North Korean children

North Korean Mothers, Chinese Fathers: Caught in the Middle

“Amy,” a North Korean mother who lives in the U.S., has not seen her daughter, who lives in China, in over a decade. Amy’s ex-husband purchased her at the height of the Great North Korean Famine in the early 2000s, when she had arrived in China as a North Korean refugee. She fled China and chose to make her home in America. Amy lives in the Midwest, has a steady job and has remarried.

We recently met Amy in Chicago. She had an odd request: To obtain guardianship over her daughter from her ex-husband’s family and so they could be reunited in the U.S.

Amy’s ex-husband’s family will not grant her request unless she promises to help her husband get a work visa and a job in the U.S., a request that is impossible for Amy to fulfill because she and her ex-husband are not legally married. Amy is also scared that, if her husband comes to the U.S., he might harm her. Crossing Borders told her that we couldn’t help because it is outside the scope of our mission.

Half-North Korean children such as Amy's daughter are often in the middle of disputes that they have little to do with. Many North Korean children in the care of Crossing Borders are in similar predicaments.

Kyung Min, a teenage boy who has been in our care since 2009, has a North Korean mother who fled China for South Korea. Kyung Min’s caretakers say that his mother “lives to get revenge on his father’s family” because she was abused after they purchased her as a forced bride. She often uses Kyung Min to slight his father’s family by making promises to them, then reneging or by sending messages to the family through Kyung Min.

This has gone on for over five years. And though Kyung Min’s caretakers have tried to shield him from this ongoing battle, he is entering into adolescence and is more aware that he is at the center of an ongoing dispute. It is hard for him to not have seen his mother in years, but to realize that much of her contact with him has been to manipulate him to hurt his father's family is a difficult matter for Kyung Min to cope with as he matures.

The lives of these children and their relationships with their North Korean mothers are complex. To say that we have put systems and rules in place to tackle all their issues is foolish. The best we can do is make sure our workers on the ground have been engaging with our children’s every need. We can say that our current workers truly love our children and that they make sure every hair on their head is in place and every problem they have is attended to.

Crossing Borders cares more about people than systems. As we continue to grow, we want to make sure we don’t lose this.

Please pray for us as we deal with diverse and complicated matters in families of Chinese fathers, lost children, distant North Korean mothers. Pray for our caretakers who deal with these problems day in and day out. And pray for our children, who are trying to make sense of their complex situations.

Prayer for North Korean Orphans: (Almost) Lost Generation

What happens when a generation of North Korean orphans – half Chinese, half North Korean – enter into a world of poverty, without love from a stable home, without proper identification and without a chance? Crossing Borders has had over 10 years to survey the human rights crisis impacting North Korean orphans and refugees in Northeast China. We have concluded that this population at a crossroads. One road is a path to poverty, instability and suffering. Another is the path to education and the gospel. It is a chance for this generation to become a bridge to North Korea.

The generation of North Korean orphans we support were born in the wake of the Great Famine of the 1990s and range in age from eight to 13. Their mothers fled from North Korea to search for food, medical assistance, or a better life. However, following their escape, many were captured and sold to poor Chinese men looking for wives. The orphans who we care for, born out of these forced marriages, have mothers who have left them behind. In some situations, these mothers were running for their lives from abusive husbands or Chinese authorities.

The North Korean orphans left behind have no access to education, medical care or, in the future, legal jobs. They were never granted legal identification.

There are tens of thousands of these children in the region. Estimations add up to over 40,000. Absolute statistics are impossible because they are not counted in any census. But evident to us, nonetheless, is that there seems to be an endless number of them. In each city we visit, we always find large pockets of them.

Upon entry into support from Crossing Borders in our Second Wave program, these children are given an education, raised in discipline and, most importantly, introduced to our faith. In our work, we have had the opportunity to take care of about 150 North Korean orphans. In their lives, we have witnessed stunning transformations. Children who were too scared to speak have become rambunctious and outgoing. Children who were living in filth have been given clean, quiet, orderly homes to live in with guardians who can provide and care for them.

We think it’s time for people around the world to rise up and take responsibility for a group of children, who, if left alone, might be on a road to destruction.

Please pray for these children that they would not be lost in the world cruelty, callousness, or suffering. Please pray that they might be found in Christ.

Prayer for North Korean Orphans: A Process of Healing

In the past two weeks, Crossing Borders has been in constant motion as we opened booths at the Glenview Farmers Market and the GKYM conference. Because of this opportunity, we were able to share and speak to many people about North Korean orphans and refugees we serve. In response, we are overwhelmed by the interest, support and generosity many of you have shown toward our ministry and thank everyone who took the time to speak with us. Thank you for making our booths a success and we hope to be connecting with you in person again soon. As you pray with us this week we ask that you lift up our North Korean orphans and refugees who have, over time, displayed a miraculous process in healing from their traumatic experiences. We know that this has only been possible with the work of God and every one of us at Crossing Borders can speak to witnessing God's hands in the lives of many of the refugees and orphans we help.

We recognize, however, that this transformation through healing is an ongoing process. It is also one that often takes much time to nurture and develop. As God works powerfully, quickly or slowly, in the lives of the North Korean orphans and refugees we support, we ask know that prayer is an essential and critical need for their building strength.

On this note, we would like to share with you an interview conducted with one of the resilient and growing North Korean orphans in our care in the Second Wave program. As you will read from his experiences, he is one of the many refugee children in China who have felt the hurt and pain present in this world's brokenness.

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How was when you lived with your mom and dad together?

That was my happiest time. I liked that time.

Was your dad nice to you and your mom?

My dad loved me. He was very short and tiny and he liked me because I looked like him. He cooked fish for me. My dad and mom fought only one time.

What happened to him?

He died in a car accident when I was six. He drove a truck.

Then how did you and your mom live?

My uncle (dad’s big brother) took me and my mom to his house. My uncle hit my mom all the time, every day. My dad never hit my mom.

Were you scared?

I was scared of my uncle. He sometimes beat me too, for no reason. Oh, yeah, when he was drunk he got crazy and looked scary. My mom left me there and ran away by herself because my uncle hit her badly. I saw blood on her face.

So, you lived with your uncle? How long?

I lived at uncle’s house for long time. I didn’t like my mom because she left me there. He had a 20 years old son who was a disabled, he couldn’t walk, sitting all the time. I had three uncles and seven cousins, all were grown up boys. I liked 6th one who was a disabled. Everyone was mean to me except for that one. But I didn’t like my uncle he hit my mom all the time. I cried and hid behind old door and stayed there quietly. Sometimes I slept there and my mom looked for me everywhere.

Who do you miss the most?

I would hate to go back to my uncle’s house. I don’t miss anyone.

Do you miss your mom?

Sometimes. But, she is living with new dad and baby, my brother who is three years old and looks like my mom. I look like my dad.

Do you like to stay at your home home?

Yes, I like my home but when [my caretaker] gets upset I get scared.

Why does he get upset?

When we don’t clean our room or shower.

What would you like to be when you grew up?

A nice person, I don’t know.

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Though we cannot share with you his name, we ask that you would pray for him and the many North Korean orphans like him. Sometimes the process of healing is slow. But we know that God is at work.