​The 2024 Youth Venture South Korea team at a Buddhist temple in Nonsan, South Korea. Left to right: Tommy Nguyen, Biz Bomberger (team co-leader), Ian Hunsberger, Eunjin Kim, Hana Kim, Sunju Moon (local leader), Joanna Spiker (team co-leader), Erica Hunsberger, and Andrew Hoang. Photo by Bae Yong Hwa.

By Joanna Spiker
Wednesday, June 26, 2024

The Youth Venture South Korea team is on an adventure! From June 20 to July 1, follow along as they witness what God is doing in South Korea. This article combines the first two entries on the Youth Venture blog.  Youth Venture is a program of Mennonite Mission Network. For two to three weeks each summer, individuals ages 15–22 join teams of peers and leaders to actively explore and engage in God's work in the world. Upcoming summer trips are announced November 1. Follow Mission Network on Facebook, Instagram or X (Twitter) for updates on trips for summer 2025, or contact us for more info!


첫날: Day One:

안녕하세요! (Hello!) Greetings from a very rainy South Korea! Today marks only the very beginning of an exciting Youth Venture time through a vibrant and culturally rich country.

The group gathered  on Thursday, June 20, around 6 p.m. in the Chicago airport. We made our brief introductions to one another, and before we had time for much else, it was already time to board our first flight to Instanbul, Turkey. This flight took almost ten hours, and to top it all off, it was warm on the plane! When has that ever happened before? In the end, we made it to the GINORMOUS Istanbul airport, safe and maybe more than a little bit sweaty.


I promise, despite our disheveled looks, we were very happy to be off of our first flight. Pictured left to right, the Youth Venture South Korea team: Joanna Spiker (co-leader), Erica Hunsberger, Ian Hunsberger, Biz Bomberger (co-leader), Tommy Nguyen, and Andrew Hoang. Photo by Joanna Spiker.

After stretching out a little bit and rehydrating, we played the waiting game to receive our gate number. It was finally assigned about 40 minutes before we were supposed to start boarding our second flight, which meant speed walking across essentially the entirety of the airport to get to gate F17 where we would board our final flight of the day.

Tommy Nguyen, soaking in the airport ambiance. Photo by Joanna Spiker.

We then safely arrived at the Incheon, South Korea, airport after a much more comfortable flight (at least climate wise). All things considered, we cleared customs and claimed our baggage all in about an hours' time. Such efficiency! Go team! After this, we exited the airport and were picked up in two cars to come to our first location on the itinerary: Peace Building Community.


Youth Venture participants with families from Peace Building Community. Photo provided.

After putting our bags down with our respective host families, we walked down the street a short way to have our first lunch in Korea at one of many delicious restaurants around Peace Building. Karen Spicher (one of our gracious hosts) and her children were also able to join us for lunch. It was such a special time to bond together over food, and our shared sleep deprivation.


Sharing bulgogi, a traditional Korean dish of thinly sliced beef, green onions & mushrooms, alongside banchan (side dishes). Photo by Joanna Spiker.

After getting our fill of bulgogi, noodles, kimchi, and dumplings, it was decided that we should probably keep moving if we didn't want to fall asleep too soon. Karen, not only our host, but one of the administrators for NARPI (Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute), a partner organization with Mennonite Mission Network, gave us a tour of the building, telling us about each of the ventures run out of Peace Building to make it what it is: a community. After our tour, we had a little bit of time left to fill, so we walked down to the Han River as well and took in some spectacular views.


The team's first meal together in South Korea at 봉평산골메밀촌 (bong pyong san gol mey mil chon). Photo provided.

To end the evening, we had a beautiful dinner of fresh bimbimbap, with some amazing veggies, rice, and beef. Karen's husband, Jae Young Lee, also asked a few debrief questions about what expectations participants had for the trip, and what they're looking forward to the most.


Park Incheol and Joanna Spiker (Youth Venture team co-leader & former NARPI staff) made coffee for participants after a long day of travel. Photo provided.

After dinner, the boys wandered into the nearby town to find some good nighttime street food, and the girls stuck back, relaxed, and enjoyed some more time with their host family.

 

은혜와 평화: Grace & Peace

This morning (day two) one of the highlights for everyone was attending Grace and Peace Mennonite Church; a small, but certainly thriving, congregation that meets on the first floor of Peace Building. Instead of having one single pastor that delivers a sermon each week, there is a passage of scripture that is read together, and then discussed in small groups. Since all of the scripture, music, and responsive readings are printed in Korean and English, those in attendance are encouraged to engage in whichever language they're most comfortable using. This typically means that there are a good handful of moments where it's just a cacophony of Korean and English swirling and crashing together. And it's so beautiful. It's a beautiful illustration of what heaven might be like one day; all languages blending together to worship God in one voice.


Our team tried to keep up with the motions for a very energetic children’s song, and some of us were more successful than others (I won’t name names)! Photo by Joanna Spiker.

After church, we were treated to a lunch of rice served with a wide variety of banchan (side dishes), and once we were full, we headed into Seoul for some exploring. We were able to visit the Insadong (인사동) area, a very popular spot for tourists, and a great place to see some absolutely stunning traditional architecture. Once we returned from our adventure, we rejoined with members of Grace and Peace for some true KFC (Korean fried chicken).

Lunch after church with members of Grace and Peace Mennonite Church. We were also able to celebrate Ian’s birthday! Photo provided.

강화도: Ganghwa Island

On day 3, we woke up a little earlier to be ready to meet our other two participants, as well as our local host/coordinator, Sunju Moon (Korean Anabaptist Center). They arrived at Peace Building around 9:30 am, and when we met, we gathered around a table in Circle Cafe so that we could introduce ourselves to each other before setting off to Ganghwa Island, a town that borders the DMZ (de-militarized zone). 

Even though the word “island” is in the name, we were actually able to reach it by car easily, since a bridge was built to connect it to the mainland.


Youngae Kim, the team's teacher while they are on Ganghwa Island, explains the rich history and culture of the island. Photo provided.

After Youngae’s presentation, we had some context to base the rest of our day around, and we set out for some special, historical sites around the island.


 

 

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https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5089/first-two-days-with-Youth-Venture-South-Korea

​Joanna Spiker is International Administrative Support with Mennonite Mission Network.

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