Next Steps: Reaching back to move forward

Second Wave is a program Crossing Borders operates to show the compassion of Christ to the children of North Korean refugee women. According to a US Government report, 70 percent of all North Korean refugees are women and 80 percent of them have been trafficked.

Let’s do the math here. If there have been an estimated 500,000 North Korean refugees who have fled to China since the famine, then approximately 350,000 of them are women. This means that 245,000 North Korean women have been sold in China.

An important fact to remember, that helps us understand this astonishing statistic, is that every North Korean refugee in China is an outlaw. China denies these people the most basic human rights, even though the country signed the UNHCR Refugee Convention of 1951. It is illegal to help a North Korean refugee, according to Chinese law. North Korean refugees are hunted down, arrested and deported to North Korea and sent to prison camps where they face torture and possible execution.

This leaves many children who have been born to North Korean mothers at risk. Many of these children have had mothers stolen away from them at the hands of Chinese authorities.

When Jong was about 6 years old, his mother was captured by Chinese officers and has not  been heard from since. He vaguely remembers what his mother looks like. He is in his teens now.

Jong’s father is a farmer and walks with a limp in one leg. His father has had brain surgery in the past, and is very forgetful. Because Jong’s father is not able to take care of him, Jong was brought to a Crossing Borders group home and has been under our care since.

Jong is a kind-hearted boy, who often looks for the approval of his caretaker, teachers, and other adults. He has often struggled in school, and has been described as slow by his teachers. Because of this, he has lacked effort and interest in his studies in the past.

However, Jong’s attitude changed last year, when two new boys were brought into his group home. Jong was told that he had to serve as an example for these two younger children and he took this call to action to heart. This past year, he has been much more studious and has been making better grades at school.

On a visit to China by our team last winter, Jong was found in his bedroom studying by himself while the rest of this housemates were playing games.

This summer, Crossing Borders sent a team to run a camp for children in our Second Wave program. During free time, the counselors reserved a room where children could talk to counselors about their problems and ask for prayers.

Jong met with one of our team members  and shared that he was beginning to remember his mother. Memories of her come in brief flashes but had a powerful impact on him. As the counselor prayed for him, Jong cried. For the first time in his life, Jong realized he really missed his mother, and wished he could be with her.

Crossing Borders understands that though progress and healing is underway, some of  the wounds in the hearts of these children are deep and often suppressed. China is a land of progress and many children are encouraged to forget painful memories from their past and work toward a brighter future. But in our work, Crossing Borders has found that sometimes, this isn’t possible. For children like Jong, old wounds come back regardless of how much a child tries to stifle them.

At the heart of Crossing Borders’ work is an effort to give these children an avenue to express their pain and to teach them to deal with it through principles taught in the Bible. This is our primary task as an organization in the face of such hardship. As we add programs and structure, this will not change.

What will become of Jong depends upon how he can process these old memories. It is our hope that he would be able to do so in a healthy, productive way and that he would be ready for whatever life throws at him.

This story can be found in our Newsletter, which was published last week. To get a copy of our newsletter, click on this link and sign up.

Next Steps: Planning for the future

Crossing Borders started Second Wave in September of 2004 to address the needs of children who were born to North Korean mothers and abandoned by them. This was in the wake of the Great North Korean Famine, which claimed millions of lives in North Korea and caused hundreds of thousands of refugees to spill over into China. When we started Second Wave, the average age of our children was about 5. This year the average age of the children in Second Wave entered into its teens at 13. Over the years our goal has always been to show the compassion of Christ to these children but this can take many forms. Is it enough to house them, feed them, educate them, and love them or do we need to do more?

As we look into the, now, very near future, we have set some priorities for our organization and our children. The skill we are focused on teaching these children is goal setting. We will know that we are achieving this organizational priority when more of the children in our network have clear career paths with short and mid term milestones to attain them.

This summer a team from the US traveled to Northeast China to address the spiritual and emotional needs of our children in a summer camp program, which lasted about a week. At this camp we had our first ever career seminar.

We had each of our children list their interests and talents and we had them map these on a matrix. From this matrix we were able to tell our children what types of jobs they were best suited for. Our intention was not to lock them into a specific career path but rather to get them thinking about what they might want to do when they finish their education.

We also had a seminar on how to set long term goals and then set short term goals on how to reach these long term goals. This winter we will host another seminar for these children where they will set a long term career goal for themselves and set smaller milestones on how to reach these goals. But, we are not under the delusion that this is our most important task. Most of us are parents and we know better.

Parenting is a grind. It is a selfless task that bears fruit -- good or bad -- decades later. As we raise these children, it is not our ultimate goal to have all of the children in our network employed by a certain date. It is also not our goal to only love them and nurture them for now. Raising children is challenging because parents have to think of both now and decades later.

What good is preparing someone for a good job if they lack character? How empty is a life filled with money and security if it lacks love?

Each day we carry our work forward with this in mind, asking God for grace for the things we might overlook.

North Korean Orphans: An Impossible Question

We recently held our second annual English Camp for the North Korean orphans in our Second Wave ministry. The children in this ministry are born into forced marriages with Chinese men who purchased North Korean women, the children's mothers, as brides. The camp lasted a four days and a number of our children were able to attend. In this time we had the opportunity to teach them English and provide spiritual counseling. Most of the North Korean orphans in Second Wave have lost their mothers, who escaped to South Korea, were captured by the Chinese police to be sent back to a North Korean prison camp, or have run away from their repressive marriages.

One of the North Koreans, “Yung” attended camp. Yung was abandoned by her mother when she was three-years-old. Her mother left her on the day Yung had open-heart surgery, which was about six years ago.

During camp, one of our counselors was able to form a very close bond with Yung. Towards the end of the camp, Yung asked the counselor, “Can you be my new mom?”

The best way to describe Yung is spunky. She has a personality that compensates for her diminutive height. When we took her measurements, she fell well below the average 5th percentile for height and weight in her age group.

Yung lives with her father in rural Northeast China. We make frequent visits to her home, which out missionaries have described as a pigpen. In a recent visit in January, dirty dishes were strewn on their small living space and Yung was covered in ash from a poorly maintained, coal-burning heating system. She had a heavy cough.

She is loved and cared for by her father but her desire for her mother is obvious.

We teach our counselors to answer our children honestly, especially when they ask for the impossible, like Yung did this year. Our counselor answered, “I can’t be your mother but I want to see you again.”

Yung began making appointments immediately.

One of the purposes of our camp is to teach our North Korean orphans a language that can be very useful to them; it is also for the purpose of bringing the healing hope of the gospel to these children. We try to remind them that they are not forgotten but that there is a God who loves them and cares about them.

To sponsor a child like Yung, please visit our Child Sponsorship page.