Crossing Borders staff and leaders spend a significant part of their time on the field with the refugee children in our Second Wave program. On the surface, the North Korean orphans in our care are adorable. Many of them could simply pass as one of the many Chinese and Korean children who live throughout China. But as our team members have had the opportunity to get to know some of these boys and girls, they have noticed that the differences between the North Korean orphans in China and the other children around them widen from a simple difference of nationality to a great vast gulf of pain and heartache. One of our staff members even described the hearts of the children in our care as "old, deserted houses." A majority of North Korean refugees who cross the border from North Korea and into China are women. Exposed and vulnerable, they are often captured or manipulated into trafficking rings who will sell them into marriages with Chinese men. The gender disparity in China due to the One-Child Policy has given way to a colossal, illegal trade of North Korean refugee women. Children are born into these forced unions.
As North Korean mothers are captured by Chinese authorities or as mothers attempt escape for South Korea, sometimes having no choice but to flee for safety from the police or their own husbands, their children are left behind. This is a case for a most of the refugee children in our program, Second Wave.
One of the children in our care was abandoned the day she received heart surgery. Her mother stole away as her father remained distracted. Another child watched his mother try desperately to wrestle away from the Chinese police as they dragged her away.
Jo Han (12) had a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings in one of Crossing Borders’ group homes. At first his caretaker was unable to handle him because he was always stealing things from other kids at school.
Kleptomania has been a common a symptom of abandonment, according to our field missionaries who are actively involved in the lives of each of our children. The more hurt children are, they say, the more they want to steal. This is a problem for a number of North Korean orphans who we take into our group homes. Some kids search through the garbage for items to take home. Fo others, the deep pain of abandonment comes out when they fight with the other children at home. These fights can turn vicious if nobody is there to stop them.
We encouraged and advised Jo Han’s caretakers as they became a source of love and discipline in his life. With their patient and compassionate efforts, we have seen a dramatic turnaround in his life.
“My parents forsook me but God did not forsake me. He sent me to [our caretaker] to raise me as a faithful person. I give thanks to God. I will praise Him and go to heaven,” wrote Jo Han in his journal.
Whether this was genuine or just to impress his caretakers, we cannot know. But we do know that the stealing has stopped and young Jo Han is behaving much better at home. As we go about our week, let’s remember to pray for Jo Han and the North Korean orphans like him who feel the pain and loneliness of abandonment.