I grew up in a South Korean orphanage. My world, as an orphan, was bleak. The orphanage denied me mental stimulation, self-confidence and hope. When I aged-out of the orphanage at 16 and was forced into the world, I faced a future devoid of any opportunity.
I tell people that my childhood is like a puzzle with missing pieces. I really had no childhood, as one might typically think of it. It felt like a massive black hole filled with disparity. Now, as the mother of two children, I ensure that their lives are filled with love, affection, social activity and education. They have the freedom to grow into the people they want to be. Contrastingly, my dominant childhood memories are of an awful orphanage, and caretakers who filled our young lives with fear, loneliness, corporal punishment, mental abuse, constant hunger and belittlement. Sadly, but predictably, my upbringing as an orphan had lasting and damaging effects on my young adult life. I had become accustomed to rejection.
People preyed on my vulnerability. I regularly endured the pain of being tormented by others, solely because of my status as an orphan. So, like other orphans living in a society that rejects their existence, I did my best to hide my identity and the truth of my past. I lived in silence. My only “family” were my fellow orphans who faced their own struggles. Even my attempts to secure employment within a private social welfare program in South Korea ended in the devastating blow of discovering that even there, I was considered unfit for a position because of my status as an orphan.
Then, a miracle happened. I came to the US at the age of 23 to accept a job given to me by Holt International Children’s Services. Not only that, I was accepted into an American Family as one of their own. My life was complete! After a few years, I fell in love and got married. I went to college and earned a degree. My oldest daughter just graduated from college and my younger daughter is in high school.
While my life is content and blessed with so many friends and opportunities, I have observed media attention critical of children being adopted from South Korea into families in other countries. This criticism has resulted in laws discouraging international adoption and leading to greater numbers of children growing up in South Korean orphanages. My heart aches for these children because I know the future they face as adults. With my good friend, Kim’s persistent encouragement and after much prayer, I feel that God wishes me to use my unique past, the pain and the struggles I have endured, and my very personal understanding of life in Korea as an adult orphan, to help those left adrift in a society which rejects them.
God’s calling is clear to me. I must be a voice for thousands of these most vulnerable people, because even to this day, they have no place in their own country. I wish God’s love and support for them Love Beyond the Orphanage seeks to give adult orphans hope.