What Comes Next?

Meet Chun Jin. His mother was a North Korean refugee who was sold to his father.

He is 17-years-old and is inching ever closer to adulthood. He is a child who is the closest in our network to starting his career. It is Crossing Borders’ goal to prepare him and all the children in our network for adulthood.

In 2014, 75 percent of our children had a plan for their future. Today, that percentage is at 92. We hope to make it 100 percent.

When Crossing Borders started, Chun Jin was just three-years-old. There is a whole generation of children who were born in the wake of the Great North Korean famine. As refugees rushed out of North Korea, they were sold to Chinese men who were in need of wives.

Most of the children in our network were born between 1998 and 2005. The UN estimates that there are 20,000 to 30,000 of these children. Chun Jin was born in 1999.

Chun Jin is in our orphanage and has access to a number of good vocational programs. The woman who oversees his orphanage employs a military-style training for the children in her home. Each morning the kids wake up and do an hour of exercise outside, have breakfast, wash and get ready for school. Their time after school is also regimented. She hopes to instill a self-discipline in these children that will last them a lifetime.

Chun Jin expressed to us last year that he would like to become a hair stylist. We put him in a program that will get him ready for this job and for eight hours or more per day, he is snipping, brushing, cleaning and blow drying his way to complete his training.

He will be finished this year. And if everything works out, he will be our first child to come off our aid to start a career.

It has taken us 14 years, an immense amount of resources and focused effort to get to this point. We hope this is the start of something great in his life and in the lives of many North Korean orphans like him.

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THE Orphan Growth FUND

A North Korean Orphan Spreads Her Wings

Sung Me (center) working on crafts at our annual retreat for North Korean orphans.

Sung Me (center) working on crafts at our annual retreat for North Korean orphans.

Change takes time. It hardly happens over night. This is especially true for North Korean orphans and refugees who have often been through so much before we meet them. It is the most rewarding thing for us to watch it happen over the course of years. That is exactly what took place last year for “Sung Me.”

Sung Me is a North Korean orphan whose North Korean mother was sold to her Chinese father in China’s expansive sex trade. Her mother left her and was captured by several Chinese men, locked up, abused, and murdered. She came into the care of her aunt who neglected her.

We brought Sung Me into our Orphan Care network in 2011. She was 12 and did well under the care of a pastor and his wife. She received the love, nurture and healing she needed in this home.

In 2012, we held a sex-ed class in this home. We realized that the Chinese educational system does not provide this and parents don’t usually educate children about sex. Since she and most of the other housemates were in their teens, we thought this was an appropriate subject.

During this time Sung Me kept her head down and didn’t say anything. After the seminar we pulled her aside and asked if anything was wrong. She told us that she was sexually abused while she was living with her aunt. We prayed with her and continued to encourage her to deal with her emotions surrounding this event.

Sung Me received the love she needed in this home but last year, we realized she needed something more: direction. This is why we moved her to an orphanage in a different city this fall to help her gain skills that will help her be self-sufficient. She currently attends a school where she is learning to become a kindergarten teacher.

Sung Me has been thriving in her new environment. She is in her first year at her vocational school that is designed to train Kindergarten teachers. She was recently selected by her school to read the announcements over the PA system. She has also been elected to her student council. She is a leader in her new home as well and has caught the attention of the head of the orphanage.

This is exactly what we work so hard to do, to watch the people in our network thrive. This year we have seen a lot of that. From Sung Me to Susanna, who was cured of glaucoma, which caused blindness, we have seen some amazing turns in people’s lives.

North Korean Refugee Retreat, Part Five: Rebecca Today

Continued from yesterday's blog post.

This summer, a refugee woman named Rachel from Rebecca’s church came to our retreat. The retreat was held a few towns away from their home and was reachable by bus. Rachel’s husband was away at work and she was not able to tell him before she left. She expected him back a couple weeks after the retreat.

On the last night of the retreat, our US Staff reported hearing a commotion near the entrance of the facility that the retreat was being held at about 2 a.m. They thought it was a new tenant.

The next morning our staff awoke to the news that Rachel’s husband had come for her. He brought two other men armed with sticks and pipes and he was looking for Pastor Kang. This revealed a deep insecurity the men in Rebecca’s region have about losing their wives.

The Chinese police in Rebecca’s region gives more freedom to North Korean refugees. Though they feel the threat of repatriation, this is not an imminent threat. This is because the level of trafficking that has happened in this region. There are tens of thousands of North Korean refugees who live there. Our sources on the ground tell us that, if the police round up these refugees en masse, the people would revolt.

This gives the women in the area some wiggle room when it comes to personal freedoms. But there is a flip side to this. When an outside group like Crossing Borders comes in, we too have to tread lightly. As sensitive as the villagers are to police activity that may take their wives away, they are equally as sensitive to outside groups encouraging these women to leave China.

We have been careful in our dealings with these people not to offer relocation as an option for them yet. We want to gain the trust of all the people so that, when we do mention this, it would not be perceived as a threat but as a benefit.

This fall a group of women in Rebecca’s village fled for Southeast Asia through the Underground Railroad without telling their husbands. Crossing Borders did not encourage or arrange this. Only one of the women who fled was from Rebecca’s church. But this didn’t matter to some of the men who lost their wives.

They blamed Rebecca and beat her mercilessly. When we visited her after this had happened, she didn’t speak of it. It was only after we left her village that we were informed by another refugee who she is in communication with outside her village.

When we contacted her later, she said that the matter is resolved and that she is no longer in danger. Her church continues to meet. Pastor Kang continues to make visits unharmed. The matter, it seems, is solved for the time being.

Newton’s third law is this: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Crossing Borders does not seek to upend communities. We make sure to tread lightly and to make change slowly. But sometimes change comes so quickly and unexpectedly that it elicits a reaction.

In circumstances such as this, we take the example of Jesus who was infinitely tough and unrelenting in his love yet infinitely gracious and merciful. Rebecca has come to understand this all too well.

We will continue to stand by Rebecca and the women in her village. We will redouble our efforts to minister to the men in her village and pray for those who attacked her. We will try to make their lives better and enact change slowly.

What we will not do is back down in showing Jesus’ love to those who need it the most.