Stephanie Fast talks about her traumatic childhood and describes how her faith in Jesus Christ has helped her find healing from past emotional and physical abuse. (Part 1 of 2)
Stephanie Fast: But for seven years, I was what they call a street child. I lived, ate and slept on the streets of Korea. We slept under bridges; we slept behind railroad stations; we slept under railroad tracks. Death was common; I saw it all the time.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That's Mrs. Stephanie Fast, describing circumstances no child should have to live in. She's our guest on today's edition of "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and Jim, this is going to be an emotional and very moving broadcast.
Jim Daly: It will, John and this message always gets such an overwhelming response from all of you. It touches a cord in all of our hearts.
Jim: As we listen to Stephanie's testimony today, let me remind you that the child who is living on the street is just as much a part of this equation as the one who's living with foster families, waiting to be adopted. It's just a different situation. And because we don't see them as much here in the United States as you would perhaps in other countries, you know, I've been able to travel around the world for Focus. It's both been a privilege and also a heavy burden to see what's happening there. We can't forget about these children.
John: Uh-hm, yeah, those orphans are made in the image of God; every child is--your children, mine and those who don't have families. And it does feel though that those kinds of very difficult circumstances, as Stephanie described in that clip, are just so far removed from our everyday lives.
Jim: You're right, John and I think Stephanie's testimony is going to help bring this issue a little closer to home. Her story ties right into Focus on the Family's recent release of The Drop Box, which shared the story of a pastor in Seoul, South Korea. Babies there are dumped on the streets and left to die, usually because they're physically or mentally impaired. Yet, Pastor Lee, he has stepped in to that void, that gap and welcomed these orphans into his home, about 5 to 600 kids. It's amazing
Jim: And not all of them are that fortunate though. Every one of these children, and I know there are millions of kids living in that space where they have nobody lookin' out for them, but these kids each have their own story to tell. And following the first part of our message today, we'll share a great way you can help these orphans. Right now, we're gonna hear from Stephanie. And John, why don't you introduce her?
John: Stephanie Fast is now married and the mother of two boys. She's the founder of Destiny Ministries and she travels across the world, literally, speaking and sharing her story of overcoming those insurmountable odds and finding life and healing in Christ.
Let me just caution you that parts of Stephanie's story might be pretty scary for younger children and just be advised to that and you don't want to raise too many questions in those little ones. Here now, Stephanie Fast on today's edition of "Focus on the Family.
Stephanie: You know, we all have a walk that God has intended us to walk and some of us have gone through some deep waters. And because of that, we understand Christ, maybe in a different light. But we've all walked through situations where we came to a point in our life where we've had to choose Christ or to reject Him, have we not? And we're all in this body because we have chosen Christ. And we all have a testimony. You know, when you share something like I'm going to share with you this morning, you're tested over and over and over and over again.
You know, I grew up thinking that if you were a Christian, that you had all the answers, that you had no problems. And I came from a home that was secure and loving and kind. And when I accepted the Lord, my life was firm in Him. And I got married and we went into the pastorate and went into churches and I found that there were wounds; there were bleeding hearts and there were people that could not identify with Christ.
Although they said they loved Jesus and although they wanted to follow Him and with all of their heart they loved the Lord as much as they could, somehow they could not accept themselves for who they really were. They could not look at the cross and see themselves on the cross. They could not see themselves as the new creation that Christ intended them to be. And I thought, "Lord, why is this?" And then the Lord started doing things in my own heart. I began to realize that I was blind in my own life.
When I accepted the Lord at the age of 15, I put the past behind me and I went on with the future, you know, because the Lord says that in the Word of God. But I also realized that I buried my past, not because of my identification with Jesus, but because I was ashamed of my past. And the Lord began to prick my heart and say, "Stephanie, before you begin to see who you really are in Me, I have to touch those areas of your life." And I said to the Lord, "Lord, no. You know, I just want to forget my past. I want to go on with my life. I want to, you know, tell everybody about the victorious life that we can have in Jesus." But He said, "Stephanie, if you don't know who you are, how can you show anybody who they are in Christ?"
And I began to let the Lord do a healing in my life. And I began to realize that it wasn't just a healing, but it was also healing of memories--that I had memories that I had buried deep, deep, deep down because I was ashamed of 'em. And I realized that as soon as I let it crop up, that my whole image of myself would crumble and I would lose my faith, I thought, but I didn't realize what Christ had intended for me.
See, I was born in Korea and I was born right after the Korean War. And I don't know if some of you older men were involved in the Korean War or not, but it was a U.N. war, so a lot of countries came to fight in Korea. It was a short war. It only lasted four years, but it divided Korea into two countries: the North and South. And families were divided. It was a civil war. It was brothers against brothers and fathers against sons and families against families. And they were divided. Some were still stuck in the North and some are still in the South. And when war comes, there's [sic] orphans everywhere, because their parents are killed or they lose contact with the parents when they're running away.
And another thing that happened was there were a lot of mixed-blood children that were born because of the foreign soldiers that had come to Korea and I was one of them. Now, you look at me, and you say, "Ah, well you look so Oriental. I mean, how can they tell that you had foreign blood in you?" You know, when I'm with the foreigners, I look real Oriental; when I'm with the Orientals, I look real Western, you know. (Laughter) I mean, I just don't fit in anywhere. And when I was younger I had lighter hair; my eyes were bigger and I just sort of stood out. And I had curly hair; Orientals don't have curly hair. And it just was like I couldn't hide myself in a group of people and people not to know who I was or what I was.
See, in that time in Korea, infanticide was rampant in that country, because babies were being born everywhere and they had no means of taking care of those little ones. Now you sit there and say, "My goodness, how could they be that way?" Hey, we live in a country where children are screaming every day and we don't hear them.
I find that people can sear their minds and seal their hearts and their ears and justify what is right and what is wrong, when the Word of God says that it is a sin. And I don't want you in any way, to sit there and think that Koreans are cruel people. God has done a work in the lives of Koreans and it is one of the lighthouses in the world today--Korea is. But there went through a time [sic] when Korea lived in darkness, when they lived in deception and when they lived in poverty and they didn't know what they were doing. And I was born in Korea at that time. I don't know why I survived, except I do believe that God had His hand on me.
See, in the Word of God, it says that the Lord knows us in secret. He knows us before we're conceived in our mother's womb and He loves us. And you and I, the Lord knew us even from the foundation of the universe and He had a plan for us.
John: This is "Focus on the Family" and Stephanie Fast returns in just a moment or two to share more from her personal story about living on the streets as a very young child. And when you donate a financial gift of any amount today to our Global Orphan Care Fund in support of orphans, we'll send you a copy of Stephanie's book, She Is Mine, which recounts her incredible journey of survival. It's a riveting read and we'll send that to you as our appreciation for your partnership with us. You can also get a CD of this moving presentation when you call 800-A-FAMILY; that's 800-232-6459 and get the instant download at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . All right, let's go ahead and return now to Stephanie Fast on today's "Focus on the Family."
End of Program Note
Stephanie: But for seven years, I was what they call a street child. I lived, ate and slept on the streets of Korea. There was not [sic] orphanages at that time. World Vision had just come in after the war, but they could not take care of all the abandoned children that were on the street. I have a funny feeling and I believe that my mother that gave birth to me loved me, because for some reason I wasn't put to death. And I was nurtured and cared for 'til the age that she couldn't hide me anymore or she could not go on with her life anymore with me as her daughter. So she took me out into the street and left me there, not because she didn't love me, but I think, in her human way of thinking, she thought that was the only way she could survive and maybe the only way I could survive.
But we slept under bridges; we slept behind railroad stations; we slept under railroad tracks; we ate what we could find. And in the summertime, I'd go up into the mountains--there'd be caves that I could sleep in. There were different kinds of grass, different kinds of roots, different kinds of animals. We learned to kill little field mice. We learned to kill little grasshoppers, little locusts. We had a lot of things to eat. I was not a malnutritioned [sic] child.
But in Korea, if you know anything about Korea, it's a little peninsula that hangs off of Siberia and it gets very, very cold. The winds blow strong and the snow comes early. And where do these little children go? I used to see with my own eyes little ones that were younger than me die every day around me and it didn't faze me one bit. Death was common; I saw it all the time.
But when I came out of those mountains and went into the villages and went into the towns, because I was different--not only was I an orphan, but I was also a half-breed. They had a word that they called me and the word is "tuki." And the translation of that word means "an alien devil." So, from the time that I can remember, it was registered into my mind that I was worthless, that I had no value, that I had a devil in me.
When you hear what you are when you're a little child, day after day, after day, you begin to believe that about yourself. I believed that they could do whatever they wanted to me physically, because I wasn't a person. I was unhuman [sic]. I was dirty. I was unclean. And even the fact that I didn't have a roof over my head, that I didn't have three square meals day or that I didn't even wear proper clothing, that didn't bother me. But what I lived with continually was the physical and the mental abuse that was given to me every day that I was out on the street.
One time I was caught by a group of men. And they took me to a building that was probably as tall as this building, but the ceiling or the roof, had been bombed by the war and they hadn't fixed it yet. And in Korea at that time we used to have rats that were as big as cats. And they were mean; they were vicious. And if they were hungry and hurt in any way, they attacked at anything that came in front of them. This building was known in the town to be the home of the rats.
They took me and another little girl that they found out on the street and I'm sure that little girl was only about 3- or 4-years-old at that time. And they took us and they threw us into that building as live baits for those rats. And for the first time, something welled up within me like a protection for that other little girl. (Weeping) And I remember; I said to myself, "We're not gonna die! We're gonna survive." And the little girl says, "But I can't. I can't. I can't." And I saw the rats eat away at that little child.
And let me tell you, I had lived on the streets for almost six years by this time. I had tasted many types of bitterness and many types of abuse, but for the first time, I knew what hate was. I hated those men with a passion. And something welled up within me that was a taste of bitterness and I swore, at the age of 6, that no matter how much they hurt me physically, they weren't gonna get to me. I wasn't gonna let anyone see me beg for mercy.
I wasn't gonna let anyone see that they could do whatever they wanted, but in no way was [sic] they gonna touch my heart I thought, not knowing that at the age of 6 I was dead emotionally. I had died emotionally. But somehow and now I know this day that it was the grace of God and it was the Angel of God; someone came to that building and rescued me.
And for a long time, I used to wonder why I survived. There were situations. I was tied to a water wheel at one time and continually dunked, hoping that I would die. I was taken to a rice paddy another time and buried alive. Another time they threw me into a well and left me there for three days. In every one of those situations, I should have died, but someone was there every time to rescue me.
When I was 7-years-old, a cholera epidemic swept through Korea killing hundreds and thousands of people. And when you are a street child living on the streets, you're one of the first ones to catch cholera and I caught cholera and I was dying on the streets. And World Vision had sent out workers out into the street and they told the workers, "You pick out the little infants or want children that are 1, 2 and 3 and just leave the rest, because we don't have room for them. We can't take care of all of them."
And there was a Swedish World Vision nurse by the name of Iris Erickson and she was responsible for a certain section of the town that I lived in. And she said she saw me laying with the rest of the garbage and rubble. And she said it was like God spoke to her and said, "That girl has a purpose in life. I want you to rescue her." But she said to God, "God, she's almost dead and besides she seems older than what [I'm supposed to bring back], " you know. And she was arguing with God there right on the street. And God said, "You take her home with you." She picked me up, took me home and nursed me back to life.
I stayed with her just for a few months and then she did find a place for me in a World Vision orphanage. But I was the oldest child in that orphanage and because I was the oldest child in that orphanage, my job was washing all the diapers.
Stephanie: And I didn't mind that. I didn't mind it, because I had now a roof over my head; I had three square meals a day. I had people that took care of me, even though the people in the orphanage, the workers, they were Christians and they cared for me, but they could not love me. You know why? I was a half-breed. I was a mixed blood.
And it had been ingrained even in the Christians that I wasn't clean, that I wasn't pure. But I liked being in that orphanage, because for the first time, I found something that I could love: I love children. (Weeping) And these little ones were tiny and helpless and the workers were too busy to really love each one of 'em individually. But I remember spending hours holding little ones in my arms and loving them.
When I was 9-years-old, something exciting happened in the orphanage. Miss Erickson came back and she said, "Oh, these foreign people are coming to the orphanage tomorrow and they're going to adopt a baby boy." And so, we were all excited. You know, we were excited for anyone that came along and took a baby, because we knew that they had a future. And so, I remember spending the whole day scrubbing the babies and making 'em as pretty as possible, you know, and puttin' little ribbons in the little girls' hair.
And I mean, you know, those poor little orphans--you couldn't really make them too pretty, you know. (Laughter) But we did it as best as we knew how. And the next day we waited with anticipation for this foreign couple to come. And let me tell you, in the World Vision orphanage, I had gone to church. I had heard the stories of the Bible and I had heard the story of David and Goliath. And when I saw that man walk through that gate, I thought Goliath had come back to life. (Laughter) I never saw anyone so big.
But I saw something and I watched that man more than I watched that lady, because see, for some reason, I despised men more than women, because I had been abused by men more than women. So I watched that man and I saw something come out of that man that I had never ever seen in any other man. You know when you see compassion--true compassion--you know it. I saw that man with these big, big, huge hands lift up each baby. And I knew that he loved every one of them as if they were his own. I saw something come out of him; I saw tears running down his face. And I knew that if they could, they would have taken the whole lot home with them.
He saw me by the corner of his eyes. Now let me tell you, I was almost 9-years-old, but I didn't even weigh 30 pounds. I was a tiny, scrawny little thing. I had worms in my body, lice in my hair, boils on my skin, scars on my body. I was not a pretty little thing. He saw me by the corner of his eyes and he came up to me and rattled away in English and I looked up at him.
And he took that huge hand of his and he laid it on my face. And it seemed to cover my whole face and the half of my body kind of like, you know. (Laughter) I mean, I'm sure I'm exaggerating, but that's what it felt like. And it felt so good and inside I was saying, "Oh, keep it up. Don't let your hand go." But you know, no one had shown that kind of affection for me and I didn't know how to respond. I was 9-years-old and didn't know how to respond to love. I yanked that hand off my face and I looked up at him. And I'm sure my eyes came to where his knee was and I spit on him.
Why would a child that needs love so desperately bad turn around and spit on the one person that seemed to love her? Because I had no emotions inside; I was dead.
If you don't believe that God is alive and that God is a God of miracles, listen to this: here is a couple that didn't have any children. They had been married for 11 years and the Lord hadn't blessed them with a child. They came to Korea, the land of opportunity. They could have taken 10 home and the orphanage would have clapped for them, you know. My mother was watching from across the courtyard and my dad was standing in front of me. At the same moment God spoke to them and said, "That's the one for you."
John: Oh, that ... that moment brings me to tears as I think of what that must have been like. We're listening to Mrs. Stephanie Fast on today's "Focus on the Family."
Jim: John, I'm not sure what's going through your mind right now as you're listening to that, but I know as a father, it was painful to think of a precious little girl, never knowing the security and assurance that a family could bring during those difficult times. I think of her on the streets on her own during the time of the war and what she was going through. It just made me want to put my arms around her as a small child and tell her that God loved her.
Jim: I mean, man! That's so critical. I was that kind of child. I know that pain.
John: Well, that's exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about and feeling, Jim. Those circumstances she described and just for that revelation to her parents, individually, but as a couple together for God to say, "That's the one. I want you to choose her." Wow!
Jim: And think of that feeling that she had when she learned that God had spoken to their heart.
Jim: That must have given her as a little girl, a deep sense of confidence. And you know what? I believe God places people like that in our paths for just that purpose, to show His love to us at a dark moment. He has a very special plan in His heart for each one of us and I think, really especially the orphan. And you know what? He may want to use someone like you to fulfill that plan.
John: And in fact, Jim, the last time we aired this story, a mother of two adopted Korean children wrote us to say that when she heard Stephanie's testimony, it moved her so much, she almost went to fill out the paperwork for a third child right then and air and added that they probably would file that kind of paperwork very soon.
Jim: Oh, I love that, John. I mean, that proves [that] just a little attention, shine the light on the problem and good people will do good things.
And you know what? You folks listening to "Focus on the Family," you're good people. And I think together we can do so much. Not everyone may be called to adopt. You might not be in a place where it's feasible. I know Jean and I had foster children in for about six months and all the kids were about the same age and it was not helpful or healthy for everyone. So, we had to back off of that. Right now, I'm hopin' we'll come back to that. We're gettin' up there in years, but there'll be a time that we can look at that again.
One way you can accomplish is by donating to our Global Orphan Care fund. This is a way for you to directly engage. We mentioned The Drop Box at the top of the program. And we have partnered with the young filmmakers of this film to establish the Global Orphan Care fund, which will support the ongoing work of Pastor Lee's ministry in Seoul, South Korea, as well as our own adoption and orphan care initiative. We're hoping to raise $1 million by this August to support domestic and international orphan efforts. Join us by donating today. Your gift will help save the life of an orphan child. I can't put it any more bluntly than that. In fact, if you call or go online to donate to the Global Orphan Care fund, we'd like to send you a copy of Stephanie Fast's book, She Is Mine, as our way of sayin' thank you. And let me say on behalf of all of those precious kids, thank you. Thank you for standing in the gap for them and helping them through your support of the Global Orphan Care fund.
John: And you can donate to that special fund when you call us at 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or find details about the book and donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. As Jim said, as a way of expressing our gratitude for your financial partnership with us in saving orphans worldwide, we'll send a copy of Stephanie's book, She Is Mine, which recounts her journey in great detail and it's an unforgettable read of being abandoned in the Korean countryside and how God carried her through such difficult circumstances into a life of knowing love and hope. Now that's what we're trying to accomplish with our Global Orphan Care Fund and we're excited to have you become part of that. So, please donate today and as I said, we'll send that book to you, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow for more from Stephanie Fast and her amazing story, as we once again, help your family thrive.
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Stephanie FastView Bio
Stephanie Fast is a sought-after international public speaker, a passionate oprhan care advocate and an author. She encourages audiences with her compelling story of God's grace, love and healing in the wake of her horrific childhood experiences as an abused orphan during the Korean War. Stephanie has appeared on radio and TV programs, and in books, magazines and newspapers. She has served as a spokesperson for World Vision and is the subject of a documentary drama film produced by World Vision called Stephanie's Story.