Every year, hundreds of babies are abandoned on the dark streets of Seoul, South Korea. Many of the infants are disabled, malnourished--or simply unwanted by their parents.
Heartbroken over this growing issue, Pastor Lee Jong-rak came up with a unique solution: a baby drop-box.
The heartbreaking, yet inspiring story of Pastor Lee's mission to save abandoned babies is now the subject of an award-winning documentary by filmmaker Brian Ivie, titled "The Drop Box". Produced by Kindred Image and promoted by Focus on the Family, the documentary highlights the sanctity of human life and the magnitude of Christ's love for the world's most vulnerable in a moving way.
The Gospel Herald had the opportunity to view an advanced screening of "The Drop Box," which will air across the nation on March 3-5.
The documentary begins with the sound of a bell ringing. All is chaos as Pastor Lee rushes to the drop-box, a metal box equipped with heat and lights installed in the wall of his house. The camera pans in as the Pastor opens the box, revealing a tiny newborn who has just been abandoned by her parent.
"She's beautiful," the Pastor croons as he holds the tiny bundle in his arms.
The child is just one of over 650 babies Pastor Lee, his wife, and his small staff have collected since the installation of the drop-box in 2009. Currently, the Lees are the guardians of 19 children-just two of them biological. The couple has adopted ten of the children as their own, the legal limit allowed in South Korea.The other children, many of them blind, mentally handicapped or crippled, are placed in homes with loving parents.
While many parents abandon their babies because of their various physical and mental disabilities, others are forced to give up their children because they are unable to care for them due to family pressure, governmental restrictions, or financial issues.
Often, the mothers will leave heartbreaking notes for Pastor Lee alongside their infant. One mother informed the Pastor that she had intended to poison herself and her child before hearing about the drop-box. Another mother left a note, which read,
"My baby! Mom is so sorry. I am so sorry to make this decision...I hope you meet great parents... 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...Please forgive me."
Pastor Lee, who was inspired to create the drop-box after caring for his handicapped son, Eun-man-- which means full of God's grace--truly believes every child that comes to him is a perfect gift from God.
"I'm glad they've come here," Pastor Lee tells the camera, "I am so thankful I can help them...They aren't the unnecessary ones. God sent them here for a purpose."
While the Pastor's work has taken a severe toll on his body-he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure-he says he will continue to save the world's most vulnerable population, unwanted children, until he is no longer able.
"I made a vow to God: I will die for these babies," Pastor Lee says. However, he is hopeful that soon, there will be no need for a baby-box in South Korea.
"I think because of the influences this documentary can have, that the Special Adoption Law-which is the main cause of the abandonment problem-can be revised," he said.
Pastor Lee's powerful story has served as an inpiration to people around the world, including the director of the film, Brian Ivie, was first moved by Pastor Lee's work after reading an article about him in the LA Times in 2011. After visiting Seoul, Ivie decided to create a film about the pastor, and became a Christian throughout the process.
"These kids are not mistakes," Ivie said. "They are important. 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."
To watch the trailer for the "The Drop Box" and buy tickets for the film, visit the movie website.