By Sandra McLaughlin, Branch Director, Bethany Christian Services of Western Pennsylvania
The effect of the Korean War in the 1950s was devastating. Hundreds and hundreds of husbands, wives, and children were captured by North Korean military. Having once lived in a free country, those taken as prisoners in North Korea were not allowed any communication with their families. For many in South Korea, it was necessary to marry again . . . and start over.
In addition to this and while attempting to recover from the aftermath of war, thousands of babies were born in South Korea, a country known to take great pride in the pure blood of its ancestors. Women, raised to believe children born with blood of two races are dishonorable, abandoned their mixed-race babies in public places.
I was one of those babies.
Orphanages were flooded with children. International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were already in-country assisting with the needs, but it was more than they could handle. The hearts of Harry and Bertha Holt were touched and they traveled to South Korea to help orphaned children. As a result, they adopted eight Korean children into their family. Their story flooded media networks and filled their mailbox with letters of interest in adoption. And so, the Holt Agency aka Holt International Children's Services began in 1955.
In the early years, Harry Holt (better known as Grandpa Holt) gathered children into his care and worked through the international adoption process to find them loving Christian families. In 1961, Holt opened their orphanage in Ilsan, hiring David H. Kim to be his assistant. Grandpa Holt and David Kim worked tirelessly to care for children and work through the Korean adoption process. David Kim accompanied the babies on every flight to the United States where their new families awaited them. Most flights carried at least 80 children. My flight carried 85 children (mostly infants) to the U.S. and was forced to land in Japan due to engine trouble, delaying my arrival by a few days. To date, Holt International Children's Services has placed more than 40,000 Korean children in the U.S. families.
Last year, on a homeland trip I led for Korean adoptees, I stood in the park at the DMZ (a joint security area between the borders of North and South Korea) looking toward North Korea. The fence is covered with photos of loved ones and white pieces of fabric with scrolled prayers on them. I too scrolled a prayer for whoever might be there for health and peace.
It is the hope that families torn apart by war will be united . . . someday.
I am saddened by the current news of North Korea and my thoughts and prayers go out to those who continue to endure through hard times. But I am thankful for God's plan in giving me a family through the tragedy of the war. I am thankful for Isaiah 43:5 (NLT) which called Grandma Holt to begin their work finding families for orphaned children, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west.
For more information on international adoption, visit www.bethany.org.