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Book Reviews

Mike Dente

Hard is Only Half the Story: Real Adventures From My Journey Into the Unknown is a poetical book exploring cross-cultural ministry’s deeper side. Beginning with the opening poem and with each chapter, Wendy Zahorjanski unveils her spiritual, emotional, and psychological journey. Yet it’s not a Mémoire or a Confession. She uses both first and second-person voices to bring us along with her while adding a well-crafted summary that adds an aspect of encouraging and instructing.

Honestly, I think this book would’ve been helpful for me as I made my way through the wilds of missionary life. Her inviting style made me want to read with a cup of coffee. But the subject matter never let me get too comfortable; the lessons are subtle and profound amid prose that draws us in, like talking to a friend.

I enjoyed Wendy’s transparency. She lets us see the reality of her heart and the very human struggles of being a cross-cultural minister. She doesn’t allow us to get off the hook easily; she invites us to look into our hearts and see what lies in the dark corners. In this way, she paints an accurate picture of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of missionary life. Although she shows hope in Jesus, this book is not afraid to look into the darkness and doesn’t shy away from the real pain of ministry.

Elaine O’Connor

Editor’s Note: I also read Wendy’s latest book and can’t keep quiet about its potential to inspire and encourage solo readers and groups alike. Here goes. –Elaine O’Connor

As someone who wants to remember what I’ve read, to have it impact my life, I was thrilled to discover Wendy included a list of key takeaways at the end of each chapter—as well as Discussion Questions and a Verse for Meditation for each chapter (located at the end of the book). They serve as bookends of sorts, increasing the possibility that Wendy’s goal of “attempt[ing] to expand your perception of the unknown” is met.

I read this book three times and have been thinking about it quite a bit. As a result, the way I look at the unknown has morphed from one of fear to one of anticipation. I’m an extremely grateful reader.

To give you a sense of what I’ve been experiencing, here’s a peek at the “Things Worth Remembering” from chapter four:

  • Strange people and strange places = spike in humility
  • You will, at some point, be embarrassed
  • Open yourself to the idea that it can be the source of growth
  • Don’t run
  • Allow yourself to be rebuilt

Suffice it to say this book has earned a spot on my books-I’ll-read-again-and-again bookshelf.

Of note, Wendy dedicated this book to her fellow cross-cultural workers. She wanted to encourage them to keep following and to keep looking … “no matter how dark the shadows grow.” Although not a cross-cultural worker myself (in the strictest sense of the term), I benefitted greatly—as have those I’ve engaged with. I sense the same will happen to anyone who contemplates the wisdom Wendy’s latest book has to offer.

I could go on, but I think I’ll let the book speak for itself.

From the back cover of Hard Is Only Half the Story: Real Adventures From My Journey Into the Unknown by Wendy Zahorjanski:

“Do you ever feel that if life was just a little bit easier, it would be a hundred times better?

In this faith-filled, open-hearted memoir, author Wendy Zahorjanski proves that the opposite is true. When we go through difficult times and trials in life, hard is only half the story. As Zahorjanski explores the journey into grief, doubt, and struggle, she admits that she was surprised to find joy, faith, and friendship on the other side.

In a culture that both intrigued and confronted all of her expectations, Zahorjanski was forced to embrace imperfection, look past seeming dichotomies, and be willing to let her well-laid plans for her life look as if they had turned to mush.

Take a walk into the woods with this raw, real account of one Christian missionary’s hike into the unknown where you’ll learn how to:

  • Embrace vulnerability to find some of the most precious moments in life.
  • Experience that even when things are far from perfect, God still is.
  • Laugh at the failures and absurdities that happen with authentic joy.
  • Honestly look at your past and present hours of grief and embrace the person they’ve helped you become.
  • Take a look at who God is making you into, one persistent action at a time.

This book is an invitation to step beyond the veil of fear to enrich your existence with the rawness of life by looking to God: the bringer of life and healer of sorrows.

Are you ready to embrace the hard moments in your life so that you can finally see what the other half of hard can really bring? It’s time to lean into the transformation that awaits you. Grab your copy of Hard Is Only Half the Story: Real Adventures From My Journey Into the Unknown today.

Wendy Zahorjanski is a nonfiction writer whose life has been an incredible journey guided by faith. Her writing goal is to unveil the amazing moments of opportunity and spiritual growth concealed within seemingly unsurmountable moments.“

Wendy is a cross-cultural worker and author who knows the challenges and immense benefits of trekking into unknown territory. For the past 15 years, she has lived outside of her passport country and now resides in Central Serbia with her husband and son. For more information, follow her on Instagram: @wendy.zahorjanski or check out her website:

Mike Dente is the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel Paris located in Paris, France. He received a Master of Theology from Faculté Jean Calvin in Aix-en-Provence, France and is continuing his studies as a doctoral student (D.Min.) at Western Seminary.

Elaine O’Connor lives in Southern California and is the copy editor at CGN.