along with photos!
    May God bless both of you that were willing to say ‘Yes.
    Love!

  • Sarah says:

    Crystal, I tried to leave a comment, but have no idea where it landed. Anyway, I’m excited for you. You have been given some great advice from your followers. My second African trip was during Lent 2014 to visit my daughter, son-in-law and grandson in Mozambique. We also went to South Africa. In case the electricity goes out, crank flashlights are great – no batteries to worry about. They are also welcome gifts. I took several to share with family friends. (I bought some on Amazon to keep handy at home and in the van.) Light weight items that went over extremely well with boys and girls at an orphanage that I visited were stickers and rubber band bracelet materials. I still get tears remembering how excited the children were to make the bracelets. They had a bracelet that was theirs and theirs alone. Their only personal possession. We ran out of small hooks, so I scrounged up some small paper clips to bend into hooks. We didn’t use looms. I taught a few older boys and girls how to make bracelets. They taught the younger ones – three years and up. It is wonderful that God has afforded you this wonderful opportunity to see first-hand His work through you. Relax and enjoy your self. By the way, I am 70 years old and went by my self with my wheelchair and crutches. I’d go again in a heartbeat.

  • Jane says:

    I run a travel program in Asia where High school and college students get to work with veterinarians in vet clinics, so that means I take LOTS of people on their first really long plane ride. The obvious suggestions to drink lots of water and bring something to help you sleep are super important, but here’s a weird life-saver for you. Bring a small container of vaseline. The flight gets very dry, and after a few hours you can find that it’s uncomfortable to even breathe, which makes it hard to sleep. Having the vaseline to put on your lips, hands, feet, face, and most importantly the inside of your nose will make you SO MUCH more comfortable. IT’s the biggest flight improvement you can get per dollar, in my opinion.

    Enjoy your trip!

  • Helen says:

    I’m from South Africa but live in the UK now. It’s an amazing country. You will love it.

    Please don’t be scared to eat the local food. Don’t worry about all the precautions for fruit and veg…50 million South africans live on the best produce grown anywhere in the world. Savour and enjoy vegetables that have grown in the sun and not flown on an aeroplane..you may have to pick a few worms off first..but hey! It’s all protein right?

    Visit the restaurants as these are some of the BEST in the world. Try out local food as well – meile pap, boerewors, bobatie, morogo (wild spinach) and mopane worms ( yip…edible worms – a real african delicacy!) Don’t forget the puddings – melk tart, koeksusters and mulva pudding. Stop at a roadside stall and buy a vetkoek…hot from the pan … Nothing quite like it!

    The tap water in SA is extreme SAFE and often voted to be the best in the world with less chemicals than anywhere else. The water in Johannesburg is definitely the best tasting tap water.
    Lots of sun screen because it’s mighty hot out there.
    Enjoy.
    Don’t be scared and have a blast in GOD’S OWN COUNTRY !

  • Anna says:

    Definitely take sleeping pills. I even took them on my 8 hour flight back to Amsterdam when it was supposed to be night and it was a life-saver. We also left all of our extra clothing in Africa(Uganda) when we came home since the people there needed it so much more than we did. We came home with one outfit each:) You will love it!!!!

  • Anna says:

    How exciting! I hope your trip goes well and I’ll be praying for you and the others going with you.
    As far as advice goes, I’d recommend reading Cross-Cultural Connections and/or Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer. I’d also recommend taking some time to think through your expectations of what it will be like. Even just being conscious of what you THINK it will be like will make it easier to identify why you are feeling frustrated when things are not how you expect them to be.
    Re-entry and readjustment coming back to the US is often more difficult than the process of adjusting to being in another country. Here are a few articles that might be helpful: http://www.shorttermmissions.com/articles/reentry_fog
    http://www.cie.uci.edu/docs/TenTipsforReturn.pdf
    http://www.cie.uci.edu/docs/TenReentryChallenges.pdf

    Most of all, keep your eyes on God and be open to whatever he has for you!

  • Susan Stowell says:

    I love it! You are able to travel to Africa. I was there 25 years ago. I love how no matter how far away you are that God is there – I took great comfort in knowing He was with me even though I was so far away from home. After all the comments I just have 1 piece of advice to add – if you need to hang laundry don’t forget to pack rope to hang it in the bathroom and laundry soap. May Jesus guide your steps, for you and Lisa-Jo. To fulfill all the plans He has for you both. To give you strength, wisdom, and love for all you do. May His joy and His peace fill you!

  • cam says:

    Wow! This is so exciting that you are able to go to South Africa! What an amazing time you will have! About 2 years ago I went on my first mission trip there, and absolutely fell in love with the people and the country, and in was able to go back this year, and just got home about a month ago, and it was AMAZING!!
    As far as the jet lag goes, I never had any issues with it there, I was a bit tired once it hit 3-4 in the afternoon, but it wasnt unbearable….coming home is when it’d the hardest! Just try and make yourself sleep when everyone else sleeps, and awake when everyone else is up.
    You said you have a packed schedule while you’re there, so I would encourage you to soak everything up! It’s a lot to take in at one time, so I always found it very helpful to write things down at the end of the day. Whether it be a kiddos name, or about how beautiful God’s creation was in that area! Contoured working with kids, one thing that a missionary there told me the first time was to let them love on you. They love to be held, and to hold your hand, and to play with hair! So let them! He told us that that could be the only physical touch/example of love that they may receive. Have an amazing time!
    Oh! And in the airplane I would HIGHLY recommend Dramamine is a must(also for motion sickness, mom f poo under these things called sea bands! They work wonders! I wore them every time we went anywhere in the car. We got ours at a Walgreen, but you could probably find them in any kinda pharmacy store!) A pillow, blanket, and scarf! I tend to freeze on the plane! Music on an iPod or.someting is nice as well as a book because the flight can get long, and th r res only so many good movies worth watching haha. But sleep, and enjoy the relaxing, and get ready for the amazing journey God is bringing you on!

  • Eryn Lynum says:

    Crystal,

    I have been praying for you and your team the past few days, but was still unaware of what your trip was about–until I read this post today.

    And it brought me to tears.

    My heart aches for the experiences I myself had in Africa 10 years ago now; the beauty, the poverty, the passion, the God-sightings…everything I am sure is impacting your heart this very moment.

    I’m praying that God shows you the little things; helps you to pay attention to each detail, and let those details weave together His beautiful picture for South Africa, and your involvement there.

    Eryn Lynum

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