Features

The other side of failure

"The other side of failure" Continued...

Issue: "2013 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 14, 2013

TAKING CARE OF THESE ORPHANS was thankless, character-building work. Shin half-joked that she ran away from home a few times. Not only did the children watch them with distrustful eyes, they were wild, impulsive, and aggressive. Each day, they threw fists and curses at each other, tumbling until noses broke into bloody gushes. They lied and cheated about trivial things. When they didn’t get their way, they banged their heads on the wall. 

It’s the strangest thing, Jang said, how quickly humans forget their hunger once their bellies are filled. After six months, the children developed picky eating habits like any other broccoli-hating kids in America. They flailed chopsticks at the best meats and scowled at plain rice. Apparently love for the Colonel’s 11 spices is universal; the kids demanded Kentucky Fried Chicken all the time.

“It was a daily warfare,” Jang said. “The language they use! Take out all the swear words and you won’t even be able to comprehend what they’re saying.” Yet, once Jang raised his voice, their eyes would water and their lips tremble. “They may be extreme and wild in their behavior, but their psychological state’s so frail and sensitive.”

Jang said he would not have persevered without Christ’s impossibly limitless love. He and his wife bathed and scrubbed the children. They bought them fresh new clothes. They squeezed out the pus from their wounds, shipped medicine from South Korea for their tuberculosis and skin diseases, then rubbed ointment over their sores and rashes. 

“We truly tried to take care of them as if they were our biological children,” Jang said. “And gradually, they came to understand our sincerity and heart.” The orphans started calling them ahbeoji and eomeoni—respectful, endearing terms for “father” and “mother.” They became so fond of the couple that they quarreled over sleeping beside them.

No JongYeon, Jang KukHwa, Yoo KuangHyuk, and Mun Chul upon arrival at the shelter.
Handout
No JongYeon, Jang KukHwa, Yoo KuangHyuk, and Mun Chul upon arrival at the shelter.
Frostbitten foot and chopped-off fingers of Baek YongWon.
Handout
Frostbitten foot and chopped-off fingers of Baek YongWon.
Life at the shelter.
Handout
Life at the shelter.
Mun Chul, praying at the immigration station.
Handout
Mun Chul, praying at the immigration station.
At the immigration jail in Vientiane, Laos.
Handout
At the immigration jail in Vientiane, Laos.

Previous   Next

IN THE BEGINNING, the couple had big plans for the children: read the Bible together, teach them Mandarin and perhaps some English, so they’re prepared for higher education in the real world. But these children couldn’t read Korean—or use the toilet. One thought the toilet was a basin and washed her hair in its water; another understood but then tried to scoop out his feces with bare fingers. 

Such basic things can be taught quickly; minds and hearts take longer. When Jang criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during dinner, one child flung his spoon across the table and stormed out, screaming, “You think you would mouth such things if you were in North Korea?”

But the greatest challenge was sharing the gospel. None of the kids grasped the concept of God, much less of Jesus Christ. “They can’t see God, so how can they believe in something they can’t see with their own eyes?” Shin said. 

Even the basic concept of sin was foreign, Jang said: “Growing up in North Korea means you have to lie, cheat, and steal to survive. These kids didn’t realize that it’s sin. They didn’t think they were sinners. So to tell them that someone died for their sins? That’s just unbelievable to them.”

THE MISSIONARIES had to start slowly. They taught them Korean, then read the Bible. They had Sunday school every day: Bible stories, Bible verse quizzes, worship sung in whispers. But Jang realized that such education had its limits—the kids were reciting indoctrinations without letting the gospel actually take root in their hearts. A majority of them flat-out told the missionaries, “I don’t believe in God.”

But even through their doubts, the children prayed constantly—from asking God to overcome their worries and anxieties to asking for miracles during a life-threatening crisis—and God answered their prayers in sweet, visible ways. Gradually, God went from nonexistent to abstract to a concrete, living, interactive Being. 

Jang chuckled as he recalled, “Gosh, we have so many stories! The moment we start sharing all of God’s answers to their prayers, we won’t be able to stop.”

“These kids are desperate enough to pray,” Shin added. “They were in constant danger of being deported, so they needed someone to lean on during a time of great fear.”

THAT'S WHY IT ALSO ALARMED and disappointed the missionaries to see the children’s faith wobble soon after they settled into South Korea. Most of the children transition into schools and live in a dorm or institution. Free and safe in a nation of people who look and talk like them, many North Korean refugees still feel imprisoned by their inability to adjust and belong. 

Comments

You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading

     

    What If

    Commentators have described the independent romantic comedy What If

    Advertisement