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The South Africa Cape Town mission covers the western half of South Africa, though the member population is typically concentrated in and near the coastal areas in South Africa (such as Cape Town, George, Port Elizabeth, East London, and Queenstown) and around Windoeck, Namibia’s apolitical City.
As a missionary in Capetown you will typically work with three groups of people: Black Africans, Coloreds, and Whites. Only white South Africans of Dutch decent consider themselves to be Afrikaans. Those of English decent only distinguish themselves as white. Its an important cultural difference to the whites in South Africa. (The Afrikaans are very proud of their heritage and don’t like to let others share their distinguishing characteristics with others).
You could serve in one group of people or a mix. There is a strong divide between rich and poor. The rich/progressive sections of South Africa is referred to as ‘town’. The landscape is not unlike most first-world cities. Outside of towns are government housing intermingled with shacks called ‘townships’ were the poor live.
The LDS Church, for various government and economic reasons, did not have major growth until around 1978. Today, the LDS Church is growing rapidly. Local branches strongly need priesthood and families. The area presidency has called for ‘real growth’. The Capetown Mission not only needs converts but converts eventually going to the temple and being sealed as families.
STAKES: Cape Town Stake, Port Elizabeth Stake, East London Stake
DISTRICTS: There are no mission districts, only branches covered by the mission.
South African cuisine has a base of simple bland foods- rice, beans, meat, chicken. Food is not particularly extravagant. Milk tart is a typical dessert much like a cream pie. There is plenty of meat, from chicken, to steak, to sausage. Native foods made from sour milk require an adventurous tongue. It is not a custom to eat native food, but members may ask you to try a dish for fun.
Missionaries are not allowed to use public transportation including taxis and buses but the mission provides cars. There are a few walking areas as well in small populated areas.
Day to day living is considered safe but some precautions are recommended. The mission prohibits missionaries from using public transportation and it is not recommended missionaries stay in townships after dark. Missionaries should be aware of petty theft. Missionaries should be prepared to drive on hectic roads where pedestrian laws are not readily observed.
There are typically two large meals a day. At dinner appointments, make sure you do not eat all the host family’s food. Food is sacred. The Xhosa people have a specific handshake for greeting. Be sure to use to handshake only when greeting Xhosa, and not when greeting Afrikanns. The handshake is not offensive to Afrikanns, it is just not part of their culture. Xhosa appreciate when missionaries pick up parts of their language. Because marriage is costly, many South Africans delay marriage, leading to problems for local branches.
Learn some Xhosa or Afrikaans. There are plenty of local Afrikaans and Xhosa words to learn that will help those you come in contact with. Learning local lingo shows South Africans that you care about their culture. There are many greetings and ways to reply to greetings, most of them informal and friendly. “Molo” is a common Xhosa greeting for one individual. “Molweni” is a common Xhosa greet for a group of people. “Howzit” is an informal greeting among Afrikanns.
The missionary packet and the letter from your mission president will cover what specific essentials you need. You will want suits, socks, and garments that can breathe. Some areas can reach into the 100 F in high humidity. Because few individuals are well educated of fluent in English, a whiteboard for lesson visuals can be handy. A sturdy water bottle is also recommended. Though summers can be hot, some winter days are also quite cold. A sweater for layering is recommended. The suit jacket is typically worn only for district meetings and special occasions.
MAIL/SHIPPING: Letters are reliable and come through the mission office. Pouch does not work with SACTM, so please address letters directly to the mission home. Unfortunately, shipping packages can sometimes be unreliable. Placing religious stickers on the outside of packages can help, but shipping items in several small packages can be safer.
PO Box 181
Straight from the South Africa Cape Town Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“typical American stuff”
*What did you eat the most of?
“yoghurt and granola”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“watching women start nursing in sacrament meeting without a cover”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the South Africa Cape Town Mission?
“have good walking shoes”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“more about the gospel”
**Did you serve in the South Africa Cape Town Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**