North Korean Orphans: Lice and Other Curious Transactions

“Meena,” a North Korean orphan we support in our Second Wave program, came to English Camp this year with a short, boyish haircut. This was surprising to many of us because her personal style has always been very girly with lots of pastels and frills. She has had long hair for several years. We later found out that she had lice. Her caretakers think that she contracted it from school. She had to cut her hair just before camp started.

At English Camp, our annual, four-day retreat where we take many of the children in our programs out of the city and into the wilderness, 10-year-old Meena slept next to her counselor, a woman from the US.

After the team arrived back to the US, her counselor noticed little insects in her hair. She realized that she had contracted lice from little, sweet Meena. The counselor had to cut her hair too.

This exchange of lice expresses the beauty of our organization. Not only do we want to feed, shelter and pay for our children’s education, we want to love them intimately and try our best to provide the care that their parents would.

Meena’s mother was sold to her Chinese husband as the effects of the Great North Korean famine were still wreaking havoc on the country. In 2003, her mother fled her country illegally and was sold to the highest bidder. Their child, Meena, was born stateless. China did not recognize her as a citizen because of her mother’s status and North Korea did not recognize her because she was born in China.

When Meena was an infant, her mother escaped her life of enslavement and shortly after, Meena’s father left town to find work. This left Meena in the care of her aunt, who contracted an unknown disease that left half her body paralyzed in 2010.

There was no one to take care of her.

Crossing Borders took Meena in and has cared for her for about four years. During this time she has experienced the love and affection of her caretakers, a local pastor and his wife.

Our organization aims to love and care for North Korean orphans like Meena. We take pains to ensure that she grows up in an environment filled with love and affection. Like our mission statement says, we aim to “show the compassion of Christ to North Koreans and their children in China.” That is exactly what we are doing for Meena.

Every child has their moments of pain, times when they act out. This deeply wounded population of North Korean orphans have many scars from their past. Our people are there for these children to absorb their pain in exchange for love. We believe that this is what it means to show to compassion of Christ to these people.

Isaiah 53:5 says that Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Just like the loving counselor who took on lice so that Meena could have someone to sleep next to at night, we believe that Christ has done the same for us a million times over.

When asked if she would do it all over again, knowing she would contract lice, our counselor did not hesitate to say, “Yes.”

Our caretakers do the same, daily. Our missionaries have given up a comfortable life in the West for close to a decade. Our staff and volunteers have given up their time, prayers, sweat and tears to make sure this organization is running.

At the heart of Crossing Borders is an attitude of sacrifice to show this love to the people we help.