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

Put In Check

Written by: on February 1, 2019

I’ve got to admit, after struggling to connect with last week’s theology based book examining evangelicalism, I was pretty excited to dig into Erin Meyer’s book, The Culture Map. And it did not disappoint…Meyer’s book is relevant, pragmatic, and based on years of study and experience.  It is directly connected to global leadership and the impact of culture in all personal, business, and team interactions.  I think my biggest disappointment is that I did not know about this gem of a resource until this semester.  I’m working on a Track 02 dissertation – developing an artifact which will be an evidenced based, outcome driven, resilience factor assessment tool (Likert scale) – and administered to refugees quarterly in their first year of resettlement in Columbus, Ohio.  After familiarizing myself with Meyer’s work, I’m hopeful The Culture Map will influence and enhance the development of my tool. The core of Meyer’s work is about understanding and assessing culture, specific to eight “scales”.

Meyer’s claims you can improve relationships by considering where you and international partners fall on each of these scales:[1]

  • Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
  • Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
  • Persuading: deductive vs. inductive
  • Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
  • Deciding: consensual vs. top down
  • Trusting: task vs. relationship
  • Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
  • Scheduling: structured vs. flexible

And while this book is written specifically for international business relations, I plan to apply the same cultural lens to refugee relationships in their new community of resettlement, all the while looking at how these eight scales impact their capacity for resilience and their resilience outcome(s).  It will be essential to evaluate existing programs and resources (based on the eight scales) developed specifically for Somali refugees in Columbus, Ohio.  Are these factors even considered?  Are the existing programs and resources culturally appropriate? My research problem states “Research indicates policies, resources, cultural attitudes and biases contribute to Somalian refugees struggle with resettlement in Columbus, Ohio.”  Perhaps these scales are my missing link to creating a tool that meets Erin Meyer’s standard of cultural relativity!

Even though I was willing to purchase the Erin Meyer Personal Bundle to map out Somali culture, it wasn’t an option since it isn’t available on the “the list”.  There are some African nations – Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – included in the bundle, but Somalia, unfortunately, is not.  If I were to take an educated guess on which of these countries most resembles the culture of Somalia, I would earmark Kenya.  (@Dave Watermulder, prior Peace Corp resident of Kenya, feel free to correct me if I’m completely off base) It is geographically a neighbor, (as is Ethiopia), and has similar demographics (  Kenya, unlike Ethiopia, has been a military support to Somalia.  In fact the two countries have “agreed to cooperate on security, trade, tourism and immigration.”[2]  And as I watched videos of Meyer’s presentations and how Kenya was culturally mapped, I was not surprised at the disparity between American culture and Kenyan culture (as also applied to Somali culture).

In the United States, an estimated 45,000 Somalis currently live in Columbus, Ohio…second only in number to the greater Minneapolis area. Culturally, Somalis are “traditionally nomadic” and after word spread back to Somalia of the Minneapolis region, the community flourished.[3]  The same phenomenon was duplicated in Columbus, Ohio “the young vibe and energy of progress and growth are intoxicating,” notes “SomaliWarlord” on a Reddit thread about his life here. “Oh and The Bucks!”  (Even the Somali’s love The OSU Bucks!!!) But researchers have also found a high risk of depression and stress among Somali immigrants in Columbus, especially in adolescents who are trying to forge their identity amid two vastly different cultures.”[4]  This finding connected to refugee depression and its link to identity and resettlement is the focus of my research (resilience).

So what “culture” and “experiences” do Somali’s arrive in Columbus with?  Here’s a snapshot:

The Somali story is one of hardship, pain and sacrifice. And it is about duty, ethics, and morality. As my friend, Mama Fadumo, told me one day, “We are Somalis. We don’t expect comfort anymore. We expect hardship and struggle. And we survive.”[5]

The Somali narrative is starkly different from the American narrative.  Somali’s who resettle in the United States have well-documented adverse experiences spanning from violence (torture, rape, death of loved ones), starvation and poverty, to racial/ethnic discrimination. Somali’s are 99.8% Muslim (majority Sunni)[6] who practice Islam – which has a “much more comprehensive role in life than is typical in the America’s or Europe.”[7] As an example of cultural challenges, the following examples of cultural differences are identified by CRIS on their website:  “In Somalia, extended families live together and parents always have family to take care of their children.  In the U.S., it is hard for parents to adjust to paying for daycare. Using the right hand to shake hands is considered polite. Somali women usually cover their entire bodies and sometimes wear veils.”[8] When examining the trauma history, cultural differences, and faith practices of Somali refugees, it’s not surprising that resettlement into the United States presents challenges.

An additional barrier to refugee resilience is the attitudes of service providers. Research indicates that most service providers hold deep-seated prejudices against migrants. These prejudices appear when such individuals behave as though “they know better what the family needs than the family itself knows”.[9] In two field research interviews of refugee providers, a bias of Somali culture was noted. An educator in Columbus believes “they [Somali refugees] don’t try to fit in to the community at all”, subsequently creating community barriers of acceptance. This educator further expounded that the struggles the Central Ohio Somalians experienced in Columbus City Schools was due to their unwillingness to assimilate. “Muslim rituals, such as prayer five times daily, became problematic in the school system”[10] This same belief was reiterated by a program coordinator of refugee services…

I could go on and on about biases, but I believe this to be true – there is still a lot of work to be done [for helping professionals] in the construct of cultural relativity.  Perhaps Erin Meyer’s text, The Culture Map, is an excellent place to start – looking at factors of relationship and communication in how programs and resources are developed for Somali refugees in Columbus.  And that is a paradigm I plan to build my artifact around.  I’ve been put in check.  Have you?









[9]   Park, Yoosun, et al. “U.S. Social Work Practitioners’ Attitudes Towards Immigrants and Immigration: Results From an Online Survey.” Journal Of Immigrant & Refugee Studies 9, no. 4 (October 2011): 367-392.

[10] *Name withheld for privacy – anonymous interview with Jean Ollis, April 19, 2018

About the Author


Jean Ollis

17 responses to “Put In Check”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Glad to see you connected with Meyer’s work for your dissertation and artifact. Thanks for the excellent review of the Somali narrative in Columbus, Ohio. I have an Afghani and an El Salvadoran members on my team and even though they have lived in the U.S. for some time, there are many cross-cultural challenges they encounter both in the workplace and in their communities.
    How do the Muslim Somali’s react when one of their own become Christian? I imagine there are more challenges within their family units when one steps out in faith for the Gospel.
    Great post and thanks for the insights. I liked Meyer’s book and think when added to Livermore’s work we have some good information to use when looking at cross-cultural situations.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your feedback. I don’t have a lot of information on the conversion of Muslim refugees to Christianity but I can tell you that the stakeholders I interfaced with (service providers) have taken a new stance – rather than trying to convert they simply show love like Jesus, hoping to impact a refugee in that way.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:


    Alright! This book was right up your alley. You lucky duck. Between you and Jake, this book was perfectly matched. And you took the ball and ran with it. Well done.

    I cannot imagine how hard it would be for Somali’s to assimilate into America, while maintaining their customs. I have a hard time even going on a two week mission trip!

    Please help me with the definition of refugee–Does that afford different avenues for coming to America, as opposed to immigrant? (Pardon my ignorance). And, does America have a cap on the number of refugees that can enter at once? I did find this article stating 30K might be the limit this year…

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Jay! Here’s (more) information you were asking about:

      Refugee – a person who:
      Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owning to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country

      Asylee – a person who:
      Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owning to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. Unlike refugees, asylum seekers arrive in the host country before they have evaluated the asylum claim.

      Internally displaced person (IDP) – a person who:

      Is one who is displaced within the borders of their home country due to war, persecution, or natural disaster. IDPs are officially nationals of their home country, and their home government is officially responsible for their protection. IDPs are often displaced due to government-fueled war or persecution, placing their very protection in the hands of their persecutors.

  3. Hey Jean, you have an added complexity layered on to the contextualization of your project. Because while you want to create comething that is relevant and speaks to refugees, I’m assuming part of your task is to also help them to enculturate into American culture. We face similar issues with refugees here in France. One the one hand, we want to be hospitable and make thme feel “at home.” On the other had, if they want to survive and thrive in the French culture they are going to need to adapt to the way French do it.

    So you, too, will need to work bidirectionally, I imagine.

  4. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    I was excited to read you are working with Somali refugees, I agree this book and its resources should be a great tool in your ministry. I worked with refugees while I was in seminary as well (mostly Kenyan) and the hardest part for most of them was the spread out nature of families here in the US. I will be praying for you and your ministry.



    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      I did not know you worked with refugees. Where did you attend seminary? What is your take away from those relationships?

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:


    As I have mentioned in response to several other blog posts this week, we need not be working internationally to find use for the principles in this text. There are examples all around us where the culture map could be a useful tool to mitigate unnecessary tension and misunderstanding. I still think there is strong resistance in the helping professions and the education sector in the U.S. to making the effort to understand the ‘other’. As the dominant culture it is often assumed it is the responsibility of the new immigrant to make all the cultural concessions. This leads to isolation, enmity and mistrust. I hope your use of this important tool brings about some much needed help to and understanding of the Somali community in your area.

  6. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Jean, this is deep work and you are in it! I am anticipating your outcomes of assessment tool with the scale and the new measures from Meyer’s work.

    As you spoke of Kenya and Ethiopia, I thought of a friend. who has been doing reforestation in Ethiopia and Sudan for years and wondered if he would be of any insight for you in gauging the similarities of Somalia to Ethiopia. Let me know if you are interested in connecting. He is in LA.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Hi Trish! Thanks for the lead of your friend. As I work through my project this semester I’ll let you know if I need to connect with him…

  7. I’m definitely put in check Jean! It is funny how Jay keeps noticing how you and I are able to connect our topic with the reading. I love how you are challenging our views of refugees and what a perfect model to use for your research. We have no idea how easy we have it compared to refugees and relationships and communication are key. Great post once again!

  8. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean, fantastic job at relating this reading to the work you are doing on your dissertation. I thought it was fascinating the obstacles that face a problem like the one you are seeking to solve; on one hand you need the Columbus residents to see the Somalia population in respect to the culture they are part of; at the same time, you point out that the refugees are not really reaching out to understand the culture that they are trying to integrate into; and all the while, you are trying to encourage both sides to see the other’s perspective. Furthermore, as the promoter of peace, you yourself have to struggle to relate to both of the cultures in order to find a pathway for communication. What a challenge…I commend you for tackling it.

    I have a question regarding the “Muslim” factor in your pursuit: With the bulk of this population being Muslim (over 99%), do you see this integration offering any opportunities for conversion into Christianity, or is this effort solely intended to help with cultural integration?

  9. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thanks for this post and I’ll echo Jay in saying that you are a lucky duck, because this book is right up your alley. Mine too! So, I’m a former Peace Corps resident in Cape Verde (West Africa), so unfortunately I don’t have the best insight for you into which culture is closest to Somali. I think if I were to guess, I would have said Ethiopia, even though they have been enemies! They are neighbors, in the same region, and yet there are some things that could bind them together (just conjecture!). Here’s an article on this topic:

    Anyway, I agree with your overall assesment of this book– that it is something really helpful for folks seeking to lead or work (in a variety of ways) across cultures. Keep at it!

  10. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    very cool Jean. It makes me think that of the 200+ countries there are in the world, there is really no way to have a full map and accurate map of all cultures. Especially because you would really need people from within that culture to map themselves and others to see how accurate it is. or else it would just be the westerners sending out their labeling and categorizations again.

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