In a bustling city in China, a group of six young North Korean students and three American missionaries meandered to various corners of the small apartment to chat, play games and to rest. No one sat near the beams of warm sunlight that streamed in from large windows. The group laughed, chatted, whispered together as the apartment air clung to the walls, thick with heat. A single fan oscillated feebly on the floor, stirring hot air and nudging plastic wrappers from Chinese crackers, American chocolates, Korean candies across the floor, inches at a time. Summer break did not mean a break from the oppressive heat waves of Chinese summer. As drowsy eyes, bobbing heads and slumping shoulders struggled to stay adrift in the heat, the visiting missionaries from America realized some pauses were needed in their schedule for sharing about the Bible.
In the midst of the young men and women chuckling with their friends was “Mia,” an 18-year-old North Korean girl who had only just finished her second day of final exams. Mia’s was still in high school. The others, who were all involved in vocational school programs or preparing for university, had completed their academic calendars almost a full week prior. They had come to the gathering with Crossing Borders’ missionaries after full nights of sleep and restful mornings. But Mia, wrapped in her final week of school and the only one with three-hour tests in the morning, lay exhausted on the floor of the apartment, fully asleep as the other students mingled.
Crossing Borders missionaries first met Mia in 2009, when she was only eight years old. Her enthusiasm and openness to the gospel led her to memorize the entire first chapter of the book of James when she learned that she would earn a prize from the missionaries. She made friends and showed a positive disposition toward others. But Mia’s own life and her reflections on family often wear on easy smile and laughter.
Mia’s mother’s whereabouts are unknown. Crossing Borders missionaries are unsure when she left Mia and her father, whether she made it safely to South Korea, whether she is alive today. Mia’s father is an elderly man who cannot work, both he and Mia’s grandparents are very ill. Mia finds herself very worried for them, nursing them and taking care of them when she visits home. Her family has never been healthy enough to care for her. When Mia was eight-years-old, she was sent to live with a caretaker in Crossing Borders’ network. Even in her dire situation, Mia was fortunate. An estimated 30,000 North Korean children live in China, many of them without access to basic needs or even citizenship. It is likely that orphaned children do not have anyone to care for them, protect them, raise them.
But Mia is quick to look for hope in difficult circumstances. She shared that she still finds time to pray and to depend on God as she studies during the school year. She shares that she has a good roommate in her high school dormitory, doesn’t mind living with others. But Mia isn’t really close friends with any of the kids she lives with. She is most likely the only half North Korean. Mandarin is not her first language, though she is fluent.
The Crossing Borders missionaries report that Mia is an excellent student. Her studies earned her a place in an upper tier high school, and with one more year of high school remaining, she will be on track to attend university - a feat that only two other North Korean children in Crossing Borders’ network have achieved. It goes without saying that Mia’s nap on the apartment floor, her flannel draped over her face to block out the light, was well earned. Mia is studying to become a doctor.
Crossing Borders missionaries bought dinner for Mia as they walked her home one evening. Mia had skipped a meal to join them on a hot summer day after her exam. She wanted to listen into the Bible studies. She longed for the community. The missionaries bought kimbap, a Korean seaweed roll with rice and tuna, for Mia. They also took her out to have a smoothie. Mia was overjoyed. The smoothie shop as a rare treat. As Mia headed home, one of the missionaries asked Mia why she studied so hard to become a doctor. Mia’s reply was simple. “So that I can help people like my family.”
As the school year begins for children throughout America this fall, please keep the many young boys and girls in Crossing Borders’ network of North Korean orphans in your prayers and on your minds. As they struggle to overcome their obstacles and challenges alone, Crossing Borders hopes to share encouragement, boldness and strength into their lives through the gospel. Please remember kids like Mia.
Below are some ways you can consider supporting the young men and women in Crossing Borders’ network financially:
The average tuition for a North Korean child in Crossing Borders’ network is $80.00 per month.
Just $100.00 can support new clothing for a North Korean child in Crossing Borders’ network for an entire year.
The average rent and utilities for a North Korean child in Crossing Borders’ network is $225.00 per month.
Caretakers in Crossing Borders’ network in China who serve these children, sometimes raising them in their own homes, are supported with $150.00 per month for their ongoing efforts.