DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

Written by: on February 2, 2019

Of the many missionary trips I have taken to Mexico, one truly stood out. Each year for nearly 10 years, I traveled with our Rotary group to Mexico to help in an orphanage there that was started by a fellow Rotarian and run by an amazing group of nuns.  Ongoing crisis situations faced us throughout this particular journey and each one brought heightened fear.  To start with, we flew out of Detroit during horrendous weather in Michigan, which continued as we traveled towards Mexico.  The ride was turbulent and there was apparent fear within the passengers.  As the plane rocked and swayed prior to landing, we were all told to take a crash position.  As I later reflected on the state of mind of the other passengers throughout the journey, I noticed the cultural differences in the various groups of people in the way they handled their potential impending doom.  It was truly enlightening!

What I remember as I reflect back were the differences in how people handle fear at potential end of life.  It was very culturally distinct in many ways, and I can still reflect upon the ways that groups of people reacted to the crisis situation, especially while on the plane during of our journey.  Meyer tells of how people respond and react in certain situations with regards to business, leadership or even church.  But what I saw was how people from different faith beliefs reacted with regards to fear!

I noticed that Christians, as an entity, prayed not only for themselves, but for everyone else on the plane as well.  It was not a ‘family only situation,’ but a total embracement.   It was powerful!   I also saw that people of other cultures (especially people of Mexican and Chinese descent) were very focused on their families and groups of individuals within their own culture who were traveling together.  I’m not sure if they felt ‘different’ or if they just naturally leaned inclusively within only their own culture, but the caretaking and prayers were focused internally within in their group.  The atheists were most intriguing.  It was either exclusively about them only and their own internal fears (no one else mattered) or they were reaching out for help from others to help them find a path to salvation.  It was an enlightening adventure, that’s for sure.

To finish the story:  although we landed safely, the story certainly didn’t stop there.  After landing, we were greeted by a Mafia group, which had taken over the airport.  As we sat and waited for the ‘hostage’ scenario to end, I felt grateful for the peace I held.  We finally got to the orphanage of young girls (age 5-15), who had been trafficked prior to being taken into the orphanage, and we were then harassed by the local police force, as they were part of the trafficking ring.  They wanted ‘their girls’ back!  Yet, our Christian faith collectively helped us to feel surrounded by protection from our Heavenly Father.  So, fear was truly a non-issue!

So….I digress!  But the question is ~ did I enjoy Meyer’s book and believe it to be a worthwhile read?  Yes, I did!  I found it to be both engaging and informative.  Meyer’s audience is really everyone and anyone, as we all cross different international boundaries at different times in our lives.  This is true whether we travel or not.  Meyer’s Eight Scales were also powerful.  Meyer noted that when interacting with someone from another culture, try to watch more, listen more, and speak less,[1] which is a common- sense statement, but also a good reminder in everyday life – both between different cultures and within our own!   One of Meyer’s most powerful statements is: “If you go into every interaction assuming the culture doesn’t matter, your default mechanism will be to view others through your own cultural lens and to judge or misjudge them accordingly.”[2]  So true – and very enlightening!


[1] Meyer, Erin. The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures. New York: Public Affairs, 2014, 27.

[2] Ibid, 13.

About the Author


Nancy VanderRoest

Nancy is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and fulfills God's calling on her life by serving as a Chaplain & Counselor with Hospice. In her spare time, Nancy works with the anti-human trafficking coalition in her local community.

6 responses to “Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself”

  1. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Nancy, Thanks so much for sharing your “hair-raising” experience! Yes, perhaps most telling of “cultures” (however defined) is how they react in stressful situations. I so appreciate your reminder from Meyer: to watch more, listen more, and speak less! Perhaps this also speaks to our universal need for cultural humility. Thanks again and take care.

  2. mm Karen Rouggly says:

    Nancy – this trip is so crazy – you can’t even write all this if you’d tried! I’m impressed at how you were able to handle yourself in all these situations. I think you bring up an interesting insight in how people respond to fear. That would be interesting to plot on a spectrum. Where do you think the US would fall compared to other cultures you’ve been a part of?

  3. mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

    What a story, Nancy! I agree with you that this book is for everyone as I find multiple cultures within America that can be challenging in communication practices. I believe God gave us the key in our anatomy which Meyers address, observe and listen twice as much as we speak.

  4. mm Rhonda Davis says:

    What an interesting story, Nancy! Thank you for sharing your amazing cross-cultural experience with us. Meyer certainly had something for everyone in this book. I’m joining you in the challenge to listen more, observe more and simply be more present in daily situations.

  5. mm Mary Mims says:

    Nancy, what a story! Thank God that you survived to finish the mission God gave you. Learning how each group faces death was very insightful and does show how culture influences our actions. I think what you shared about the Christians, also shows the Evangelical influence of our nation, since they were praying for others and had an outward focus. I am glad that you are committed to the cause of rescuing these young girls. May God continue to bless this great work.

  6. Nancy, Isn’t interesting that we rarely remember to listen more, watch more and talk less? Its no wonder that where there is a multitude of worlds, there cannot lack sin. It was very interesting reading through your scary experience and realize that our cultural differences affect every aspect of our lives including how we react to situations. We truly are all products of our culture which implies that we can develop cultural intelligence by understanding our cultural differences and using that knowledge appropriately. Its my take that cultural intelligence is an indispensable competence of leadership.

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