rebelling against low expectations

How can I prepare for a mission trip?


AMANDA WRITES: I’m about to go on a mission trip to Uganda. I’m super excited to be able to encourage the believers there and share what I’ve learned in my walk with Christ!

I’ve been to Southeast Asia before, but it wasn’t for a mission trip. I’m wondering how I and the team I’m going with can be effective as we enter a culture that is completely foreign to us. Does anyone have suggestions on how I can get ready so I won’t offend the people there but will be able to relate to them and pour into them?

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

There are currently 7 Comment(s)

Have something else you’d like to discuss? Just submit your question or topic (and any elaboration you’d like to provide) using our Submit Content Page. We look forward to hearing from you.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Discussion Questions

are submitted by real rebelutionaries who are looking for godly answers to tough questions and lively conversation with other young adults. You can join the conversation by commenting below. If you'd like to submit your own discussion question, email us at [email protected].


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • That’s great Amanda! Well I have never been oversees, so I can’t give you any practical advice unfortunately. I will suggest talking with people who HAVE gone oversees. Maybe talk to the leader of your missions trip group and ask him or her any questions or concerns you may have. Maybe talk to some other teens who have gone as well. Maybe you could look up some testimonies online and find out which aspects of the trip were the hardest/easiest, things like that. When I was getting ready to go on my first missions trip (it was an in-state camp for foster kids), I asked A TON of questions to adults and fellow teens. And while the camp did have many surprises, I was prepared for the hardest part of the camp, which was the emotional attachment, but only because I asked questions. Honestly, I think the camp was more enjoyable because I did know mostly what to expect. I hope you have a good time during your trip!

    Hope this helps. 🙂

  • Agreed @martialartists:disqus –talk with people who have gone overseas before. Well, actually more than that; his comment was really good! Also if you can get ahold of a copy of Serving with Eyes Wide Open by David A. Livermore, read that. I don’t have really any experience with a radically different culture–went to Canada on a missions trip once but that’s it. ~AnnaGrace

  • Stay in the Word so you can see the difference between the gospel and your church culture. We need desciples not little Americans. Ask about what to wear, proper greetings and how to sound respectful to older people, whether or not to take hospitality, how to treat the opposite gender, what to pack, and a thousand other things. I’ve never been to Africa so I don’t know specifics. Blame everything confusing and awkward on the culture so you can serve without bitterness. Your team will act as the church while you’re there so get to know them, be open and encourage them. And pray like crazy. This isn’t something you can handle, trust Him with it all. Hope this helps!

  • Hey Amanda! It’s absolutely amazing that you are going on this mission trip. Although there are many things that we do that can hurt the people we are ministering to..and most of the time we don’t even intend to, but it comes off that way. So here’s how to prepare.
    This gets into a little history and anthropology, so bear with me! So you’re going to Uganda right? Well not too long ago, during the Age of Colonization, Europeans decided that it was totally ok and just in Gods eyes if they went and “cultured” the “uncivilized barbarians” in Africa [note my anger on this]…so they went in, took away their culture and replaced it with the ” civilized white man” culture. Long story short, the Europeans thought they were superior to the Africans and treated them like animals.
    The Ugandans might see you as the American who is coming to their village to take their culture away. But that isn’t you’re intention at all, I’m sure!! 🙂 However to make it known to them that you are a human being just like them (and not a superior white man). Get on their level. Don’t teach them about American culture, learn about there’s. Submerge yourself into their society and love them with respect. God has sent you as not only a giver, but also a receiver. The Ugandans will teach you as much as you teach them….just be open to it and have a teachable spirit.

  • Hello Amanda! This is a WONDERFUL question! My family moved to Zambia in March of this year as missionaries and since living here, it’s sad to us to see so many foreigners not respecting the culture…So from a missionaries perspective, it’s encouraging to know you want to know about the culture before you go.. =) I’m not living in Uganda obviously, but I know a lot of people who have been there and I know some basic things about African culture in general…
    One thing the people in African culture really love is when you dress like them. I know this may sound silly and may not be waht you’re looking for, but if you walk into a village in short-shorts they might just stare at you warily…In Africa, it’s very important to cover your leg and most of the time the women are wearing long skirts.You can always purchase traditional skirts (called icitenge in ZA; not sure what the word for them is in Uganda) at markets and probably other places too… =)
    Also, learning a little of the language, even just knowing how to greet people in their own language puts the BIGGEST smile on people’s faces!!!
    I know I”m talking about “works” type things, but they are a way to the people’s hearts that will get you far!
    Also, be prepared for shock…We all “know” there are “starving kids in Africa” but SEEING it makes it a bajillion times more real…and it’s HARD to take in!! Especially as Christians, we have Christ living in our lives, so we see the kids, widows, men, etc. with His eyes…You’ll probably cry…You’ll probably want to adopt 30 kids…You’ll feel a LOT of emotions Amanda!! I hope it’s okay that I’m being so honest with you…It may sound like a bad thing, but in reality, it’s a good thing… =)
    Prepare your heart to serve (it seems like you already are!). If you’re always skiddish of wanting to help or if you’re off doing your own thing with friends, you won’t be as blessed and changed by the trip…DO HARD THINGS! I have no idea what you’ll be doing exactly, but I’m willing to guess there will be things that aren’t normally what we desire to do that you will be asked to do…DO THEM! It’s SO rewarding in the end!! Jump into life there…Always offer to help…Trust me, the people will LOVE it when you offer to help! They may be shocked that you know how to sweep the floor, but once they see you can, they will be SO thrilled and never want you to stop helping and I can almost guarantee it will be rewarding to you as well.. =)
    I’ll be praying for you!!!! And I assure you, if you seek the Lord while you are gone, He will do mighty things in your life!!!! Hope this helps! =) How long will you be there???

    • Wow, there’s a lot I hadn’t thought about. What kind of needs are there in Zambia? Do they generally have the gospel? Do yall need more workers? I can’t really go right now but it’s good to be aware.

      • @Okie Gal, Zambia is a dominantly Christian nation, but sadly a lot of the “christians” in Zambia mix Christian beliefs with other witchcraft/cultural type beliefs as well..My parents really felt called to discipleship, so that’s what we are doing with the ministry we work with!
        Well, tbh, every place in the world could use soldiers for the Lord… so yes! Zambia could use more people! =) If you’re interested in just learning more about the ministry we work with, you can visit their website: or if you’re interested in learning more about our family, you can visit our website: or my blog:

      • Hey Okie Gal! Just to add to what Megan said below, Tanzania is in need of pastoral training…a family at my church are missionaries to Tanzania and basically their job is to train pastors because many have little Biblical knowledge and haven’t gone to seminary. Also, mission trips cover wide ranges of possibilities, not only evangelism but also reforming the education system, creating jobs or pastoral training, even if the country is mainly Christian.

        • Thanks for your input on this, if i ever get a chance to go i definitely will. Have you heard of Conrad Mbewe? He’s a pastor whose training pastors over there, and I love his sermons.

    • This is amazing Megan! I would love to go to Africa again and be more involved with the needs there, as well as with the needs here in my city in Nova Scotia, Canada. Is your family involved with a particular mission organization? What part of Uganda are you in?

      • We are only involved with the specific ministry we are working with here called Wiphan (which is run by some poeple in Atlanta). We are from Ndola…! WOW!! You have friends from ZA!?!?! What are they’re names?? Even if they aren’t from Ndola, they might speak the same language I do, Bemba..? How do you know them?? That’s neat about the pastor!! =D His last name sounds Bemba actually, but it might be Nyanja…I’m not sure…do you know what part of ZA he’s from??
        I’m just amazed you know people from here!!! When/If I move back to the U.S. I PRAY I have some Zambian friends, but that’s unlikely in my tiny little town…haha

    • Thanks for being honest and sharing your thoughts, Megan!! We’ll be there for about a week. Thank you so much for your prayers! I need all the prayer I can get. 😛 What language to people in Zambia speak? I remember the people in Thailand loving it when we’d say hi or thank you to them in Thai. 🙂 But it sounds like there are a gazillion different tribal languages people speak in Uganda and the people we will see speak English in addition to 3-10 other languages they’ve picked up from being around people. I’m not sure which language I’d try to learn!

      • Oh hey I just remembered, Amazima ( has a lot of videos and blog posts about Ugandas people and culture. Those might help you get ready.

        • OH YES!!!! And @disqus_LzTgmwudVU:disqus idk if you’ve heard of the book Kisses from Katie but it’s about a girl who is a single missionary in Uganda (she wrote the book)…She’s the one who started the Amazima website… =) It’s such a GOOD book!!!!

          • Haha! Everyone keeps telling me to read that book. I suppose I probably should make time for that!

          • haha..! Well, I’m sure it would be beneficial for you to read the book, but it might almost benefit/help you more to read it after you come back; Because then it’d be something you could go to when you’re missing Uganda and you would be able to relate to Katie and the story after being there…! But yes, you should definitely read it… 😉

      • There are over 70 tribal languages here in Zambia…Where we stay, they speak a language called Bemba. =)
        You can always ask someone there what the main language of where you’re located is because it’s the same here…most people speak at least a little English and a number of other languages…but there should be one main language for the specific area even it others are spoken too. =)

  • I don’t know what Uganda is like, but in Papua New Guinea for two years I experienced that the “white people” received a lot of respect for being there, often even from people at home. It’s important not to let this go to your head, as is easy. From my own experience, I’m willing to guess that they just might bless and encourage you even more than you can help them! If you’re like me, you’ll have a great time!
    The people will probably respect you if you forget about yourself and
    just get into whatever you’re doing. Don’t be scared of making a fool of
    yourself by trying something new or attempting to learn the language.
    They will appreciate the humility it takes to be ask for correction on
    every sentence.
    What Megan said about respecting culture is very true, too. Many cultures have different standards of modesty and you’ll want to keep that in mind when packing! ; )

  • He Amanda! My suggestion would be to pray a lot beforehand (very important), and read up about Uganda as much as possible. =^D

  • Hello Other Amanda 😉
    I’m so excited for you! I went to South Africa on a missions trip during March & April 2014 and it was a life-changing experience emotionally and spiritually. From my experience, here are some tips:

    1) Pray. Ask God to help you be observant to their customs and to be willing to change habits, etc.
    2) Be observant. One thing I found is that where I was, it seemed expected that you always greet a person and ask how they were doing every time you spoke to them – even if you were in a hurry or you were speaking with them 30 minutes ago. I would even have a few people that wild interrupt me with “Dumela” (hello) and ask me how I was doing before I could finish asking then where soneone was. Some things will seem rediculous, but remember – you’re entering their culture, and so you’re the one that looks rediculous if you’re not willing to change some of your habits 🙂
    3) Ask. If you’re not sure about something, just ask. I haven’t had a time where some one got upset because I didn’t know something about their culture – and they love it when you’re willing to learn! 🙂

    Have fun and God riches blessings for you!

      • Thanks 😉 I volunteered at a Christian childcare centre for two months, so I focused mainly on interacting with the kids on an educational and spiritual level. It was life-changing!

  • Hey Amanda,
    It is so great that you are going on missions trip. Having lived in Ghana for the first eight years of my life, I would say on a non spiritual level, get to to know their culture and be willing to be a part of their community(play games with them, tell them what’s like in America ). I remember loving it to see foreigners be so happy to see us and learning about their cultures . I think that if you do show your love, then they will be willing to listen to you share the gospel and teach them. And God will then do His work!

  • Hey,
    I recently went on a trip to Haiti. (Not as a missions trip, but I was helping to do some non-profit work with a charity there.) From my experience, I would suggest:
    -Doing some research on the country’s culture, history, etc. before you go and also learning some basic phrases. (e.g., “Where’s the…” “How are you?” “I’m (name/feeling/state), etc.)
    -Make sure you also learn about the level of modesty in Uganda, as it’s important to dress properly to represent your missions group.
    -If there’s someone in your group who’s been to Uganda before, don’t be shy about asking them for any tips. I did this with several of my team members, and it was really helpful!
    -Pray. God will guide you if you are willing to come before him and ask him to bless your trip.
    I’ll be praying for you, and have a good trip!

  • hi amanda i think i may have some really good tips having a lot of people com to my country in mission trips 1. bring them sweets just because yea 2. let them do most of the talking 3. be relaxed, the people who came her (btw i live in Honduras) had a former member of that institution who then became a teacher at my school so we helped them you know telling them were they should go and how to normally approach someone in Honduras so just relax they seemed to nervous and way to teacher like and most of the people they were preaching to got bored in the first minute

  • My family moved to Uganda seven years ago as missionaries, and, although I’m certainly not an expert, I do have a few tips!

    As other people have said, modesty is important! Although not a big deal in Kampala (capital city) if you are going more into village areas, skirts are the norm.

    Also, since Uganda was influenced greatly by Britain, “pants” would actually mean underwear, so say “trousers”!

    Greeting is also extremely important! People love if you greet them in Luganda (actually, depending on where you are serving in Uganda, Ugandans could be speaking Ateso, Kajong or something else, but many people speak Luganda!) so asking your guide/translator to teach you some Luganda so you can greet might be fun:)

    Another quick thing: don’t pair up with a male member of the team and walk around or anything because that is seen as extremely improper (if you are in a village setting…)

    If you do make cultural mistakes, people are generally very forgiving,and they understand you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, so don’t worry too much!

    Obviously, a smile is always appreciated. And be ready to be blessed more than you bless others! Be careful not to assume you’re going to “fix” everything either.

    And the love of God needs no words!

    I hope you have a great trip!

    • Bahahahaha!!! Pants and Trousers are the same here in ZA!!! LOLOL…Oh the embarrassing mistakes we’ve made… =P
      That’s SO awesome that you live there Kim!!! =D =D Missionary life is SO rewarding!! Like you said, I feel like I’m far more blessed by living here than the people I meet are!!

    • Oh dear, thank you for letting me know about the pants vs. trousers thing! I guess we won’t be saying “I like your pants!” Lol…

      How do you like living in Uganda?? That must be so cool!!!

      • You’re welcome:)

        I love it! I really can’t imagine my life if I didn’t live in Uganda these last years…

        Actually, our time here is ending soon, and it’s going to be really, really hard to leave.

        Do you know where you’re going in Uganda? Just wondering if you’re going anywhere near where I live!


        • Mbarara, Sanga, Katyazo, Kyassenya…I don’t know if they’re names of cities or villages or just the names of the schools. Also a church in Rwengo. We’ll be all over the place. 😛 Have you heard of Parental Care Ministries? That’s who we’re going with. Our church supports them.

  • That sounds like a super exciting experience!!! My suggestions would be doing a little bit of research on the people you will be sharing the gospel with. What are some of their traditions, meals, habits, what is their main religion? Also, pray that God will open the people’s hearts to hearing the gospel through you.

  • Hey Amanda, looks like you’ve already got a lot of good advice already but I would just say on a basic level be open and ready to hear from God or learn. As far as actually doing stuff I would say stay close with God however that is for you whether it be reading the Bible, praying often, or fellowship. God can do a hundred times more through you when you’re surrendered to him and are trying to serve him. God himself can take care of and guide everyone there but he might be doing it through you so I would just say try to do his will as much as you can through him. 🙂

  • Well, on the mission trips I’ve been on, there are a few things that have helped a lot.

    1. Research the history and culture of the country. It really does mean a lot to people when you put in the time to understand their customs and history.
    2. Try learning a bit of the language! Even if you totally butcher it (and they will laugh), it still means something to them that you are trying instead of sticking with what you’re comfortable with.
    3. Recognize that certain things are universal; for example, despite cultural differences, I’ve found that children still love to play in many of the same ways all over the world. Sometimes I find myself thinking I need to do something different because I’m in a different place, but in reality people are people, and treating them “differently” because they’re from a different culture is often a mistake. Honor cultural standards, but be willing to treat the people just like you would treat people at home; with love and respect, and willing to have fun!

  • 1) Be open. the people won’t be like you think they will be.
    2) Find help there. more than likely, the people there have already been with missionaries. They know you will need help.
    3) Make friends right away. They want to know about you, and you want to know about them. I found on my mission trip that the youth are especially open to other youth. The best way to make friends is to DO something with them. Start a game, we did soccer, or do community with them. that will break the ice.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →