For the past 15 years, Stephen and Joy have been serving as Christian humanitarian workers in North Korea. They founded a nonprofit organization in 2008 known as IGNIS Community, and their cross-cultural work in North Korea has included humanitarian outreach, social entrepreneurships, and medical treatment and education. As their work expanded, rumors of positive results from Stephen’s treatments in the Northeast Region spread to the capital city. Consequently, the government invited Stephen to come to Pyongyang to set up a Spine Research Training Center in cooperation with the Pyongyang Medical School Hospital. To have credentials to train local doctors, Stephen earned and received an MD/Ph.D. in medicine from the DPRK government in April 2011. IGNIS Community has since established the Pyongyang Spine Rehabilitation Center (PYSRC), which provides treatment and training programs in pediatric behavioral and developmental disabilities and non-surgical spine treatment. In addition to medical treatment, the center is establishing special education for children with developmental disabilities for the first time in the nation. IGNIS Community has also signed a contract with the Ministry of Public Health to establish Pediatric Rehabilitation in all ten Provincial Children’s Hospitals as well as all medical schools throughout the country. Stephen, Joy, and their family resided for approximately 6 years in the Rason region and 5 years in Pyongyang.
However, since the GTR, they have relocated to Taebaek, South Korea where they established the Fourth River Cultural Research Center specializing in training foreigners in engagement with North Korea and in reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula. While living in Taebaek, their family (including five children) continues to serve children with disabilities in both South Korea and the DPRK by developing medical graduate programs in Pediatric Rehabilitation. Stephen treats patients while training doctors in these specialties. Joy instructs in and oversees the special education and educational therapy programs. As soon as the DPRK borders reopen, Stephen and Joy plan to return to full-time work in Pyongyang. Both are published authors, and their work has been featured in Discovering Joy: Ten Years in North Korea as well various journals including TIME and Wall Street Journal.