Crossing Cultures: One Woman’s Journey from Vermont to Eastern Europe

Have you ever felt like you didn’t quite fit in or understand why people from a different culture think or act the way they do? My recent guest Wendy Zahorjanski has lived this experience firsthand. When she was 19, Wendy moved from Vermont to Kyrgyzstan for a 6-month cross-cultural mission experience that dramatically impacted her worldview. She says, “It really opened my eyes to the fact that I needed more training if I wanted to pursue life as a missionary or cross-cultural worker.”

This launched Wendy into a journey of living, working and ministering in several Eastern European cultures over the past decade. She candidly shares the exhaustion, language barriers, and impracticality she felt during her early days immersed in Serbia. Wendy explains, “It stripped me down to the very core of who I was. Emotionally, I cried all the time.”

Yet this difficult season taught Wendy invaluable lessons about dependence on God rather than her own capabilities. She realized her fiercely independent self-reliance was more cultural than biblical. Wendy gained fresh perspective by learning from Serbian believers who come from a more interdependent, community-focused society. She explains how this experience “really freed me and allowed some of the unbiblical views I had to fade.”

Wendy elegantly captures her powerful story in a recently published memoir, “Hard is Only Half the Story.” In the book, each chapter describes a poignant vignette from her journey. Wendy shares how readers have reacted: “Different parts of it have touched different people. One person said this surprised me – that was so touching for her. Another said this impacted me profoundly.” Though no one chapter stands out, Wendy notices the one about sadness resonates most across readers. She hypothesizes that “sadness hits a nerve with people, that all of us have experienced it.”

If Wendy’s story inspires you to grow in cultural awareness and faith, here are a few tips. First, pray and wait for God’s leading about engaging cross-culturally. Be willing for Him to stretch your perspective. Next, step out in boldness when He prompts you. Remember His love, patience, and Spirit go with you. Finally, learn more of Wendy’s incredible story by connecting with her on social media or purchasing her book “Hard is Only Half the Story” on Amazon. Understanding different cultures deepens our walk with God.