South Korea Serve Trip ~ Post Trip Letter

October 3, 2023

Annyeonghaseyo (Hello), 

What an amazing opportunity it was to go to and serve in Seoul, South Korea. The trip was ten days, two of which were travel days, five of the days were spent serving the children and young adults at a school for North Korean resettlers, and three of the days the team enjoyed some sightseeing in South Korea. 

We arrived in Seoul and as you can imagine we were all tired from our travels. The flight to Seoul took 15 ½ hours, plus two hours of delays due to a bathroom malfunction on the plane prior to take-off and an hour to get through customs after arrival. To say the least, we were all exhausted, but we had a bite to eat and made our way to the hotel for some much-needed sleep. 

On Saturday morning we made our way to the DMZ (Dimilerterized Zone), the neutral area between North and South Korea. The DMZ has an odd sense of stillness and calm compared to the hustle and bustle of downtown Seoul with its buildings nearly touching the sky and merchants lining the streets. History is intertwined with the current tensions and an overall message of the hope for peace and unification is voiced in the presentation videos, sites, and memorials. At the Dora Observatory, we were able to look to the north to the abandoned town of Panmunjom with its surrounding mountains and landscape serving as a barrier to all, and then to the south with its rich green vegetation and a feeling of life and hope. Such a stark contrast. 

We attended church on Sunday and even though we didn’t understand most of the words, the beauty and emotion in seeing and hearing how they worshiped was a gift. The afternoon was spent unpacking supplies and preparing for the week ahead. 

Monday morning took us to the Far East Broadcasting Company which was established back in 1956 to broadcast the gospel to North Korea, China, Russia, and Mongolia where missionaries were not allowed. The commitment of the founding staff is admirable as it was 14 years before the first letters from listeners far and wide started to arrive. This was due to a closed-door mail policy that had finally been lifted. It’s hard to imagine staying the course for 14 years not knowing if anyone was hearing the broadcasts. There is a wall of letters in the FEBC museum, a reminder that our timing isn’t God’s timing.

Our next stop was at Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery. In addition to the amazing stories of some of the people buried there, the walk around the grounds and the beauty of the landscape nestled in the shadows of nearby towering buildings was enjoyable and a great way to start the week. 

We made our way to the school and after a quick lunch the bell chimed and the students made their way to their classrooms. My teaching partner Jeff and I welcomed the five amazing individuals we’d be teaching and showering with love during the week. Not knowing what to expect, we were thrilled to discover that our students were kind and eager to participate. We had language lessons, drawing activities, games, conversation, and an abundance of smiles and laughter. Some of the highlights were seeing the students admire the art pieces that we had hung up on classroom walls. They even went to other classes to bring in friends to see their creations. Then there was a comparison of Korean to American versions of cookies and snacks. Topping their list of favorites were the BBQ-flavored American Pringles to the Korean chips. I personally liked the Korean-made OREOs best. We played Sorry and Uno which brought out their competitive sides and a lot of laughter. Whether you sabotaged another player’s efforts to win or you were on the receiving end, there was encouragement and laughs. Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! And their artistic skills, are just amazing! Their canvas tote drawings and paper snowflakes involved extensive planning, meticulous efforts, and results that were rather impressive. It was an amazing week and Friday arrived quicker than we could have imagined. There was a celebration of the classes and our students shared their bottle-flipping skills in a friendly contest against each other. I feel so very blessed to have had the opportunity to be welcomed into the school and our student’s lives. I can only imagine what each of them has been through, what they have seen, heard, and had to overcome. I hope that we brought joy to their week and that we were a reflection of Christ to them. 

Friday evening we headed to Lotte World Tower & Seoul Sky, South Korea’s tallest building and 6th tallest in the world. It is a whopping 123 stories and 555 meters tall (1821 ft). The subway ride there saved us over an hour and a half of commute time had we traveled by bus. We watched the sunset, experienced the spectacular views of the city below including the Olympic park and bridge, and stood on thick glass plates that allowed the willing to look down to the street below. Breathtaking to say the least. 

Saturday morning we were all up and on the bus early. We visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Korean Folk Museum, and the War Museum, and we did a bit of shopping at the street market. My favorite part of the day was seeing individuals in traditional hanboks walking around the palace grounds and the streets of the market. It was like a tiny glimpse into the past. The sights were beautiful, the food was delicious, and it was a great end to a fabulous week in Seoul. 

Speaking of food, it was amazing. I was able to enjoy traditional Korean cold noodles, Bibambop, Vegetable hot pot, potato pancake, and numerous other vegan food options thanks to the help of two of our amazing teammates. Without them navigating the menus for me, it would have been a week of white rice and PB&J sandwiches. 

Before heading to the airport on Sunday afternoon, we had one more stop. Gwangseongbo Fort in Ganghwa. Far away from the city, this fortress was once used to protect the region from enemies. With its beautiful tree-canopied walkways, lush grass areas, and opportunities to gather nuts in the groves of trees, it now serves as a tourist attraction and a welcomed escape from the city. 


And just like that, our time in Seoul had come to an end. The flight home had us traveling overnight and arriving in Dallas an hour before we left Seoul the day before. This time traveling experience was only 12 hours long and I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep on the plane thanks to my inflatable foot pillow and spacious exit row seat. 

What now? Although I don’t know what God’s plans are for me and future mission trips, I look forward to the possibility of being called and eagerly saying “Yes, let’s go!” My time serving in South Korea gave me a glimpse into the lives of some amazing individuals who have overcome more than I can imagine and others who have dedicated their lives to making the process a bit less challenging. I ask you to pray for all of them as well as those who are yet to defect from North Korea and those who are in China, unsure if they will make it safely to South Korea or what their future holds. If you are interested in learning how you can offer your support to these efforts, let me know and I will get you the information. 

Please know that your support made this opportunity a possibility for me and for that I say Kamsahamnida (Thank you). 

Dawn Rice

Looking to North Korea from South Korea ~ Look close for the flags I’ve marked with white stars. 

The Team 

South Korea from Dora Observatory

DMZ ~ 3rd Tunnel 

Girls in traditional hanboks         

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Girls in traditional hanboks

Sunday service    

Our amazing students showing off their art.

Playing Sorry 


View from Lotte Tower onto Olympic Park                                              

Looking down! 

Sunset view from our hotel room.                    

The fortress.

Wall of letters.


Visit Dawn's Facebook page for additional pictures from the trip: Dawn's Page