Brian Ivie’s film “The Drop Box” is a sad but heartwarming story about the efforts of a South Korean Pastor, Lee Jong-rak, to save the lives of newborn babies who might otherwise be cast off in a garbage can, out on the street, or on somebody’s doorstep. The problem exists not only in South Korea, but it is worldwide.
In South Korea, as in other countries, an unwed mother is scorned and vilified. Her family will abandon her; she has no recourse except to get rid of the baby for whom she cannot provide, either financially or emotionally.
Asian Baby - Wikimedia
When Pastor Lee Jong-rak met his wife,Chun-ja, she thought he was too skinny. She called him “fish bones.” Lee’s family thought that Chun-ja was too short. But they loved each other and were married a year after they met, after Lee graduated from the Seminary. Their first child, a girl, was six years old when they had their second child, a boy named Eun-man. He was born with such serious disabilities that he spent the first fourteen years of his life in a hospital. Lee had to sell his house back then to pay the hospital bills. Now, Lee and his wife take care of Eun-man at home, but now, at 26 years of age, he can only lie in bed, he does not speak, and he needs care around the clock.
Lee is the pastor of Jusarang Community Church in Seoul, South Korea. Jusarang means “God’s Love.” It all started when the first baby, On-ew, was left in a box in front of their house. She was the inspiration to have the baby box. They were told about a practice in the Czech Republic that began years ago where unwanted babies could be dropped off in a baby box attached to a church or convent, and the mother would remain anonymous. Lee decided to do the same for the babies in Seoul.
Newborn Baby - Wikimedia
The Drop Box
Lee himself designed the drop box. He sized it, knowing that the average height of a newborn baby is 52 cm. (20 1/2 inches), and built it accordingly, with padding, light, and heat. A bell rings when the door closes and the baby is retrieved from inside the house. Each time Lee takes a baby from the drop box, he says a prayer: “Thank you God for saving this child’s life.” Some of these babies still have the umbilical cord attached. The mother will run away, but often leaves a note telling why she was unable to keep her baby, saying she was sorry. One mother gave the child a name and asked that the name be kept so that she might possibly find him many years down the road and be united with him.
So Much Paper Work
At first, Lee did not expect that any babies would be brought to them. Since that day in December 2009, they have saved the lives of 354 babies. The abandoned babies now have a safe haven. Lee is usually awake each night listening for the sound of the bell. After he takes the baby in from the drop box, he kneels down to pray. There is much paper work to be done. First, the police are informed and they take the baby to the hospital, from which he/she is then sent to an orphanage or to a temporary shelter. The majority of them come back to Lee. A high percentage of these babies have disabilities, often due to the lack of pre-natal care and the young age of the mother.
Lee is in poor health now and Chun-ja worries that he has lost so much weight. His work ethic is so strong that he disregards his own health. He has diabetes and high blood pressure. His sugar has sometimes risen to 460. At the present time, he and Chun-la have fifteen children staying with them, many of whom are disabled in some way. Some of them need constant care. They have formally adopted five of these fifteen.
Sleeping Newborn - Wikimedia
The Children are Happy
Ruri is one of these children. He is missing some of his fingers and toes. He tried to hide this from his classmates. He loved to play dodge ball in gym class but he was always the last one to be picked for a team, and he was never thrown the ball. His classmates mocked him, so he did not want to go to school. There was a student council election and he was elected president. He asked why they elected him and he was told that it was because he was so good at dodge ball and at everything else. His bright intellect and big heart eventually won over his friends. Ruri commented: “I thought the other kids were adopted, not me. I thought Pastor Lee was my real dad. I want to inherit my dad’s work. Then I will pass it down to my own child.”
Lee has stated "Many people think it is better for them to go to heaven as quickly as possible, because life on earth would be too difficult for them. But God sent them to the earth with disabilities. They're not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to earth with a purpose. Disabled children teach many people, change many people, and help people reflect upon themselves, which is why these children are the educators of society." Lee has taken to his heart Psalm 27:10 which is engraved over the door of the baby box at his home: “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”
Swaddled Baby - Painting by Anbetung der Hirten - Wikimedia
In 2013, there were 204 babies abandoned in Seoul. It has been determined that 60% of the mothers are teenagers. Many of them are suicidal. At Jusarang Community Church, eight babies will be dropped off at the baby box in one month. There are some controversial issues as the number of abandoned babies has doubled in the past two years. For this reason, some authorities consider the baby box to be dangerous; they feel it violates both the parents’ and the children’s rights. Pastor Lee states: “We were afraid that it would encourage mothers to abandon their babies since there was now a place to do that. But without the baby box, these children would die. I cannot abandon them.”
Lee explained: “Because of Eun-man, I started this job. I felt a calling. These abandoned children do not have to grow up to be miserable; they can be happy and successful in their lives. It all started because of Eun-man. God told Eun-man to build the baby box, and he did.”
This film will bring tears to your eyes; it may even be a life-changing experience for you. There is so much good in the world that we never hear about. It was a pleasure to meet Pastor Lee who makes up for the work that society is neglecting.