North Korean Orphans: Hae Na

One of the North Korean orphans in our care through Second Wave, “Hae Na,” has gone through a dark period like many of us have in high school or college. Her face seems to be permanently downcast. She shows little emotion. It’s hard for her to talk. She excels at penmanship, arts and crafts, things she can do in silence, alone. At the age of 14 she has seen so much. Hae Na’s mother - who was originally from North Korea - escaped to South Korea when Hae Na was a child. Her mother promised her and her father before she left that she would send for the two of them after she was granted citizenship in South Korea. Years went by without a word until finally, Hae Na's mother called and said she was doing well. But there was no invitation for Hae Na or her father to join her in South Korea.

Hae Na’s father did some digging and heard that his wife was with another man. Ablaze with jealousy, he traveled to South Korea, found her, and murdered her. He was imprisoned and Hae Na hasn’t heard from him since.

Hae Na's caretakers say that they have seen the most change in Hae Na compared to anyone else in their home. This is surprising to hear because from our staff's experience, she is always so quiet.

But every once in a while we will catch her smiling whether it’s while she is playing a game or off thinking on her own. This is the “change” her caretaker was talking about.

Change comes slowly for the North Korean orphans in our group homes. People from the West like to make action plans, formulas and schedules. We see the world as a place we can manicure on our timeline. We are reminded by the foolishness of these plans through people like Hae Na.

On a cool summer evening this year, Crossing Borders' volunteer missionaries took Hae Na and the other North Korean orphans in her group home on a creaky old carnival ride in her town. It was shaped like a boat and it rocked back and forth for what seemed like 20 minutes, much longer than a similar ride in the US would go. She was looking up at the stars. Her hands clenched tightly on the bars in front of her, smiling as if she didn’t have a care in the world.

It is moments like these that remind us that all we can give is our best but ultimately heart change is God’s work - that though there is a darkness that seems unquenchable, ultimately there is light.

Please pray for the deep wounds in Hae Na’s heart and the hearts of all the North Korean orphans and refugees in our care. Pray for healing and, by God's love, for something beautiful to come from the many difficulties they have faced in their lives.

“He makes all things beautiful in his time.” - Diane Ball

Prayer for North Korean Refugees: Restoration Song

North Korean Refugee Sings a Song She Wrote from Crossing Borders on Vimeo.

This is not a song one would think that a North Korean refugee would write. It is especially unexpected of a woman who has been trafficked and physically abused, a woman who has spent time in a North Korean prison camp. However, after two years in the care of Crossing Borders, having received the gospel and been ministered to by the faithful missionaries on the field, “Ok-seo,” one of the North Korean refugees a part of Restore Life program shared this personally written song with us. Ok-seo has found hope in Christ through the underground church in China.

Ok-seo was well to do in North Korea. She didn’t suffer during the Great North Korean Famine of the 1990s during which an estimated 3 million people starved to death. But when her husband took her 10-year-old son with him to be with another woman, her life took a turn for the worse.

She began selling copper taken from electrical wiring on North Korea’s sputtering electrical grid. This is a grave crime in North Korea and when caught, she was sent to prison. Ok-seo, however, said that she had been lucky. If she had be caught stealing wires going to or from the North Korean capitol of Pyongyang, she would have been executed.

When Ok-seo got out of prison, her friend who was also in the copper trade, told her that she could make $500 a month in China in a tailoring factory. But when she crossed the border she immediately realized that something was very wrong. Ok-seo had been tricked. She had stepped into the waiting hands of a human trafficking ring. Ok-seo begged her captors to sell her to someone without physical defects. Many North Korean refugee women are sold to Chinese men with disabilities. They honored her request and sold Ok-seo to a Chinese farmer who had an immense amount of debt.

Her husband and his family physically and verbally abused Ok-seo to the point where she would get severe migraines. Desperate, she turned to a neighbor, a fellow North Korean refugee who was also trafficked. This woman brought her to church.

Ok-seo said that shortly after she started attending church, her migraines went away.

Outwardly, Ok-seo's situation as a North Korean refugee has not changed. She is still struggling to find the means to survive with her family. However, her outlook on life has transformed. Ok-seo was recently given a journal from our missionaries and wrote the lyrics to the song she she shared after North Korean women in her village were sent back to North Korea. The tune is a of a traditional North Korean song.

In fear, Ok-seo has found hope. Please pray for her and the tens of thousands of North Korean refugees like her - that they would find restoration and strength in God.

*Note: Ok-seo is a part of our Refugee Rescue Fund where you can sponsor women like her in Restore Life and receive regular updates on them.

An Inside Look: Our Work with North Korean Refugees

Welcome to the new and improved Crossing Borders website and blog! We are an organization with the mission to share the compassion of Christ with North Korean refugees and their children in China.

It has been over 5 years since we’ve had a blog and for good reason: security.

There is a line we must walk as a missionary organization. We must share stories about the North Korean refugees we encounter and their plight.  Telling stories about the people we help can spread awareness about our mission but in so doing, we can run the risk of compromising the security of the very people we support. Since we’ve been on the mission field now for seven years, we feel like we have developed a firm grasp on what we can and cannot share and the precautions we must take in security.

We understand that we ask of our partner churches, donors and supports for an incredible amount of trust in participating in our work. In order for you to donate to us or even take time to read our emails, tweets and now, blog entries, you must first believe that we do in fact help North Korean refugees in Northeast China. You have to trust that we aren’t just pocketing your money and using it for ourselves.

There is a leap of faith that so many of you make when you write your checks and send them so faithfully to our PO Box.

We believe the trust factor is one reason why so many people don’t support us. If this is you, we hope this blog will help you change your mind.

Although we can never share the names of our refugees, tell you where they live or show their faces, we hope that this blog will give you the information necessary to trust that we are in fact on the difficult mission to restore the lives of North Korean refugees and their children.

We will share stories of our refugees and orphans, give you a behind-the-scenes look at our work, recommend and review books that might help you understand what we’re doing better, and share updates in the world of North Korean refugee work. We will try to pack as much information and news into our posts as possible. We warn you that some of our stories will be heartbreaking, dispiriting, depressing. But we guarantee that there will also be stories of light, joy and hope.

Through it all, we hope that you will be more engaged and motivated to help us share compassion and love to a people in need.