North Korean Refugee Retreat, Part One: Spa Day

This year Crossing Borders hosted our first retreat for the North Korean refugees in our network. This event is similar to our annual orphan retreat where we teach our children how to deal with the trauma they’ve experienced through Biblical principles.

At our refugee retreat our volunteers planned a spa day for the women in our network where they received massages and facials by our female team members. More than the instruction and programming, it was this simple gesture that was the most touching for many of the refugees.

“As I massaged their shoulders it was difficult for them to relax because they felt so bad that we were serving them,” wrote one of our team members. “They have never received from anyone. I massaged their hands. Their hands were extremely rough for their age, like a farmer’s. Comparing with my hands I even felt guilty. I felt so sad as I was touching their hands and shoulders.”

These women braved the worst modern-day famine in history. They clawed their way out of North Korea, often with the false hope of finding work, only to be sold to the highest bidder. Their husbands often see them as a piece of property and work them to the bone.

“For ten years or more this is how they lived,” our volunteer went on. “They’ve dealt with all kinds of bitterness and fear. Their sad shoulders were tired and weary.”

So to receive a massage was a revolution to them. It told them that they were valuable, worthy of love and pampering.

A tremendous amount of work went into the planning and executing of this retreat. The result is difficult to measure because these retreats often deal with subtle changes of perspective. To not only tell someone that they are worthy of love but to show it to show them is at the core of Crossing Borders’ mission.

Our mission is to show the compassion of Christ to North Koreans and their children in China. To show it, not just say it. By the end of the retreat our team could notice the difference. The refugees seemed lighter, they sang louder and they cried when it was time to depart.

We will be posting more about this retreat in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.