Surprising List of Things You Need on the Mission Field

When we moved last year (can you believe we’ve already been in SA for 17 months?), a lot of dear friends and family wanted to send us of well prepared for life in “wildest Africa”. We were gifted with coffee (Gevalia for me), socks (for the kids) and advised to bring our own water filtration system. (Marshall saw to that.)

The reality is, South Africa is far more developed than most people realize. We have great roads here (although a consistent four-lane system on the national highway would be much appreciated), access to nutrition is reasonably priced and electricity is supplied with few interruptions. That’s not to imply that everything is all roses and lavender, however. Crime and corruption are rampant in many sectors, rape culture is pervasive and many people still live in abject poverty. Nevertheless, moving in South Africa remains what I refer to as a ‘soft landing’ into a life in Africa. As someone who grew up in and visits Ghana on occasion, I can confirm that it can’t get any ‘easier’ than this. Many of the things we had shipped – or were gifted to us prior to arrival, like the coffee – are already manufactured and readily available right here. South Africa even has a well-run online market center called It’s our version of Amazon.

A few people have asked on occasion if there is anything we lack here in SA. The short answer is “no”. There really is nothing that we lack. Admittedly, however, there ARE some creature comforts that we miss. When we were living in America, there are items that we took for granted and have only come to appreciate them now that we have no access to them. This list may surprise you, but here a few of the things we have discovered that we need on the mission field.

Neosporin:  You don’t know how much power this little tube of healing carries until you discover that it has no equivalent. Whether it’s a mosquito bite, a scrape or a 10-inch gash, Neosporin can fix it all! And there IS none in South Africa.

Rubbing Alcohol: Rubbing alcohol is ubiquitous in America, right? You walk into Wal*Mart, it’s right in front. You walk into Kroger, it’s over to your left. Even if you’re not sure if you have rubbing alcohol anywhere in your house, chances are there is definitely rubbing alcohol in your house! Whether you use it as an astringent, to clean your tools or to clean behind your ears (or in your navel, like I do without shame) rubbing alcohol is life! And there is NONE in South Africa.

Marshmallows: You read this and you snigger. How is a marshmallow a necessity? Well, it is if you’re on the mission field with four children and those children bring home a bake sale sheet requesting rice krispie treats and then you go to the store and guess what? Gotcha! There ARE marshmallows in SA, but they are absolutely awful. You haven’t seen struggle until you’re in the kitchen mixing up marshmallow mix by hand for 1 hour and a 250g yield.

Spices: Y’all just don’t know. Living in a place called the Garden Route with no spices (besides salt, pepper and vinegar) is an oxymoron. It’s disorienting. I haven’t had properly seasoned food in 17 months and my taste buds are despondent, dispirit and dejected. I miss crab cakes, y’all. I miss seasoned crab cakes. I miss properly seasoned everything.

Nachos; or more specifically, Tostitos:

Does this really need an explanation?


Have you ever lived/worked on the mission field (or military, or service project) for more than 6 months? What things were on your wish list that surprised you? For us, I think nachos was definitely the most curious of all. Go figure!


2 thoughts on “Surprising List of Things You Need on the Mission Field

    1. LOL! I guess it’s more fair to say it’s a list of things we can’t find in PLETT, specifically. I’m 70% certain that you’d be able to locate these things in a bigger city like Jo’burg or Cape Town. We don’t even have a movie theater here. The closest one is in George, 90 minutes away.


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