South Korea

There I sat, a typical Adventist college senior doodling in my notebook, half listening to my economics teacher as thoughts of my own financial predicament churned in my mind. Graduation was imminent and with it substantial student loans I wasn’t sure how I’d repay.

I wouldn’t have been so concerned if I was planning to work for a secular organization. But I longed to use my media skills for Jesus. Could I really support myself doing that? I wondered. Would God sustain me? I made my future employment a matter of serious prayer.

Soon I learned about an opportunity to serve as a volunteer missionary in South Korea, teaching conversational English and Bible. It wasn’t media, but it was a perfect solution for the present. It would be a mission, fulfilling my desire to serve Jesus, and it would pay the bills, fulfilling my obligations to Caesar. I was sold!

Me and my little munchkins.
Prayer is like breathing for Mom. Her connection with God is a great inspiration to me.
My students learn about Florence Nightingale while they apply first aid bandages, giving them a basic appreciation for health

God planted a seed for mission in my heart when I was a boy, although I wasn’t very happy about it then. When my bodybuilder older brother announced that he would be leaving home to serve as a volunteer missionary in Taiwan, I sat in the hallway of our Southern California home pouting and teary-eyed. I should have known better than to throw a tantrum. He picked me up with one hand, pressed me against the wall, and looked me straight in the eye. “Why are you acting like this?” he demanded.

“Because I love you, and I don’t want you to go,” I whimpered.

It hurt to lose my big brother for a year, but his decision to serve inspired me to make a life-changing call to my mom many years later.

If you’re interested in being a volunteer, please visit

“Mom, are you sitting down?” I asked.

“Why’s that?”

“I’ve decided to go be a missionary in South Korea.”

“Make sure you take warm clothes. It can get quite cold over there.”

“Mom, did you hear me? I’m going to South Korea to be a missionary.”

“Yes, but I don’t think you heard me. Take warm clothes. It gets cold.”

I thought I’d catch Mom off guard with my news. But she had always been a praying woman and had spent hours on her knees talking to Jesus about my career. This amazing opportunity came as no surprise to her.

I had an incredible, rewarding experience in South Korea. But it wasn’t all easy. I went through some difficult times, including the dissolution of my engagement to a young woman in the United States. The loss hit me hard, but God consoled me through His loving presence and the support of new friends.

He worked on my character that year. He used a fellow volunteer to show me that I needed to seek to better understand people. I discovered that we can talk with others about Jesus all we want, but unless self is surrendered to Him, our words are meaningless. I learned that actions speak louder than words, and set about trying to show God’s love through action to my students.

I served as a volunteer teacher for a year and then became involved in health ministry before returning to California. Then, to my delight, God gave me an opportunity to return to South Korea to use my media skills for His glory.

I went from doing short-term mission work to being a full-fledged missionary, and God has led every step of the way.

I came. I saw. And I came back for more!

Handel Smith
Originally from California, United States, Handel Smith served as a volunteer missionary in South Korea, teaching English and Bible.