Lee Jong-rak is a Korean pastor in South Korea. A simple man with a huge purpose, Pastor Lee saw a devastating problem. He thought of a way he could change it, and he became a prophetic voice to his society. His story is a story of faith. A story of hope. A story of love. And when you hear this heroic tale, you just may never be the same.
Lee Jong-rak is the creator of the Baby Box. His Baby Box is the first and only box in Korea that is for collecting abandoned babies who are physically or mentally handicapped, or are just unwanted by their mothers.
Hundreds of unwanted babies are abandoned on the side of the street in South Korea every year. Jong-rak knew he needed to set up a way to save the lives of these precious babies. He built a drop box on the side of his home with a humble sign reading, “Place to leave babies.”
The inside of the box contains a thick towel covering the bottom, and lights and heating to keep the baby comfortable. A bell rings when someone puts a baby in the box; then Pastor Lee, his wife, or staff associates come to immediately move the baby inside.
His aim was to provide a life-giving alternative for desperate mothers in his city of Seoul. He even admits that he didn’t really expect that babies would come in; he was mistaken. The babies came. In the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, some with notes, some without a word, and only a very few mothers actually spoke to him face-to-face.
Pastor Lee stated that one of the mothers said, “I have poison to kill both myself and my baby.” He responded, “Don’t do that. Come here with your baby.” One single mother left this heart-wrenching note with her baby. The English translation follows.
“My baby! Mom is so sorry.
I am so sorry to make this decision.
My son! I hope you to meet great parents, and I am very, very sorry .
I don’t deserve to say a word.
Sorry, sorry, and I love you my son.
Mom loves you more than anything else.
I leave you here because I don’t know who your father is.
I used to think about something bad, but I guess this box is safer for you.
That’s why I decided to leave you here.
My son, Please forgive me.”
My breath was taken away as I read, “I used to think about something bad, but I guess this box is safer for you.” Yes, this little box is a safer place than the plans that once haunted this single mother’s mind. Because this box was an alternative, she chose life. Thus, this box would be the beginning of an previously undreamed ministry in Korea, the ministry of the Baby Box.
The story of this man and his baby box is reaching the entire world with its own 72-minute documentary called The Drop Box by a young 22 year-old, Brian Ivie. The documentary won the “Best of Festival” Jubilee Award and “The Best Sanctity of Life” film award at the 8th annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival in February 2013.
Ivie was stirred to do the film after reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about Pastor Lee’s mission, and he decided to go to Korea to make the documentary. After seeing the testimonies of this orphanage up-close, Brian Ivie’s life was changed. In his acceptance speech, Ivie said, “These kids are not mistakes. They are important.”
He went on saying, “I became a Christian while making this movie. When I started to make it and I saw all these kids come through the drop box – it was like a flash from heaven. Just like these kids with disabilities had crooked bodies, I have a crooked soul. And God loves me still. When it comes to this sanctity of life issue, we must realize that that faith in God is the only refuge for people who are deemed unnecessary. This world is so much about self-reliance, self-worth, and self-esteem. It’s a total illusion that we can be self-sufficient. Christ is the only thing that enables us.”
The documentary that changed Brian Ivie’s life is bound to change the lives of the film’s audience. Following their success with Irreplaceable, Focus on the Family is working with the film producers and Fathom Events to screen The Drop Box in theaters nationwide on March 3-5, 2015. Be sure to like the movie’s Facebook page and connect directly with Pastor Lee’s ministry at Kindred Image.
As I scrolled through the stories on Facebook, I was overwhelmed to see a post dated as April 17th where one of the staff members of the Baby Box orphanage stated that they had received five babies in one week and to pray for them. There beside her request was a picture of five beautifully bundled babies. In my head, all I could think was, “This is the real thing. This ministry is the real thing.”
Korea is not the only place that deals with child abandonment. Globally, millions of children die from abandonment. It takes different forms from country to country.
In the United States, abortion serves our abandonment purposes and they call it a “woman’s choice.” Our nation is still struggling to see that these babies are human beings, too. They deserve to live just like any other human being. With incredible men and women like Pastor Lee, this world is seeing how life can be for these babies when we take them in; when we become a voice for the ones that cannot speak up for themselves.
They are loved, they are cherished, and they are worthy just the way they are.
“They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to the earth to use them.”
- Pastor Lee Jong-rak in The Drop Box documentary
Pastor Lee Jong-rak has saved hundreds of abandoned babies (Photo: Kindred Image)