My earliest childhood memory is when I was around five years old living at a home for babies. At the age of six, I was moved to an all-girls children’s home and grew up there until I graduated from high school. I have no memories of my parents or relatives. I only know that my mom was an unmarried single mother, which I learned from the director of my children’s home.
Before I entered into school, I spent most of my days with the other girls from the children’s home. I remember struggling with the new environment and being fearful of the older girls at the home. When I entered into elementary school, my classmates started to make fun of me for being an orphan. It was then, for the first time in my life, that I realized I was an orphan. I was always a target for ridicule and I often was beaten by other kids both at school and at the children’s home. When I look back, the most difficult thing was the thought that there was no one to protect me and that I was always alone. In middle and high school, I tried my best to make friends and to fit in with everyone. I also tried to avoid being bullied. I disguised myself perfectly so that no one would ever find out about my background. I always struggled with the fact that I was all alone in this world and with the stigma of being an orphan.
But then in high school I met a volunteer teacher named Mijeong Song. I was immediately comforted to have someone to whom I could be honest about my background and share openly about the things in my heart. Mijeong taught me for about a year and then we continued our relationship even after I entered college.
College days were different than I expected. I thought college would be filled with freedom but instead it was filled with struggles. After leaving the children’s home, for the first time in my life I had to take care of myself with everything including food and clothes. It was a very lonely time. The stipend money of 5,000,000 KRW (approximately a little less than $5,000 USD) that was given by the Korean government was not enough even to survive one semester after paying for college tuition, which was over 3,000,000 KRW. Therefore, I had to get a job during the daytime and attend classes at night. Children, who have similar background stories as I do, usually begin a day at 6 o’clock in the morning and end it past midnight with no time to rest in between. Therefore, many children quit their studies in the middle and struggle through life. I had a difficult time as well, but because of my fear of the future I somehow persevered to finish college. During that time I had to keep up with the brutal schedule for three years without getting any rest. I couldn’t imagine having other things in my schedule other than school and work.
If I didn’t have Mijeong in my life, it would’ve been impossible for me to survive my adolescent days and those difficult times in college. Mijeong gave me strength and encouragement when I was going through my lonely days and when I was depressed from my busy schedule. She would meet up with me to treat me to delicious meals and she became joy and energy in my life. She also spoke dreams over me and told me about love that I never heard before. She always encouraged me that I was a loved person. She spoke over me that God is training me through my difficult life and He is dreaming a greater dream for my life. I found and experienced that God is always there for me and He is always protecting me. Mijeong cried with me when I was afraid of the fight against this world, and she also encouraged and poured out her wisdom upon me. I don’t remember when I started to believe this, but I know for sure that God is going to use me. God is going to encourage others through my life.
Although I finished school and have a regular job as an adult now, I still meet up with Mijeong often. I hope and dream of becoming someone like Mijeong to give inspiration, love, and strength to other children like me.