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

Not mythology!

Written by: on February 1, 2024

The last thing I wanted to read for our assignments this week was concerning the imaginative world of mythology. I have always been one to choose more realistic literature. My childhood imagination would take me into made-up worlds, but my reading choices did not. I preferred Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie over C. S. Lewis’s Chronical of Narnia. As a teen, I reread Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place several times while trudging through J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy once. I enjoyed reading fiction, but even those choices involved realistic scenarios, not mythical creatures. One thing this assignment did for me was to reflect and ask myself, “Why?”. What drew me away from mythology and towards reality?

Reading stories about real life heroes who did hard things for the greater good inspired me. They were my heroes. As I read about their lives, I dreamed that one day I would also be as brave, courageous, and heroic. As I reflect now, I know why I preferred my bibliographical adventures over the mythological ones. As I read those stories, I hoped that if someone else could embrace their calling with such dignity, I, too, could one day respond to my own call in a worthy manner.

With this self-reflection, I tried to approach Joseph’s Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces with an open mind, hoping I could relate to something he shared. It did not take long. As Campbell begins to describe the hero’s journey, he writes about the hero’s “Refusal of the Call”:

“Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call      unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.”[1]

I do not want to be a “dull case” of one who chose not to respond to her “call” nor acted beyond the mundane cycle of life. I love adventures: pushing the limits, going against the status quo, achieving something impossible, pursuing something until it is achieved or confirmed to be impossible. In my deepest childhood thoughts, I dreamed of adventures exploring the world. My real-life literary heroes gave me the hope that I could one day do the same. I did not want to yield to generations of established routine and social norms. There is nothing wrong with that path if it is one’s call, but I was ready to do something new and exciting.

I see now how those real-life heroes helped push me towards making my dream a reality. My family has had roots in the United States since the 1600s. In my area of Pennsylvania, people do not move far from home. Our little town is still a tight-knit community where it is rare to move beyond a 20-mile radius; rarer still was to leave the state. I grew up in the house my parent’s built on a piece of the family property that was settled a couple of centuries prior. Our lives were consistent with the deep-rooted values established by the generations before us: love God, work hard, do what is expected of you, have an honorable name. These deep seeded family principles felt limiting to me, even as a child. I was being called to something different. Perhaps it was that calling that drew me towards ordinary people who experienced extraordinary adventures. The possibilities their lives gave me drew me into the pages and helped to script my own story. This preference for “real” heroes may simply be the path God was leading me on and not necessarily a dislike for mythology.

With this new revelation, I was ready to learn more about the “monomyth.” According to Campbell, this is the general trajectory of a mythological hero’s journey; patterns that can be seen across cultures, generations, and stories.[2]  As I followed the adventure cycle, I easily placed myself along the journey. Entering new worlds, facing challenges, meeting friends and foes, defeating my “impossible”, returning to normal but a changed person. I think I was beginning to understand what drew people into the mythological world. The monomyth, while full of extraordinary feats, could also be said to be a literary exaggeration of the real-world challenges faced by each one who embraces and embarks on their call.

My calling has taken me to Africa. It has been my home for over a decade. Prior, Pennsylvania was my home for more than twice that. Each time I cross the ocean to return to the “other” side, it is as if I am completing one cycle of my monomyth and beginning the next one. Rather than a circle, my adventures play out in a figure-eight form. What I did, what I learned, what I conquered, where I failed is done in a world, a culture, and a context that those in “the other” world cannot quite understand. Each time I cross over and enter “the other” world I start the next cycle of my figure-eight adventure. In the crossing of thresholds between these two worlds, I wonder if part of the calling that took me to Africa is also to be that faithful friend in the monomyth who invites others to recognize their heroism, embrace their call to the next adventure, and to encourage them to step out into their own monomyth.


[1] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (p. 54), Commemorative ed, Bollingen Series 17 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

[2] Ibid., 28.

About the Author



Kari is a passionate follower of Jesus. Her journey with Him currently has her living in the Sahara in North Africa. With over a decade of experience as a family nurse practitioner and living cross-culturally, she enjoys being a champion for others. She combines her cross-cultural experience, her health care profession, and her skills in coaching to encourage holistic health and growth. She desires to see each person she encounters walk in fullness of joy, fulfilling their God-designed purpose. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12 ESV

11 responses to “Not mythology!”

  1. Diane Tuttle says:

    Kari, Your experience of the reading and sharing your self reflection this week is a fresh way to look at the journey. Your wondering if part of your calling is to encourage others in their journey is a valuable insight. I am curious if you have any ideas how some opportunities for that might arise? I also wonder if part of your journey is to somehow bridge the “ocean” between the two cultures to bring a greater understanding and acceptance of people who are different in so many ways. I am glad you answered God’s call and shared it here.

    • mm Kari says:

      Hi Diane,

      Some of the ways God has been allowing me to encourage others has started with intentional conversations and asking questions. Through this, I have been given many opportunities to invest in lives of venturing heroes. This summer there will be several interns who come and live life with my team. In this current season, I have also been invited to be a voice in the lives of several younger ladies who are just starting their cross-cultural journey. As much as I strive to be a bridge between my two worlds, I find that in both worlds, many people are resistant to stepping beyond their own comfort zones.

  2. Graham English says:

    Kari, I loved this sentence, ” As I read those stories, I hoped that if someone else could embrace their calling with such dignity, I, too, could one day respond to my own call in a worthy manner.”
    I too have shifted from “mythological figures” in my childhood to real-life figures who reflect more of the character of Jesus. Desmond Tutu, Mother Theresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer etc. I was super inspired by the Oxford martyrs, not because they were larger than life, but because they answered the call with dignity.
    I still recall the Hugh Latimer quote, “‘Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out”.
    Thanks for reminding us of this!

    • mm Kari says:

      Graham, thanks for your comment. I, too, was very impacted by the Oxford martyrs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has come up in conversation a handful of times in the past two weeks. I know a bit of his story, but I think it is time I read more about this courageous man of God.

  3. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Kari,
    I loved reading your post. Your personal journey and self-reflection offered a unique lens through which to explore the monomyth and the hero’s journey. I enjoyed reading about your adventures and the meaningful connections you experience between different worlds. The revelation that your preference for “real” heroes might be the path that God was leading you on is a profound realization. Your journey from Pennsylvania to Africa, completing cycles of your monomyth in a figure-eight form, adds a fascinating dimension to your story. The way you connect your adventures to the monomyth, crossing thresholds between worlds, and pondering the possibility of being a faithful friend who encourages others to recognize their heroism, you expressed it beautifully.
    How have you changed after going through your own version of the monomyth?

    • mm Kari says:

      Hi Shela,
      Thank you for your kind words. I feel like each time I cross over from one world to the next, I have changed a little bit (or sometimes a lot!) more. One area where I have changed drastically is being able to trust the journey and the One guiding me on that path. When something “big” occurs to change plans, I have growing in how I internally handle that change. Another area of change is in how I perceive how others view me. I have learned to quickly go to the Lord to lean on His truth.

  4. Nancy Blackman says:

    I laughed out loud at your title. Thanks for giving me a giggle.

    It’s fascinating that you connected your monomyth journey as a figure 8 “crossing over.” That reminded me of an Italian word—attraversiamo, which means to cross over. In a literal sense, it means to cross the street with someone, as in, let’s cross together, but this word can give shape and meaning to something more deeply integrated in a person’s life. You crossed over from PA to Africa and have done so many times, but your soul also crossed over. That’s what I hear when I read your post, which, by the way, is beautiful!

    Thank you for sharing this small part of your journey with us.

    • mm Kari says:

      Nancy, thanks for your comment. Attraversiamo seems to have a similar meaning to “traverser” in French. We just do not have a word that specific in English! You are correct, my soul has indeed crossed, leaving a piece of my heart in both worlds.

  5. Chad Warren says:

    Kari, I shared a quote from C.S. Lewis in my comment to Glyn’s post this week. Given your hesitancy with reading Campbell’s work this week, I am curious how this quote lands with you. Lewis states in a letter to a friend, “Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things.'” [1]
    [1] Lewis, C.S., They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, ed., Walter Hooper (New York: Macmillian Publishing Co., 1979), 977.

    • mm Kari says:

      Hi Chad,

      That is a great quote to think about. I believe that God has shown Himself to all of creation (Romans 1:20-21). I also believe that man is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and therefore exhibits, imperfectly, God’s character. I did not initially embrace C.S. Lewis’s idea that “pagan stories are God expressing Himself” but could perhaps see the idea that qualities and characteristics of God are being expressed through the minds of the poets who are made in God’s image. With that, I can see how one could argue how these ideas would then be expressed through God Himself.

  6. Julie O'Hara says:

    Hi Kari, Thank you for your post. When I read about your 10 years spent in Africa, the figure-eight, and going back to PA and people who don’t really connect to your recurring adventure something clicked. My mother-in-law was 10 years in Afghanistan doing humanitarian work from 2002 – 2012. She struggled with a sense of isolation and loneliness from those at ‘home’ that was about more than distance. The lack of any context whatsover for the culture in which she was immersed meant that a two-way conversation was practically impossible because friends and family in US lacked a means to enter her world. Afghanistan quickly became her real home. I think my question is where does your own return to status quo end? Which side of the Atlantic do you envision and what might be the gifts you share?

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