Lee Builds Global Bridges for Christ
For the past decade, Grace College has partnered with Handong University in South Korea for our college exchange programs. Many Grace students have enjoyed living in South Korea to study at Handong, while here on the other side of the ocean, Grace enjoys hosting Korean students on its campus here in Winona Lake.
As each exchange student comes with a story of their own, we love getting to know them and embracing them as one of us. This semester, we’ve been privileged to have Esther Lee of Seoul, South Korea, on campus. Talk to her for a few minutes, and you’ll learn that she is a global bridge-builder for Christ.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Lee realized her passion for culture and gave her life to Jesus. But since discovering both, she has an unapologetic vision of what she wants her life to be all about.
As an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, Lee packed up her things and moved 1,446 miles away from home to study at Mongolia International University. While there, she learned how to speak English and Mongolian. Through the process of learning new languages, she formed authentic relationships with people from different places and with unique perspectives. This sparked her fascination with language and ignited her passion for new cultures.
“I came to the realization that learning different cultures in your life is so important,” said Lee. “It’s like finding a door that has so much potential behind it. You don’t even know you have that door inside you, but once you find it, there is so much space that you can fill — with new food, new greetings, and new ways of approaching the world. The process of filling up the space is so much fun. Once you fill a certain amount of space, you feel like you have a bigger heart and a larger perspective.”
Lee’s clear passion for culture caused her to reconsider her career path.
After two years of studying in Mongolia, Lee returned to Korea and moved in with her sister, who had a profound impact on her faith. Lee dedicated her life to following Christ, transferred to a Christian university, Handong Global University, and became a Global Korean Studies and English double major in the hopes of becoming a Korean teacher in another country.
The department slogan at Handong, “Global Bridge Builders for Christ,” immediately resonated with Lee and has shaped her vision for her career ever since.
“I want to help people who have a desire to learn a second or third language and serve as a guide in the exciting cross-cultural journey,” said Lee. “Being a global bridge builder is how I hope to be involved with Him in His work.”
With future plans of teaching in different countries, it was no surprise that when Handong presented its students with a list of study abroad locations, Lee was quick to jump at the chance.
“There were so many universities on the list,” Lee recalls. “But Grace College aligned with my budget. Once I read the reviews from the previous exchange students at Grace, it seemed like a perfect place for me.”
And she was right.
When Lee arrived at Grace in the fall, she had two objectives: to improve her English and to have fun. What she did not realize was that she would accomplish those things and so much more.
Lee has enjoyed the abundance of activities and events hosted by student involvement, including kayaking, canoeing, and riding on the Grace boat. She has also enjoyed getting to hear the stories of her peers from America. Whether it’s in class, at a campus event, or at a sporting match, Lee is intentional to ask good questions so that she can learn from others. And oftentimes, she shares her own story in return.
But most importantly, Lee has found a place where she can be challenged in her relationship with Christ. “I’m so glad I’ve come to this Christ-centered university because it’s such a great environment for me to grow in faith and have conversations about God with the people around me,” said Lee.
Lee is exceedingly grateful for the path God has led her on so far. “I’m so happy I chose Grace, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to study abroad and experience different cultures,” she said.
But she recognizes that her love for new cultures and her goal of teaching abroad comes in second to her life’s highest calling:
“Whatever I end up doing, I can share the gospel and His love,” says Lee. “I don’t necessarily want to be a formal missionary, that’s just how I want to live my life.”
Whether it be in Mongolia, the United States, or wherever God leads her next, Lee is a global bridge builder for Christ.
Do you, like Lee, have a passion for cross-cultural experiences? Check out Grace’s Institute for Global Studies which hosts a number of cross-cultural opportunities including semester-long study abroad trips and short-term Go Encounter trips.