By now, most people would be familiar with Focus on the Family’s ‘The Dropbox’. Both Pastor Lee Jong-Rak’s story and the documentary that brought the story to a wider populace have made headlines all over the world. On the surface, it is a simple story of a stalwartly tender-hearted pastor’s mission to bring compassion and love to some of the abandoned and unloved children in his nation.
At its very heart, however, the documentary also presents two incredibly fundamental questions of humanity. What is the worth of a human being, and on a more personal level for fathers, what does it mean to bear the mantle of fatherhood? For beyond the call of servanthood that Pastor Lee Jong-Rak has taken up, there is also a very personal story.
Recently, Focus on the Family Malaysia launched the documentary for the first time in our nation, through a screening held at FGA KL, attended by close to a thousand people. The screening was also concurrently a charity drive with half of the proceeds donated to two local orphanages: Jawatankuasa Pusat Jagaan Praise, Perak and Good Samaritan Home, Selangor.
The second documentary of Focus on the Family’s Reclamation Series, The Drop Box takes an intimate look at how Pastor Lee came into his ministry and it is structured upon the stories of the children that Pastor Lee and his wife has adopted. It does not flinch from hard realities and Pastor Lee and his wife are no strangers to pain and hardship.
The second child to the Lees, Eun-man, was born with severe disabilities that rendered him completely helpless and immobile. He spent the first 14 years of his life in the hospital as his parents and hospital staff cared for his needs. We see how Eun-man has to be fed with feeding tubes every day and perhaps lung vacuums inserted via trachea openings.
In a particularly moving scene, Pastor Lee relates, “I asked God why He gave me ‘that kind of baby,’ and thirty seconds later I repented. With faith and His words, I lived. That’s how I started this work.”
How does one take such a weight of responsibility upon their shoulders? Inevitably, many challenges would come along the way and the ministry would take its toll both on Pastor Lee’s health and finances. Each morning at 5am, he would hear with beating heart as yet another baby might possibly be left in the dropbox he had installed at the door of his house.
In a conservative nation such as South Korea, the abandonment of disadvantaged and out-of-wedlock babies is a cause of concern. According to recent statistics, there are a record number of babies being abandoned to die. Many young single mothers are forced by their own families to give up their babies so as to avoid shame and the problem never seems to find a resolution. Asked if he has ever had any thought of giving up, Pastor Lee articulated; ‘If I do not do this, who would take care of them? They would be left to die. No, I cannot stop.’
Taking care of his son has taught him many things, Pastor Lee shared. ‘I don’t see Eun-man as a disadvantaged and helpless human being without purpose. God brought him into my life so that this ministry could be started. It was because of Eun-man that the ministry was birthed. In a sense, Eun-man was given to me by God for a very important purpose.’
Despite the grimness of the issues surrounding the documentary’s subject matter, more often than not we see joy and laughter in the faces of the children that Pastor Lee and his wife has adopted, a reflection of the hope they have awaken. We see the children go on outings and we hear incredibly inspiring stories like that of Ruri, born with most of his fingers missing but whose quick mind and big heart eventually endears him to classmates who once mocked his deformity.
Ruris is the first voice we hear in The Drop Box. “When the bell rings for the baby box it’s like a war starts,” he says. “A war in heaven.” Adopted by the Lees when he was still very young, over the past few years, Ruri has caught the vision for their life-saving mission. “I want to inherit my dad’s work,” he says. “Because if I don’t, my dad’s effort will disappear. I will help and add my own effort, and eventually pass it down to my own child.”
If any criticism of the film was to be made, it is that we seldom hear the voice of the director throughout its entire length. But this is also a mark of remarkable restraint on the director Brian Ivie’s part. The story is Pastor Lee’s after all. In an interview not captured in the movie, Brian shared about how Pastor Lee’s life of compassion has brought home the reality of Christ to him. By the time you get to the end, you have truly grown to know Pastor Lee as a man, both as an inspiration and in his vulnerabilities, and it is an incredibly moving experience. You wish you had a chance to meet and know the man on a personal level, sitting by his side and listening to the stories he has to tell.
“There are children who rely on the help of others to survive their entire life,” Pastor Lee reflects. “Many people think it is better for them to go to heaven as quickly as possible, because life on earth would be too difficult for them. But God sent them to the earth with disabilities. They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to earth with a purpose. Disabled children teach many people, change many people and help people reflect upon themselves which are why they are the educators of society.”
It is this tender but overriding note of hope and redemption that is the distinguishing attribute of the film and it is a noteworthy one.
NOTE: If you have yet to watch the film or got to witness Pastor Lee’s story, you can find out more about the DVD at Focus on the Family’s webpage for the DVD. The DVDs are selling for RM 35.00 each (inclusive of 6% GST). All pictures from the event kindly contributed by Focus on the Family Malaysia.
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