Information for your visit
The following information has been compiled from visitor experience. You will find it helpful to make a hard copy and use it as part of your check list before departure. If you are a team leader, please make a copy of this information for each team member. Visitors are responsible for the information provided here – you may experience inconvenience if you have not read this thoroughly!
South African Visa are given at the border/ or airport for free to all US and Canadian citizens. If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, please let us know and we will look into the visa process for you and email you more instructions.
We also have some recommended agents who frequently help Iris missionaries/guests- please request this information in a separate email. If you are not traveling during peak season (May-Aug. and Dec 14-Jan 3rd), we might be able recommend some good deals, so please email us!
Most international carriers only allow one 50 lb bag now. Please check with your airline to make sure. However, many of our guests have expressed that they are visiting an orphanage and bringing donations and the airlines do not charge fines…sometimes they do not even weigh the bags!!! But other visitors get stuck with fines/fees.
Good tip for SA: Hopefully, anything you have brought as donations, you have taken out of packages and distributed through your luggage so it does not draw undue attention. Team bringing items should try not to pack “donation” bags; instead, mix the items with the team’s personal items. If your luggage is checked by customs, a good rule of thumb is to volunteer as little information as possible! Do not mention that you are bringing gifts, simply state that the items are for your use. If you have children’s items, and no children traveling with you, and they persist, you can say you are going to a children’s center so you brought items to play with the children with. Sometimes, our visitors end up having to pay an import tax (up to 50% for the value of the items) on the items they bring. But when all else fails, cooperate with the officials! Please also make the hospitality staff aware if you are bringing major amounts of donations- especially medicines. We may advise you not to bring everything/certain items. Please be in communication and we hope the above information will minimize any problems.
What to Pack
Clothing: We dress in a way that is acceptable and modest in African culture. Men may wear pants/trousers or shorts (not too short please) and T-shirts or button-up shirts. Women may wear pants/trousers, ‘Capri’ pants/trousers, and skirts or dresses below the knee. Women are requested to limit their wearing of knee length shorts to the missionary compound. Tops of any sort are acceptable, except those baring the midriff and spaghetti straps. Visitors can take center children to swim at the local pool, but keep bathing costumes modest – no two pieces for women, please. For church services and other times of ministry, the nationals wear their best. It is disrespectful for visitors to show-up in “grubbies.” Ankle length dresses or skirts are most acceptable for ministry outreaches or church services.
We do ask that piercings be removed or covered with band-aids, except for normal ear-piercings for women. Other necessities: bedding (pillow, sheets, blanket or a sleeping bag–sleeping bag strongly recommended), towel, shower shoes, boots or lace-up shoes (you don’t want to wear sandals to the dump!), Bible, flashlight/torch, umbrella or light rain jacket. Electrical outlets are European two prong and SA three prong –220 volts. Please bring a small tent and backpack if you hope to participate in our overnight outreach possibilities.
Note to visitors during the May-Aug. season- Please be prepared for cold weather (it is our winter). It can get as cold as 20F at night and often it feels even colder due to the wind. We do not have heaters in our visitors housing, so all visitors need to pack very warm clothing and sleeping bags if visiting during this time! Please do not forget your long sleeves and jackets!!
Visitors are responsible for their own meals. We have a fully furnished kitchen at your disposal. Therefore, your expenses depend on you. We will take you to the supermarket upon arrival so you can shop for whatever food items you desire.
Budgeting guide in SA:
$50-100 a week for food, water, and snacks
$15 for special meal eating out
$10 per week per person for fuel (to help the ministry with transport costs)
$20-50 souvenirs and gifts
PLEASE NOTE: Iris Ministries is a faith ministry, entirely dependent upon the generosity and responsiveness of the Lord’s people to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. While there is no direct charge for your accommodation with us or our ministry to you, we ask that you remain sensitive to the many expenses related to your visit (including correspondence, accommodation, transportation, ministry, etc.) Many of our visitors are very generous, both financially and through gifts and supplies they donate to Iris. We would ask that all donations of supplies be given directly to the Hospitality Team for distribution, and that all cash donations be given directly to Jean Nicole, our Base Director, to ensure that they are expended in keeping with the Ministry’s current priorities and needs. If you wish to designate a particular area to benefit from your contribution, we will certainly honor your intention as much as possible. If you are visiting from America and needing a tax-deductible receipt for your donation, please send it directly to our Redding Office (Iris Ministries P O Box 493995 Redding, CA 96049-3995) before or after your visit. This helps us with our processing since we would have to send your donation back to America in order to be properly accounted for.
We recommend bringing an ATM card which money can be withdrawn upon arrival in SA. Changing US dollars into rand is often costly and the rates are never very good. However, the banks are required to give the going rate. That is why we recommend ATM cards. ATM’s are easily available and we will take you directly to one with a day of arrival if requested.
There are no travel vaccines required by the South African or Mozambican government. You should be up-to-date on standard vaccines such as tetanus, typhoid, Hepatitis A, etc. Please check with a travel nurse or the CDC website for current recommendations. Yellow fever vaccine is not required for Mozambique. Malaria prophylaxis is compulsory for visitors going to Mozambique. Some are daily pills, others are taken once a week. You must bring these medications with you. Please bring a mosquito net to sleep under. Some hang from the ceiling others are on a frame with tight mesh, like a tent. Walrus Tents makes a good one called Bug Hut 2. Also bring strong bug repellent which contains a high level of DEET (30-100%).
Telephone usage is limited to Iris staff only. No phone service (incoming or outgoing) is available to visitors except in cases of emergency. Please do not promise to call home upon arrival! We will send an email to your loved ones if requested. There is a small internet café in town which you can use on your free day.
We currently have 2 options for housing visitors. We have a house at the Children’s center which has three bedrooms, one extremely large living area which is used for sleeping at times, and two bathrooms with showers (and hot water!) We can accommodate up to 15-18 people in this house. The visitor’s kitchen is limited to one refrigerator and one stove; therefore, priority is given to visitors who have food allergies or upstanding circumstances. Visitors are also responsible for keeping the visitor’s center clean, so please be considerate of others.
The other option is our dorm like housing in Backdoor. Housing is very rough and we do not have running water in the Backdoor locations. All water used has to be carried up from a nearby well in buckets. Kitchens are available, but regular bathrooms are not. The Backdoor option is perfect for any visitors who want to really experience it all. Due to our expanding children’s center, this might be the only housing option in 2010 if the current visitor house needs to be used for orphan care. Please be in touch with us so we can share any changes that are taking place!
It is important to realize that most of our visitors stay in our short-term compound, sharing their living space with other visitors from all over the world. We really want each visitor to get “wrecked” while they are with us…what better way than lots of kids waking you up in the morning with their songs/prayers? Living in close community, quite honestly, has it’s challenges: sometimes it’s noisy at night or early in the morning (don’t forget earplugs!); someone may not clean up after themselves in the kitchen; someone may drink your soda by accident, thinking it’s theirs . . . However, living in close community can have it’s benefits as well: someone you just met stops what their doing to pray with you; God uses someone to give you a word of encouragement or a prophetic word; you see God work through you and people you just met on an outreach trip; you exchange email address to keep in touch with people all over the world . . . As we cannot foresee what challenges and blessings your particular trip will hold, we pray that you will ask God to prepare your hearts with much patience, hope and flexibility! During our busy times, especially the months of May through September, we often have to combine visitors from different teams (or here on their own) in the same room. We also may not be able to accommodate husbands and wives together (we can arrange for people to stay in a local hotel. Please email Teisa in advance regarding this option). Occasionally, we ask teams to bring tents to sleep in. We ask your patience, in advance, with our limitations!
Opportunities to Minister
Visitors must plan on being as self sufficient as possible. Our hospitality staff is limited to generally overseeing visitors- we are simply unable to organize personal ministry opportunities and projects for every visitor. Please be prepared to take initiative in finding opportunities and serving within the guidelines given at orientation.
It is not possible to list everything here that you may be able to do while at Iris, but this may help you in terms of advance preparation to know some of the things you could be doing. Local school assemblies (20 min testimony or message), Feeding Center discipleship time (20 min lesson, M-F ), outreaches (pray for people, share a greeting or preaching), teaching pre-school (very basic lesson, craft, snack even if you don’t know SaSwati, adopting a house (you could do work projects in the house, bring donations of clothes, bedding, towels, etc., organize an activity with them, make them a meal or dessert, throw them a party, pray with them at bedtime- the options are as limited as your imagination, crafts with kids, assist with Art/worship therapy on Thursdays at 2-3, drama or dance workshops, medical clinic (for those of you with medical, nursing or first aid experience), organize athletic events (which would best be accomplished if you bring the equipment as ours gets worn out quickly), work projects (various needs throughout the Center). Sky is the limit! Let us know what your passions are and we will do our best to help arrange things.
Important Note: Iris Ministries cannot and does not guarantee your safety, health, or comfort. We are serving in an underdeveloped and dangerous area of South Africa, in unpredictable conditions. You will be joining us in trusting God as provider and protector. You will not have the full attention of any missionaries, staff or translators. Once again, please plan on being as self-reliant as possible. We see again and again that God does amazing work in each visitor. Be open to what God may do with you here! He is good! Please take note of the contact numbers below and be sure to advise us if there are any last-minute changes to your arrival plans. It may be helpful to print these out and bring them with you so you can contact us at any point along your journey.