For Michael, Jessica was just a friend. They enjoyed getting to know each other as they served as student missionaries, but there was no special attraction between them. However, on a trip where they saw each other for who they truly were, Michael began to see Jessica as more than a friend.
Andrew went through the spoken exercises again. Soonim was not impressed. Frustrated, she repeated the sentences, demonstrating correct Korean pronunciation. Admittedly, Andrew focused less on the exercises and more on how much he was starting to like Soonim.
Missionaries don’t tend to go into the field looking for love; rather, they go to spread God’s love. But as they work to share the gospel, some missionaries have unexpectedly found their special someone who had as much a heart to serve the Lord as they. For Victor Hulbert, Communication and Media director of the Trans-European Division, love wasn’t on his mind when he left his home in England to volunteer with Adventist World Radio in Portugal. In fact, he let everyone know that wasn’t a priority. “When I was leaving England,” Victor says, “I told everyone that I was not interested in finding a girlfriend in Portugal. I told the same thing to my boss.”
But then he met Luisa, one of the local young people who attended the Portuguese church Victor started going to. “I confess: I was immediately attracted to her,” he admits. “She was outgoing and vivacious, joyful, and the center of any party.” Luisa, on the other hand, was attracted to Victor even sooner. Victor explains, “If you hear her side of the story, she will say that she felt impressed that I was the one God intended for her before she ever met me. She just saw a photograph that I had sent in order to get my bus pass.”
He and Luisa gradually grew closer together. Soon, love blossomed, and they married in Portugal on August 23, 1981. Since then, mission work has formed the foundation of a life of ministry together. “Volunteering had a profound impact on my life,” Victor asserts. “It built my trust and dependence on God, it developed my self-confidence, and as it turned out, it set me on a career path that balanced media and ministry. Finding Luisa was also a major part of the story for which I am very grateful.” After 37 years of marriage, they continue sharing the love of God with others.
Jessica Beans, director of Public Relations and Marketing at Kettering College, was also more focused on serving the Lord in mission work than on finding a husband. As she was raised hearing stories of her father growing up as a missionary kid overseas, Jessica resolved to serve somewhere as well. When the opportunity arose to teach at Nile Union Academy in Cairo, Egypt, she jumped at the chance. “I didn’t go into that year looking for someone,” Jessica explains. “I went in with the mindset of making great friends and making a difference. With that attitude, it took all the pressure off from expecting to meet someone and just allowed me to serve from my heart and to grow personally.”
Jessica directed the school’s choir alongside a fellow student missionary named Michael. Constantly working with each other, they became good friends, but their relationship was no different from the friendships they made with other student missionaries serving at the school.
That was, until they all went on a final trip together touring Upper Egypt. Spending 10 to 15 hours at a time together on a bus or train, they bonded even more, and Michael began to realize that he liked Jessica as more than a friend. “He knew that our personalities fit well, and we had seen each other at our worst for sure,” Jessica explains. “He ended up telling me he liked me two weeks later, to which I answered, ‘I’m OK with that.’”
They started dating when they returned to the United States. Then on August 30, 2012, they married in Michigan. Since their experience as student missionaries, Jessica and Michael have continued serving together in their local church, community, and abroad. “Service is what brought us together,” Jessica says. “Creating a sense of community in the relationships that we build with people on a daily basis is what really keeps us excited about the future.”
Watch volunteers from around the world share their stories at m360.tv/avs.
As a child, Andrew Layland, professor at Sahmyook University in Seoul, South Korea, dreamed of sharing Jesus with others overseas. He recounts, “I always enjoyed listening to the missionary stories as a child in church during Sabbath School and hoped that one day I too could travel to faraway countries and tell people who have never heard of Jesus about the gospel.” However, that dream was postponed as Andrew grew up and began working in the finance sector. He soon felt that this field wasn’t where he wanted to be. As he heard exciting stories from his friends who served as missionaries abroad, Andrew’s childhood dream was revived. Inspired, he left his banking job and became a full-time missionary.
When Andrew taught English and Bible classes at an Adventist missionary school in Seoul, he met Soonim, a fellow missionary who also taught there. He wanted to learn Korean, so he asked Soonim to teach him in the evenings. “Unfortunately, I was not a very good student,” Andrew admits. “And she got very frustrated with my slow progress. However, I think she knew my real motivation for why I asked her to teach me Korean!”
Andrew and Soonim got to know each other more and began dating. Moved by each other’s dedication to serve God, they soon decided to take their relationship to the next level. Andrew relates, “We were both missionaries, both committed to the church and its mission, and knew that Jesus would be the center of our marriage.” On August 29, 2004, they married in Seoul.
At first, their marriage was a cross-cultural challenge because Soonim’s family wasn’t Adventist or familiar with Andrew’s culture. But he and Soonim kept patiently witnessing to them. Andrew says, “Now, 13 years later, we have, through the Holy Spirit, led my wife’s mother, sister, and brother into the Adventist faith.”
Andrew and Soonim continue to keep evangelism at the forefront of their lives. After their last year of missionary work, they returned to England for full-time pastoral ministry. Then in 2017, they felt God call them back to the mission field in South Korea. “I have always tried to keep a very strong mission approach to my ministry and the churches I pastored,” Andrew explains. “My wife has also kept the mission flame burning and is my greatest support and help in my ministry.”
None of these missionaries were expecting to find love as they served God overseas. Their focus was first and foremost to spread the gospel. But as they worked for the Lord, He united their lives with people who were equally passionate about service. Now, these couples continue the legacy of mission work that brought them together in the first place. “Once you have the mission spirit in you,” Andrew declares, “it is very difficult to shake it off!”
AVS volunteers are not permitted to date nationals or other volunteers during their first year.