Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Speaking in Other Cultures

Speaking in Other Cultures

When I sit back, close my eyes and dream big dreams, I picture speakers impacted by Next Step speaking in front of women from every nation, tribe and tongue.  It tickles me pink to know that dream is slowly coming to fruition!  I have clients heading out all over the world this summer on mission trips with their church or local ministries.

In November of 2011, some of my friends from Encouraging Words and I headed to India to lead two women’s conferences.  It was completely life-changing for me, and I pray that I was able to bring lasting encouragement to the women at our conferences.

Although it was an amazing experience, it also was a huge learning curve, so I thought I’d gather some advice for those of you who may be heading out of the country on a missions trip this year.  My friends who traveled to India with me–Barry (our one brave man!), Peggy, Nanette and Cathy–sent me these fabulous tips to pass on to you.  Some pertain to speakers, and others can be used in any missions circumstance.

General Thoughts

  • Paul said, ” To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”  (I Cor. 9:22)  BE WITH the people you’re ministering to.  If they’re barefoot, then you be barefoot.  If they eat with their fingers, then you eat with your fingers.  If they sit on the floor, then you sit on the floor.  Talk, laugh, hug, relate, play, join in!
  • Pray for the Father’s heart to embrace your heart.  Pray to see, hear, feel, hurt, love, and understand the people as He does.
  • Bring some small, inexpensive gifts for your hosts and others.  Be gracious, because they always are.  You’ll find even very poor people who are overwhelmingly generous and hospitable, and you’ll long to bless them too.
  • Be prepared for culture shock, jet-lag, sensory-overload and physically demanding shedules that sap every bit of your physical and emotional energies.  See this as a precious opportunity to lean on God’s unending strength and empowerment like never before!
  • Know the appropriate dress in a given country, but also make sure to know the weather and dress comfortably.  (That was my friend Cathy’s great tip, and I’m going to add something that might seem gross….  Think about clothing that will be easy to handle in “challenging” bathroom situations.  I’m just keeping it real.  I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.)

When Speaking

  • Know your audience.  Research on-line, in books and by interviewing people so you understand the culture, religion, politics, economy, needs of the people, etc.
  • Use some of your research to make your message relevant to the culture to which you’re speaking.  ie.  I talked about the smells associated with funerals in one of my messages, so I talked about the smells you might smell at an American funeral vs. the ones at an Indian funeral.
  • Connect on a deep, emotional level.  Our team did a mock wedding after Nanette shared on being the bride of Christ.  It was concrete, emotional and powerful!

Working with an Interpreter

  • Develop a relationship with your translator.  They are key to a successful message in a mission context.  Our often made us better than we were!  🙂
  • Give them access to your written notes beforehand so they know the content of your message before they translate “on the fly”.  This allows them to ask your for clarification of particular phrases or words ahead of time.
  • Remember a 30 min. message translated takes 1 hr. to give.
  • Speak in phrases easy for the translator to repeat.  If you say an entire sentence before pausing, it could be too long for the translator to remember and translate.
  • Don’t look at the interpreter when you are speaking.  Always keep eye contact with your audience and stay in the moment emotionally.  Keep the intensity in your eye contact with the audience, and let the interpreter do the same.  You’re working as a powerful team that way!

My friend Peggy sent a final and powerful piece of advice with which I’d like to end. It’s the heart of missions and the heart of God…

“I’m sure there are some distinctives about each culture that we should prepare for. But the primary thing I believe the Lord would have us to become is humble: to realize our own weaknesses, lacks, faults and needs, and to honor others as better than ourselves. So often we are so ready to teach, expound our opinions and our ingrained manners of thinking. We often overlook the wonder of the other person. We entirely miss what our Father is teaching us through that person He imagined into being.”

We also have a fun prize for today’s post!  Next Step is partnering with Trades of Hope, an organization to sells fair trade products at home parties to help women world wide, to give away this beautiful scarf.

Here are the steps to enter to win this Nepali Aqua Scarf:


#1  Leave a comment on this blog.  If you’ve done a missions trip, we’d love to hear your tips or where you went.  If you haven’t, tell us a country you’d love to visit.
#2  “Like”
#3  Leave a comment on the above Facebook page.  Done!

The last day to enter is July 1st at midnight.  The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on the July 2nd blog post.

For more information about Trades of Hope, click here.


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  1. I’ve never missioned but would love to one day be in the land of China. I have a dream of doing young ladies conferences all over the world but China has a special place in my heart. I have vision to encourage young ladies to trust The Lord and emerge themselves in the presence of God. I want to spark strong prayer lives in newlywed woman and single woman also trusting The Lord with everything that happens in life. Sharing my own shortcoming and flaws through my divorce and single life. The Lord is changing me even today and I know he has more for this generation of woman of God.

  2. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THESE TIPS! I have been on mission trips to Cuba, Costa Rica and Equador and spoke to small church groups there. However, this August I will be going on a mission trip to Kenya and will speaking at a Pastor’s Conference to a group of Pastor’s wives! I’ve been told there could be a couple hundred people there! Your tips were very helpful and I plan to utilize them! Please keep me in your prayers as I prepare my heart and mind!

    1. So exciting, Sharon!! Blessings as you head to Kenya!

  3. So wonderful to see your dreams unfolding Amy! I have never been on a missions trip, but I love all these tips. They are powerful reminders wherever we go…especially honoring others as better than ourselves.

  4. Dana MacCord says:

    Tip: Don’t try to westernize the culture you’re minstering to. Just after the fall of communism, I went with a mission team to Ukraine. One of another team’s members had heard that the women there do not shave. She brought disposable razors and gave a class on how to shave and let them keep their razors. They were a status symbol because they had western writing stamped on them. When we tried to explain that they were too old to use, dull and rusty, none of the women would turn theirs in let alone throw them away! I’ve always wondered how many women used those razors long after they were rusted and prayed that they didn’t have tetanus. Sometimes our well intended efforts might even cause harm.

  5. I would love to go on a mission trip to Mexico or the Dominican Republic. My church has gone to both of those places and it’s been life-changing for many. My ultimate dream would be for my entire family to go, so we’ll see if that happens. =) And I love Trades of Hope!

  6. My son and I just returned from a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico, which was dubbed “the murder capital of the world” because of the drug cartel wars there. The people of Juarez are healing, the city is finally rebuilding a crumbled infrastructure (roads, sewer systems, etc) after using all funds to fight the drug war for years. We were honored to play a small part, helping one Christian church build an addition to their small facility and helping another church teach its members English. Because Juarez is on the US border, knowing English opens the door to more opportunities than almost any other skill. Perhaps the coolest thing we did was clean up garbage in city parks each evening. To see “gringos” confidently cleaning parks after dark drew many people from their homes and offered an impromptu opportunity to share the gospel. Life changing!

    1. What an opportunity, Karen! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall as you shared in the park.

  7. Frannie Kight says:

    Being mission minded, I loved this blog post. Lots of wonderful tips! I went to Brazil for my first mission trip. It was exhilarating & challenging. If I could pass on one piece of advice I’d say ” GET OUT OF YOUR WAY.” The first 4 days was so difficult. I was so consumed w/ all the creature comforts I had left behind…..some on accident. I had a hard time adjusting to some of the rules too. Don’t drink the water; Don’t put toilet paper in the toilet. Those sort of things. I remember crying for a whole day too! However, when I moved out of the way & let God do His thing it turned out wonderful. I was asked to give the greeting as we arrived at a village (talk about being put on the spot). Unprepared, I got up and allowed the Holy Spirit to work through me. I vaguely remember what I talked about. I know it was Ruth & Naomi, but I can’t recollect what exactly I said. All I know is it must have been beautiful as everyone was tearful…..even the translator. Afterwards we blessed a young man who was leaving for Bible College that evening. So. The story went with was was to happen. I love it when HE works it all out!

    1. Powerful stuff, Frannie! One of the thing I also loved was seeing God more clearly in every circumstance once my crutches were removed.

  8. Marie Mossner says:

    I really enjoy all your Next Step emails. I have passed them on to other women pursuing a speaking and or writing ministry! Thanks for your insightful encouragement!
    Oh and I LOVE the scarf. 🙂