One of the charities the lodge supports is the “Give Out Love” Orphanage located in Nangok, a tough working-class neighborhood in Seoul. One thing that makes this orphanage so unique is that attached to the side of the building is a drop box for babies whose parents can’t take care of them.
A “baby box” (L) is seen at Joosarang church as preacher Jeong Young-ran and two children, who were abandoned at the church years earlier and have been raised there ever since, go out for a walk in Seoul September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA)
Pastor Lee, who has a very inspirational story, runs the orphanage and the “baby box”, as it is commonly referred to as. He looks after about 20 or so children, including his own son.
South Korean pastor Lee Jong-rak carries a baby, abandoned a day earlier at a “baby box” at his Joosarang church, to hand it over to ward officials as portraits of other abandoned children raised and adopted by him are seen on a wall of the church in Seoul September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA)
Back in the mid-1980s, Pastor Lee’s son was born with cerebral palsy and spent the first 14 years of his life in the hospital. While visiting his son, Pastor Lee would also visit with other parents in the hospital to counsel and encourage them not to give up on their disabled children.
The story of how Pastor Lee started to take in disabled children is a profound, sincere and heartfelt one:
One day, an elderly woman at the hospital asked Lee to take her paralyzed granddaughter. The bargain: If Lee said yes, the woman said, she would agree to convert to Christianity. He accepted the child, named Sang-hee, who still lives with him. Months after making the deal, the woman was dead.
A social worker then asked Lee to accept the brain-damaged daughter of a 14-year-old girl who drank and did drugs during her pregnancy. The social worker assured Lee the infant, named Hannah, wouldn’t live long.
Lee fed her through a tube, amazed at the child’s hunger to survive. Hannah lived six more years: “When she died, I cried so much, more than even when my own parents passed away.”
That’s when Lee vowed he would never turn away a challenged child. (Glionna, 2011)
Hannah, the brain damaged child who inspired Pastor Lee to open his home to unwanted babies, is buried under the little tree in front of the orphanage.
Recently, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of babies being left in the drop box due to a new law aimed at protecting the rights of children:
South Korea is trying to shed a reputation of being a source of babies for adoption by people abroad. It is encouraging domestic adoption and tightening up the process of a child’s transfer from birth mother to adoptive parents.
The law that took effect in August is aimed at ensuring adoption is more transparent and makes it mandatory for parents to register newborns if they want to give them up.
But the regulation aimed at seeing more thorough records are kept, though well intentioned, has sparked a surge of undocumented babies being abandoned, said Pastor Lee Jong-rak.
“If you look at the letters that mothers leave with their babies, they say they have nowhere to go, and it’s because of the new law,” Lee told Reuters. (Kim, 2012)
“This is a facility for the protection of life,” reads a sign outside the drop box. “If you can’t take care of your disabled babies, don’t throw them away or leave them on the street. Bring them here.”
The members of our lodge make regular visits to the orphanage to donate time, money and supplies as well. As Freemasons, one of our principal tenets is relief; we are taught that out of all the moral virtues, charity is one of the greatest.
Myself, Bro Jim and Bro Neil enjoy some time with the children while delivering some supplies.
RWM Pete is a big supporter of Pastor Lee and the orphanage. Because of his leadership we have raised a significant amount of funds to help out with this much needed charity. Pastor Lee is somebody we all believe in:
“The enormity of his mission hits you between the eyes. I don’t know anyone who goes there for the first time and doesn’t tear up,” said Peter A. Dietrich, an orphanage volunteer. (Glionna, 2011)
Bro Ronnie and RWM Pete collect funds for the
Give Out Love Orphanage during a St. Patrick’s Day event.
Recently RWM Pete met with some film makers who are doing a documentary about the “baby box” and offered the lodge’s full support. The film is still in post production and requires some more funds in order to be completed.
As Freemasons, we are taught to exercise the moral virtues, the greatest of which being faith, hope and charity (or love). So we wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Lee when he says:
Among faith, hope, and love, the best is.. love.
Pastor Lee and his son, Eun-man,
which means full of God’s grace.
On Saturday, November 10 we will be having a Whiskey & Cigar Night to raise funds for the Give Out Love Orphanage at Burn In Hal Lounge and Cigar Bar located in Itaewon, Seoul. See below for details. Hope to see you there!
Glionna, John M. (2011). South Korean pastor tends an unwanted flock. Los Angeles Times.
Kim, Daum. (2012). South Korea “Baby box” pastor says new law brings more babies. Reuters.