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Indonesia: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Melissa Chang |

Indonesia, Regions, Travel, Travel Health & Safety


 Indonesian Ocean

Location: Southeast Asia, archipelago between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Capital: Jakarta.Map of Indonesia

Climate: Tropical, generally hot and humid, more moderate in the highlands.

Population: 237,512,352 as per July 2008 estimates. About 17.8% of the population live below poverty line and the country has an unemployment rate of 9.1% as of 2007. Agriculture and industry prop up the Indonesian economy aided by reforms in the financial sector and improved investments. Petroleum and natural gas, textiles, mining, cement, chemical fertilizers, wood products, rubber products and tourism are the main industries.

Ethnic Make-up: Javanese 40.6%, Sudanese 15%, Madurese 3.3%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Betawi 2.4%, Bugis 2.4%, Banten 2%, Banjar 1.7%, Others 30%.

Religions: Muslim 86%, Protestant 5.7%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 1.8%, Others including Jews, Buddhists 3.4%. The Constitution grants all citizens the right to worship according to their faith, but restrictions have been applied to some religious activities. The government only recognises 5 major religions and others coming under the unrecognised category and are therefore not protected by law.

Mopeds in IndonesiaLanguage: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch, Javanese and other local dialects.

Government: Republic.

Travel Issues: Nationals of about 62 countries have the facility to obtain a tourist visa on arrival for a period of 30 days at one of the 14 airports and 23 seaports of Indonesia. However these visas may not be converted to another category or extended. All others need to apply for a valid visa at their nearest embassy. All travellers need to possess a passport with at least 6 months validity and documents proving onward or return journey. No vaccinations are mandatory. Travellers from about 11 neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines etc do not require a visa to enter Indonesia but have to enter through stipulated ports. Enquire at your nearest embassy to ascertain your requirements.

Health & Safety: Indonesia is said to pose high risk of infection if precautions are not taken against Hepatitis A and E, typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, avian flu, and diarrhea.


Children in Indonesia

The People

Indonesia has about 300 ethnic groups each with their own specific cultural patterns and beliefs. A mix of European, Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultural heritages go together to form the Indonesian ethnicity. People of Indonesia are known for their extremely friendly demeanour and welcoming attitudes. However, they have conservative attitudes governing their social behaviour.

The Religion

Indonesia is an Islamic country but is secular in nature. Various faiths are practiced by the citizens without fear. Missionary works have been conducted by North American churches but such activities are restricted in certain areas. The Aceh region is supposed to be an Islamic state and follows religious tenets very strictly.

Role of Family

Indonesians value the extended family structure and draw great support from the interdependent style of living. Families often share the same accommodation or live nearby within minutes of each other. The oldest male is the patriarch and he has the final say in all matters. Women have the traditional role of housekeeping and are the primary caregivers for children. In the cities there is a break away from tradition and nuclear families live in high rises. Women work outside homes but not in any large numbers.


Ancestors are revered and remembered via special prayers and religious rituals during their anniversaries and on special days of the departed. Balinese Hindus believe ancestors to have powers that can protect and help the living members of the family if they are shown ample respect. On the other hand, if ignored, they can turn spiteful and cause destruction and sorrow. Funeral rituals are extremely elaborate and as extravagant as a family can afford.

Recreational Activities

Badminton and tennis are national favourites. Traditional forms of recreation include cockfighting, kite flying, bull racing, and boat racing. Another old favourite is sepak takraw played with a rattan ball. Some forms of martial arts like Pencak silat have avid followers.

Anything else important for this culture

Indonesians have a laid back and relaxed attitude to life and are often taken aback with the hurried lifestyle of westerners. They are a very conservative society and hold fast to religious beliefs. There is a social hierarchy that might not be visible to outsiders, but which nevertheless pays to be followed.


Meetings & Greetings

Greetings take the form of a low bow that is done at a slow pace to show respect. the more the respect the lower the bow when greeting elders. A limp handshake followed by “Selamat” is also acceptable. Others merit a slight bow or even just placing your right palm over the heart.


Often first meetings revolve around getting to know each other rather than discussing anything serious. The purpose is to avoid loss of face to any one concerned. Loss of face or malu is an Indonesian concept that focuses on avoiding humiliation or embarrassment to any one. The use of passive voice, avoiding direct confrontation, denial, or arguing, and generally beating about the bush rather than coming to the point is all a means of avoiding loss of face. Introductions have to be made starting with the eldest person first.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an accepted mode of showing appreciation or goodwill. If invited to a home it is good to arrive with a token gift. Avoid buying locally available items that may be everywhere. Souvenirs from your land or a box of fancy chocolates may be ideal.

Dress Code

Indonesia is a very conservative society and it is important to cover up, especially for women. Keep shoulders and knees well covered. It is important to don formal suits for business meeting even in hot humid temperatures.

Dining Etiquette

Dress formally as casual attire may be considered insulting. While at the dining table again wait to be seated. Do not begin to serve or eat till the elders have done so. Avoid alcohol and pork products if dining in mixed company.

Visiting a home

If invited for dinner at a home, it is alright to arrive a few minutes late but do not delay further. Bring a token gift for the hostess. Leave your footwear outside and once inside wait to be invited to be seated.

Communication Style

Though not many people speak English it is surprisingly easy to communicate as far as basic needs are concerned. Indonesians are extremely warm and eager to help foreigners who appear at a loss. Do not attempt direct conversation with the opposite gender unless they initiate it.

Dos and Don’ts

The head is considered sacred, so do not touch anyone on the head. If you do so accidently, apologize profusely. Do not use your left hand to hand over things such as business cards, money, or food. Do not photograph people without permission. Foreigners are not expected to know the nuances of Indonesian behaviour, but if you do your attempts are well appreciated and you earn their respect. Avoid causing embarrassment or loss of face to your counterparts by not raising your voice, loud laughter, and poor jokes.

Kid with hat and rice fields by John Yavuz Can

Birds photo by flydive

Traditional Dance by giuseppeportale_cartorange

2 kids by Victor Velez

Ocean by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

carving by marc_smith

Food stand by Apple Jia

Moped by simminch

Letter from an Indian Pastor

by Melissa Chang |

India, Stories from the Field


Dear Missions Launch,

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you have asked about me, I want to share a small testimony of myself.

I came from a Hindu Religion Background, who worshipped idols and deamons. I am the only son to my Mother and I have no brothers and sisters.

In this worldly life I was enjoying all the evil things in my life, and one day (in the year 1992) I was fedup with all these thing in my life and decided to commit suicide. In that time a believer of Jesus Christ preached to me the Gospel of Lord Jesus, and in the evening of the same day he showed a film made on Jesus Christ named DAYASAGARA. As I was seeing the film I saw Jesus getting nailed for the sins made by us, and at the same time I confessed all my sins and accepted him as my Saviour and decided to live for Him.
After some days growing in Christ and in His word I got baptized on 10/03/1992. The Lord called me for His service when I was in prayer. He said:

“Do not make anything for yourself in this world but hope for the reward in the Heaven”

Then I came to know that if I win souls for His Kingdom I will get a greater reward in Heaven. At this time of calling I was just 15 yrs old.

A preacher told that he will take me to a Bible college and took me to a place where many of them were distributing the literatures of Jesus and showing the films based on Jesus but not to Bible college. Glory be to God that He used me mightily there for 3 years. later in 1995-1996 I got an oppurtunity to study in a Bible college. I completed my Bible College and I was praying for which place I shoud go to preach the gospel, and I was praying that it should be a place where the word of God has not yet been recieved. Then God guided me through His visions to go to Holenarsipura in 1997.

When I came to this place not even a single home was available for me to stay but there was a small congregation of believers. I went to them to ask for help to preach the gospel but they created a oppositional environment for me in such a way that I will not get any chance to preach the gospel there. So I went back to my hometown and prayed with fasting for this place to be reached by God and to get a rented home for me to stay in this place. Then God said to Me that “Human is equal to a piece of grass why are you afraid of him?” These words encouraged me a lot and I decided that it will be for His sake if I live, and if I die it will be for His sake. And keeping faith on Him I packed all my luggage and went to Holenarsipura.

By His Grace and Mercy it has been 13 years I am serving  Him in this place in spite of many struggles and problems. God has increased by ministry and there is a congregation of (400-500) rural people who came to know JESUS in this place. God has led us so gracefully that we have been able to heal devil spirits and bondages by His power and many are healed.

We also run a Sunday school which helps us in making children equipped in Jesus Christ. The Lord has also helped us in conducting women fellowship in which every women is helped by the word of God and has been able to preach a few things about God and lead others to Jesus Christ. Also we are able to provide food to some beggers and poor in our area by His grace.

By the help of God and  we have a land to build a church. In it we need a church to be built of around 8000 sq ft area and we are praying for that.

So do please pray for our ministry and for the church building. It would be helpful to us a lot that we will be introduced to your readers and they can pray for us.

Note: I am sending some photos of the Congregation gathered in a prayer meeting, Sunday school children, and baptisms.

I will always keep praying for you and for you ministry.

Please pray for My ministry and for My Family.

Your prayers are very precious for us.

Your Brother


baptism in India

vasanth in prayer

Indian baptism

From Prisoner to Missionary: Jacob DeShazer

by Melissa Chang |

Famous Missionaries, Japan, Uncategorized

Jacob DeShazerIt was December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Peal Harbor. Jacob DeShazer was a 29 year old seargent in the US army. When he heard about the raid, he made it his goal to pay back the Japanese. He volunteered to join a special group that would attack Tokyo and turned the tide of the Pacific war. Unfortunately, after his successful mission, he and his team had to ditch their planes, parachuting into enemy territory. They were captured.

For the next three years, he paid a heavy price for his bravery as the Japanese beat, tortured and starved him as a “war criminal.” He was held in a series of P.O.W. camps both in Japan and China for 40 months — 34 of them in solitary confinement. He was severely beaten and malnourished while three of the crew were executed by a firing squad, and another died of slow starvation.

Filled with hatred and rage towards all Japanese, something seemingly impossible happened. DeShazer vowed to spend his life as a missionary, telling the Japanese of Christ’s love. So, what changed him? He asked for a Bible towards the end of his imprisonment and had a radical conversion experience that changed his life forever.

Here are some excerpts from a tract that DeShazer wrote and had distributed around Japan about his experience.

by Jacob DeShazer (1950)

“I was a prisoner of Japan for forty long months, thirty-four of them in solitary confinement

When I flew as a member of General Jimmy Doolittle’s squadron on the first raid over Japan on April 18th, 1942, my heart was filled with bitter hatred for the people of that nation. When our plane ran out of gas, and the members of the crew of my plane had to parachute down into Japanese-held territory in China and were captured by the enemy, the bitterness of my heart against my captors seemed more than I could bear.

Taken to Tokyo with the survivors of another of our planes, we were imprisoned and beaten, half-starved, and denied by solitary confinement even the comfort of association with one another, these terrible tortures taking place at Tokyo, Shanghai, Nanking and Peiping. Three of my buddies, Dean Hallmark, Fill Farrow and Harold Spatz, were executed by a firing squad about six months after our capture, and fourteen months later another of them, Bob Meder [a strong Christian], died of slow starvation. My hatred for the Japanese people nearly drove me crazy.

It was soon after Meder’s death that I began to ponder the cause of such hatred between members of the human race. I wondered what it was that made the Japanese hate the Americans, and what made me hate the Japanese. my thoughts turned toward what I had heard about Christianity changing hatred between human beings into real brotherly love, and I was gripped with a strange longing to examine the Christian’s Bible to see if I could find the secret. I begged my captors to get a Bible for me. At last, in the month of May, 1944, a guard brought the Book, but told me I could have it for only three weeks.

I eagerly began to read its pages. Chapter after chapter gripped my heart. …

How my heart rejoiced in my newness of spiritual life, even though my body was suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food. But suddenly I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes, and that when I looked at the Japanese officers and guards who had starved and beaten me and my companions so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity. I realized that these Japanese did not know anything about my Saviour and that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. I read in my Bible that while those who crucified Jesus on the cross had beaten Him and spit upon Him before He was nailed to the cross, He tenderly prayed in His moment of excruciating suffering, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And now from the depths of my heart, I too prayed for God to forgive my torturers, and I determined by the aid of Christ to do my best to acquaint the Japanese people with the message of salvation that they might become as other believing Christians. …

At last freedom came. On August 20th, 1945, American parachutists dropped onto the prison grounds and released us from our cells. We were flown back to the United States and placed in hospitals where we slowly regained our physical strength.

I have completed my training in a Christian College, God having clearly commanded me: “Go, teach the Japanese people the way of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ,” and am now in Japan as a missionary, with the one single purpose to lead me – to make Christ known.

I am sending this testimony to people everywhere, with the earnest prayer that a great host of people may confess Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.”

In one of the most inspiring stories and miraculous stories to come out of this story, Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who bombed Pearl Harbor, and DeShazer, the Doolittle Raider who bombed Tokyo, became close friends. Fuchida became a Christian in 1950 after reading the DeShazer’s testimony above – and, like DeShazer, he spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia

Here is a video interview with Jacob DeShazer from CBN

I was a Prisoner of Japan is DeShazer’s story as told to Don R. Falkenberg of The Bible Meditation League (BML), 1950.

Famous Missionary: Robert Jermain Thomas

by Carol Grace |

Famous Missionaries, Korea

 Man on Fire

Photo by Focal Intent

I was looking up famous missionaries yesterday and ran across someone I had never heard of before: Robert Jermain Thomas. After reading his biography, I was amazed. Why haven’t I heard of this man before?  His story is extremely powerful.

Why haven’t I heard of this man before?

Robert Jermain Thomas went to China in the 1800’s to be a missionary with his wife. However, Robert’s most famous story actually occurs in Korea. After a 5 month boat trip to get to China, he lost his young wife who died shortly after arrival. Robert stayed in China, but resigned from his missionary post. About a year later, he met 2 Korean Catholics who would change his destiny forever.

north korean billboardAt that time, all of Korea was called the Hermit Kingdom. It was known for its hostility to outsiders, similar to North Korea today, but possibly even more extreme.  There had been several priests in Korea since 1785, and those few priests were meeting in small house type churches with thousands of believers who had no Bibles or scriptures. The authorities were very hostile to Christianity and massacred almost 10,000 at one point around the same time Robert was in China.

Robert was very moved about the plight of the Koreans and begin making secret trips on trading ships to distribute Bibles under heavy disguise and serious threat of death if caught. His last trip was in 1866 on an American merchant trading ship as a translator. Upon entering Pyongyang, the current capital of North Korea, a battle ensued. The Koreans did not want the foreign traders there, and the captain of the American ship reportedly started shooting. This caused the Koreans to retaliate. During the battle the ship got stuck on a sand bar and the Koreans caught the ship on fire. Those who escaped and swam to shore were quickly killed by the soldiers on the banks.

On the deck of the burning ship, Robert flung open his cases of Bibles and began flinging them to the villagers on the shore watching and to the soldiers themselves shouting “Jesus!”  Finally, Robert himself caught on fire, still throwing the Bibles and jumped into the river. As he swam to shore he begged the awaiting soldier to take a Bible from him. Witnesses say the soldier was reluctant to kill him, but did his duty. Robert was only 27.

small handsMeanwhile, the scene of this passionate man so caring about the Bibles touched those on the shores who witnessed it. Some felt bad about destroying the Bibles he had so passionately tried to give away and took them home, using them as wallpaper.  Eventually, out of curiosity, they started reading the pages.

About 5o years later a huge revival broke out in Pyongyang. in 1904 10,000 became Christian. In 1906, 30,000…In 1907, 50,000 more. Finally, in 1931 a memorial church was built on the spot to honor Robert Jermain Thomas, who had died so passionately trying to give away Bibles with his last breath.

The soldier who had killed Robert, did end up taking the Bible. Choon Kwon Park later played an important role in establishment of the Pyongany Church. Today, many Koreans still visit the home of Robert Jermain Thomas in Wales to pay their respects and to remember.

To read more articles on Robert Jermain Thomas you can click here or here.

To purchase an autobiography of Robert’s life, you can visit Emmaus Road to find a copy of Stella Price’s book, Chosen for Choson.

Billboard photo by Mark Scott Johnson
Begging photo by Photos8.com

Mongolia: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |


snow landscape2
Photo by chenyingphoto


Location: Northern Asia; between Russia in the north and China in the south.

map of mongoliaCapital: Ulaanbaatar

Climate: Desert, continental with large variations in daily and seasonal ranges.

Population: 3,041,142 as per July 2009 estimates. About 36% of the population live below poverty line, while the unemployment rate is about 2.8%. Mongolian economy is based on agriculture and dairy for the large part and they also have considerable mineral deposits. Copper, coal, gold, tin, and uranium make for industrial production and foreign direct investment. China is the biggest trading partner and receives about 70% of Mongolian exports. The country has succeeded in paying off its huge foreign debts to Russian and looks set to play a part in the Asian economic scene.

mongolian childrenEthnic Make-up: Mongol 94.9%, Turkic 5%, Others including Chinese and Russian 0.1%.

Religions: Buddhism 50%, Shamanism and Christianity 6%, Islam 6%, Others 38%. The Mongolian Constitution grants the freedom to practice any religion; however, proselytizing is frowned upon and may face governmental intervention. Christian missionaries have embarked on various projects in Mongolia even in the face of bureaucratic harassments.

Language: Khalkh Mongol 90%, Turkic, Kazakh, and Russian.

Government: Parliamentary/ Presidential.

ponyTravel Issues: Travel to Mongolia requires a passport valid for at least another 6 months and a Mongolian visa permitting you to enter the country. Foreign nationals intending to stay in Mongolia for more than 30 days are required to register their presence with the police within 10 days of arrival. Those arriving for a period of up to 30 days need to apply for an Entry and Exit Visa and those staying for more than 90 days need to apply for an Entry Visa. If arriving by train, you can apply for a single, double, or multiple entry Transit visa. Visa applications have to be made to the Mongolian consulate.

Health & Safety: No vaccinations are mandatory, but precautions are advised against Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and B, Tuberculosis, Malaria, Tetanus, and Typhoid. It is also advisable to get up to day information regarding any influenza epidemic at time of travel. Use bottled or sterilized water for drinking and washing purposes. Avoid unpasteurized milk and go for tinned or powdered variety.

mongolian archers


little girl in mongoliaThe People

The Mongolian people hold fast to their ancient culture and remain largely unaffected by other influences. They live a pastoral life herding animals such as cattle, sheep, camel, and horses. The nomadic tribes are referred to as Five-Animal People for this reason. Their houses are called ger and are made of felt-like material which can be taken down without too much trouble and transported elsewhere. Traveling Mongols never carry supplies as it is the Mongolian way of life that every traveler be welcomed and fed, no matter what.

The Religion

Mongolia has no state religion but Buddhism is the major belief that guides their lifestyles. Shamanism and to a lesser extend, Christianity and Islam also have followers. They are tolerant of all faiths but frown on blatant proselytising.

mongolian horse racingRole of Family

Mongolian families can be quite large, though not necessarily extended. It is quite common to have a number of children and include old parents. Generally, families tend to follow the nuclear model. In rural areas, married couples have their own tent and inherit a share of the family herd. The eldest son usually inherits the parent’s tent and herd of animals. Families live close to their kin as part of the same herding camp.

Men engage in herding and trading of animals while women take care of the home chores such as milking yaks and preparing food.

mongolian hawk trainerAncestors

Respect for ancestors pervades the social fabric and they are honoured before every important event and on special days of the dead. In a home, the hearth symbolizes ties with the ancestors.

Recreational Activities

Mongolians have a rich repertoire of songs and music for every occasion. Horse riding is taken up with a passion and children are said to be able to ride a horse even before they can walk.

Anything else important for this culture

Inside a ger, the altar space is kept holy. Do not point your foot towards this area when seated; neither should you point anything sharp, such as a knife, towards it. The central support columns in a ger is believed to be a link to heaven in addition to symbolizing the husband and wife of the family, and as such, should not be used casually to lean against or support yourself. It is considered inauspicious to spill milk inside a ger. Never stand on the threshold of a ger, but gain entrance immediately.

Family outside of ger
Photo by The Wandering Angel


mongolian shepherd girlMeetings & Greetings

Greetings are confined to a handshake and a nod of the head and are not prolonged affairs. Women may just smile and offer a verbal greeting such as “Sain bainuu”, which means “How are you?” Hugs are reserved for very close friends meeting after a long time.


Social hierarchy is a given in Mongolian culture as in most Asian communities and respect for older people are palpably shown. The suffix “-quay” is added to the name when addressing an older person. Never overtake an older person or walk in front of them. Always take off your gloves, even at sub-zero temperatures, to shake someone’s hand in greeting. It is impolite to take someone else’s hat and wear it. 

mongolian skyGift Giving

After you’ve enjoyed the hospitality of a Mongolian family, it would be a good gesture to discreetly offer the children some token of your appreciation, which can then be passed on to the parents by them. Do not offer parents money directly.

Dress Code

Western attire is suitable in the big cities for both men and women. In rural areas it would be wise to keep it casual depending on the weather, or go ethnic. The traditional Mongolian dress is a single body length piece with a bright sash, called the Deel.

man in gerDining Etiquette

Dining will usually be seated on the floor on or on low stools. It is rude to refuse anything offered and you are expected to take a bit of everything. On festive occasions, a bowl of liquor will be passed around, of which you have to at least pretend to take a sip, if not actually enjoy one. The ritual includes dipping your index finger into the brew, flick a few drops upwards to the sky, sideways to the wind, down to the earth, and touch your forehead for the ancestors. If offered snuff and you do  not want to or know how to use it, just  smell the tobacco and pass it on with your right hand.

Visiting a home

Mongolians have a high sense of hospitality and go all out to welcome visitors. Once you’ve been welcomed into a home, men often exchange snuff boxes. It is good etiquette to accept even if you do not have one of your own to offer in exchange. Tea or fermented milk will be served in small bowls and this has to be accepted with both hands or with the right hand supported at the elbow with your left.

Communication Style

Mongolians in the rural areas rarely speak English or any other language other than their own. However, they smile warmly to indicate welcome and appreciation.

 Inside Ger
Photo by Ironpark

Dos and Don’ts

Guests are welcomed unannounced at all times in a Mongolian home, but it is not acceptable to knock on the door to announce your arrival. Instead, stand back and yell “Nokhoi Khori!” which means, “Hold the dog!” This needs to be done even if there’s no dog. Do not take off your hat indoors, but it is acceptable to slightly dip it in greeting. Ensure your sleeves are rolled completely down while offering or accepting anything. It is rude to accept things with rolled up sleeves. Do not whistle indoors. Do not point your legs northwards as that is where the altar is located. If seated on the floor or on a low stool, do not stretch your legs outward but fold it under you. Fire is considered sacred and so it is sacrilegious to burn rubbish in it or put it out with water. In cities, the minimum age is 22 years for alcohol consumption and 18 for smoking.

Hawk, rosy cheeked girl, shepherd girl and landscape by tiarescott
Girl in pigtails by chenyingphoto
Contest photo by John Pannell
Man in ger by Wolfiewolf
Pony by yeowatzup

Lost in Translation

by Carol Grace |

China, Language Acquisition

Learning languages can be pretty difficult at times. Here are some real signs found in China with a few translation issues of their own:

Photo by Augapfel

lost in translationg
Photo by Helga’s Lobster Stew

it's all chinese to me
Photo by Click Cluck

chinese english signs
Photo by Box of Badgers

chinese billboard
Photo by rheanna2

private vegetables
Photo by xiaming

 don't be edible
Photo by Augapfel

Missions Opportunity in Northeast Thailand

by Melissa Chang |

Asia, Missions Organizations, Thailand

isaan farmer

Looking for a great opportunity with a great team and a wonderful missions organization?  How about serving with OMF International on the Northeast Thailand (called Isaan) team.

Isaan is the Northeast of Thailand. Over 20 million people are living there, forming a distinct ethnic group, the Isaan. Among them are approximately 32,000 protestant Christians, or 0.16% of the population.

In the whole of Isaan there are less than 100 missionaries. Almost half of them are working in just one city. Several provinces with hundreds of thousands of people do not have any missionary at all. Isaan needs people to proclaim the Gospel!

Here is what they have to say:

We are an OMF-International team working among the Isaan people. The OMF is an interdenominational mission agency that accepts candidates from countries all over the world. Do you passionately love Jesus, and do you passionately want others to experience His love as well, than you could be our new team member!

Our vision:

Christ-honouring churches all over Isaan.

The churches that we envision

• Worship God using Isaan cultural forms

• Are built up in the faith through careful study of the Word of God

• Often will be led by unpaid leaders

• Often will be house churches

• Have an impact on their community through social service

• Multiply themselves

Our strategy

• Evangelizing and church planting in districts without churches

• Using the bridges that God gives (often relatives) to enter unchurched districts

• Reaching whole families

• Chronological Bible teaching

• Using the Isaan language and cultural forms, especially in rural areas

• Facilitating new Christians to start leading house groups

• Using methods that are reproducible by Isaan people

• Creativity in building self-supporting churches and church leaders

Your opportunity

All of our team members need to share the desire to plant churches. Within that framework, there is a wide range of possibilities:

• Rural church planting in the thousands of villages without a church

• Urban church planting in lower class neighbourhoods, in flat apartments, in slums.

• Development work in a church planting context: e.g. micro enterprise development, agricultural development.

• Developing contextual ways of evangelism and being church

• Training Isaan Christians to be church planters

• Networking with churches and missions to find bridge-people into unreached districts of Isaan

• Itinerant evangelist-church planters, who follow up promising contacts in a wide area in Isaan 

With this wide range of possibilities, we are confident that we can find a place where your gifts can make a valuable contribution to reaching the over 20 million Isaan who are not Christian yet! Normally, we expect team members to have had a Bible school training in addition to their other education.

We are mainly looking for team members who will join us for the long run. If you are interested, please contact us. We will be more than happy to discuss the possibilities with you. If you can come for a short-term visit to Thailand, we will be happy to receive you.

Second-career missionaries are particularly suited for the role of networking with churches and missions to find strategic people to work with in Isaan. We are very open for applications of senior Christians who want to serve as missionaries for at least three years.

To find out more visit out Isaan website.

Also, for those of you who follow Twitter, Marten Visser (Twitter @martenvissereng) is the team leader.

If you want us to feature YOUR missions opportunity, just send an email with info and how to get involved to editor@missionslaunch.com

Kazakhstan: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |


Photo by dmitry.papkovich


mapLocation: Central Asia, bordered by Russia, the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and China.

Capital: Astana

Climate: Continental climate, arid to semi-arid with hot summers and cold winters.

Population: 15,399,437 according to July 2009 estimates. About 13.8% of the population live below poverty line and there’s an unemployment rate of 6.9%. Kazakhstan economy is based on their large reserves of fossil fuels, mineral deposits, agriculture, livestock, and metal industry.

Ethnic Make-up: Kazakh 53.4%, Russian 30%, Ukrainian 3.7%, Uzbek 2.5%, German 2.4%, Tartar 1.7%, Uygur 1.4%, Others 4.9%.

traditional girlReligions: Islam (Sunni) 57%, Christianity (Russian Orthodox) 40%, Others 3%. The Constitution guarantees freedom to practice all religions. Proselytising is not illegal, but may be carried out subject to certain official procedures. Foreign missionaries intending to engage in proselytising have to be registered with the Migration Police and obtain permission to do so, indicating purpose of stay in the country, religious affiliation, territory of missionary work, and time period required for work. Failure to do this might invite prosecution and fines. Registration needs to be renewed annually.

Language: Kazakh 64.4%, Russian 95%. Kazakh is the State language, but Russian is the official language used for social and business transactions by the majority of the population.

Government: Republic.

Travel Issues: Travel to Kazakhstan requires a passport with at least a six month validity and a Kazakh visa. All foreign travellers arriving in Kazakhstan have to register with the local police within five days of arrival. Those arriving from the UK intending to stay for less than 30 days are exempt from this obligation; however, please check to see if rules have changed. Visitors intending to stay for long periods need to produce a certificate stating they are free of HIV/AIDS.

Health & Safety: Those traveling to Kazakhstan might need to take precautions against Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus, and Typhoid. A Yellow Fever vaccination might be required if travelling from or through an infected region in the recent past. Use bottled water for drinking and washing purposes, and eat only well cooked food.

Photo by sly06


catThe People
Kazakh people live in a beautiful untainted land following an uncomplicated down-to-earth lifestyle. If they own a camel, a horse, and some cows they are content and consider themselves blessed. They live in makeshift homes made of felt called yurts which can be taken down in half an hour and carted away to another location. Their community is made up of interdependent tribes descended from a common ancestor living in happy co-existence. Though patriarchal when compared to western standards, women have an important role in the home and in the community which they guard fiercely just as men take care of their business of protecting and providing for their families.

kmanThe Religion
The major religion in Kazakhstan is Islam. However, there is a large percentage that practice Christianity under the Russian Orthodox denomination. There are smaller groups of Protestants and Roman Catholics in addition to other denominations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Grace Church, and Baptists. Christianity is observed by immigrants from Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia, while ethnic Kazakhs are mostly Muslims.

Role of Family
Kazakh family traditions are followed stringently from ancient times. After marriage, the newly weds live with the groom’s parents for a year. This is when the daughter-in-law undergoes training to become a good wife and housekeeper. By the time the first born arrives, she is deemed worthy of running her own home and is set up with a yurt, camels, cows, and horses donated by both families. Even if they live separate from the parents, the oldest male member is one who governs all and makes all important decisions. Older family members are very generous to the younger members and help considerably in terms of childcare, food, and farm animals.

Ancestors, both dead and alive, are revered by the Kazakhs with a great deal of devotion. They have a saying which sums it all up, “If your dead ancestors are not satisfied with you, you won’t be rich”. Thus, they have elaborate funeral and mourning rituals that spread over a length of time and prayers for the dead every year before Ramadan.

Recreational Activities
Kazakhstan has a lot of spas and natural springs that visitors find very attractive. For the locals, horse riding and other related sports are a passion. Kazaksha kures (wrestling), baiga (horse racing), alty bakan (six pole swing), and kokpar (polo played with a dead goat) are some local sport.

Anything else important for this culture
Being punctual is a virtue, but it is almost never adhered to. Kazakhs do not see the point in fixing appointments and may just walk in and meet you; the plus point being you can do the same. Avoid this if you’re on a business meeting. Social hierarchy places age before all, then men, women and children. This means an elderly woman has the power to boss over the menfolk and will not be denied this due to her gender. Women have equality in the workplace and will be respected for her position in spite of gender. Women are fiercely protective of their home and will not tolerate men interfering in housework. Women wearing masculine attire and smoke are looked down upon.

Photo by Irene2005


dancersMeetings & Greetings
Men greet each other with a handshake and with both hands clasping the other’s hand if the relationship is close. Women may just smile and nod or shake hands lightly. Close relatives will hug and kiss on the cheeks. When greeting the opposite gender, it is wise to take the cue from the lady depending on whether she is happy to smile a greeting or shake hands. Greeting religious figures should be restricted to a slight reverent bow and no touching.

Society is hierarchical and seniority is always shown a lot of respect. Always let the older person begin and dominate conversations.

camel milkGift Giving
Gift giving does not follow any strict rules but flowers, chocolates and quality wines are all considered appropriate. However, do not gift alcohol to Muslims, even if you think they imbibe. When giving a gift be prepared to be given something in return.

Dress Code
Western attire is considered acceptable, though women tend to avoid masculine clothes such as boots or cowboy hats. Kazakhs love their shoes and it is a sign of their class. Women don’t normally favour sneakers or flip flops and mostly wear elegant stilettos and other high heels. Men sport dandy, pointy shoes polished to perfection. Short shorts and tight tees are generally not acceptable.

Dining Etiquette
Dining may be seated on floors or on furniture depending on the location. if in a rural setting, you may be seated on the floor and eat with your hands with the food being served from communal bowls. Lamb will be on the menu and may even be in form of the whole head which is then proceeded to be taken apart with various pieces assigned to the guests based on rank, ending with children getting the ears.

Visiting a home
If offered a boiled sheep’s head on an ornate dish, it is a sign of great respect and should be accepted with appreciation. This is only offered to the oldest member or a distinguished guest. Young people whose parents are alive are spared the ordeal of cutting it open, and so, it can be passed around for somebody else to do the honours. Tea will be served half-filled as a full cup is considered ill-mannered. Bread is considered sacred and should not be left over. However, when you’ve had your fill, leave a bit of left-overs or you will be served repeatedly. It would be good form to bring along a token gift in the form of pastries or chocolates for the occasion.

Photo by culater251

Communication Style
Communication style often differs with ethnicity. With those of Russian ethnicity you may expect a certain bluntness and openness while ethnic Kazakhs rarely always maintain an indirect style. Most Kazakhs speak English, but it might sound a tad imperative even if they are only suggesting something.

Dos and Don’ts
Drive on the right side of the road. Religion, ethnicity, and politics are touchy topics with even close acquaintances and should never be discussed with strangers you may have just met. Do not hook two fingers together or put your thumb between your index and middle finger as these gestures are considered obscene. Do not ask after the welfare of a sick person in the evenings.

man with hat, cathedral, camel milk by sly06
traditional girl culater251
dancers by hello alisa
camel, yurt by Irene2005


Contextualization in South India

by Heather Carr |

Contextualization in Missions, India

flameChristians have long expressed thanksgiving and praise to our God through worship. The Father is often glorified with shouts of “amen,” and “hallelujah.” Times of prayer and reflection offer us an opportunity to consider the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Offerings are also typical, but do not always require a checkbook. South Indian Christians have found new ways to adapt some old customs into their worship of the Lord.

In South India, some Christians have adapted the traditional Hindu act of worship known as Parikrama into their worship services. Christian worshipers walk slowly around a mandala, which is a space decorated with flowers and stones traditionally used as an aid to meditation. Once a symbol of the universe, the mandala has taken on a new meaning among the South Indian Christian community as a representation of the Holy of Holies.

The people of the congregation walk meditatively around the mandala, holding their heads slightly bowed in honor of the divinity that is in our God. Their hands are held clasped together in a traditional salutation known as the sign of Namaskar.

Gifts are left in offering as a part of the Parikrama ceremony. Flowers or other representations of God’s beautiful creation are left around the mandala. The Christian community in South India has successfully married tradition and truth through the modern Parikrama. Thanksgiving, praise and offering are raised to the Lord through this unique act of worship.

Photo by ms Belvedere

Iran:Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |

Asia, Iran, Iran, Middle East, Regions



Location: Iran is located in the Middle East in Asia. It has the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan to its north, Afghanistan to the east, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south, and Iraq to the west

Capital: Tehran.

Climate: Iran has an arid, subtropical climate.


Photo by N_Creatures

Population: As of July 2009 the population of Iran is estimated to be 66,429, 284. About 18% of the population live under the poverty line, and there is an unemployment rate of about 12%. The Iranian economy is heavily dependant on the oil and petroleum industry. High oil prices have netted Iran nearly $100 billion in foreign exchange reserves. A 2008 estimate pegs the nations GDP at $842 billion.

small bldgEthnic Make-up: Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, Others 1%.

Religions: Muslims constitute 98% of the population of which the Shia constitute 89% and the Sunni, about 9%. Other minority religions include Zoroastrian, Judaism, Christian, and Baha’i.

old manLanguage: Persian 58%, Turkic 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, Others 2%.

Government: Islamic Republic

Travel Issues: Travel to Iran calls for a valid passport, Iranian visa, tickets and documents showing return or onward travel. No vaccination is mandatory. Some nationals are eligible to receive a tourist visa for 7 days on arrival at Tehran airport.

Health & Safety: No vaccinations are required as part of travel to Iran. However, it would be advisable to be immunised against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Typhoid, Malaria, and Diphtheria. It would also be a good idea to inquire at the local consulate regarding any attacks of virulent flu that may be prevalent at the time of travel and take precautions accordingly.

Photo by Hamed Saber


The People
The Iranian people are friendly and hospitable but extremely conservative in their ways of interaction. They belong to an ancient culture and hold deep-rooted customs and attitudes that foreigners need to inform themselves about in order to understand and appreciate them better. They are a multicultural society including minorities such as Turkmen, Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchs who have their own unique traditions and customs dating back thousands of years.

Photo by N_Creatures

The Religion
girl in iranThe official religion of Iran as per the Constitution is Islam. Zoroastrian, Judaism, and Christianity are recognised as minority religions and may be practised by adherents. Religions other than those officially recognised, such as the Baha’i, are not allowed freedom of practice and may face persecution. Evangelisation is considered illegal.

carpetRole of Family
Extended family is the norm outside of the big cities of Iran. Nuclear families are still the exception even in the cities. Kinship and family ties are attributed the highest importance. The individual is dependant on the family for identity as well as power, position, and security. There is a definite hierarchy with the oldest male patriarch at the head down to the women and children.

Ancestors are looked upon with a lot of reverence in Iran. Their memory is held sacred and seen as a source of identity and belonging. Often families are able to trace their lineage to historic times.

money1Recreational Activities
Games like chess and similar board games are enjoyed by the older generation. Football is a passion among the younger crowd. Traditional games include camel racing and desert safaris.

Anything else important for this culture
Life in Iran is governed by Islamic law called the Sharia. There are strict codes to follow as far as dress, behaviour, and travel are concerned. Rules are far stricter for women than for men, especially in areas outside the cities. Women should avoid travelling alone and be very discreet when travelling with men who are not their legal husbands. Hotels may demand a marriage certificate before allocating a room for couples.

Photo by Hamed Saber


Meetings & Greetings
A handshake is an accepted form of greeting between men. Iranians greet each other by hugging three times on alternate shoulders accompanied by kisses on the cheek. Women greet each other similarly. When it comes to the opposite gender, conservative Iranians do not make eye contact or shake hands but keep a discreet distance. A slight bow to each other is then the accepted form of greeting.

Photo by Hamed Saber

smokerDo not attempt to make eye contact with people, especially of the opposite sex. During the month of Ramadan, it is common courtesy to not indulge in merry making or loud talking as the Muslims will be in a state of prayer and fasting all day long. Even chewing gum in their presence will be considered inappropriate.

Gift Giving
An ideal gift to carry if invited to an Iranian home would be a box of chocolates, or pastry, or flowers. This should be offered discreetly or left behind unobtrusively. Gifts are not opened when given and will be quietly laid aside. On Iranian New Year, Nau Roz, money in the form of new notes and gold coins are handed out by elders to those in their service.

sheepDress Code
The dress code for men in formal situations would be a jacket or coat. Full sleeved shirts and trousers are acceptable in warm temperatures. Women may wear trousers and long skirts that go below knee level and preferably reach the ankles. If visiting religious sites, women are advised to wear the traditional full length clothing known as the chador. A head scarf is advised at all times.

Dining Etiquette
Dining may either be at a table with cutlery and utensils or on a lush carpet amidst cushions with bare hands. Always wait to be seated as there is an order of seating based on a social hierarchy. Iranians are known for their hospitality and this shown by the large servings of a huge array of dishes. The guest is expected to eat a bit of everything and will be offered second and even third helpings. Your refusal will be taken for sheer good manners and so it is best to leave a little food on the plate to show you have had enough.

old manVisiting a home
If invited to an Iranian home always arrive on time. Invitations may not include spouse or partners and this must be confirmed beforehand. Take footwear off at the entrance to the house and enter barefooted unless asked not to. When invited to eat or drink, it is customary to decline politely till the host presses you to accept.

Communication Style
Communicating with Iranians can be tricky because they will not say a direct No even if they have no intention of complying with your request. A direct refusal is considered rude. Similarly they will show a lot of humility and pay compliments which should not be taken at face value as they are just being polite even if they are annoyed. This is known as the taarof and is part of treating guests with honour and kindness.

2 ladies
Photo by N_Creatures

Dos and Don’ts
Travelers who have visited Israel may be denied entry into Iran. Women applying for a visa should be photographed wearing a headscarf in their passport photos. Drug use and trafficking may be punished by execution. Alcohol and pork products are banned absolutely. Public display of affection and even holding hands is frowned upon. Homosexuality, pornography, and adultery are illegal and may entail the death sentence. The thumbs up sign is considered obscene.

Photo by N_Creatures

adobe home, family by carpet, smokers, old man by N_Creatures

iran girl, old man, sheep by babeltravel

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