Date of Award


Document Type



Christian Studies

First Reader

Dr. Barbara Pemberton

Second Reader

Dr. Ray Franklin

Third Reader

Dr. Myra Houser


During the spring of my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to spend five months on the mission field in West Africa through the International Mission Board's Hands-On semester, a program where college-aged students spend approximately five months abroad working with career missionaries in their ministries. I had no idea what to expect going into the program, and I had very little understanding of what missionary life really looked like. I spent time researching the spirituality and history of the area I would be living and working in in the months before I left; I wanted to go into the semester with a foundational understanding of the culture, religious backgrounds, and people that I would be interacting with and living among. My research was helpful in giving me a historical understanding of West Africa and a general picture of what life there would be like, but I also realized that a lot of what I had learned through my studies was not accurate to what I would encounter during my time there. In this paper, I will discuss the different topics I studied in my pre-trip research and recount my experiences during my Hands-On semester in order to communicate the things I wished I would have known going into the program, the parts of my research that were beneficial in helping me adjust to and understand West Africa, and the lessons I took away from the whole experience.



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