“Never look down on a person… unless you are helping them up.” Author Unknown
A longing for freedom from the oppression of his home country and a desire to seek God, Donghyun Kim made a heartbreaking decision that would change his life forever. Kim grew up in North Korea and as a young adult his desire to leave the tyrannical, nanny-state grew stronger. The inclination to be free from the chains of the North Korean government became hard to ignore one day as he watched several families being dragged from their homes and beaten. So, in the guise of a business trip Kim left his home, his wife, and, with the help of an escape broker, escaped to South Korea.
After some time, Kim was able to contact his wife and ask her to follow him to North Korea’s peaceful neighbors. He knew that this would not be an easy thing. She would have to cross a frozen river, climb over barbed wire, and spend months hiding from the North Korean government. The one request that Kim asked of Song was that she pray for a safe journey.
Never having been religious before, even the concept of God was new to them. Song was confused but did as her husband requested. Both Kim and Song prayed for a safe journey and that they would soon be reunited in South Korea. On foot, by bus, and over the water, Song eventually made it to her husband and freedom. Grateful to be together again, the two North Korean natives began to rebuild their lives in South Korea. Kim’s desire to know God led him to take a leap of faith and take a risk to be free, knowing that if he failed the price was his life or the lives of his loved ones.
In time, Song’s desire and faith in God led them to America. They now live in the land of the free, free themselves and grateful to be together–building a life and family in the United States.
Although amazing and powerful, Kim and Song’s journey isn’t new, there are many people every day who are escaping terror, tyranny, and heartache. Escaping for their lives, desiring freedom from whatever nightmare is behind them. The courage that it takes to leave your home and loved ones, and travel to a new land seeking refuge is nothing short of miraculous, admirable, heroic, and any other adjective that could describe such a harrowing journey.
A lot of times when a refugee finally makes it to a safe haven, whatever land or location that might be; when they have finally crossed those borders, climbed those fences, or faced those risks to be free of their torment, they often need the hands of kind strangers to help them rebuild the lives they left behind.
Lifting Hands International is trying to do just that. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to helping refugees with resources and supplies–doing what they can to relieve some of the weight of fleeing to a new land. Founder and director of LHI, Hayley Smith works tirelessly day after day, creating a safe place to land for those who need it the most. Their work started with Ms. Smith while she was working with the recent refugee crisis in Greece. After seeing the immense lack of supplies and support, she went home and decided that more had to be done. She donated what she could collect in two months and sent a container of those supplies to Lebanon. But she knew that she could do more, so she began the organization Lifting Hands International and with generously donated money they have established themselves in several different locations and provided much needed items to refugees in crisis.
Lifting Hands International currently works with emergency aid in Greece and France. They have donated a second container to Lebanon, they paid for further containers to be shipped to Greece from collection teams in the UK, and in a refugee camp in Greece they have full-time volunteers dedicated to helping those refugees in crisis. According to their Facebook “about” page, the organization “purchase and distribute milk-producing goats for vulnerable Syrian refugee families in Jordan.” They “have a team of dedicated volunteers who provide services and meaningful activities to Yazidi refugees living in a camp in Serres, Greece.” They also “collect, sort, and ship aid from [their] warehouse in Utah to refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.” And as if that wasn’t enough, they also “furnish incoming refugee apartments in the Phoenix Valley using community donations.”
Their mission statement says it all; “We provide humanitarian aid to refugees, both home and abroad. No politics, simply humanitarian.” This organization, these volunteers, and Hayley Smith are making a difference in these refugees’ lives by doing something we can all do – reaching out their hands. We too can make a difference by reaching out our hands. It is really the least we can do to help those who have sacrificed everything to be free.
Kim’s Story: “2018 Freedom Award Recipients.” Freedom Festival Magazine June 2018: 18. Print.
Author: Briana Pugh
Growing up my Dad always told me one thing that really made an impression–I am an independent person and I have complete control over my thoughts, words, and actions. It is a foundational belief that I have held since that time. I believe in taking responsibility for our actions and feel that the old saying “nobody can make you do anything,” is one of the truest statements ever made. I believe that we should all be agents that act and that are not acted upon. Which is why I chose that saying as a tagline; “The effectiveness of a gym is not dependent on the people who exercise there.” When we go to the gym, it doesn’t matter who is working out there or what they think about you, when you walk into that gym no one is going to make you lose weight or do it for you. YOU control you and you get out of the world (or gym) what you put into it. I strive to live my life with that mindset every day.
I am a mom of three wonderful children–a spunky girl and two rambunctious boys; each a character in their own way. I am married to a kindhearted man who loves me and supports me in every way. He inspires me every day to do my best and he has made my life 100% better. I graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. One of the first books I ever read was Danger at the Fair and from that book I wanted to be a writer. My main goal in my writing is to inspire others and spread truth. I have a passion for truth and God and hope to inspire others with that passion.
I am also a lover of movies, watching and making them. I love to read (duh). When the day is done, and my kids are asleep I enjoy sitting down to watch a good show while eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Just plain vanilla ice cream, no toppings, no fuss. That’s exactly how I like my life–a little sweet, no extras, and definitely no fuss.
I am not perfect, and I try every day to make improvements in my character. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it is that belief that drives me every day. I believe that happiness happens within you. If you want to be happy, BE HAPPY.