Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Asado in Argentina

Written by: on September 18, 2019

Opening to the world, the beauty and artistry and history in all of its cultural diversity, continues to be a process for me. Unfathomable to recall that there was a time that I believed everyone thinks the same way and sees the world just like me, despite going to an international school growing up and attending a multi-national Bible College after high school. Finally, I woke up from my closed-minded and sleepy ignorance to the reality and necessity of communicating across cultures while working on a ship with Operation Mobilization.

I served as a watchkeeper, under a Finnish Chief Engineer who loved sports, alongside almost 200 other shipmates from more than 40 countries around the world. My boss, the Chief Engineer, hated me and he loved me (as I perceived it); his directness with negative feedback (ie. my utter cluelessness when it came to mopping the oily floor plates) was surprising and his wordless, approving smile showed me that he was proud of the service I was involved after the work day was done. We cannot run from our differences. In Christ we can stand with humble curiosity, deeply attentive to the ways of another person; there’s the expression of Love and interest for oneness spanning our acquired uniqueness in this culture of another Kingdom. On the ship there were many others, and the feelings were mutual for the most part, who loved me and hated me for reasons that I struggled to comprehend.

“When interacting with someone from another culture, try to watch more, listen more, and speak less. Listen before you speak and learn before you act.” [1]

How can I have an opinion on the correct way of communication in a multi-cultural setting after reading this book? Culture Map, by Erin Meyer, is helpful in further developing an awareness through story and mapping of our interactive cross-cultural peculiarities and similarities. I can understand clearer now that in the directive of Jesus to ‘love your neighbour’, knowing my neighbour deeply and how to love them well takes true care. Every day we are drawing closer to one another, regardless of the tension and striving of nations and politicians, people are coming together. We are mixing it seems and there’s grace to it; consensus is subliminal. As with the style of Vikings, there’s no obvious boss hovering and controlling this flow on a given platform. There’s softening between cultures, for some the softening is on the exterior and for other’s the hard core is relaxing.

There’s no other choice, if there’s a desire to be in relative harmony with one another but, with some care, to live out this blending, becoming culture we are in well. On the ship that I worked on for two years, we each brought all of our bags full of belongings with us and had space for our things in our own sleeping quarters. We met outside the doors to our rooms, in our workplaces, for meals, we crossed paths saying ‘hello’ in the hallways and we walked together on the streets of the cities, in the countries, in the cultures in which we were berthed. We learned, sometimes in a difficult way (directly or indirectly), to keep what is closest to us inside and to be discerning, to hold lightly and to be appreciative with regards to our cultural expression and communication.

Is there a single ideal culture, one that has it all figured out, one that all the rest can align with? Perhaps we are on our way there together. For now, praise God that there is diversity and that we can still be in the tension learning from one another, adapting in ways. In our becoming more aware of one another, opening to best approaches in cross-cultural communication on our teams, our blending families, schools and on this other planet that is perpetually at our fingertips (the internet) and, as we aim to live together well and respectfully, a global culture trail is being blazed.

Bahamian proverb: “To engage in conflict, one does not need to bring a knife that cuts, but a needle that sews.” [1]

When the ship visited Rosario, Argentina a number of people from our ship’s company had the opportunity to attend an Asado, a typical traditional Argentinian Bar-B-Que at which the entire cow is cooked in a large outdoor oven and eaten. I was offered some ‘extra-special’ pieces of the animal to eat and I received a round of applause and cheers for enjoying ‘what-it-was-I-just-don’t-know’. A wonderful experience, that followed with me to the next day and an extended conversation within my stomach wherein there seemed to be an agreement to disagree.

To disagree agreeably is a starting point for learning and deepening conversation in cross-cultural communication, a peaceful beginning toward understanding and possible eventual adaptation (whatever that may look like). Agreeing to disagree, was an encouragement offered at the outset of the orientation program before embarking into the ship ministry. There is peace in this posture, a giving and receiving of grace that can lead into a deeper care and offering of ‘what it is that makes us different and why these things matters so much to us’. Many conversations and conflicts were left as is in this peaceful, sentence-ending attitude of ‘agreeing to disagree’, in those years I worked onboard the Logos 2. So much so, that sometimes I still wonder if Dutch people simply don’t like me! (Just kidding).


[1] Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map (INTL ED). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

About the Author

Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

11 responses to “Asado in Argentina”

  1. Greg Reich says:

    “To engage in conflict, one does not need to bring a knife that cuts, but a needle that sews.” Chris I love this quote. I spent 27 years in the natural gas pipeline industry. Part of that time was as the Chief Inspector on highly contested multi-million dollar projects often going through million dollar properties. When dealing with over 250 employees many of them from diverse back grounds, as well as, new immigrants to the US it became a challenge when differences arose. Pipe Liners can be a rough group with their own sense of loyalty and morality in many cases. Finding commonality (a needle that sews) wasn’t always easy. One of the things that worked for me was when time allowed I would travel from site to site handing out bottles of cold water. Fridays became known as the day the boss fed the crew because I would BBQ burgers for whom ever happened to be on the job site I visited around lunch time. The old saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has proven to be true in many cases of my business and ministry life.

  2. Chris Pollock says:

    Thanks Greg, appreciate your response. 250 employees, what a responsibility! And, it sounds like they knew you cared handing water out and, even BBQing? Second mile care. To show genuine selfless care, this is a language that doesn’t need translation. I guess that’s what can draw us in to giving close attention to the Word of God, ‘for God so loved the world…’ and, ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ This passion that is in us to express and give. Thanks for sharing some of your stories with me!

  3. Steve Wingate says:

    You wrote, “Is there a single ideal culture, one that has it all figured out, one that all the rest can align with? Perhaps we are on our way there together.”

    The Scriptures says there is one culture we can rest in- we are there, but just not fully yet.

    However, on this side of that full realization, and at least because we turned from being fully human as God intended we will be less than but more than at the same time

    • Chris Pollock says:

      Thanks for taking some time to comment Steve, appreciate it! I love to wonder and so desire to live into the Culture you are speaking of. Jesus lived into it fully and lived it out! It’s a conversation and a dream, perhaps fantasy-like as I think some of those great authors from that revered school we will be dropping by soon dreamed into it and brought some glimpses of it to life in their stories. It’s the real thing that makes it so exciting! What led the patriarchs to keep going, the poet kings to never give up, the prophets to keep listening and what encaptivated Jesus’ friends; such inspiration!

  4. Shawn Cramer says:

    You had me at “asado”! I’m wondering if there is a better way to talk about what you mean with “agreeing to disagree.” I know that is the aphorism, but there still seems to be a bit of distance between the two parties afterwards. I like how you mention that as a starting point. Most of the time when people say they disagree, my experience lends me to believe that each side can’t even represent the other side in it’s strongest form, but simply a straw man that is easily defeated. To truly understand someone takes time, humility, and an others-centered, none of which I possess in any large amounts. Where have you seen the best examples of truly understanding another side?

    • Chris Pollock says:

      Shawn thanks for taking the time, being thoughtful and even, throwing back a question! I think brokenness gets brokenness. It’s a simple downward mobility to meet each other there. I think it’s a little more challenging in the upward approach, meeting in a place where seemingly we have it all together. Such an awesome question. I would love to hear about what you think in considering this question as well? See you soon, brother!

  5. John McLarty says:

    I spent many years just assuming that other people were just defective versions of me. As my eyes were opened to the wonders of diversity in personality, I found the new responsibility to be both a blessing and a burden. If others were merely defective versions of myself, then I could be justified in my frustration when they weren’t doing things “right.” But if our differences were truly what makes us great, then my understanding of those differences would be necessary to make connections and do our best work together. I share your praise for the diversity and the tension.

    • Chris Pollock says:

      John, that just put a huge smile on my face! Thanks for taking a second to respond. You put it in a way that I wish I could 🙂

      Diversity and tension. Sometimes in the midst of the awkward in-between wondering whose wrong and why there’s a second that grace can change the course and awaken perspective. There’s opportunity when things aren’t going quite right, the vibe is off, stuck on different wavelengths. At this point, stopping for a second, facing and pressing on toward (slowly) as opposed to turning and running away can generate something good in the outcome/long run.(maybe?)

  6. Nancy Blackman says:

    “…knowing my neighbour deeply and how to love them well takes true care.” I think that knowing a neighbor takes time in order to truly love them, but Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Sometimes that is a confusing thing for me especially when we are discussing cross cultural situations. That’s where I believe that watching and listening more is the needle that sews.

    It sounds like you had some great experiences. It’s interesting that your perception of the Finnish Chief Engineer was that he loved and hated you. What do you think he would say about you if someone asked?

    • Chris Pollock says:

      Thanks for taking a second to comment, Nancy! I appreciate the question. Sweet to have a chance to dig a little deeper.

      To be unapologetically who we were made to be, the original, the ancient. I still struggle at times with feelings of insufficiency, that I should be someone else, be doing something else…(long story, short).

      A few things affected my perception of the Chief Engineer and the way he thought of me. I was young and was with much less understanding regarding cultural dynamics (cross-communication) and personalities. Maybe a better way of putting it was that he liked me and disliked me? Love and Hate are too strong, love being the much stronger of the two.

      My Chief engineer was solid, lived out his wonderful self and thankfully, he was mostly gracious toward this young Canadian guy who was struggling to find his way. I really looked up to him. To be honest, he accepted me in his Finnish-kinda-way and he believed that I could be more. He signed off on time for me to reach out through sports ministry and gave me a chance to see myself in a different way other than under the floor plates cleaning bilge.

      I think that if someone asked him now, ‘what do you think of Chris?’ He would respond, with a twinkle in his eye and a side smile, something like, ‘he sure was a messy kid,’ and, ‘I love that guy!’

      Needle can sew over time and space. kairos!

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