A globetrotting pilgrimage: An exploration of spiritual growth and the development of intercultural competence

Open Access
Eifert, Angela Lynn
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 14, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Dr Edward Taylor, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Dr Shanetia Clark, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Martha Jean Strickland, Committee Member
  • Heather L Stuckey, Committee Member
  • spirituality
  • intercultural competence
  • adult education
  • followers of Christ
The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between spiritual growth and the development of intercultural competence through the experiences of followers of Christ working in least developed countries. To address this purpose, a qualitative study using narrative inquiry and in-depth semi structured interviews were employed to illuminate how participants grew and developed spiritually and interculturally in becoming effective participants within their host communities. A purposeful sample (N=11) of U.S. American adults, aged 38-76 years, who lived and worked in a least developed country of southern Africa over a span of 5-47 years participated. Though not intentional, all participants were Caucasian, including seven men and four women. As professional doctors, nurses, educators, and administrators, they maintained daily, direct contact with host culture members. To ensure consistency with a discussion of spiritual growth, participants espoused a Christ-centered worldview and identified themselves as followers of Christ. Seven main themes emerged from participants’ narratives. Participants (a) perceived God’s calling to work abroad, (b) desired to help host communities, (c) approached their host culture respectfully, (d) cultivated relationships purposefully, (e) embraced social values of the host culture, (f) experienced a deepening relationship with God, and (g) sensed understanding working abroad. Findings show spiritual growth and intercultural competence, with an emphasis on meaningful relationships, are interconnected as symbiotic learning processes, each one feeding off the other for sustenance and development. This study is significant as pioneering research that illustrated a non-prescriptive journey to function effectively in a host culture by accentuating the reciprocity between these two constructs.