1. Cultural Values:
    Every culture is different. They worship in different ways and celebrate different holidays and events. Likewise each culture honors traditions that are unique to their setting. Some practices that we take for granted may not be acceptable to those in another country, and some of their actions and activities may not be understood by us. Because of those differences, it’s important to begin each trip with a certain framework of cultural reminders.  We’ve listed some of those thoughts below.

  2. When in a foreign country, YOU are the foreigner. Don’t expect nationals to adapt to you; it is YOUR responsibility to be flexible and adapting to their culture. You should never be asked to compromise Biblical principles, but human traditions change from place to place.

  3. Not only will nationals be watching how we treat them, they will also be very aware of how we treat one another. Therefore, always treat everyone with great dignity and respect.

  4. It is very easy to promote envy & jealousy among nationals, so be very aware how giving a “gift” to someone might impact their own relationships with those around them.

  5. Though English is the official language of some nations like Belize, many won’t understand certain phrases or axioms of our Americanized language and culture. Be thoughtful in how you approach communication with those who may not be familiar with our customs and figures of speech.

  6. Even though showering and cleanliness are the “norms” in the United States, many places do not share the same customs or have access to the same facilities to which we are accustomed. Don’t be surprised when you encounter body odor. It is NOT a sign of a lower “class” of people.

  7. Punctuality is the name of the game in American business and culture. We are the exception to most of the world. Many people around the world do not run on the same time priorities as do we, so be patient. Things will happen when they happen.

  8. Though you may take most of your food with you on your trip, you will likely have opportunity to sample native tastes and delicacies. Be aware that refusing something that was made specially for you out of love and respect can appear insulting to those who have thoughtfully prepared a meal for you.

  9. Each group will be comprised of individuals, each created with a different set of strengths and weaknesses and varying abilities and talents. Learn to value each participant and what they bring to the group.

  10. Your trip may likely be to a third-world nation. You will NOT have all of the amenities to which you are accustomed in the United States, so please don’t expect to always feel that you are at “home”.

  11. Dress standards are typically much more conservative in Latin American countries--especially among church people--so please plan your wardrove along conservative lines (e.g.- modest shorts, no 2 piece bathing suits for ladies, etc.).

  12. Smiling--it’s the international sign for friendliness. :-)

  13. Yours will be a ministry trip. Relate to people. Talk with them and ask them questions about their lives, families, etc.

  14. Though you may travel overseas for a specific task, remember people are always the priority. Please don’t fall into the temptation of viewing locals as interruptions or distractions.  They are the reason you are there.

  15. Rightly or wrongly, as a North American you will be viewed as wealthy. That makes you a target for theft, so don’t take ANYTHING with you that you can’t afford to replace financially or sentimentally.

  16. In the New Testament, the word for ministry comes from a term meaning to “serve.”  That’s your mission--to serve people of another culture and those on your trip. The trip is not about you, but about what God can do through you in the lives of others.  Always be looking for new ways that you can reveal Christ in your attitudes and actions.

Why you’re doing what you’re doing...

The Purpose of Serving