Hi Friends!

How My First Mission Trip Changed My Life Forever

It was way back in 1992, when I was a Youth Pastor at Sutherlin Family Church in Sutherlin, OR, that I was encouraged to take our students on a mission trip to Mexico.  After a couple years of investigating the options, we finally put the pieces together in 1994 to go on our first ever missions trip. We went to the Valley of San Quintin in Baja, Mexico, which is located about 4 hours south of San Diego. What an experience!

At that time, I had been a Youth Pastor for about five years and had done everything I knew how in order to build genuine growth and depth into our students. Nothing compared to the results our first mission trip yielded. We were hooked and now a mission trip for our students was on the yearly calendar.  One year, our students came back so pumped that they said to themselves, “If we can do outreach in Mexico, why can’t we do it in our own area among our own peers”  They were off and running and started a student outreach to their own peers on a weekday evening at the church.  It was called, “Righteous Everlasting Truth.”  Pretty powerful name and it grew to around 40-50 in weekly attendance and was completely student led. They’d share their testimonies, have Bible Studies, and etc.  It lasted for several years until the main core graduated from High School and moved on.

These mission trips were so powerful and life changing for our students that we began leading a mission team for our adults and families of the church.  Then, we began leading a mission trip for our college age group.  God was working in our church and we even began a Hispanic Outreach.  All because of a mission trip to Mexico by a Youth Pastor and a few students.

For myself, God gave me a passion to learn Spanish and take people to Mexico. We led 2-3 mission trips to Mexico from 1994 to 1998.  In December of 1997, the Lord led us to establish a ministry in Mexico called, “Go Missions to Mexico”. We began the process of building the beginnings of a mission base on about 10 acres in the same San Quintin Valley of Mexico where we did our first mission trip.  Currently, the mission base can accommodate about 225 and is quite large and beautiful.

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We’re in our 17th year living and serving in Mexico and see ourselves here for the long haul.  Many local pastors and churches here in Mexico ask us to send them a mission team and to be truthful, there’s not enough mission teams to go around.  Our prayer is that God would touch the hearts of His people so they would come down and serve.  We really need mission teams to come serve in Mexico.  The life change to both the Americans and Mexicans is an amazing thing!

Click here for more on mission trips to Mexico our ministry offers

Mike Fink

Cultural Perspectives of Serving in Mexico

Cultural Perspectives

By Mike Fink

Culture is a perspective from which life is viewed and understood.  This “way of seeing life”, changes from culture to culture.   I often ask my fellow Americans, “What culture are you?”  It’s hard for us to answer because it’s just the way we are and we don’t think about it.  It’s like the Texan who thinks everyone else has an accent.  To him, his way of talking is normal and it’s others who have the accent.  Here’s some interesting cultural differences for you to take into consideration as you get ready to embark on your mission trip to Mexico.

Americans tend to be “Time Oriented” – Mexicans tend to be “Event Oriented”

  • A time oriented culture focuses on time, they tend to be punctual, efficient and quick.  Things start on time and end on time.  Church and most activities last a certain amount of time and you can’t add something to the schedule without taking something out.  Time frames and punctuality are important.  Everything is orderly, neat and in its place.
  • An event oriented culture focuses more on the moment at hand and less on the future.  They think differently about time and put it way down on the scale of importance.  Everything will work itself out and there’s no need to get undone about a schedule.  The value of the event and the moment is what matters.  Activities and schedules normally start late and last longer with no definite time frame to be kept.
  • In order for Americans to minister and have impact in Mexico they must adopt a flexible mindset and not get frustrated if their schedule is not kept.


Americans tend to be “Task Oriented” – Mexicans tend to be “Tranquility Oriented”

  • A task oriented culture focuses on getting things done.  They are productive and make things happen.  They are organized and have an eye to figure out how to get things done the fastest and most efficient way possible.
  • A tranquility oriented culture focuses more on being laid back and having no strife and problems. They would rather spend more time just sitting and chatting than getting something done. They don’t worry so much about tomorrow and just focus more on the now.  As long as they have a lot of friends and have a peaceful life, consider themselves rich.
  • In order for Americans to minister and have impact in Mexico they need to relax if everything isn’t done as fast or efficient as they would like.


Americans tend to have more “Material Wealth” – Mexicans less “Material Wealth”

  • You are about go to a country where virtually nothing will be as good as America; food, houses, clothes, education, roads, manners, cleanliness, medical attention, and a host of other things too numerous to mention.  A lot of what you see and experience might be painful, or appear wrong, unjust, and difficult to understand.  Your first instinct might be to try to fix these injustices of life.  True, there will be thousands of needs, more than you can comprehend, and at some point you might even feel a sense of despair, frustration, heartache, and loss of hope. You might even feel a sense of anger at what has caused their poverty, and as a result, you might want to try to fix everything.  However, even with these apparent injustices the Mexican people, by and large, are as happy or happier than most Americans.  The greatest conflict for each group is understanding how these people can be happy with a tenth of what they have.


What Should the Focus of Our Mission Trip Be?

When considering the purpose of why you’re going on a short-term mission trip you might think of the following real story and use the gift of listening to try and understand the real needs of those you’re going to serve.

John and Amy Derrick, who coordinate mission volunteers for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, have learned that listening to the locals and putting their needs first is crucial to a trip’s success.

Once, while serving in Canada, they took a trip to Japan to plan future short-term church-planting initiatives with Japanese Christians. The Derricks’ education began in their first meeting, which lasted five hours and seemed to accomplish nothing. “Our first meetings were all about drinking tea, not talking about partnership,” says John. He said it was hard for him to be relational with the Japanese Christians when his agenda was to talk about partnership. He consciously had to avoid the topic of ministry. “They were fearful because of bad experiences in the past of Westerners saying, ‘We know what you need,’” explains Amy. “The point of our trip was to drink enough tea to ask, ‘How can we help you?’”

The help Amy expected to give the Japanese wasn’t the help they wanted, she recalls. She had thought the Canadian team would come to Japan and lead Bible studies and ministry-training sessions. But the Japanese had a different plan. When the Derricks’ team arrived in the summer of 2000, they didn’t zoom in with a prepackaged evangelism presentation or building project. They did just what the Japanese had asked them to do – they hung out.

“They just wanted us to come be with them,” says Amy. “Come to flower-arranging classes, visit senior citizen homes, play with the children. It was more about living with people, staying in homes. They wanted our presence to be an impact.”

“A big part of the trip was just being there and having a cross-cultural exchange,” says John. “We were the first Westerners that many of them had seen before, so it was a draw to hold something at the church. The big emphasis was to be there to support their indigenous work and enhance their profile within their community.”


Important Factors to Keep in Mind

  • Materialism doesn’t bring happiness, so therefore if they don’t have all I have, it’s okay.  The vast majority of the world lives like they do.
  • The real need of their heart is Jesus.  So love these people, touch these people, smile at these people, and ask God to help them see Jesus in your life.
  • While you’re with these people, try to be a learner and pray that God will help you see blind spots in your life as a result of your own culture and world view.
  • We need to understand the difference between relative poverty and real poverty.  Relative poverty means they just don’t have as much as I do, but their basic needs are being met and they’re not being withheld anything regarding their happiness.  Real poverty means they don’t have enough food, clothing or shelter and need help.
  • Try to relax and not be uptight if your schedule and tasks aren’t rigidly followed.  Yes, you want to be punctual and work hard, however, not to the degree that it might cause problems.

Why Our Area of Mexico is Safe

Some of you might be wondering whether or not it’s safe to come to Mexico.  You could be a concerned parent, a prospective leader considering a mission trip, or a leader weighing whether or not to endorse your church’s mission trip.  The following info is statistically based and designed to help you assess the situation from a factual standpoint.  It also provides a perspective from us as Long Term Missionaries who live here year around with our families.

Safety Facts about Mexico

  • Our area of ministry is in a rural, agricultural setting with no little or no safety issues whatsoever.  We are not in a large city, but a farming valley made up of smaller communities.
  • Your church group will be staying in a very safe, gated and fenced Mission Base where we as missionaries live.  Your mission team will be well taken care of.
  • Most of the issues in Mexico have occurred over 800 miles from our area and involve infighting among drug traffickers. They do not involve tourist or the common people.
  • Mexico’s murder rate has fallen sharply from a decade ago. The National Public Security System reports that in 2008, the most recent year with available data, 12 people per 100,000 were the victims of murder. In 1997, the number was 17. In the late 1980s, the murder rate hovered near 20, according to the National Statistics and Geographic Institute.  From a factual standpoint, Mexico is really safer than ever.
  • When comparing the murder rate per 100,000 in the larger cities in the U.S, you might be surprised to know what they are verses the larger cities of Mexico.  New Orleans is highest with around 60 murders per 100,000, and the average, per other larger cities, is around 30 per 100,000.  The border city of Tijuana (which you don’t drive through when coming to our area, but use a bypass freeway to go around it) is just 13 per 100,000.  It’s actually 3 times more dangerous to visit Washington DC than Mexico.
  • According to Peter Greenburg (a CBS International Reporter) there have been less than 20 occurrences of Americans being involved in any violence over the last 3 years.  And these Americans were actually Mexicans who are also U.S. Citizens and involved in drug related issues. There have virtually been no incidents regarding tourist.
  • The point of view from most of us who live in Mexico year around is that things have improved over the past several decades.  Unfortunately, only the bad news gets out and the good news is unreported.  Here’s the good news: the current president (Calderon) is working very hard to clean up Mexico.  His administration has changed all the border officials and hired new, young, college educated people to take their place. As a result, there is now virtually no corruption and bribes accepted or allowed at the border crossings.  You are treated professionally and with courtesy.  There has also been a serious change among the police and as a result, there are also no bribes or abuses taking place in this area as well. The military is also patrolling the highways and providing security with checkpoints to help with this as well.  In addition, there is a branch of the government called, “The Green Angels” who patrol the highways offering help to travelers who break down or need help. Things are really much safer than in past history.  We who live here have seen big changes and feel better than ever about safety and travel in Mexico.
  • Most of the incidents mentioned in the media are isolated and mainly take place at night or in questionable areas. The newest U.S. Travel Update for Mexico says to use caution when going to Red Light Districts.  It also recommends going to recognized tourist areas. Other than that, it is not telling folks to stay away from Mexico, but to just use reasonable caution as with travel anywhere, even in the U.S.
  • Contrary to what some might think, and the media portray, there are not people with guns randomly shooting at vehicles as they drive by. Virtually every incident is drug related and involves drug traffic infighting.
  • The main highway you’ll be using on your drive down is the major (and only) highway of the Baja Peninsula.  Everyday there are about 10,000 cars that use this highway and there have been virtually no incidents whatsoever on this road.
  • If Tijuana presents a problem, know that you will not enter Tijuana and will bypass the city altogether on a major freeway when driving south to our area.  We use this freeway all the time and feel very safe.  And once again, this freeway bypasses Tijuana so there’s really nothing to worry about.
  • If even getting close to Tijuana is a problem, you can enter Mexico east of San Diego via Tecate. The highway is #3 and connects in Ensenada.  Tecate is a small border town and the road is quiet and peaceful.
  • Mexico is very concerned about its tourism and is patrolling all its highways with additional police and soldiers to ensure maximum safety. The area is also patrolled by Green Angels who help tourist whose vehicles might break down and keep watch as well.
  • It’s also pertinent to say that some of the media attention has been made a little sensational (as the media tends to do) and blown out of proportion. The murder rates in Mexico have actually fallen over the past 25 years and are better than ever.  However, because the type of murders is high profile, they are reported.  In the past this wasn’t the case, so what was not reported was not thought about.
  • A good case could be put together from things that happen in Southern California (or other places in the U.S.) that it’s not safe to travel there as well. We are all accustomed to small risk in life and coming to our area of Mexico is not a large risk.
  • A number of years ago my folks visited us and brought their camper trailer.  They were pulled over at one of the soldier checkpoints and thought they were going to have big problems.  However, the soldiers recognized they had some loose lug nuts on one of their trailer tires. They quickly jacked up the trailer, tightened the lug nuts and sent them on their way.  Most people are very friendly and helpful in Mexico, even officials of the government.
  • We’ve been hosting mission teams for 13 years (well over 250 total mission teams hosted) and have had no issues whatsoever. We are on schedule to host another 25 teams this year and foresee no problems whatsoever.
  • We are Long Term Missionaries who are in our 14th year living here. You will be well taken care of by us. If we thought your lives were in any way in danger, or things were even remotely out of hand, we’d let you know.
  • We can also provide references of recent team leaders who have currently been here if you’d like to talk with someone other than us.
  • During your time with us in Mexico, someone from our ministry will be with your team at all times and act as your host.

And Most Importantly – We have God’s Promises to Protect Us As We Serve Him

  • We serve a big God who has our days numbered!  We’re not going to die one minute earlier or later than He has determined for us.  There’s no safer place to be than in His will doing His work!
  • We can be in the safest place on earth, but if God plans to take us home, we won’t escape God and avoid death.  In the same way, we can in the most dangerous place on earth and if it’s not our time to go, no force on earth will over ride God’s perfect plan for us.
  • We have the promises of Psalm 121, which talks about God’s promise to protect and watch over us.
  • We have the examples of Saul, with the whole Israelite army, who tried to kill King David but was unable to do so because of God’s protection over him.
  • We have the examples of how God protected the Apostle Paul as he shared the Gospel everywhere and many tried to kill him, but were unable to do so because of God’s protection.
  • Scripture is full of how God watches over His own and protects them.  It’s a fundamental truth of the Bible.
  • God actually is greatly displeased when we don’t trust Him and give way to fear.  Fear is Satan’s greatest tool in stopping the spreading of the Gospel.  Our lack of trust deeply displeased God and makes Him out to be a tiny God who is unable to protect us.
  • God delights in our faith and we grow in the Lord as we exercise it.  On the contrary, we stay small and our faith shrinks when we don’t trust.
  • Lastly, God says in 1 Timothy 1:7, that, “He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (or of timidity), but of power, love and self-discipline.   It’s Satan who fills us with fear and scares us away from serving God.  It’s Satan’s favorite tool because it works so well.  Fear has stopped more people from sharing their faith and serving God than any other thing.  God promises to be with us until the end of the age as we share the Gospel (Matt. 28:20).  What a precious promise!  God also says, “That if He is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)  Not one hair of our head will fall to the ground without God knowing it.  And if He watches over the birds of the air, how much more will He watch over us who are involved in a mission trip fulfilling the Great Commission of sharing the Gospel?

How to Plan a Mission Trip

How to Plan & Promote Your Mission Trip

1.  Promote, Promote, Promote – Start Spreading the Word As Soon As possible

  • Use the Above Resources – Above are some great resources for getting the word out and promoting your trip.  Be sure to use them.
  • Talk With Your Pastor –  Ask his blessing and help in promoting your mission trip.  Ask him if he would promote and talk about the trip from the pulpit.
  • Put Announcements in Your Church Bulletin – Announce it up front, promote it from the pulpit, call people, talk to people; ask for stories of people who have already gone on a short-term mission trip, do a skit, do whatever you can to get the word out.
  • Put a Sign Up Sheet In The Lobby of Your Church – Put out a nice, attractive, sign-up sheet in a well known spot and encourage people to sign up if they’re interested in going.  Your first step is to throw wide the net and gather all who have any interest.  
  • Put Together an Information Trip Packet – Along with the sign-up sheet, if you have the capability, put together a mission trip packet that answers as many questions as you can think of.  This will provide information prior to your information meeting to better inform those interested.
  • Set a Date For an Information Meeting – About one month after you have started promoting the trip, have an information meeting to inform those interested and to answer everyone’s questions.  Some issues to cover would be; finances, food prep, VBS prep, trip schedule, meeting schedule for trip planning, and etc.).  
  •  Announce the Procedure for Group Registration – As part of your meeting, let those at the information meeting know how  to get on board.  It works well to set a $25.00 or more non-refundable registration fee for group registration.  For some reason, money  firms up decisions.
  • Establish the Total Mission Trip Price –  Take into consideration travel, insurance, food, and other costs. Take into account the three following factors in planning your trip that need to be decided that will affect your trip cost:
  1. Food costs – We provide an option (highly recommended) to groups of eating the Sunday evening meal and the noon meals at the church you will be serving at, prepared and served by the women of the church (Monday-Thursday). This is a wonderful way to save time, money, and get to know the people and culture of Mexico.  It’s a popular hit among all groups.   We recommend a donation of $3.50 per person per meal for this option.   This amount also includes enough money so the Mexicans who are ministering with you can eat with you as well.  More on food costs.
  2. Work projects – No need to worry about this,  we will provide the building materials for you out of your group fees. We also have most tools you’ll need too.  However, If you want to de a major construction project you will need to raise additional funds.  Click for more
  3. Ministry costs – You will have some costs for Bibles, tracts and Vacation Bible School supplies that you will want to take into consideration.  Click for more

2. Establish Your Group

  • Set Up Your Meeting Schedule for Group Preparation & Training – You will normally need a minimum of about 6-8 meetings to allow adequate time for V.B.S and ministry prep.  Don’t forget your spiritual prep (the most important of all.  We provide some helpful info for this on the “Trip Prep Section” of the web site and also provide some helpful links to Mission Trip Training Books.  Click for more     
  • Set Up Money Due Dates – Set up a schedule for Team Members that lets them know when their funds are due for your mission trip.

3. Establish Your Mission Trip Prep. Meetings & Schedule

Here are some items you might want to consider in your mission trip prep. meetings:

  • Fund Raising Help and Ideas for Team Members – An important part of making your mission trip happen is fund raising.  Here’s two links on our website that provide help in this area:  Sample Fund Raising Letter    Fund Raising Ideas
  • Vacation Bible School Prep – You will be doing a total of five V.B.S.’s during your week in Mexico.  Your V.B.S. crafts and snacks will need to be packaged in groups of ten, and each put in one larger bag.  This is a very important detail that if not followed can cause us big problems during the V.B.S.  time as we will be dividing the children at the V.B.S. in groups of ten in order to maintain control.  This is the best way we have found to maintain crown control.  Also, if you can bring some sports items for the playtime during V.B.S. it would be helpful.  Click for more on Vacation Bible School help
  • Community Outreaches Prep – Unless other plans have been made, you’ll be doing at least one Community Outreach and possibly a second one if you choose to do one Wednesday Evening as well.  Click here for more on Community Outreaches.
  • Testimony Prep – Your team will be doing a total of around 16 testimonies.  We have great help for how to share your testimonies on our web site.  Click for more on testimonies
  • Meal Prep – An option to consider if you don’t have a cook, is to designate a kitchen and meal coordinator to oversee the meals and kitchen. Divide the group into food teams and allow them to plan the meals (with the oversight of the kitchen and meal coordinator). Some meals can be pre-cooked in the States and then prepared in Mexico.  Make sure you have healthy meals as you will be exerting extra energy while on your trip.  Take into consideration   the option of eating the noon meal at the church you will be serving at. This will cut down on the amount of meals to prepare.  Also, many groups like to eat out at least once during the week.  More on meal help
  • Mission Base Prep for Your Stay in Mexico – We offer some great ways to get ready for your stay on the Mission Base.  Click for more
  • Spiritual Prep – Don’t neglect this important area.  Without right hearts we have nothing to offer.  One of the great benefits of a mission trip like this is that you have a wonderful platform for discipleship training.  You can go to the coordinator’s page for helpful info in this area. The trip can serve a much larger purpose than the week while in Mexico; try to get as much mileage out of your discipleship training time as possible and think of ways to disciple and use the group or individuals upon returning home.
  • Paperwork Prep – It’s good to start early if some don’t have Passports.  It can take up to a couple months to get them so let your team know up from so they can get started on them.  Passports are now required (with some exceptions) for re-entry into the U.S.  Adults (17 and older) need a Passport for re-entry into the U.S.  Minors 16 and younger will need a Passport or an original Birth-Certificate (Passports are best) and photo ID for re-entry into the U.S. (Children exempt who are too young for photo ID)  More on passports and etc.
  • Training Prep – Don’t forget you’re going to be ministering cross-culturally and you need to prepare you team for this.  We offer many tools for doing this.  Also, we have some links on our web site for using Study Books for this as well.  Training Material   Training Books
  • Alleviating Safety Concerns – It’s common for folks to be concerned with all the media attention on Mexico.  From a purely factual and statistical point of view, it’s safer than its ever been.  We have help for safety issues to hand out to parents or concerned folks.  Click for more
  • Parent Section – We have a Parent Section on the Website for helping parents support and understand their student’s mission trip.  Click for more

4.  One Month Prior to Trip Departure

  • Pay One Half of Mission Trip Fees – Mission trip payment due one month prior to trip departure and needs to be sent to the address below.

Payment Form – For paying mission trip fees due one month prior to your trip departure

Send your Per payment fee to:

Missions to Mexico (make check payable to this name please)

PO Box 186

Sutherlin, OR  97479

  • Double check the Master Checklist – Make sure you’ve covered all your bases and nothing is forgotten.
  • Order Bibles and Tracts – If not already done yet, make sure to order Bibles and Tracts for your ministries.

Bibles –  Click here for ordering Bibles

Tracts – Click here for ordering tracts from Chick Publishers   

Click here for tracks from ATSTracts.org

Click here for tracts (Free) from Fellowship Tract League

5. Final Departure Plans

  • Paperwork for Go Missions to Mexico – Bring the following paperwork and give it to us in Mexico:
  • Payment Form – For funds to be brought to Mexico with you for purchasing materials for your work projects
  • Please remember that we’ll need you bring 1/2 of Mission Trip Fees in the form of U.S. Dollars (Cash) for purchasing your building materials and etc. for your work projects.   More on paying mission trip fees
  • Paperwork for Your Own Purposes
  • Passports for all.   More on Passport Info

Important note:  We recommend that all paperwork be kept in a briefcase or etc. in the possession of the leader at all times.  Teens can easily loose their paperwork.

  • Review the Master Checklist – To be sure you’ve remembered everything.  

Addition Items to Address

  • Daily Devotionals – During the week while in Mexico, we encourage you to have group devotions each morning.  We as the site missionaries will do a Cultural & Ministry Orientation meeting Sunday morning, and the last chapel on Friday morning.  You will be responsible to do the group devotionals Monday – Thursday. Daily devotions can start at 7:45 and last 45min.  Your group will be in charge of your own music and teaching for your daily devotions.  Click for more
  • Traveling in Mexico – Traveling in Mexico carries no more inherent risk than in the U.S.  A custom that is used in Mexico which is helpful, and at the same time confusing, is the way they use their left blinkers.  If you are on an open stretch of highway, and following a slow vehicle, they will often put on their left turn signal.  This tells you that no one is coming and you can pass them.  (But be careful here, they might actually be going to turn left!)  A valid driver’s license from the U.S. is valid in Mexico.  Thievery is also common in Mexico, so leave your valuables locked up, or out of sight.  
  • Group tee-shirts – If you would like, you can design your own tee-shirts for your mission trip. This can be very valuable and acts as a great keepsake and reminder of God’s work in each person’s life.
  • Entering Mexico – When entering, or at a different checkpoints  you might be asked some questions.  It’s possible they might ask you what your purpose is in Mexico.  Tell them that you’re coming as a tourist.  Mexico has no real law for handling mission groups so it’s best to come under their recognized category of tourist.  Click for more on tourist cards
  • Sleeping Bag & Pillow – The bunk beds have wood bottoms and foam cushions, however each person will need their own sleeping bag and pillow.  More on sleeping accommodations
  • Clothes for the Beach – We have lovely close-by beaches that you’ll certainly want to take advantage of while here.  Please bring modest swim suits for this.  Click here for more on our beaches
  • Vehicle Insurance – Although vehicle insurance is not required in Mexico, you might want to have it just in case.  We strongly recommend that you purchase insurance prior to your trip.   Purchasing insurance at the border can be costly and time consuming. More on Auto Insurance help

Courtesies & Manners in Mexico

As Americans, being “forward”, “open”, and “honest”, we do not usually consider etiquette or manners to be of much value. We look at them as something plastic or surface. Not so to the Mexicans. To them the first five minutes of “wasted conversation” are of extreme importance. In Mexico you can deeply offend a person by not doing a simple thing such as shaking his hand when you enter or leave a room. For these reasons we have made a short guide of proper manners to use with your friends in Mexico. The importance of this material cannot be stressed enough, as many times it will determine how well you will get along with the Mexican people.

General Guidelines

  1. Chit-chat is extremely important. Spend time with the people. Make conversation. Share about family, show pictures, etc.
  2. Always shake hands with everyone. When someone comes in late, shake hands.
  3. The abrazo (hug) is for special occasions and is not a bear hug (normally this is reserved for close relationships only).
  4. To speak English in front of Mexican people is mal educado (bad manners). They can misinterpret this as though you were speaking about them.
  5. Greet (saludar) people when you arrive or leave.
  6. Try everything that you are offered to eat.
  7. Manners are important. Guys, remember things like opening doors for ladies.
  8. Women should be invited to have the seats and be first in line for meals, etc.
  9. When treats are passed out, everyone must share in eating it.
  10. You do not buy a child’s attention with candy or toys. You share with him. You do not use it as a “come on” or a gimmick.  You also do not give things away to buy the people’s time or attention.
  11. Be very careful to maintain a very high moral standard in front of them. They do not appreciate poor manners, or an over show of affection among couples.
  12. Mexicans generally look up to Americans and feel inferior to them.  Show LOVE constantly to these people.
  13. Do not take a lot of pictures without the people’s permission. It makes you look like a tourist instead of a worker who is interested in them.  Do not take pictures the first few days.  Wait until you have developed relationships with them and they will be deeply honored.
  14. When older people are present, offer them your seat, let them go first in line, do whatever would be appropriate to show them respect.  Older people are highly respected in Mexico.
  15. When greeting older people, be sure to stand up if you happen to be seated.  To greet them sitting down is a sign of disrespect.
  16. Do not be loud and boisterous in church.  Church is highly esteemed and often people will come early to kneel and pray at the altar.  If there is excessive noise it will be looked down on.

Customs & Culture of Mexico

Customs & Culture

Mexico is actually called the “United States of Mexico.” There are 32 states in all. It is a beautiful country, rich with traditions and many diverse subcultures. Most of the Mexican people are “Mestizo,” a mix between Europeans (the Spaniards) and the Native Indian tribes of Mexico. This complicated history is deeply ingrained in the Mexican people’s view of reality and is detected in many areas, from their family structures to religion.

Family Ties

Family ties are strong. The father is usually the dominant person, and the eldest member is usually the most respected, thereby controlling the family actions. The mother, however, is a major unifying force and advocate for her children. It is very common for the man to be irresponsible and the wife left to manage the finances, children, and household. The children respect and obey their parents very much. In some ways, the parent-child relationship is the most important relationship, often placed above the husband-wife relationship.


The Roman Catholic Church has been the dominant church for four centuries. This does not mean the people have an understanding of the Roman Catholic Church or’ its teachings. It does mean they have a sense of unseen forces in their midst. They thank God for everything, they speak of doing things “God willing” and incorporate this idea in other ways in their language and culture. This does not mean they are Christians, although they consider themselves so, nor that they really understand Jesus or God. They turn to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, as their guide and help. This maternal figure intercedes on their behalf and is often there to care and defend them against the Father, who is angry with them. Meanwhile, Christ, their brother, came to teach them how to suffer and die. These are general concepts that the common people share. Avoid condemning saints, the Virgin Mary, or the Catholic Church, unless you want to greatly offend non-Christians and lose opportunity for ministry.


In the United States, people are dictated by the clock and the chronology of events. People are constantly rushing from one appointment to the next, trying to be “on time.” Sometimes cutting off people who have real needs is done to make it on time to the next appointment or activity. In Mexico, people are dictated by relationships and are more seasonal in following up on events and appointments. Building relationship is much more important than keeping a schedule. Rather than moving on to the next appointment, and cut short a conversation, they will prefer to arrive late. From this emphasis on people, tasks are easily put off until tomorrow. For them, this is right and good. Time efficiency, therefore, is not a high value. However, do not allow this as a “justified” scapegoat for yourself.  Focus your attention on building relationships with the people you meet. Make it a point to remember peoples’ names. Allow time for people to arrive late to your church services or other scheduled ministry events. You may say the service starts at 7:00pm., however many people may arrive at 7:15 or 7:30. Do not be frustrated at this! “Go with the flow!”


No matter how little they have, the people are very generous and will easily give you their last meal or an item they own. Don’t refuse them out of fear of getting sick – you won’t (They drink bottled water also, as their bodies cannot handle the municipal water either). Being in a Mexican home is a wonderful opportunity to learn about them and provides a friendly trusting atmosphere in which to share the gospel.

Upward Mobility

When you come to Mexico, you will see many satellite dishes on many poor shacks. In Mexico, the first thing you buy when you’re moving upward is a refrigerator, and then a radio or TV. The government, recognizing the illiteracy of many of its people, established a 24 hour satellite TV new network called “S.I.N.” This is the main mode of communication.


Males and females have very defined roles in the Mexican culture. The woman’s ideal role is mothering the child in the home. Often times she also works; women in the business world and leadership roles are quite respected.  Men are to work and provide for their families, however, they spend much of their time drinking and socializing with other men. (This of course does not include the men from the churches.) They are “macho” in the sense of being proud, valiant, in control, and unemotional. Often when men attend church, they sit or stand in the back.  Children are idealized a lot and many people sacrifice very much for their children. Small children are not strongly disciplined or inhibited. The common view seems to be that they are too young to understand what should be done, but parents are very strict with older youth. Don’t be surprised, therefore, to see young kids wandering around during church services- this is normal. Parents are strict with older youth, especially the girls. They are heavily chaperoned when in mixed company. The girls are expected to maintain reserve in public.


Most adult girls in the villages have a maximum of three years of formal schooling, many are illiterate. The youth have had the opportunity of five years of schooling, but are not stupid. They are intelligent and possess real wisdom and a keen understanding of human nature. Remember, these adults, though lacking in education, are truly adult in their actions, outlook and ambitions. They have successfully reared families and are operating in an adult society with all the problems and concerns thereof. They have excellent memories.


Mexican people are very reserved. Team women should not spend much time alone with the Mexican men and team men likewise, should not pay more than polite attention to the Mexican girls. Couples, even married couples, should be reserved in their displays of affection. Holding hands and kissing in public are very much avoided in the Mexican culture and should be avoided by all team members.  Team men towards Mexican men: Be sincerely forward. Greet men with a warm handshake and a friendly smile, even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish. It is appropriate upon meeting a male to express thanks for his hospitality and the hospitality of his country toward you as a visitor. It is strongly encouraged to remember names! Older men should be addressed as “Senor” (Sir) or. When appropriate, “Hermano” (meaning Brother). Boys should be addressed by their first name. Reserve “amigo” (friend) for boys with whom you develop a friendship.  Please keep in mind that these are not strict “cultural guidelines” that must be followed.  Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. They will prefer that you be sincere with them, rather than acting like a mechanical robot.


“Consider others better than yourself.” Bear in mind that you are guests in your host’s country and city. Mexicans take hospitality very seriously and should be sincerely thanked when making an effort to extend it. Although you are there to serve them, the Mexican Christians, while thankful and blessed by your service, also look upon your coming as an opportunity to serve and minister to you.  It is very likely that you will be better educated than the Mexicans you meet. Avoid talking down to them as they are very perceptive of this, especially through the language barrier. Try to be conscientious of your facial and body expressions, as these can also convey messages. In Mexico, lack of education signifies lack of opportunity to receive it, not lack of intelligence. Most of all SMILE! A smile can transcend any number of language barriers.

Church Services

Church will normally be quite a bit different that what your accustomed to in the states.  Church tends to be more lively, expressive, loud, and many will go to the altar before church, or during a altar call at the end.  They will tend to raise their hands and oftentimes tears will accompany their altar calls and worship times.  During altar calls, many will go forward to be prayed over.  Their faith in God to heal them and help them is very real.

Speaking & Communication

It would help if you learned some Spanish words and phrases before the trip to help you communicate better in times of emergency and need, to help you build relationships, and to minister more effectively. The Mexican people always appreciate it when you make an effort to fit in and adjust to their culture.  One way to solve this problem is to make a name tag to hang around your neck (try to have a name that is Spanish and make sure you can say it.  Nothing appears so strange as a person who cannot say their own name).  Don’t make up words or attempt to say English words with a Mexican accent (you could end up saying something offensive without realizing it!). Also, be careful of gestures. Hand and arm movements are okay, but you should try to keep them to a minimum. Ones used in the U.S. may not have the same meaning in Mexico.  For the Mexican Christians, non-Christian music and dancing are considered worldly and sinful in a culture that has turned away from these things to follow Christ. In situations with Mexicans nearby, they will be unsure that you are really a Christian if you are rocking away to non-Christian music, or even upbeat Christian music (since they can’t understand the words.) Joking around in a loud boisterous manner should be avoided as well.

Making Promises

The Mexican culture views promises with much more gravity than does the American culture. Do not promise that you will write or send pictures to anyone unless there is a 150% chance that you will be able to keep this promise upon returning to the U.S. You might ask them to write first, which will then remind you to write back. As surprising as it may seem, it is quite likely that nearly all Mexicans you are introduced to once will remember your name for years to come; especially the children.  Do not promise things like: sending them money, building them things, offering them work in the states, or helping them get to the states.  We had one situation where a construction owner somewhat jokingly offered a job to a Mexican.  This man sold everything he had and arrived in the U.S. to receive his new job. You can imagine how hurt this Mexican was.  If you are presented with any questionable situations, please talk with us.  Many Mexicans view Americans as a way to get something.  Whether it be money, getting to the states, a job, etc.  Be very careful not to make promises.

Things are Certainly Different Here

Perhaps the most important thing to realize as short-term missionary in Mexico is that you are a guest in a foreign country. You are the one who does things that seem different. In fact, many things, which are thought innocent or “normal” at home are quite offensive in Mexico and may keep people from hearing the message of salvation. As a representative of Jesus Christ, it is critical that we be careful of the impression we create.