At the heart of the film—at the center of the story—are children. They are orphans, but they are not nameless, faceless, or anonymous. Each one is a beautiful, unique soul created in the image of God. Many of the kids face physical and developmental challenges. But they have personalities and hopes and dreams, just like all of us do. Let’s meet a few of them.
In The Drop Box, we learn about Hanna only through Pastor Lee’s memories and photographs. The child of a 14-year-old mother who had abused drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, Hanna was surrendered into Pastor Lee’s care as a severely disabled newborn. Doctors expected her to survive only a few months, but she lived more than six years. During that time, Pastor Lee and his wife, Chun-ja, loved and cared for Hanna. When she died, Pastor Lee grieved deeply, vowing that he would never turn away a challenged child. Years later, that same commitment motivated him to install the baby box on the side of his home to take in abandoned infants. He says: “When we look at her pictures we say, ‘Hanna, let’s meet in heaven.” There is a tree in front of Pastor Lee’s home in her honor.
On a cold winter night in 2009, On-ew was left in a cardboard box outside Pastor Lee’s front gate. She nearly froze to death before he discovered her. At that moment, he knew he had to do something. Soon after, he installed the baby box on the side of his home, fitted with this sign: “This is a facility for the protection of life. If you can’t take care of your disabled babies, don’t throw them away or leave them on the street. Bring them here.”
When we meet her in the film, On-ew, who has Down Syndrome, has recently learned to walk. Pastor Lee notes that he is hopeful that she will be able to talk soon.
Gi-ri was a premature baby. He is visually and hearing impaired, and has had two open-heart surgeries to correct heart abnormalities. He will need at least two additional surgeries when he is older. He was abandoned at the hospital when the challenges became too much for his family to bear.
Pastor Lee and Chun-ja took him in. They named him Gi-ri, which means “victory,” because they want him to have victory over his physical limitations. He has survived so much already in his young life. In the film, he is the bubbly boy we meet in the arms of a Jusarang volunteer during a bus ride to the zoo.
Ru-ri may be missing some fingers and toes, but that does not slow him down. He is talkative and energetic, and he loves Taekwando. In the film he is ten years old and has recently been elected president of his third grade class.
Ru-ri’s is the first voice we hear in The Drop Box. “When the bell rings for the baby box it’s like a war starts,” he says. “A war in heaven.” Pastor Lee and Chun-ja adopted Ru-ri when he was very young. Over the past few years he has caught the vision for their life-saving mission. “I want to inherit my dad’s work,” he says. “Because if I don’t, my dad’s effort will disappear. I will help and add my own effort, and eventually pass it down to my own child.”
When we meet him in the film, Eun-man is 26 years old. He is one of Pastor Lee and Chun-ja’s biological children.
Eun-man was born with crippling cerebral palsy. When he was born, Pastor Lee says “I asked God why He gave me ‘that kind of baby,’ and thirty seconds later I repented. With faith and His words, I lived. That’s how I started this work.”
A report from Live Action News describes the experience this way:
“As [Pastor Lee] and his wife cared for the entirely helpless, tiny newborn, both began to realize the preciousness of life, the intrinsic value of a person made in God’s image, and began to do everything they could to help their son, whom they named Eun-Man—‘full of God’s grace’—survive. The child’s first fourteen years in a hospital meant a significant financial burden, resulting in the need to work long hours at a variety of jobs… Yet Lee found ample time to spend not only with his son, but visiting the other special-needs children in the hospital and ministering to them and their families.”[i]
Caring for Eun-man and ministering to other hurting children earned Pastor Lee a reputation in the neighborhood as a defender of the defenseless. Now, almost 30 years later, he and Chun-ja oversee the Jusarang (“God’s love”) Community in a poor urban neighborhood of Seoul. Their humble three-bedroom home has become a vibrant church and a group home for orphaned, abandoned and disabled children. And it all started with their own precious son, Eun-man.
Perhaps that is why Pastor Lee says about the children under his care, “They’re not the insignificant ones in the world. God sent them here for a purpose.”