By Joanna Delalande
Filming a documentary about a pastor’s love for abandoned babies brought Brian Ivie to an astounding realisation
In one unique home in Seoul, South Korea, the sound of a doorbell makes the residents' hearts drop.
This bell signals that a baby has entered the baby box outside Pastor Lee Jong Rak's house and has been tragically abandoned by their parents.
"During dawn, when it's quiet," Pastor Lee says. "Imagine hearing this sound.
"[When I hear it], with my heart beating fast, I run down. I take the baby out. 'Thank You, God, for saving this child's life'. I pray like that and hug him or her in my arms."
Pastor Lee created the baby box after On-ew, a little girl with a disability, was left at their doorstep.
And she was not the only one— only most parents who abandoned their babies left them on the streets where many ended up dying before help arrived.
The box was created as a safe place where families could drop off their children anonymously so they could be cared for and loved.
Over 600 babies have come through the baby box since it opened in 2009. And this issue is not specific to Seoul; around the world more than 150 million orphans await families.
One of the many children rescued by Pastor Lee is Nathan.
"I named him," the pastor says. "He is visually impaired and has brain lesions. People call it 'no-brain disease'. He can't even swallow food easily. He wears diapers like a little kid.
"Nathan... He's a gift from above. That's what God told me."
Pastor Lee introduces us to Nathan in a documentary called The Drop Box directed by Brian Ivie.
It is a confronting and heartbreaking film in as many ways as it is an inspiring story of love and selflessness; but no one has felt the impact of this story as strongly as Brian himself.
On June 19, 2011, the film student read an article in the Los Angeles Times titled "South Korean pastor tends an unwanted flock".
Thinking this intriguing story would make for a documentary worthy of the Sundance Film Festival; Brian flew to Korea to film it.
In talking to Pastor Lee throughout the making of the documentary Brian realised the man was, as he describes him, "the real deal".
"This is a regular dude," he remembers thinking. "He actually talks about his brokenness and all his issues, how he was saved out of a gutter of alcoholism and rage. And now he saves kids.
"He talked about his bare-knuckled boxing fights, how he beat up the president of his work and sent him to hospital for three weeks, how he even aborted a child with a disability.
"I saw somebody who wasn't afraid to be known, and who was now free of all that stuff."
What Brian also experienced with Pastor Lee, he says, was a genuine love for the first time.
"Love that wasn't about being weak at the knees, but something that was gritty and something that was sacrificial.
"Seeing this pastor and how he had drawn a line in the sand and said, 'No one dies here,' and had built, in some ways, a bunker for babies and said, 'I'm going to take care of you. I'm going to go after you, even though you may never know that I've done this for you, even though you may never know that you needed to be rescued'."
Back home after filming was over, Brian heard a podcast about how Jesus Christ took our place, died for us out of sacrificial love, and he realised the kind of love Pastor Lee had had for his children was the same love God had for His own children— us.
"When I heard that Jesus Christ took the punishment of sin for me, it was like watching a movie in my head," he says.
"I saw Jesus take my place in front of a porn-filled computer, in an emotionally abusive relationship, and in many other shameful places. And then I watched Him go to the cross, in my place, for my sin. I hated myself for that.
"And yet, at the same time, I finally felt known. And when I was known, I felt loved."
After this revelation in 2012 Brian flew back to Korea to retell the story, this time from the perspective of love.
His film, released through Focus on the Family and Pine Creek Entertainment, has already won numerous awards at film festivals.
"The Bible says he who has been forgiven much, loves much," Brian says. "And well, that's me now."?
“He had drawn a line in the sand and said, ‘No one dies here’. ”