Missions Launch

Helping those who help the world

Lessons Learned from Christians in Cameroon

by Melissa Chang |

Africa, Cameroon, Jesus Film, Stories from the Field

jesus film in africaDear Melissa,

I can’t explain why – maybe it’s because it’s Africa and there are no spare parts and no Best Buys around the corner, but every film showing comes extremely close to never happening. I remember this from when I spent 3 months in Kenya doing this also.

So tonight, our group lost an adapter so that the generator was African voltage and the projector was American voltage – so they didn’t connect. Finally, one of the Cameroon team members cut the chord in half, stripped it and rewired it. Someone forgot the stakes to stake the screen into the ground so we found some government building to show the film on. Then, there was no audio chord to the speakers, so we had to take turns holding the mic next to the computer audio for the whole movie. Then they realized they had forgotten the gas for the generator, so a kindly African volunteer hopped on his moped to go find some. His motorcycle broke down on the way, so some other volunteer took over from there while he got help.

Eventually, and miraculously, with lots of prayer, it almost always seems to work out. Really I think it is because these Cameroon Christians just never give up no matter how long it takes. They believe there is a solution and they don’t quit until they find it. Also, it shows how important this film showing is to them.

When we asked our Cameroon leader what we were going to do after he had cut and stripped that chord in case we needed that chord tomorrow, he said “But we need to deal with today.” Then he quoted us this scripture “Don’t worry about tomorrow for today has enough troubles of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

I have a lot to learn from these guys.

Stories from the Field: I’m Here!

by Melissa Chang |

Cameroon, Stories from the Field

cameroon arrival
Dear Melissa,

Since I don’t journal, I thought that I might try to write you a letter or 2. That way, I can keep you informed.

1st of all – the plane ride and jet lag almost killed me. I thought I might not be able to wake up in time for the trip. I prayed and prayed, and thank God today is Friday, and I finally woke up feeling more myself. I really, really WANTED to be here because I WANT to be here and be at the top of my game.

So, day 4 and we are still traveling. Travel the Road was a very good name for a missionary reality show because that is like a huge part of missions – getting there. Then you are so depleted and are at your worst, but you have to suck it up and find it within you to be your best again because now you have to go and enter the culture.

So, this kind of will tell you how I feel. We got off the plane, got our luggage, took a van through the city to our hotel. Bam! We entered the culture. Mopeds everywhere, shacks and storefronts jammed together and on top of each other with not one inch of space. Trash in the streets, vendors selling bananas, homemade furniture, mangos, roasted corn, clothing, women dressed in full African colored fabric from head to toe and young boys in tattered clothes selling 100’s of bags of peanuts which they carry on their heads.

The smell was the 1st thing that hit me. It is the unique smell of Africa; smoke from burning coal and trash, people who are very hot, and various meats being grilled over open fires – even in the city. I breathed it in and smiled. I looked around at all of the sights and honking mopeds swerving in & out of traffic, and I thought to myself “you know if this doesn’t kill me, it’s going to be awesome.”

Since then, we have just been having orientation and trying to get enough to eat, which has been difficult. Sweat is literally dripping off of us at all times. Tonight, a 4 hour van ride to our last and final destination far into the northern villages. And then, tonight it begins! We are showing the 1st film show in Gizega tonight!

Photo by Elin B

Yemen: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |



 pool in yemen

Location: Middle East, with Saudi Arabia to the north, Oman to the east, the Gulf of Aden to the south, and the Red Sea to the west.

yemen mapCapital: Sanaa

Climate: Hot and humid climate along the west coast, temperate in the mountainous west, and harsh, hot desert climate in the east.

Population: 23,822,783 as of July 2009. About 45% of the population live below poverty line and the unemployment rate hovers at 35%. Yemen is one of the poorest nations in the Middle East and their economy is based on dwindling oil resources, agriculture, cotton and leather industries, food processing, aluminium and cement. 

yemeni girlEthnic Make-up: Arab including Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans.

Religions: Sunni Muslim 70%, Shi’a Muslim 30%, Others such as Christians number about 3000, Jews about 500, and Hindus about 40. Islam is the state religion, but the Yemeni constitution guarantees freedom to practice all faiths. The entire population regardless of religion is subject to the Shari’a law. Proselytising and conversion are prohibited by the Government. Christian missionaries are restricted to working in charity, medical and educational services.

Language: Arabic

Government: Republic

yemen squareTravel Issues: Travel to Yemen requires a passport that is valid for at least six months, a valid visa to enter Yemen, travel documents showing return or onward travel, and an International Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate if you’re arriving from an infected area within the previous five days. Some countries are eligible to be granted visa on arrival and you have to check with your local embassy to ascertain your status. 

Health & Safety: Most countries place Yemen on a status of high risk due to frequent terrorist activities and an unstable political situation. Foreign nationals are advised to stay within the city limits of Sanaa and not congregate in large numbers in hotels and restaurants as groups of expatriates and tourists may invite attacks. Local authorities place restrictions on visiting certain areas that may be dangerous for foreigners and this has to be adhered to at all cost. Sailing or yachting along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden poses yet another security risk in the form of pirates operating in these waters.

 spices in yemen


yemen familyThe People

Yemen used to be the site of ancient civilization but is now one of the poorest nations in the Arab world. The Yemeni people are simple unassuming folk who are entrenched in their age-old traditional way of life.

The Religion

Yemeni people are all Muslims and belong either to the Sunni or Shia faction. Their lives are governed by the Islamic Sharia law that dictates daily routine, food, clothing, and life styles. Great importance is given to the practice of religion by every man, woman and child. Religious observances such as festivals and fasting are undertaken with great zeal.

boy in yemenRole of Family

The Yemeni family is hierarchical with the oldest male member being the most important member. Extended families are the norm. Even within families there is a tangible segregation between male and female roles. Men take care of business which could be anything from agriculture, herding and trading in animals or working in some industry, while women take care of the home and children. Women are rarely seen outside their homes.


yemen swordsmanThe Yemeni people show a great deal of respect for their ancestors. Tombs are revered, even if the occupant is not a relative. In fact, unknown mausoleums are accorded the same respects as family tombs. The Yemeni people bury their dead within walls of mosques and in cemeteries with elaborate rituals and prayers for the departed. They believe in the afterlife.

Recreational Activities

The Yemeni people are extremely friendly and cheerful people who love to congregate as a community and enjoy the company. However, this will be done in segregated groups where women and men do not meet in mixed company. Men enjoy card games and watching sports on television, while women gather indoors to sing songs, apply mending designs on their hands, and catch up with each other.

Anything else important for this culture

The Yemeni are a very conservative people and it will certainly offend their sensibilities if confronted with an unabridged version of western culture. It would be advisable to dress conservatively, no matter how hot the weather. Refrain from alcohol and pork products. Women should not travel alone or even with just other women without a male chaperone.

yemen roof 


Meetings & Greetings

yemen man and daughter

Yemeni men greet each other with a soft handshake that may linger depending on the relationship shared. Women may greet each other similarly or hug and kiss each other on alternate cheeks if they share a very close bond and are seeing each other after a long time. Men and women do not touch or even make eye contact on meeting. If greeting people in a group always greet the older members first. If you shake one person by the hand, make sure you do the same with everyone in the group. If in a large group, it would be more appropriate to offer a general nod at one and all.


It is considered rude to make eye contact or stare at the members of the opposite gender. Women are expected to keep their gaze lowered when in the presence of strange men. Always show respect to older and superior people.

yemen city










Gift Giving

soldiers in yemenThere is no culture of gift-giving as such, but if invited to a home a simple gift would be a fine token of appreciation. Gift giving is only between really close friends and relatives and not acceptable between new acquaintances. So only consider giving a gift to someone with whom you’ve established a deep bond.  Do not make a direct offer of gift to someone of the opposite gender.  Do not gift alcohol or cheap souvenir items. Gift options among Yemenis include handmade carpets, silver handicrafts, and luxurious local perfumes and may just stop short of an expensive car.

Dress Code

Formal suits are acceptable for business and first meetings. Formal casual wear are also considered fine. Women need to dress conservatively and keep well-covered from shoulders to ankles. Local women wear the hijab or tunic that covers them completely. While foreigners are not expected to wear this, a head scarf would be a good idea.

Dining Etiquette

yemen supperDining may take place seated on the floor on lush carpets supported by comfortable cushions or on modern furniture depending on where you are. Food is almost always eaten off a communal bowl. Always wait to be seated. You have to wash your hands and be clean before sitting down to dine. Commence eating only after the eldest member has begun. Eat only with your right hand. Your plate will be refilled till you have tasted everything on the table; so go prepared. Your refusal will be taken as a sign of politeness on your behalf and you will be pressed to eat more. Guests are expected to have three cups of tea. Gently wobbling the cup side to side is an indication that you do not want more.  Do not smoke while at the table.

Visiting a home

If invited to a Yemeni home, it is a sign of your being accepted. It is a rare honour and you should show your appreciation. Dress neatly and conservatively to show respect for your host. Leave your footwear outside the entrance. Carry a token gift that you should offer discreetly to the children or leave behind unobtrusively. Never offer money or very expensive gifts.

Communication Style

Yemeni people will never come out with an outright negation and say No. they have the urgent need to save face—theirs as well as yours. So, it would be wise to take a hint and recognise a Yes which could in fact mean a polite No. They value respect and good manners and this will place you in their good books making future communication a piece of cake.

  yemen agriculture

Dos and Don’ts

The Islamic law or Sharia has extreme penalties for law breakers. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law and this will entail the same penalty as a criminal offender. Long prison sentences and heavy fines are the breaks even for what you might consider minor offences. Yemeni society is highly patriarchal and so men tend to dominate women in all fields. Even foreign women may not be spared a taste of this attitude. However, though considered inferior, women are treated with a good deal of respect and dignity. Do not take photographs of military installations, local women, and mosques without permission.

swordsman by mavilimon
pool by Arab in far east
boy by kevincure
all others by Ai@ce

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

Brazil: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |

Brazil, South America


christ the redeemer rio
Photo by andybullock77

Location: Brazil is located in the east-central coast of the South American continent. Brazil shares its northern borders with Venezuela, Surinam, Guyana, French Guiana, and Colombia, the southern with Uruguay, the western with Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru, and has the Atlantic Ocean to its east.

Capital: Brasilia.

Brazil mapClimate: The climate of Brazil is mainly tropical in such areas as the Amazon Basin, sub-tropical in the Brazilian Highlands and rather temperate as you go south along the coastal lowland.

Population: As of July 2009, the Brazilian population was 198,739,269. About 31% of the population live below the poverty line. The Brazilian economy is based on agriculture, mining, industry, and service. The period from 2003 to 2007 saw a boom in the economy due to productivity gains and surge in exports. Government intervention in the form of far-sighted economic reforms, reduced taxes, and huge investments in infrastructure has helped sustain the economic growth. Main industries include textiles, leather, chemicals, cement, automobiles, machinery, and timber. Agriculture is mainly coffee followed by cocoa, wheat, rice, soybean, corn, and sugarcane.

Ethnic Make-up: White 53.7%, Biracial 38.5%, Black 6.2%, Others (Japanese, Arab, Native Indian) 0.9%.

Religions: Roman Catholic 73.6%, Protestant 15.4%, Spiritualist 1.3%, Bantu/Voodoo 0.3%, Others 2%, No Religion 7.4%. The Brazilian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens. Evangelization has been an ongoing project in Brazil since its advent in 1549 under the Jesuits. There is no law against evangelization, and activities such as missionary works, setting up of churches, and training workers are carried on uninhibited.

rio carnivalLanguage: Portuguese is the official language and also the most widely spoken. Next in popularity comes Spanish, followed by French, German, Italian, Japanese, English, and some Native American languages.

Government: Federal Republic

Travel Issues: Travel to Brazil from any part of the world, except Britain and Germany, requires procuring a visa before travel. Citizens of some countries such as the neighbouring nations, as well as a few such as Ireland, Italy and others do not need a visa if the reason for travel is tourism. You need to contact the Brazilian consulate in your country to ascertain your specific status regarding the need for a visa mentioning your reason for travel. Other documents needed are a passport with a six month validity and airline tickets.

Health & Safety: A Yellow Fever vaccination is mandatory if travelling from an infected country. It is advised if travelling to certain Brazilian states in the Amazon area. Hepatitis A, Tetanus, and Diphtheria shots are recommended though not mandatory. Those planning to visit rural and jungle areas may need to consider Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Malaria shots as well. Some areas in Brazil are prone to the Dengue fever and so, appropriate precautions against mosquitoes need to be taken if travelling to these places. Though tap water is considered potable, bottled water is a safer option for drinking purposes.

rio beach
Photo by over_kind_man


boy in brazilThe People
Brazilians are mainly from mixed European and African descent, and other indigenous heritage. This amalgamation has resulted in a broad-minded, gregarious outlook on life that makes visitors feel welcome. The original Brazilians are the indigenous Indians who make up the smallest ethnic group of about 320,000 people.

brazil buildingThe Religion
The main religion of Brazil is Roman Catholicism which is practiced actively by over 70% of the population. There is an element of gaiety and festivity associated with the practice of religion marked by elaborate public celebrations and parades. There are also small groups of other religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, Shinto, and Rastafarian.

Role of Family
A Brazilian family in the modern context would comprise a couple and their children living under one roof. However, very strong bonds bind them to extended families including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Modern permutations such as single parents and dual working parents have altered the urban social set up to some extent.

Brazilians as a community honor their ancestors in multiple ways. The Roman Catholics remember the dead on the 1st of November every year. Religious rituals are held in the cemeteries and the graves are decorated with flowers and candles. The Japanese community have preserved their traditional customs to this day in the form of the Bon Odori Festival which is held as a token of grateful remembrance of ancestors who have passed on. The African people of Yoruba heritage also have a considerable presence in Brazil and they keep in spiritual touch with their ancestors through the practice of Egungun. These are the ancestral spirits who are supposed to have the power to bless or curse their descendants.

girl in brazilRecreational Activities
Recreation in Brazil can include anything from lolling on a beach to soccer. There are a variety of sports facilities such as golf, tennis, squash, and beach volleyball. Then there are water sports in the form of canoeing, fishing, diving, kayaking, surfing, and swimming. Outdoor activities include jungle trekking, rock climbing, hiking, biking, and skydiving. Other leisure activities include the night clubs, carnivals, dancing, and pubs.

Anything else important for this culture
Portuguese is the national language of Brazil, but it has some striking dissimilarities with the language spoken in Portugal. For instance, while “rapariga” means girl in Portugal, it means prostitute in Brazilian Portuguese. So, even fluent speakers of the European Portuguese have to be careful of nuances.

Brazilians use expansive gestures and expressions while communicating and most of these mean the same as anywhere else, such as the thumbs up sign. But the OK gesture made by touching the tips of the thumb and forefinger is best avoided as it has an obscene connotation. Also, requesting silence with a hush gesture is considered as rude as yelling “Shut up”. A clenched fist with the thumb between the forefinger and middle finger does not mean you violence but is meant to wish you good luck. It is called the figa.

In a multi-level building, the first floor is referred to as the ground floor or lobby level, and the second floor is called the first floor and so on.

Brazil soccer
Photo by markhillary


Meetings & Greetings
Normal western courtesies are appropriate when meeting people. A handshake is an accepted form of greeting between men. Women are greeted with a kiss on both cheeks and the same applies when taking leave.

soccer boysCourtesy
Brazilian men will, generally, hold doors open for women and rise when women enter the room and this is not meant to be patronizing. If you intend to smoke, it is common courtesy to offer everyone a smoke before lighting up. Never light up during a meal.

Gift Giving
Gift giving is a normal practice in Brazilian social life. Gifts are given and received for birthdays, celebrations, anniversaries, and as tokens of gratitude for a favour or some service. If visiting Brazil, a souvenir from your own country would be a much-appreciated gift. If not, a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, or even flowers are customary. Never gift purple flowers as they are a sign of mourning. If gifting wine, avoid tequila and mescal. Gifts are opened as soon as they are given.

Dress Code
Since the weather is mainly tropical and therefore warm, casual clothing is the norm in Brazil for most occasions. If the occasion calls for formal wear it would be intimated earlier. If visiting a church or some related holy venues, certain decorum in dressing is called for. Formal occasions find men in suits and women in formal wear comprising skirts or pants. Women tend to accessorize a lot and wear fashionable shoes even with jeans.

band in rioDining Etiquette
If invited to dinner by an acquaintance, it is customary to arrive a little late. Never arrive early as the host may not be ready for you yet. In fact, it is considered alright to turn up even an hour late. Dinner time can be quite elastic and even stretch to midnight. If dining in restaurants, dinner time is usually around 9 p.m.

When seated, the most honoured guest will occupy the head of the table with the host and hostess on either side. It is not considered rude if you leave food uneaten on your plate. Your drink will be refilled as soon as it reaches the lower half level. While at table, resting your wrists on the table is the right thing to do rather than leaving them on your lap. Sandwiches are eaten with a fork and knife while salad may be an accompaniment to a main meal rather than precede it. Do not cut up your lettuce, but rather bundle them onto your fork.

Visiting a home
It is customary to carry a gift when accepting an invitation to someone’s house. If it’s a formal visit, gifts may be sent beforehand with a handwritten message. Arrive fashionably late and be well-dressed to show respect for your host. Be prepared for boisterous conversation and lots of beverages before actually sitting down to dinner. It would be a good idea to not arrive hungry as dinner may well begin way past midnight.

Communication Style
Brazilians have an expansive style of conversation and may frequently touch you on the shoulders and arms while talking. They may stand very close while talking and this is considered the norm as far as they are concerned. If it makes you uncomfortable, step away as unobtrusively as possible as otherwise, you may appear rude and standoffish. Brazilians in the big cities like Rio and Sao Paolo may speak some English, but generally there is a lack of English in the other areas. It would be a good idea to learn some basic Portuguese to make life easier.

rio night
Photo by Phillie Casablanca

Dos and Don’ts
In bathrooms, Q means hot water and F means cold water. Brazilians are not keen on being punctual and visitors who turn up on time will usually be left hanging. However, for a business meeting, it’s best to not be more than ten to fifteen minutes late, and again, if it’s a job interview, arrive on time. When choosing a gift for a Brazilian, avoid Argentinean products and local leather and wine. Do not leave your cutlery on either side of your plate at the end of a meal, as this may be taken to mean that you were not happy with the food.

Do not carry expensive personal items such as cameras and iPods when you go exploring. Petty crime is rampant and you could attract unwanted attention if you dress flashy. Keep to Bermudas and T shirts to blend in. Vehicles are driven on the right side of the road, but be prepared for a certain amount of callous overtaking and a disregard for traffic rules. Other things to watch out for would be car jacking, kidnapping, and bag snatching.

waterfall in Brazil
Photo by VinceHuang

Carnival lady by sfmission.com
Two boys and soccer boys by
Girl by babasteve
Building by Jay Woodworth
Band by over_kind_man

Robert Moffat: The King’s Gardener in Africa

by Stephanie Colman |

Africa, Famous Missionaries, South Africa

 lion in the grasslands
Photo by lensbug.chandru

While being a missionary is not an easy task,it is full of rewards, especially the reward of seeing seeds sown for Christ come to fruit as salvation. Robert Moffat’s dream was to plant a “Garden for God in Africa.” Robert Moffat was born in 1795 in Scottland and died in 1883. His life was full of excitement and heartbreak yet he never let anything stop him from spreading the Word of God. Robert Moffat was involved in opening many mission stations in the interior of Africa. He served as a missionary in Africa for over 50 years.

After many ears of toiling spreading the Good News and planting seeds Robert Moffat had seen no fruit of salvation yet. A turning point in Robert Moffat’s missionary career happened after a conversation with his wife in which Robert said ”Mary, this is hard work, and no fruit yet appears;” and Mary his wife replied, “The gospel has not yet been preached to them in their own tongue in which they were born.”

African boysRobert Moffat then began a focus on learning the native language and began visiting more remote tribes. Soon after the first fruits of his labor began to be reaped as the salvation of the Bechuanas and other natives became evident. He completed the translation of the Bible into Sechwana which is the language of the Bechuanas after 30 years of laboring on the project.

Robert also wrote two missionary books, Missionary Labors and Scenes in South Africa and Rivers of Water in a Dry Place. He is also most famous for inspiring his son-in-law David Livingstone to enter missionary work in Arica with his famous quote:

“I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages, where no missionary has ever been.”

Robert Moffat and his wife Mary never gave up hope that they were doing the work of God as missionaries in Africa. They continued on no matter the circumstances that they faced. They are both a wonderful testament of the faith and perseverance which we as Christians should strive to obtain.

Contextualization: Spicing up Service in Argentina

by Heather Carr |

Argentina, Contextualization in Missions, South America

red chili peppersDespite a harsh economic climate, the Reformed Church of Mar del Plata, Argentina, is taking steps to reach a community in need. Latin rhythms are breaking out in services with simple, direct lyrics set to merengue and salsa, among others. The lyrics are infused with words like we and us to heighten the sense of community among this Argentine congregation. Services come complete with the sounds, smells, and tastes of a fiesta, thanks to the direction of Pastor Gerardo Carlos Cristian Oberman. The church operates by the philosophy that liturgy is an expression of ourselves, created as a service of love to the Lord, and in response to everyday questions.

Along with the joyful Latin beat, worship incorporates dance and mime. Drama is sometimes included in the call for confession or biblical texts, with traditional biblical actions infused into the performance, such as the laying on of hands or the washing of feet. Worshipers may leave their seats to walk around while singing, or come forward to circles for prayer and intercession.

The language of the people, along with symbolism, strong gestures, warmth, and sensitivity allows worship to provide what the world does not—acceptance and value for its people. By embracing the local culture, the church is reaching out to the people of Mar del Plata at a time when the needs are many.

To find out more about the Reformed Church of Mar del Plata, Argentina, check out the Calvin Institue of Worship’s article Another World is Possible: Witness in Argentina.

Photo by Robert Thomson

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


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