Dear friends and family: Good morning! The Christmas story from Jack which I shared with you yesterday really hit home to me, as I was sent to Korea in 1956, just before Christmas, and when I arrived at my headquarters and got situated, our first Christmas meal was shared with children from a Korean orphanage coming to eat with us that day. We each took charge of one of the orphans and helped them dish up their food on the trays in the mess hall, and sat with them while they ate. Most of the children did not eat all we dished up for them as it was very rich, but we enjoyed sharing our meal with them.
Later after we finished eating, we went with the children to watch a cartoon movie at the theater, and the little girl I sat by was shivering because it was very cold, and she had no coat nor shoes but simply wore a rubber type of shoe with no stockings and scanty clothes. . Besides she could not see very well over the heads of those in front of her, so I picked her up and sat her on my lap, and wrapped my field jacket around her to help her get warm. When the movie was over, she was sound asleep.
That night, I sat in the library and wrote of my experience to my dear mother, Jennie May Woodbury Lee, who had raised 11 children of her own, and shared my heart with her, with tears flooding my face, even as they are at this moment, as I share with you what took place as a result of that experience.
Two weeks after sending my letter to her, I received one from her with tear stains on it, telling me that she cried as she read of my experience, and decided she had to do something to help them while I was there. She told me she was going to the newspaper and would be announcing her Korean Orphan Aid project to raise 1,000 pounds of clothes and shoes and other things which she thought they would be able to use. Which happend in a very short time.
Another letter came, telling me she had exceeded the 1,000 pounds and was preparing to ship them over to me, and had changed her goal to 2,000 pounds. And before I got anything, another letter came, announcing that she had filled that goal, and had changed it to 5,000 pounds.
Then the burlap sacks started arriving, containing the things which she had collected, and so I met with our Company Commander who gave me permission to use one of the Army vehicles to deliver the clothes to the orphanage, which I did.
Pretty soon I received another shipment, and delivered it to another orphanage down the road, and was privileged to see the beautiful faces of the children as my friend and I took bags of things to their orphanage.
This went on for months, and mom's goals kept growing, and by October of 1957, I received a letter from mom that she was determined to collect dolls and coats and warm winter clothes to send over, along with the food she had collected as well, but the problem was that she had no idea what sizes to ask for, but would send what she could collect. And soon the coats began being deposited at her collection stations around the area, which she visited almost daily, racking up some 200 miles on our little car, and in addition to that, wearing out her washer and sewing machine to fix up and clean up those things which needed repairing or washing.
So I went to our tailor shop set up on our compound, and told them what we were planning on doing, which was operated by Korean tailors, and they said that if I would bring the coats to them, they would take them apart and remake them to fit each of the children just outside of our compound, which they were willing to do at no charge, since we were willing to do all that we were doing to help the orphanage children out, supplying food and clothes as well as school supplies and other things which were given to mom to share.
Needless to say, I was crying as I shared the good news with my mother in a letter to her, and she cried, too when she read it.
At the time, my folks and younger brothers and sisters lived on an 85 acre farm, and mom had set up a little stand outside on the side of the street, selling Christmas and greeting cards to raise money to help pay for the shipping and other expenses which she encountered, and also to sponsor one of the little orphan girls at one of the orphanages near Seoul, Korea, whose name was Lee Eun Ok. She told me she was sending 200 dolls which she had received from various places and people, so I could give them to the orphan girls there, and was going to be sending a couple of boxes of Christmas gifts for me to deliver to Lee Eun Ok for her very own Christmas presents.
As the coats began coming in, I took them to the tailor shop and they made arrangements for Pastor Eun Sik Kim who was in charge of the orphanage just outside of our compound, to bring the children into the shop so they could take measurements needed to make the coats over to fit them, being ready for Christmas day, 1957, which they did, and began the project of tailoring the coats to fit each one of them.
That Christmas day, I didn't get to eat Christmas dinner with the orphans, as my friend and I had loaded the 2 1/2 ton truck with the things we had received from her to deliver to various other orphanages there along the route to Seoul, and to find Lee Eun Ok so we could deliver her presents which mom so lovingly had put together for her, which included a big doll, almost as big as she was, and when we finally located the orphanage where she lived, we drove our big truck into the orphanage area, and announced that we had come with presents for Lee Eun Ok, and wanted to know if she was there. She was.
They brought her out and sat a table near the doorway, surrounded by many children, as they watched her open her presents, and take the big doll and strap it on her back just like the mamasans carried their babies, so that she could parade around and show it off to all the other little orphans there. I was crying as I watched her big smiles, and those of the other orphans there. So after we had given her her presents, we unloaded the other things which we had left in the truck, and gave them to the workers to destribute among the orphans and to use wherever they were needed.
One thing I wanted to share with you was that mom was sending $15.00 a month to the orphan aid society in Korea to sponsor Lee Eun Ok throughout the time I was stationed in Korea, even though money was scarce, and times were hard with 5 children still at home to provide for.
By the time I left Korea in February or March of 1958, mom had sent over 40,000 pounds of food, clothes, school supplies, shoes, and 200 dolls which I was privileged to share with the orphanages there in that war torn country of Korea, and the last shipment was sent after I returned home from Korea, and I had the opportunity of helping to prepare that shipment which mom had so diligently accumulated to be sent there to the Mission President in Seoul Korea to be shared through the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with those in need.
Thank you for listening. Your friend and brother. Jim