What are ways to learn about cultures, peoples, and places I’m interested in or going to visit?

“Check out these resources to learn about and pray for countries and people groups.”

Answer from AskaMissionary staff.

CIA World Factbook. Provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and international issues for 267 countries.

CountryWatch. Provides critical country-specific intelligence and data to public and private sector organizations with overseas operations and global interests.

The Library of Congress Country Studies. Presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet’s online guide to the world. Also see their travel guidebooks, and those from other publishers. You can probably find some at your local library or bookstore. 

VirtualTourist. A worldwide travel community where travelers and locals share travel advice and experiences.

Operation World. A guide to praying for every country of the world, with facts and data about each nation and its peoples.

Joshua Project. Lists and profiles of the people groups of the world that have the least Christian presence in their midst and resources to encourage pioneer church-planting movements among every ethnic people group.

Peoplegroups.org. Search for information about thousands of people groups by name, country, religion, language or status of evangelization.

Global Prayer Digest. A daily prayer guide for unreached people groups around the world, available by email or print as well as on the web.

World Christian Database. Provides comprehensive statistical information on world religions, Christian denominations, and people groups.

Finally, be creative! Many countries’ embassies post helpful and interesting information on their websites. There are also many foreign newspapers and news sources available for English-speakers. Look for immigrants from the place that interests you; there may be markets, religious centers, or cultural associations near you.

Visit restaurants, attend festivals, and make friends who call your would-be destination “home.” They may have some great suggestions for packing and preparing, things to see and do, or even individuals to contact when you arrive at your destination. Have fun learning!

“Attend a language and culture school.”

I serve at a language school that prepares missionaries to go into Latin America (CINCEL Language Institute). This school offers classes in Spanish, missiology, and cultural integration.

In order to minister cross-culturally it is important that the missionary learn the spoken language as well as the “unspoken language” of customs and manners. A language school taught by national workers is a priceless opportunity to gain insight into how to communicate the gospel message in both a spiritually potent and culturally sensitive way.

The language school I serve at is located in San Jose, Costa Rica, but of course other regions offer different language/culture learning opportunities specific to your country or people group of interest.

My advice is that If you are able to travel and live abroad for a summer, or a longer period of time, do so! The best way to learn about any people is to live with them and be forced to communicate on their terms.

If you are unable to travel and/or live abroad at this time in your life, take a language class at your local college, purchase or check out from your local library language learning CDs (they will at least get you started), or attend Bible studies at an ethnic congregation in your hometown.

The primary way to learn about culture is get to know and build relationships with the people you want to learn about.

Answer from Jeremy who has served with Assemblies of God World Missions in Costa Rica.

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