Uganda Team Manual

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.

Helpful Websites

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:

New Vision Newspaper (Ugandan govt. paper):

Uganda World Fact Book: [a “must”]

State Dept. Travel Advisories:

Ugandan embassy website is:

Currency conversions:

Evan Tell has evangelistic tracts in the Luganda language:

Jesus Film materials: Our teams frequently employ this film in evangelism.

Luganda Phrasebook: 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: 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):

Cross-cultural witnessing resources from Evangelism Explosion:

Wordless Book, Child Evangelism Fellowship

Teaching Cross-culturally, by Rick Gray (western-Uganda specifically)

How to teach using an interpreter (very complete)

Shorter treatment of how to teach/preach with an interpreter:

General Uganda information:

(valid as of 5-03)

Useful Reading

Hiebert, Paul, et. al. 1999. Understanding folk religion: A Christian response to popular beliefs and practices. Order at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Team Resources

Book & Video resources: (available at

“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

Safety Issues



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.

Clothing / Personal

Checklist of items to carry in your carryon bag or fanny pack:

Other carry-ons:

Ministry Needs / Gifts

The Trip!

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:

American Air:


Ethiopian Airlines: 

United Airlines:

SIAMA: Travel agency for missionaries: [fares fluctuate with strength of dollar]

Willcocks Travel:

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 or a less expensive train 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 or Tube pass Be aware that 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!


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.


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.


Contact Us

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.

Jim Sutherland