Meeting George

In a recent post, I shared a newspaper article I read about the desperate plight of North Korean children and what one man is doing to help them. I actually lost a lot of sleep over this story. One night, I “Facebook stalked” George Rhee, the man I’d read about who runs four bakeries and is now funding a secret safehouse for the North Korean kids in China who will otherwise starve or be picked up by human traffickers. I was just curious what a public figure doing such a wonderful and important thing posts on his wall. I was surprised at the humble, everyday look (and modest number of “Facebook friends” of this sweet 58 year old man’s posts and info. I wrote him a short message of encouragement, asked some questions about his ministry, and offered to help if he needed anything.

Several days later, Josh and I found ourselves traveling halfway across the country to meet with this man. George lives in the UK but just happened to be in South Korea and in response to my message, asked if we could have coffee. Not sure, I wrote explaining my being quite far from where he was. But then his colleague, Dr. Vanderschaaf, contacted me too. She expressed how grateful she was that young people like Josh and I took time to enquire into what they were doing (Which made me think– shouldn’t young people like Josh and I especially be the ones who are taking time for the most needy, those of whom Jesus said, “I was hungry, and you fed me” or “I was in prison, and you visited me?”). That thought alone reassured me that this was worth checking into, to see if these were people God had really placed in our way for a reason.

When we got to our meeting spot a few days later, a short, soft-spoken man with kind eyes and a simple, tidy demeanor greeted us. I wasn’t sure what to expect from our meeting, but in that first hour of conversation I discovered two things.
As I watched my new friend tenderly thumb through the pages of a decidedly conventional-looking photo album, I got the distinct impression that we were in the presence of both humility and authenticity. He didn’t seem to think that what he was doing was extraordinary. He certainly did think that it was extraordinarily necessary, but he just didn’t see himself as anything special.

After a while, I had to ask, “George, how did you do this? Everyone knows that even the UN can’t even do what you do.”

He looked up from his pictures and said, “Well, there’s a North Korean Embassy in the UK.” He paused, acting as if that explained everything. (Duh. Who wouldn’t go in and ask if they could you know, drop on in and undertake what has been proven to fail by the most powerful NGOs of our time in the most politically hostile environment on the planet).

He continued, “I just asked for a permit, and then later, I went to visit … so then we opened the bakery. Now we have four.” Just like that.

Our little interview continued into the evening. Over dinner we enjoyed a precious time of fellowship, and I was amazed at the simple obedience of an everyday person who is doing something that few other organizations can do– go into North Korea and help kids who are dying of starvation.

He told us how orphan kids there are put into holding rooms in the concentration camps, just to “clean up the streets”, where they will probably all freeze to death by the end of winter. He explained how he tried to make an orphanage within the country for these kids, but he was turned down. Still, he sends his workers to bring food into the camps when he gets the access. The four bakeries feed children who live in the cities where the bakeries are located.

But now, he’s trying to save more. He put money down on a property in a secret location where children at risk for trafficking or starvation can be given safety, shelter and experience the love of Christ through workers there. George has been working hard to promote the orphanage, which needs to be paid for sometime in June. He’s asked for help to find the funds to make it possible.

Once again, his incredibly modest character blindsided me as the power he’d providentially been given became glaringly obvious. “I have a seven minute speech at the White House next week. I’m really nervous,” he confessed.

Needless to say, Josh and I are offering some of our time over the next few months

to help make this project known. We’d love it if you will join us in caring for these children that probably won’t survive without this intervention. If you want to know more, please visit the North Korea tab on the menu bar of our blog, where you can read more about North Korea, follow the links to George’s website or even read the newspaper article that first told me about George.

If you already know you want to give, please follow this link to George’s website, and look for the link on the left where you can give via the Paypal website. Choose the option where it says to give in GBP or Euros, as you can type in the left hand side that you want to give to the orphanage specifically as opposed to flour for the bakeries. It’s okay if you don’t have Paypal, just use your credit card or VISA debit card as a guest.

If you are Korean or live in Korea and you prefer to use your banking account, the information you need is below.

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