Thank you for wanting to serve Christ in Uganda! Please let us know how we may better serve you. We do not promise you a comfortable or an easy trip, but we do offer you ministry opportunity among a needy, receptive people and a chance to see the hammer-stamp imprint of the faithfulness of our King in an “uttermost” part of the world. You will also likely learn much—perhaps about worship, contentment, yourself and the Spirit of God.
The information in this manual is Uganda-specific and designed for both team-leader and team-member use. We want to make your trip as effective as possible. Reflections upon many trips to Uganda are condensed for your assistance. Keep in mind that some suggestions reflect our comfort levels. You will not need everything suggested. You’ll find great information and links at sites maintained by Bob Hayes and by Barry McWilliams. Check also our Uganda page for short-term Team forms and Uganda information. If you don’t personally have an email address or access to the Web, try to obtain it. Otherwise make friends quickly with someone who does. Such access speeds transfer of Team and personal information both before departure and while in Uganda, and provides access to tremendous resources.
The US State Department advises allowing several months to apply for a passport. Go to the State Department site for information about obtaining a passport or renewal.
When you must apply in person, the site has links to locate passport agencies near you.
News and Other Sites:
BBC Africa news: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/default.stm
New Vision Newspaper (Ugandan govt. paper): www.newvision.co.ug
Uganda World Fact Book: https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ug.html [a “must”]
State Dept. Travel Advisories: http://travel.state.gov
Ugandan embassy website is: www.ugandaembassy.com
Currency conversions: www.xe.com/ucc
Evan Tell has evangelistic tracts in the Luganda language: www.evantell.org
Jesus Film materials: www.JesusFilm.org Our teams frequently employ this film in evangelism.
Luganda Phrasebook: www.buganda.com/phrasebk.htm Here are basic Luganda greetings and “small talk” used in the Baganda Kingdom—Kampala area. If you learn some, you’ll bring much pleasure to our ACTI staff.
Swahili online dictionary: www.freedict.com/onldict/swa.html This is the African trade language known among many African tribes.
Teaching Helps: (links provided by Barry McWilliams)
How to prepare your personal testimony (Bob Hayes): www.ugandamission.net/ministry/teaching/testimony.html
Cross-cultural witnessing resources from Evangelism Explosion: www.evangelismtoolbox.com/
Wordless Book, Child Evangelism Fellowship http://cefpress.com/store/product.php?productid=222&cat=0&page=1
Teaching Cross-culturally, by Rick Gray (western-Uganda specifically) www.ugandamission.net/ministry/teaching/teachingtips.html
How to teach using an interpreter (very complete) www.adoniram.net/
Shorter treatment of how to teach/preach with an interpreter: www.watchmanmag.com/0209/020904.htm
General Uganda information: www.myuganda.co.ug/
(valid as of 5-03)
Hiebert, Paul, et. al. 1999. Understanding folk religion: A Christian response to popular beliefs and practices. Order at
Kinoti, George. 1994. Hope for Africa: And what the Christian can do. Nairobi, Kenya: Word Alive Communications. [Box 60595, Nairobi, Kenya] ISBN: 9966-9922-0-0.
Kohls, L. Robert. 1984. Survival kit for overseas living: For Americans planning to live and work abroad. 2nd ed. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, Inc. ISBN: 0-933662-59-9.
Lamb, David. 1983, 1987. The Africans. ISBN: 0394753089 [crafted insights from a journalist who visited almost every African country over 4 years]
Lingenfelter, Sherwood and Marvin Mayers. 1986. Ministering cross-culturally. Grand Rapids: Mich.:Baker Books. ISBN 0-8010-5632-2. [excellent, short, insightful and even fun book for all team members to read]
Museveni, Yoweri. [Ugandan President] 1997. Sowing the mustard seed: The struggle for freedom and democracy in Uganda. Macmillan Pub. ISBN 0-333-64234-1 Pbk.
Sempangi, F. Kefa. A distant grief. 1979. Regal Books. [Out of print, but fascinating account of life during Idi Amin’s terrorism]
Schlorff, Sam. 1995. Understanding the Muslim mindset. 25 pages. Order at
Book & Video resources: (available at www.worldvisionresources.com)
“Go Prepared”—6 video sessions for short-term missions teams
Forward, David C. 1998. The essential guide to the short-term mission trip. ISBN: 0802425267
Stiles, J. Mack and Leeann Stiles. 2000. Mack and Leeann’s guide to short-term missions. ISBN: 0830822690
VanCise, Martha. 1998. Successful mission teams: A guide for volunteers. ISBN: 1563091690
We recognize that dangers exist in going to Uganda. We provide private-vehicle transportation for our teams, instead of public transportation, reducing health and other safety risks. We try to avoid areas in which rebels are known to have recently operated, and we try to avoid night and pre-dawn travel, if possible. The most recent US Consolate travel advisories for Uganda are at http://travel.state.gov/travel/warnings_consular.html
Many helpful tips for travelers to Sub-saharan Africa are located at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/brochures/brochures_1218.html. Being in a fallen world, there are many potential dangers. The best insurance is prayer to God for safety, together with prudence. Christians do not have the spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7).
Both to understand the potential physical cost of the journey, and to provide some protection for those leading the team in good faith, team members may be required to notarize a waiver of liability before departure. Here is ours for example.
Valuables: It’s wise to carry your passport and funds concealed on your body, through a money belt, or concealed pouch handing around your neck inside your clothing. Try not to access this or large amounts of cash in public. Do not leave valuables unattended. Give one copy of your passport photo page to your team leader and leave one with your family. Wear your fanny pack in front, not in back, since it can be cut off and grabbed from behind. Do not leave laptops locked in your lodging unless you are certain the room is secure.
We want you at your best health, so we advise taking the steps which follow. This advice is not a substitute for the counsel of your physician. You may want to check off items þ.
Team leaders: Reserve tickets as many months in advance as possible and try to arrange for payment no earlier than 30 days before departure. This is a problem for teams under 10, but can be arranged through SIAMA, Willcox Travel, Ethiopian Air (directly with , them) an, d ot, hers. You may book tickets through the ACTI Treasurer. Check also cancellation fees, if any, and deduct them from any refunds. Team member information needed varies according to the travel agent. Also, do not distribute tickets until you are at the airline desk for departure and check before leaving home, to make sure that everyone has a passport (you should have a copy of the photo pages in case of loss).
Air travel websites:
British Air: www.britishairways.com/
American Air: www.americanair.com/
Ethiopian Airlines: www.flyethiopian.com [very inexpensive, excellent safety, but slower reservations].
Northwest Airlines/ KLM: www.nwa.com
United Airlines: www.ual.com/
SIAMA: Travel agency for missionaries: www.siama.nl/ [fares fluctuate with strength of dollar]
Willcocks Travel: www.wilcoxtravel.com/
Frequent flying: Increasingly, some classes of discounted tickets will not earn frequent-flyer miles. If yours does, make sure that you have a frequent flyer number with the airline you’re using, and then make sure that your frequent flyer number is credited with these flights. Ask a ticket agent, or call the frequent flyer phone number (British Airways Executive Club™: 800.955.2748 from the U.S.; Sabena Belgian World Airlines: 800.873.3900) before you fly. To be safe, keep all boarding passes until the airline sends you a record that the miles were indeed credited to you. If you don’t hear from them within two months of your trip, check with the airline. If you wait too long, you will not be able to get credit. Two round-trips to Uganda may gain you a free roundtrip ticket within the US!
Airport transportation: Check out your transportation to the airport ahead of time, to make sure it is in good shape. A last-minute ticket change, due to missing the plane, can be costly. Plan to arrive at the airport two-three hours before scheduled departure, for international flights. Make sure that your return pickup arrangements are finalized, and that your driver has your return airline, flight number and arrival time. Suggest that they call the airline before they come to get you, to see if your flight will arrive on time, and give them the airline phone number (British Air: 800.247.9297).
Luggage: Check your airline for current baggage allowances and keep strictly to them. Seventy pounds per bag does not now apply to some airlines. Since the needs are so great, please fill up your limit with ministry items. You may take your bag to the local airport and ask to weigh the bags, bringing along extra “stuffers”, until you reach the limit, or purchase a large readout scale if you travel frequently. Generally you may take a carry-on bag which will fit in the overhead compartment, and a briefcase or purse which will fit under the seat in front of you. Army duffel bags, one with backpack straps, are inexpensive and easily re-useable. Currently, checked baggage must be unlocked for security inspection, but you may be able to send the lock along to have security lock it after inspection. However, avoid looking like para-military! Culture-Link seminars advise us to tag all bags with the SAME color large ribbon, and to appoint a baggage captain who counts and re-counts bags as they are moved from point to point. Others should stay with the bags at both points. Do not put expensive carry-ons on the x-ray conveyor belt without first having someone waiting for them, to avoid theft at the other end.
Make sure your passport, funds, and yellow immunization card are handy. Currently the yellow immunization card is not checked by authorities, but this may change.
Make sure that baggage is checked through to Entebbe (“EBB”), Uganda when going, and through to your USA destination, returning. Otherwise you may have to deal with customs in more than 1 country. For London terminal transfers, currently you must physically transport your bags to the other airport, for security reasons.
Note on London: Try to arrange your flight to avoid both a change from Heathrow to Gatwick and an overnight in London, which can be done, particularly if you reserve tickets early enough. If a shuttle is necessary between these airports, consider Speedlink’s [Airlink] roundtrip ticket (17£ in 2004) available at the airport. If using SIAMA as travel agent, their London hotel is not expensive and is close to Heathrow.
Travel clothing should be very comfortable. The plane and London can be chilly, so dress accordingly, with perhaps a sweater and jacket.
An inflatable pillow is an asset to your neck in air travel and doubles as a regular pillow. It is available at some office supply stores, as are money belts/travel accessories.
Drink lots of liquids on the plane, since you lose fluid in a pressurized cabin, and try to exercise. A good time to use the restroom is immediately after a meal, or just before the conclusion of a film. You can find out what happened later.
Lost luggage: if your bags do not arrive at your destination, make sure that you report this to the airline immediately, before leaving the airport. Give them the luggage tag number, a description of the bag and contents and how they can reach you, including phone number and address. For British Air you should go to the baggage services department where you will be instructed as to the procedure. Keep calling the airline each day that it does not arrive. If all else fails, contact your travel agent for assistance. British Air has been quite responsive to customer concerns, an agent tells us.
Laptop computers: if you wish to risk taking one, it may be a good idea to disguise them in a backpack. An extra battery is useful, with power service unpredictable in Uganda. If you bring a laptop, consider also bringing a portable printer, but guard them well. They could be very useful in the jet and airport and in situations where you need on-the-spot preparations, but your laptop would need to be watched.
London layover?: you may have a long layover at Gatwick airport, enabling you to sightsee. Again, return at least 2 hours before departure. To avoid a flat exchange fee per person, which is high, combine your funds to exchange dollars into pounds sterling (£--compare rates at a couple of forexchanges [forex]). If you don’t spend it all going, you have some funds for your return trip. Better, you can use a debit/credit card to avoid exchange fees entirely. Train agents and many restaurants take debit/credit cards. The English have excellent soaps and body lotions, as gifts, for purchase upon your return, so you won’t have to carry them all over Uganda. Check duty-free electronics stores for prices.
London sightseeing: you may get a roundtrip ticket on Gatwick Express www.gatwickexpress.co.uk/ or a less expensive train www.nationalrail.co.uk from London Gatwick airport for Victoria Station. There you can buy a “London Visitor’s Map” at a news stand and conduct your own tour. Many sights are within walking distance of the station: Westminster Cathedral and Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the National [art] Gallery, the Horse Guards, St. James Park, etc. You can purchase a one-day bus pass (2£ in 2003) www.transport-for-london.gov.uk/buses/ or use the Tube (subway) www.thetube.com/ Bring change, since even the toilets may cost money (free at the National Gallery—which so far is also free). STAY TOGETHER in London, and try not to look too much like a tourist!
Congratulations! The good news is you are suddenly wealthy! The bad news: many will likely want to share your wealth! The truth is you are wealthy by comparision, and the wealthy are commanded to be generous (1 Tim. 6:18). Ask God for great wisdom and grace to handle this typical missionary/host country disparity.
Your passport will be examined at Entebbe airport and given an entry stamp. You may be asked for our Uganda address and the dates of our stay. You may use the address of Rashid Luswa, First Presbyterian Church (off Rubaga Road), Kampala (POB 31270), tel.: 77-406-118.
Picking up bags and customs: After gathering your bags (marked with bright ribbon, right?), gather, and go through customs together, which can help speed the process. Any items that are for the Ugandans are ministry gifts, and the rest are personal items. In case you are challenged, having a bill of sale with you will settle the issue on new items. “If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue…” (Rom. 13:7, NIV). Honest differences of opinion exist on how to proceed through customs, sometimes based upon perceived unfair treatment by customs agents. We should do what is right. You and your support team back home can be praying for fairness and favor in the sight of the customs agents. If you expect or encounter any trouble, insist on seeing Rashid Luswa or his assistant, who can be of great help and who will be awaiting you in the lobby, before customs determines your bill. Be prepared for a wait in Entebbe at customs. Once through, DO NOT let anyone automatically take your bags from the airport for you, unless they identify themselves credibly as ACTI workers. You must be firm. Remember, you are now a person of wealth in the eyes of most Ugandans.
Eight ACTI missioners evaluated the difficulty of cultural entry into Uganda, and the difficulty of re-entry into the U.S. On a scale from 1-10 (10=most difficult) the average entry level was 4.6 and the average re-entry level was 3.6, although two found re-entry more difficult. Talk about your entry and re-entry feelings with team members, and try to meet as a team soon after your return to the U.S.
Time adjustment is largely an individual matter, but expect some tiredness, particularly since sleep on a plane is interrupted. You may wish to take a sleeping aid the first couple of days. You will generally be taken to the Kampala area and allowed to rest from traveling (over 18 hours in the air) and jet lag. Try to adopt to the Uganda clock as soon as possible. East Africa Time is 7 hours in advance of Eastern Daylight Time, and 8 hours in advance of Eastern Standard Time.
We come to Uganda as servants of the Uganda church. Although people may honor us, we come to serve, as Jesus gave example (Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.") Humility is not associated immediately with Americans, but should be with Christians. We can learn much from Ugandans about endurance, patience, prayer, the Holy Spirit, faith and love.
Food and beverages: some bring snack foods, such as granola bars, nuts, crackers, to supplement the diet. Some snacks are available in Uganda. Our ACTI team is very careful to instruct your hosts about proper cooking methods. As for fruits there, unless you can peel it, it is better left alone. This goes for salads too, unless at a good guest house or from an ACTI cook. Beware of ordering ice, unless you’re sure it is from pure water. Generally, try to eat the food offered (unless perhaps in a strange home while witnessing, perhaps), but if you are sick or know the food to be contaminated (as for instance, smelling rancid), you may politely decline. Use bottled water to brush your teeth. Bottled soft drinks are fine, but preferably use a straw, or wipe off the bottle mouth with an alcohol pad. Again, carry good water (available in Uganda) with you.
In the unlikely event of robbery, give up your valuables and don’t try to fight robbers. They are probably armed, and we aren’t. Stay very cool.
You may be tempted to feel like Superman or a super-hero for Africa—beware. You may even be encouraged by others to feel this way! So that you do not suffer burn-out, take adequate time alone to re-connect with the Lord. Otherwise you may be become spiritually ineffective, and exhausted. Namirimbe Cathedral in Kampala is a good, quiet location.
Ugandan culture: Rashid Luswa’s counsel:
Time: “Most Ugandans will not keep time. Quite a few may have the watches on their hands, but they tend to look at the sun instead. A 1:00 PM appointment may mean general lunchtime between 12:00 noon to 2:00 PM! One therefore needs to be very emphatic when making especially critical appointments, to avoid disappointments! Most people will come one hour or so late. It is partly cultural, but also greatly depends upon events or any other limitations (e.g. in the event of a rainfall, people may be delayed for as long as it lasts, because they won’t walk in the rain!”).
Breast feeding: “Breast feeding is naturally accepted in public, nobody cares!”
Males: “Uganda (Africa in general) is a male-dominated culture. Women will, for example, kneel down when greeting men! This is not expected of Muzungu [white] ladies when they come on mission work!”
Greetings: “Greeting usually takes time. Rushing through it may be regarded as being disrespectful! Be prepared for a triple kind of handshake.”
Food: “The food tends to be of the unprocessed kind, so one may not really find much tinned stuff! The people are generally VERY poor. I have no basis to compare the poverty here.”
Ugandans: “Ugandans are in general very friendly to strangers. Many people may approach a Muzungu (white) mainly because they want to be of help in any way possible. However, care must be taken, as many if not all people here associate Muzungu with money or any other economic benefits!”
African Americans: People here may not really see a difference between themselves and the African Americans, until they speak. African Americans intending to come for missions in Africa should know that the people, though they look alike physically, are very different culturally. Ugandans do not face the same problems, and if one assumes that the problems [that the Ugandans face] are the same, it will result in a lack of understanding and confusion among Ugandans.
Religion “Uganda is often times refered to as a Christian country, with 85% of the population being Roman Catholic, protestants and/or other non-mainline Christians. Muslims comprise about 7%. The rest are either animists or pagans. Out of the 85%, there are VERY few committed Christians, say 15%. One therefore has to be very careful when using the word “Christian”. The right wording should be “born again Christians.” There is freedom of worship here. This has a disadvantage in the sense that a lot of junk religions are coming in. It has advantages too, as the Gospel is preached without hindrance! The Gospel here can be preached in the schools, hospitals, prisons, cities and villages without any hindrance!”
Little public romantic expression is acceptable in Ugandan culture, even between husband and wife.
Tribes in various parts of Uganda—Rashid says there are 52-- have different characteristics. For instance, the Buganda tribe in Kampala is very industrious, while a distant tribe may have a reputation for laziness.
When you are being translated, pause at the end of a phrase, and try to get into synch with your interpreter. Don’t run over the translater—his sermon may be better than yours.
Make friends. Tell stories. Ugandans are very intelligent, even philosophical. Refrain from being condescending. Ugandans are very well organized, though it may not look like it to you. Accept their way of doing things, unless the Bible speaks clearly against it. Trust the Lord, trust your leader. PRAY.
Form a group of prayer warriors who will commit to pray for you every day you are away.
Sickness: please ask your prayer warriors to pray that you and the team will remain healthy. Those who do become sick report this as the lowpoint of their trip, naturally, and feel lonely. Should you become sick, you can use that time for prayer and reading and correspondance, if well enough. Arrange for a team member to stay with someone incapacitated.
As God leads, look for ways to involve your home church in meeting needs in Uganda after you return. Get any needed email addresses. Ask about priority projects.
You may wish to record some music with a small tape recorder to enliven a presentation later.
Gifts for those back home: you will be given an opportunity to buy souvenirs in Uganda. Since prices for whites are sometimes 25-50% higher, it is good to have a Ugandan friend with you, or bargain yourself. Consider getting small gifts for your donors, such as wooden letter openers and other handicrafts. Beware of getting ritual masks or items which appear to be art, but may be associated with the demonic. You will probably be able to visit the “African Mall,” behind the National Theatre, which has a great handicraft selection. Compare prices, since they vary even within this Mall. Excellent woven mats are to be found near Bishop Tucker College, outside of Kampala, in case you travel that way, and many items are to be found more cheaply outside of Kampala.
Re-entry: You may be disgusted with American affluence upon returning, and astounded to walk into a large supermarket. You may also kiss US soil! Someone has rightly observed that we do not know our own culture until we have seen another. What have you learned from the Ugandans and from the Ugandan church? What do you now see about your own culture? Where does each culture obey or disobey God?
Team meeting: Try to gather again as a team with your pictures soon after your return to the US, as Culture-Link advises. It may be the last time you’re together, and it provides closure.
Reporting: Now it is time to compile a report of your journey for your supporters while the memories are fresh. You will encourage them with a timely letter. Your team leader may ask you to complete a follow-up survey as a way to improve the ministry (a form is available here). Ask your pastor for the opportunity to report and present ministry opportunities to your church soon after your return. Consider a PowerPoint presentation, using sound bites.
Frequent team leaders might consider joining the Fellowship of Short-Term Mission Leaders, which has an annual conference-- www.fstml.org/ .
They may be directed to: Rev. Bob Hayes, , tel: 850-769-7448-office
Dr. Henry Krabbendam, , tel: 706-820-0581-home.
Rev. John Pickett,
Dr. Jim Sutherland, tel.: 423-822-1091-office
Permission is granted to ministry teams to reproduce this material for their use. Thanks to these contributors to this manual: Culture-Link, Bob Hayes, Henry Krabbendam, Bertha Lloyd, Rashid Luswa, Barry McWilliams, Randy Nabors, John Pickett and Jim Sutherland.
Revised 8/5/04-- Jim Sutherland
Reformatted - Broken Links fixed - 01 Dec 2006 - wr