Yesterday I had the chance to see a special documentary at my theater called The Drop Box. This is a three day event movie that ends tonight at theaters sponsored by Focus on the Family. It tells the story of Pastor Lee Jong-rak who takes in abandoned babies in South Korea through a special mailbox of sorts called the ‘baby box’.
The idea for the baby box started when babies were left at the doorstep of his church, often special needs children and he heard about a baby box in Croatia that helped mothers when desperate to leave their babies rather than abandon or kill them.
Pastor Lee has also adopted 15 of the children and have 2 of their own, one named Eun-man who is severely disabled and cannot function beyond a smile. Yet in one of the most touching segments we learn that the son despite being a burden in a way is deeply loved and was in fact the inspiration behind the baby box and Pastor Lee’s ministry.
The film is directed by Brian Ivie who lived at the Lee’s orphanage for 6 months and converted to Christianity during the filming. He does a good job painting Lee as a normal man who saw a need and filled it. It is not overly aggrandizing, which I think actually makes it much more moving and relatable.
He also does include voices who see the baby box as a ‘too easy of an out’ for women who are merely scared of the challenge of a special needs baby but could do it. It also can be challenging for the caregivers who have no knowledge of the genetics or family history of the baby.
It would seem to me that putting your baby in a box would never been an ‘easy out’ but I thought it was good the movie at least acknowledged some of those concerns. Pastor Lee says many of the mothers are minors who are too ashamed to raise their baby or go through the lengthy process of adoption. He said many come to him umbilical cord still attached, only hours old. That kind of blew my mind.
The letters the mothers leave are so tragic and almost all start off with “I’m sorry. Please forgive me…” . It breaks your heart but at least there is somewhere for the babies to go to not die on the street or in a trash bin but to be loved by Pastor Lee. That’s pretty amazing. The orphanage also reunites some families who return for their child. I believe they said 145 in the segment after the movie.
The month they were shooting Pastor Lee had gotten a baby in the box every day for 8 days straight. He hadn’t slept because he didn’t want to miss the bell which signaled a new baby. It breaks your heart.
We get to learn about Pastor Lee’s family and have little vignettes about the children who are the sweetest boys and girls. I particularly liked his middle son Ru-ri who is missing some fingers and was mocked for it but then ran for class president and won the kids over with his charms. He loves taekwondo and wants to keep his father’s mission alive when he grows up. That was just lovely.
What impressed me the most is Pastor Lee’s unending ability to love everyone. When I think of my own squabbles with people (and I’m sure he isn’t perfect) but each time a new baby came or a child with severe problems was presented to him Pastor Lee loved that child. You could see it in his face, like he was holding the most perfect child he’d ever seen. That’s such a gift from God to love all things. My beloved Grandpa was like that and its what I strive to be like.
Pastor Lee’s wife is also wonderful- so positive and upbeat in the midst of what must be incredibly stressful. Just the lack of sleep and caring for an adult severely disabled son would be enough but she was a special lady. It made me wish we could get the extreme home makeover crew over there to make life a little easier for the Lee’s.
Some may wish that abortion and other birth control would be discussed but that is not my personal feeling and belief or the perspective of this movie or Pastor Lee. This worldview believes children are a gift from God and have divine value no matter how they are brought into the world but I don’t want to get into politics. It’s just simply the view of this movie. If you don’t like that view than the movie may not be for you but all movies can’t be everything to everyone, especially documentaries.
Maybe partly due to director Brian’s conversion while making the film it felt very personal and it made me feel like I could do something to help. Pastor Lee seemed like an ordinary man who decided he could help and then did it. It’s motivated me to look into how I could serve my community a little bit better.
In the live broadcast there was a segment from Jim Daly of Focus on the Family and his team which was a bit too long and will probably be better as a bonus feature on a DVD but the main point was to encourage adoption and foster care through their organization Wait No More which puts foster children with their ‘forever families’. It definitely had the feel of a 700 Club segment but I didn’t mind it because I believe in adoption and what they were sharing. However, some will definitely want to leave at the end of the film.
I really loved this documentary. I feel inspired by Pastor Lee’s example of service and love and shouldn’t movies inspire us from time to time? Especially if you are Christian I would encourage you to hunt the Drop Box down when it comes out on blu-ray and support the lifesaving missions of all involved. I’m certainly grateful I saw it and felt very close to God’s spirit while watching it. Can’t say that too often these days and it was a rewarding experience.