Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Theological Seminary


Religion, MA

First Advisor

Cheryl Doss

Second Advisor

Bruce L. Bauer



Missionary Kids (MKs) have a different experience in the mission fields in terms of culture, language, and social adjustment when compared with their parents. They also face another challenge when they return to their parents’ home country, for they feel out of place and often do not think of their parents’ country as home. The purpose of this Masters thesis is to investigate the experience of MKs in the mission field, during re-entry, and to research the common elements or differences between Korean MKs and American MKs in their re-entry process.


The research method used in this Masters thesis consists of the use of library resources, web resources, and a few personal interviews. The Research Questions that will guide this research are:

1. What general information is available concerning Asian and Western missionary children who live at least one year outside of their home culture?

2. What re-entry challenges do Korean and American MKs face?

3. What are the implications for Adventist mission?


The primary research on Korean MKs and Japanese returnees indicates that their parents, society, and church want them to maintain their ethnic identity regardless of the fact that their enculturation, language acquisition, and worldview development has shaped them in very different ways. On the other hand, research on American MKs is focused on the individual rather than on the in-groups they belong to. These differences between the two groups stem from whether their home culture is collectivistic or individualistic.

Similarities among Korean and American MKs include experiencing a cultural clash when returning home, difficulties in making friends, adjusting to new family dynamics, and home cultures. They may struggle with education issues due to different educational systems and increased study loads. They may also struggle with the burden of meeting the high expectations of being MKs as experienced by the sending church and its youth groups. They may consider themselves as strangers in terms of their identity.

Differences found between Korean and American MKs are that Korean MKs with a Western background may struggle with returning to a monocultural home culture. They also have issues with mother tongue proficiency, college entrance exams, hierarchical relationships between seniors and juniors, with not disappointing the expectations of their parents and the sending church, and striving to resolve the issue of their ethnic identity. On the other hand, Western MKs with Asian backgrounds may encounter difficulties with Western ways and mindsets when returning to the United States, they may have issues with their accent, with plagiarism, and with American college life, in trying to figure out what they can do to resolve spiritual issues, and their desire to create their own in-group where their diversity and international mindset can be understood and appreciated.

Although Korean MKs and American MKs have several things in common in terms of re-entry challenges, each of them has differences as well. Those differences mainly have to do with whether their home culture belongs to collectivism or individualism. Korean MKs encounter unique problems since Korean society requires them to conform to its monocultural norms and rules influenced by some of the Confucian values. But American MKs have issues mostly related to striving for their individual achievements and creating their own in-groups. American culture does not require a standardized way to abide by. It is thus interesting to note that various re-entry challenges of Korean and American MKs have to do with the clash between collectivism and individualism.


Based on various re-entry challenges of Korean and American MKs, implications for Adventist mission were explored. To better understand and care for Adventist MKs in general and meet the needs of Korean MKs in particular, suggestions were made that included: (1) the need for understanding MKs in the Adventist Church, (2) the need for research on Adventist MKs, (3) the need for MKs to understand TCK concepts, and (4) the need for Korean church leaders to understand MK needs.

Subject Area

Children of missionaries--Comparative studies; Returned missionaries

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.