In 2011, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on a South Korean pastor grieved over the number of abandoned babies in his country. Families would leave their babies—often born with special needs—in the harsh winter elements. Many didn’t survive. As he wondered how he could help people in desperate situations, he decided to build a baby box that he installed in a wall in his house. Parents could anonymously leave their baby in the box where he or she would be safe. Through this box the pastor and his wife rescued disabled orphans and adopted several of them. They embraced the same children that others discarded. And people noticed.
A Californian film student read the article and immediately saw the possibility of the story. He contacted the pastor to ask about doing a documentary, and a few years later, The Drop Box was completed.
But there is more to making a movie than what we see onscreen. In this case, there was much more.
In The Drop Box (talking about the book now), director Brian Ivie begins by telling about his childhood interest in films and filmmaking. Growing up he watched multiple movies every weekend, and he often roped in the neighbor kids (and even his dad) to make home movies he directed. Throughout the book Brian also reveals relational strains between him and his family and his eventual pornography habit.
But then, during his junior year in college, Brian read about the South Korean pastor. Here was a real story—he knew that from his years of watching stories. This would be the movie he would make. Maybe he would take it to a festival. Maybe he would win an award.
So Brian and a team he gathered traveled to South Korea to meet a pastor. Very quickly Ivie recognized the differences in their goals for this movie. “‘I don’t want it to be about me,’” Pastor Lee told him. “‘It needs to be about saving lives.’”
Soon Brian met an unexpected character in the story, the Lees’ biological adult son, Eun-man. Due to a medical condition, Eun-man lives in a dark room of the house, unable to do anything for himself. His parents and other caretakers feed, clothe, and bathe him, as well as provide routine, nauseating medical care on a daily basis.
Brian came home with hours upon hours of footage—and continued bondage to his sin.
Who bought what?
“When people would ask me why God existed, I had answers in the chamber…I knew about the plans of God and the beautiful purposes God has for our lives. I knew about the goodness of God and the provision of God. I knew that God cared about me personally and that He was real. But when people would ask me about the cross, that’s when I had to repeat somebody else’s words. On the first trip, I really flaunted my wooden cross necklace, you know, the one I bought on Amazon for eight dollars…But at some point, the cross can’t just be something you buy on Amazon. It has to be what bought you.”
God continued to work on Brian’s heart. One day he listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll that grabbed him from the first point. He realized not only that he was a sinner and that God could rescue him, but also that God provided the love of a father he hadn’t known he needed.
“It was the first time I realized why God wanted me to meet Eun-man, the child who couldn’t offer anything to anybody except problems. For the first time in my life, I realized I was just one of those kids too, with nothing to offer a perfect God except my sin. I was a broken child, bound up in the dark and then suddenly pulled out through the laundry room, by a Father, into the light.”
The Baby in the Box
He pulled out his footage and notes again. The movie would go a new direction. But he needed to see Pastor Lee again.
Brian and his team were once again welcomed into Pastor’s Lee’s home, this time with all the excitement as if he were a returning family member. And with his recent conversion, he was.
During their visit, as they were playing with the children, the alarm sounded. Pastor Lee and his wife weren’t there, but everyone else leapt into action. There was a baby in the box.
Before his salvation, when Brian directed movies with his friends, he saw the people around him as props instead of souls. When he first visited South Korea, he carried the same attitude. But this time, as a child of God, watching the rescue of a baby, Brian saw things—and people—differently.
“I did know he and I weren’t that different. Because I was an orphan once. Even with nice parents and a nice house, I was an orphan in my heart. I was begging for people to love me, to approve of me, to want me. And what I learned is that when you’re an orphan, even just in your heart, you can love only those who will love you back…But as a child of God, you can be completely alone and still love people who have abandoned you…[W]e’re all orphans until we know how much we’re loved.”
Brian’s life kept changing. His family life, his goals, his dating relationships. He shares his journey with openness, and his tongue-in-cheek humor coupled with countless movie references makes for a leisurely read. The movie did go to a festival, but I’ll let Brian tell you about that.
The Drop Box (the movie) tells an inspiring story of a man loved by God who spends his strength and time loving others. The Drop Box (the book) shows us how those stories can inspire new stories. Stories just as amazing.
“So, yeah, I became a Christian while making a movie. And that’s funny to me because before that, movies were God to me. They were everything. Just like success or fame or security is to other people…If I’m honest, I have to admit that when I went to meet this man in South Korea, I thought I was there to save a bunch of helpless kids. But the funny thing about God is He is always the Savior. Because when it comes down to it, we’re all the ones who need to be saved.”