He couldn’t just do nothing.
Pastor Lee Jong-Rak of Seoul, South Korea couldn’t let the babies continue to be abandoned. Couldn’t let them die. Couldn’t let their tiny lives be weighed on society’s scale as worth so little. So, after he came upon that child who’d been left alone in the cold, he took some tools and built a “baby box” at the front of his church that would serve as an entry to their first home.
Pastor Lee’s story – more on that later – is being released through Focus on the Family this week in the movie The Drop Box, only in theaters March 3-5.
“‘The Drop Box’ is ultimately a story of hope,” says Focus President Jim Daly. “Even in the midst of a heart-wrenching situation, we see the heart of a father’s love in Pastor Lee. Not everyone is called to do what he’s doing or adopting a child themselves, but all Christians are called to care for orphans. Watching this documentary changes a person – it draws you to care even more deeply for the most vulnerable among us.”
Locally, the movie is available at Kennesaw’s AMC Barrett Commons 24 this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7 p.m.
The catalyst for Pastor Lee’s ministry came personally. A 2011 story in the Los Angeles Times says how more than 25 years ago Lee’s wife gave birth to a son with a list of deformities. South Korea’s culture, much like America’s, places a high value on physical perfection. Children born with disfigurements are often aborted or abandoned. In Lee’s case he kept his son hidden for a month until he could think of a way to tell his wife of the seriousness of their child’s condition.
Today, the young man they named Eun-man – “full of God’s grace” – still lives in their home. He has cerebral palsy and is brain damaged from a cyst on his head that chokes off blood flow. His existence, though, is credited with saving the lives of approximately 600 children who have been placed in the box outside of Lee’s church.
Filmmaker Brian Ivie, 21, heard of Lee’s story and sought to make a film worthy of winning at the Sundance Film Festival. He ended up getting even more when in watching Lee’s example of sacrifice, Ivie became a Christian. He went expecting to see abandoned, needy children and in the process saw something deeper.
“Those kids that get dropped off in that box, they’re not the only ones that are broken,” Ivie says. “They’re not the only ones that are helpless. When it comes to living forever, we’re all like those kids – bound up, in the dark, waiting for somebody to come save us.
“I want people to know what God’s love is like. It’s a gritty, I-will-do-anything-and-give-everything-for-you love … even if you don’t deserve it.”
Now, in addition to being about a South Korean pastor and babies, The Drop Box is about Ivie’s personal story of becoming a believer in Christ.
“Those kids that get dropped off in that box, they’re not the only ones that are broken. … [W]e’re all like those kids – bound up, in the dark, waiting for somebody to come save us.”
For Christians of any background, Pastor Lee’s story is equal parts inspirational and convictional. In the documentary’s trailer we see smiling children with flowing background music.
We don’t see the times where a small house full of crying babies tests your last nerve.
We don’t see the worries over how to provide for the children.
We don’t see the stress piled on from every direction.
Perhaps those scenes don’t appear to a high degree in Lee’s home, but the likelihood is they do. In talking about Lee the word “sacrifice” is used often, and there is little doubt the ministry established by Lee has come at a great deal of personal sacrifice.
If it could be quantified in a scientific study, it’d be interesting to see how many good intentions were put aside when the cost of following through became apparent. God’s people aren’t immune to this challenge. At some point the cost becomes great. At some point it gets real.
The cost of not following through can be greater though, as the more than 600 children adopted through Pastor Lee’s drop box can testify.