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The Drop Box: Saving Babies, Changing Lives

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The Drop Box: Saving Babies, Changing Lives

Film producer Brian Ivie and Focus on the Family's Kelly Rosati discuss the upcoming movie The Drop Box, a moving documentary about a South Korean pastor who has rescued hundreds of abandoned babies, many of whom have disabilities.

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Film producer Brian Ivie and Focus on the Family's Kelly Rosati discuss the upcoming movie The Drop Box, a moving documentary about a South Korean pastor who has rescued hundreds of abandoned babies, many of whom have disabilities.

Episode Transcript

Opening:

Clip:

Woman: In Korea still a lot of high schools will kick the girls out when they find out the girls are pregnant. So again, you know, they really feel like they have no choice.

Man: It’s really tremendously hard for the birth mother to raise their child in the Korean society. The peer pressure by her friends, non-acceptance by her family members on either side.

Woman: She cannot let anybody know. She can’t let her friends know. She’s just deathly afraid, deathly afraid that she will have no support, no future.

End of Clip

John Fuller: Imagine that nearly every week a baby is left outside the little church and their mother is either unable or unwilling to care for that child. And over time, hundreds of newborns and infants have actually been abandoned like that, but not to die. Instead these precious little ones, many with very serious physical afflictions, have been taken in and held and loved by a courageous man and his church in South Korea. And his story has been captured in a new, wonderful, inspiring and deeply emotional film and you’ll hear about that man and the babies and how you can be a part of that rescue effort on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, we’re gonna talk today about an incredible, I would say amazing story of what happened in one young man’s heart when he simply said, “I want to do this” and how God used those pieces to really fulfill His plan for this young man’s life. It’s an exciting story and I’m thrilled to bring it to the listeners.

John: And the young man is with us. His name is Brian Ivie. He is an award-winning director of the film, The Drop Box and cofounder of Kindred Image. And he’s written a book about his experiences, as well, called The Drop Box.

Body:

Jim: In fact, John, Focus on the Family and Kindred Image, we are releasing a film that we are partnering together on. It will release in theaters March 3rd, 4th and 5th in the U.S. and March 4th and 5th in Canada. And this is really to whet your appetite as to what you are going to see. And Brian, it is great to welcome you to “Focus on the Family.”

Brian: Thank you so much, guys. It’s awesome to be here.

Jim: Brian, I want to speak to you as an orphan. I lost my mom and dad when I was a boy and there was a lot of pain. I didn’t have physical issues. You know, in fact, I did well at school. I was an athlete, and so, that compensated some of the inner pain I was feeling. But I want to say thank you. Thank you for capturing on film what is going on in the lives of so many kids who are broken, both externally, as well as internally. And I’m excited to talk to you about this today.

Brian: Thank you; me, too.

Jim: In fact, let me just ask this, what motivated you as a 21-year-old film student from the USC—University of Southern California—by the way I really like that football team. What motivated you to do something, even when you were a non-believer? You didn’t have faith in Christ and it captured your heart. Tell us about that.

Brian: Sure. I read this article about Pastor Lee on June 20th of 2011 in the L.A. Times. And the picture that I saw was Pastor Lee, holding a baby inside this box. And for me, I felt like I was seeing something like real courage for the first time. It was like a man had built a bunker for babies and was defending it with his whole life and I wanted to know where all the love came from.

John: Let’s go ahead and set the stage here, because I think a lot of our listeners may not get the idea of a depository for babies. What exactly was Pastor Lee doing?

Brian: So, back in 2009, Pastor Lee was living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in South Korea and a baby was left in a cardboard box on his doorstep. And he thought to himself, well, it’s cold here in the winter. Maybe I need to build another kind of box. And so, he built something with an ironworker, something like you’d see at the bank.

John: Because abandoning babies on the street isn’t altogether uncommon there.

Brian: Not at all. And that comes from a culture of shame around mothers, single motherhood. And also it’s sort of a tradition in some ways. It’s not uncommon in Korea for children to be left on other people’s doorsteps, especially if children have disabilities. And so, for Pastor Lee, to keep those children safe, he thought he needed to do something else

And [he] actually saw a video about how they were doing it in the Czech Republic and sent an e-mail out to them, asking them how to build something. And when they never responded, he just decided to build something on his own.

Jim: I mean, what great courage of Pastor Lee, and we’re gonna talk more about him in a moment. But Brian, I want to get back to that motivation for you. I mean, here you are, a USC, University of Southern California film student. You read this L.A. Times article and then what do you decide to do?

Brian: Immediately after I read the article, I decided that I was going to reach out to the pastor, because I wanted to make a film on his life. And I was at a place in my story, where I was looking for something that made my breakfast cold, you know, that made my cereal soggy, because it was just that compelling. It was that story. And I wanted that in my own life with my family. I wanted us to tell stories to each other than made our food cold.

And so, when I read this story and realized that my pancakes were shriveling up, I thought, you know, this is something that’s gonna catch the attention of a lot of people, because maybe there’s something bigger going on here than just a man and a box that he built.

Jim: And so, you made the call. Did you call Pastor Lee directly? Does he speak English? How did you communicate?

Brian: I e-mailed him.

Jim: Okay.

Brian: I e-mailed him about 12 times and a month later, I got an e-mail back from the pastor and it was in broken English, Google translated and basically said this. “Dear Brian, I don’t know what it means to make a documentary film, but you can live with me if you want.”

Jim: (Chuckling) That was it.

John: Oh, my.

Jim: (Chuckling) So, what happened?

Brian: I decided to respond, “See you soon.” And about three or four months later, after we’d raised about $65,000, 10 to $20 at a time from people all around the world we never met before, mostly through our Kick Starter campaign, we flew 11 people to Seoul, South Korea to make a documentary film about the man who built the depository for disabled babies.

Jim: Now Brian, you’re really honest about the motivation. I’ve heard you speak about this before and I think it’d be refreshing for people to hear that honesty. I mean, what was the motivation?

Brian: Well, you know, there was part of me that wanted to help this family. I wanted to help this family get back on its feet or help support them in some way. But there was a bigger part of me that wanted to help myself become extremely famous. And uh …

Jim: I love that honesty.

Brian: And so, the thing was, I really wanted to go to Sundance Film Festival. People told me, “Oh, you have a savior complex. You want to go to Korea.” And I said, “No, I don’t have a savior complex; I have a Sundance Film Festival complex.” I want to be in that festival and I want to live my dream out and this man might be able to help me to do it.

Jim: And I appreciate that being on the table, because what really intrigues me about that, John, is just how God uses motivation—human motivation, good motivation, maybe not-so-good motivation. He uses all things to accomplish His purposes.

John: He can take any emotion or any motivation, as you’re saying and use it ultimately—

Jim: Absolutely.

John: –for His purposes.

Jim: And so, you don’t have to shy away from that necessarily, but it’s good to find the Lord’s work in that motivation eventually, which is exactly what happened. Brian, talk to us about everybody being there in South Korea. What began to unfold for you—

Brian: Sure.

Jim: –as you began to yell “Action?”

Brian: Well, we got there and had really no idea what we were gonna do. (Laughter) We got off the plane. It’s the first time I’d ever been out of the country, besides a cruise to Mexico. So, I was goin’ in eyes wide open. When you get to Korea, it’s sort of like going to a place that they built out of Legos when they lost the instruction manual. You know, everything just stacked one on top of the other.

We get to this orphanage and stepping inside, you have to take your shoes off, of course. And I met this pastor and it was like I understood what the Bible was talking about when it said “father.” And I didn’t fully understand that yet, but I started to. And we started making this movie. And it was putting their lives on my hard drives at first. But then it became a lot more.

Jim: Brian, take us now emotionally into that moment. It’s one thing to, from a cinematography perspective, everything you’re learning at USC—

Brian: Sure.

Jim: –being at that time, probably what, 23?

Brian: At that time, 21.

Jim: So, 21; you’re takin’ a look at this. How can I produce a film that’ll get me to Sundance? What’s happening here? And then it started to penetrate your heart.

Brian: Definitely.

Jim: Talk about those moments. What moment really grabbed you, that sunk in and said, “Wow, this is much more?”

Brian: Well, I think what needed to happen for me is, it had to go from pity to kinship. I had to see myself in these kids, because a lot of these kids had brokenness. They had disabilities and deformities. And for me, I didn’t consider myself broken. So, why would I need to be saved from anything if I wasn’t broken?

But I started watching all these videos, because they had filmed all the other drop boxes. There were 38 of them before I got there, December 2011. And I watched these videos and I just started to see myself in all these kids’ faces.

Jim: How could you do that? I mean, you’re a healthy, you know, handsome young man. What do you mean you saw yourself in them?

Brian: Well, what changed my life was realizing that who I am inside is who I am. And what people don’t realize is, that a lot of the brokenness is just in your heart and that’s what you really keep hidden. And when I met Pastor Lee and met a lot of Christians, they were people who weren’t afraid to be known. It was like they were beautifully known. And I wanted to be known like that for all the things that I had done, that I was ashamed of, that I did behind closed doors. And that’s what really started to change me, when I realized my brokenness and my deformities and my disabilities in my own heart. That’s when I broke down for the first time.

Jim: If I can press you on it, I mean, I think I’m getting it, but help me. I mean, you’re talking about seeing physical hardships in these children, but you’re looking at your heart. You look right on the outside, but there were things in your actions, in your words. What do you mean by “your brokenness?”

Brian: Well, I think the world defines sin very narrowly. You know, it’s drugs and adultery and Hitler. You know, it’s like those things are sinful. But what about my selfish ambition to go to Korea and use people for my own gain? And I had anger in me, serious anger issues.

And when I came back from Korea after this experience, I heard a sermon about Jesus Christ taking my place throughout my life. And how He took my place not just on the cross, but in all the places where I did things I was ashamed of, with a pornography addiction. Nobody really knew about that, which is something I think a lot of young men hide. And also with anger issues, that in a place like Orange County, it’s all behind closed doors, you know, behind gated communities. But all that stuff existed and it was real. And that’s what broke me down, was realizing that my sin, my brokenness, as it played out in my actions, but also as it just festered in my heart.

Jim: Brian, again I so appreciate that refreshing honesty and I think one of the things that I lament the most is, as a body of Christ over the years, the decades, we’ve learned how to play church, how to act it out, how to put on the good façade. But because we’re not being honest underneath, a lot of people that don’t know the Lord can’t connect with that. They figure okay; that person’s a lot better than me.

Brian: Totally.

Jim: We feel better about projecting that, ’cause now I feel better about you. But in reality, Jesus is saying, “No, be who you are. Let people see that brokenness and then let them see what I have done in your heart and in your life.”

Brian: Exactly.

Jim: That’s what you’re describing, isn’t it?

Brian: So many times my friends have come up to me, people that are yet to believe, and they have this misconception about Christians and of course, that’s partially our fault, because we put out that appearance. But what I tell them is, that Christians aren’t the perfect people. In point of fact, they’re the people who know they’re not even good.

Jim: Should be.

Brian: They should be. And that’s why I try to tell my story as often as I can and tell people about my brokenness, so people know that I needed to be saved. And that’s all it really meant to me.

Jim: Well, let me ask that question then. Here you are; you come over with these great Sundance ambitions to film this pastor, who’s doing something that is a bit unfamiliar for you—a Christian who is pouring out, he and his wife, pouring out love to these children who are in many ways, unwanted. I feel bad also for the moms that made those decisions. You’re absorbing all of this. How does God create that stir in your heart? How does it move to turning your attention toward Him?

Brian: Well, it’s exactly what you said, Jim. It’s that in my darkest place, I felt wanted, because I felt like it wasn’t enough to be known in my pajamas by a girl. It wasn’t enough. I had to be known all the way through. And that’s what everybody needs. They need to be fully known and fully loved. And you can’t have one and not the other. And God knew me, like He could see right through me and yet, He still wanted me. And more than that, He sent His Son to die for me, knowing all the things I would do wrong and do against Him.

Jim: Take us to that moment where you’re in this situation and your heart goes, okay, I get it and I want to be Your son.

Brian: I was sitting on my futon in my bedroom, the same futon where I had thought a lot about girls and a little bit about God, the same futon where I had written different screen plays for student films that I had made throughout my life. And I was listening to this sermon about Jesus Christ becoming my sin. And it was the same computer I had been addicted to pornography on. I was listening to a podcast. I was listening to somebody talk about this on this computer and it had to be that computer.

And it cut me up to ribbons, because I saw Jesus. It was like a movie in my mind of seeing Jesus take my place, in front of that same computer. It was seeing Jesus take my place in the relationship where I was abusive, emotionally abusive to a girl, in front of my parents where I dishonored them and screamed at them for not being enough for me, or something.

And I knew Jesus didn’t do those things, but I knew that He was punished like He had done those things. And that’s what broke me, is the replacement, the substitution and the sacrifice He took on my behalf, even though I’d done all things against Him.

Jim: Brian, so when you look at this and it unfolds and you tie all the dots together, the L.A. Times article, seeing it, taking a chance and sending dozens of e-mails to Pastor Lee, his response. You go over with the film crew. You film it; you gather it. God changes your heart in it. What are you hoping for? What are you hoping that people that see the film, March 3rd, 4th and 5th here in the U.S., March 4th and 5th in Canada, The Drop Box, when people sit in that audience and watch this film from this University of Southern California film kid (Chuckling), what are you hopin they walk out with?

Brian: I hope that they understand, hopefully a lot of people for the first time, what God’s love is truly like. Because after I got saved, after I understood that I had a father who wanted me, I went back to Korea and made a totally different movie. And that movie is a love letter from the Father to the world and all the broken and lost people like me.

Jim: That is beautiful. There’s something fresh about a person who comes to Christ, John. The newness of it, it’s like gunpowder that (Sound of “Poo!); it fires even more substantially—

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: –grander than old gunpowder. And Brian, you remind me of that. You’re like fresh gunpowder (Laughter) that the Lord had lit a match to.

Brian: Thank you.

Jim: And to be able to go to the theater and to watch your work and all those that participated with it, I think it could really do so much to revive the heart of us folks that, our gunpowder may be a little wet, and were not sure, you know, God are You still there? Do You care about me? Speak to the church directly through the microphones here at Focus. Talk to the person who, you know, maybe it’s become stale for them. You’re so fresh into it and you’re seeing God move in such a way. What would you say to that person who is 40, 45, has grown up in a Christian home, hasn’t really acted on many of the impulses that God was nudging them toward. How can they feel alive again?

Brian: I think for me, what I would say to that person is, that God doesn’t tolerate you. He didn’t just pardon you like a judge, just so you could get out of hell free, you know. He wants you and He wanted you. And I think until you feel wanted, you’ll always be an orphan in your heart, ’cause it’s only when you know how much you’re loved, that you can really serve and do all these things and act on these impulses. Because otherwise, you have this orphan spirit of, I just need and need and need and need and need and need.

Whereas, where Pastor Lee stands underneath this faucet of God’s fatherly love for him, he can just give, ’cause he’s always full. And I want to be full, so full that I can pour out without losing a drop. And I think for anybody who feels like they just have to do and do and earn and earn and earn, you can still do that, even without realizing it. But God has made us to be loved and from that place, we can do amazing things.

Jim: You’ve touched on that mentoring capacity of Pastor Lee—

Brian: Yeah.

Jim: –who again, speaks broken English. What has that been like over the last four years, to—

Brian: Oh, man.

Jim: –be his friend.

Brian: You know, that’s the best question of all. Every time I go visit Pastor Lee now, he takes a bath before I get there, just to be ready, so then when I walk into the house, that it’s like coming home for me. And he always does his hair. He usually gets a haircut before I get there and he’ll grab my hand, and he’ll take me over to the couch and pray for me and it’s always like I’ve been out at sea for like three years.

And um … and he sits me down and he can really only say the words “coffee” and “I love you” to me in English, you know. (Jim laugh) And yet, that is more than enough. And so, for me, getting to be fathered by Pastor Lee, learning how to pray with him, I usually just mimicked him, sat on my knees next to him and just copied whatever he was doing.

I realized that God’s love wasn’t too important to be in those moments. And that’s what I hope for anybody who’s lost, seeking or anybody whose faith is cool. That’s what it’s like. It’s not too important to be in moments like that.

Jim: It sounds like the Paul-Timothy relationship.

Brian: Yeah.

Jim:But you don’t have the similar language. Let me ask you this, too. I mean, it not only affected you, but people on the set, the 11 people you talked about who came, your brother—

Brian: Yep.

Jim: –as well. Talk to us about that, the impact that all of that made on them.

Brian: Well, my brother was the first one to really pursue atheism in any way in our family, in all. For me, I believed everything happened for a reason, you know, which is somewhat easy to believe. That was my stance on everything. Everything happened for a reason, especially if it was good and helped me, right.

My brother was much more inquisitive. And so, he really walked away from church. Around 18-years-old, he told my dad one day, one morning, he said, “Dad, I’m gonna stop going to church. I’m sorry. I’m an adult now; I can make my own decisions.”

And my brother, who’s here today with me, is a Christian, having gone to Korea and experienced very similar things to me. I get to shout about it a little bit more, but God did a very similar work in his heart, to draw him to Himself and it’s continuing to move throughout my household and throughout people in our lives. I mean, if you coulda seen my home three years ago. It looked nothing like the garden it does now.

Jim: That’s amazing. Your mom and dad must be going, “Wow! God is real,” to see it work in their sons’ lives like this.

Brian: Yep and they’re both goin’ to a Gospel-preaching church now.

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Brian: And I’m telling you, that is a revelation, to be at a Christmas service this year with both of my parents and my brother is nothing short of a miracle.

Jim: Brian, I want to ask you, it may be a touchy question.

Brian: Sure.

Jim: But I think it’s the right question. I’m really drawn to Romans 2:4, because in that Scripture, Paul is saying, “Do you not know that it’s the kindness of God that leads one to repentance.”

Brian: Yeah.

Jim: When I express it, sometimes people who, for whatever reason, have a problem with that, they’ll immediately try to correct that to say, “Yeah, but you know, we need to hold the culture to a higher standard of righteousness.” I am trapped by the gravity that pulls me in, in terms of God’s love and His kindness, because it is what changes the heart.

Brian: Totally.

Jim: Fighting people shuts a heart down.

Brian: Completely.

Jim: But simply doing those good things that God wants us to do seems to melt the heart of the hard-hearted. Have you found that?

Brian: Yeah, that was my life. I realized the kindness of God because it’s one thing to see God as a judge. It’s a greater thing to see Him as a Father, and I think for me, understanding the kindness of God. If I had only realized that God had pardoned me, even the words “forgiven me,” I may have just hated myself and that’s where I was for a while. From the first time I heard about the cross, I hated myself. I thought, well, if this is all true of me, then what am I supposed to do?

But then I realized that God doesn’t just tell you about your sins to make you feel bad. He tells you about it, so that you can realize how good He is in relation to it and how there’s a better way to live. And that’s what I’ve experienced, because He doesn’t just leave you in your sin. He gives you new power to get over the junk in your life, to overcome the things through His kindness, through His scandalous kindness.

Jim: Scandalous kindness, I like that.

Brian: And that’s what changed me.

Jim: It’s beautiful. Hey, here’s the bottom line. We want people to come to the theaters March 3rd, 4th and 5th in the United States and March 4th and 5th in Canada and to participate with Brian and feel the experience that he felt, to go through that and to witness those things that Pastor Lee and his wife do every day in Korea and do it with God’s love. It will change your life. And I hope after that, you’ll participate with us in being able to reach more and more orphans in the name of Jesus Christ. Brian, thank you for doing what you have done. Thank you for pursuing God’s heart with a great smile on your face.

Brian: Thank you.

Jim: We love you and we really are looking forward to the release of the film, The Drop Box.

Brian: Thanks, guys.

John: Well, I hope you’ve been inspired by today’s program and that you’re gonna learn more and get tickets. We’re gonna link over to how you can get tickets right now at www.focusonthefamily.com. And Jim, now we’d like to bring in Kelly Rosati, Focus on the Family’s vice president of community outreach joining us here in the studio. And Jim, she oversees our Wait No More orphan care efforts.

Jim: John, this is one of the most exciting things that we do and I love it and Kelly, let me welcome you in, at the end of the program here with Brian. Thanks for bein’ with us.

Kelly: Great to be with you.

Jim: Now I want to brag on you a little bit, because, you know, several years ago we started the Wait No More effort and we have literally helped families make that decision to adopt a child out of foster care and to lift up the issue that orphans face. And I just want to say thank you for comin’ in every day here at Focus on the Family, working for those over 3,000 kids that have already found a home and for the hopefully, thousands of more that will. What is exciting you about this film, The Drop Box?

Kelly: I think it absolutely captures the heart of God, as you just talked about with Brian—the love of the Father. I think it is going to be a huge impact for the Gospel. I think people are gonna be inspired to get involved to serve orphans.

And the other thing I’m excited about the film is, that I think people are gonna be inspired to get on this journey with the Pastor Lee’s and the adoptive families in their own churches and their own congregations. I just think we’re gonna see a lot of kingdom work coming as a result of this film.

Jim: And you’ve seen that in the work that you’re doing. And you’re coming from a perspective that, it’s not just do as I say, it’s do as I do. You and your husband, John have adopted four children, and you are demonstrating what should be done. Let me ask you the question I asked Brian. What do you want people walking away from the film, when they go and see it, what do you want them to do at the end of the film?

Kelly: I want them to pray and ask God, what role can we play in this? ‘Cause not everyone’s gonna know what they’re gonna do. They’re gonna feel so overwhelmed in a great way by what they just saw. And they’re gonna be inspired to do something. So, start and pray and ask God, what is it that You want us to do?

And then get connected and get involved. We’ve got resources. We’ve got opportunities and things that people can do. They can give. They can contribute to the cause of Pastor Lee and to getting orphans all around the world, including here in the U.S. into families.

They can come alongside an adoptive family in their own church. And maybe, just maybe God may call them to adopt, as well. So, first thing to do is pray and just realize that we’re not all called to adopt, but we’re all called to do something on behalf of orphans.

Jim: Kelly, that is so well-said and I think, when I look at Brian Ivie, the 24-year-old young man, I am really excited about the future, because God can take a heart. Brian said it himself; he wasn’t a believer before this experience. You never know what God’s gonna do and take this young man and all that film crew that went, that were so deeply impacted and change their lives through the process. That gives me great hope.

And what we want to do is to invite those that get excited about this, to participate with us. We’d love to build an orphanage in South Korea for Pastor Lee. We would love for the Wait No More program to be fully funded here at Focus on the Family, so more foster children could be placed into forever homes, as you call them. And that is a good goal for us to have. What else can you add to that?

Kelly: Well, I just think about the fact that God tells us, you have not because you ask not. And we want to be bold and go boldly before the throne of God and ask, not for ourselves, but on behalf of orphans around the world, and right in our own neighborhoods. God, we want You to move. And so, we’re just excited and we think that people will want to be a part of that, of raising a million dollars to be able to support orphans at home and abroad. That’s a God-goal.

Closing:

John: Well, thanks, Kelly and we’ll have all the information about the global orphan care fund that Jim and Kelly have been talking about at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time, when we’ll encourage young moms to be intentional about developing close friendships and help you and your family thrive.

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