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A Box, Abandoned Babies and the Boy Who Got Saved, or How God Used a Broken Rich Kid From California to Preserve the Legacy of a Pastor in Korea

South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-rak's Drop Box for Abandoned Newborns Winds Up Saving Eager US Filmmaker

A Box, Abandoned Babies and the Boy Who Got Saved, or How God Used a Broken Rich Kid From California to Preserve the Legacy of a Pastor in Korea

CP: Tell me a little about your family.

Ivie: I have a little brother named Kevin who also became a Christian during the process of making this movie. He went on the first trip to South Korea with me. I have a mom and a dad who are still very much together, which I know is sort of a rare thing nowadays. And they supported me like nobody's business.

CP: You kind of describe yourself as spoiled rich kid in the book. But I don't know if that's a fair assessment, if that's how you would actually describe yourself.

Ivie: Oh yeah. Self-proclaimed spoiled rich kid. I mean, I went to the university of spoiled children (University of Southern California ). For me — that's the thing. This book is a song for the suburbs, right? The story for all these kids who grew up in America, who grew up in suburbia that never ran a cartel or were a part of the slave trade but have things they need to be forgiven for.

A little boy came up to me the other night after a screening and said, "What was your greatest mistake in life?" And I told him it was thinking that I was too good to need God's forgiveness. I think for people what they see in this book, is they don't see this beat-you-over-the-head Bible-thumping testimony. They just see a kid who left his comfort zone never thinking anything of Christianity or that I needed to be saved… I really came to a realization that I was broken and that I need to be forgiven for some stuff.

Even in suburbia, behind closed doors there's a lot of darkness, there's a lot of pain, a lot of bad things are going on. So I wanted to kind of blow the lid off of this whole idea that there's good people and bad people, and the good people have the nice cookie-cutter houses and they live cookie-cutter lives and the bad people all go to prison.

A lot of times people come up to me and say, "So wait, aren't Christians the perfect people? They seem to condemn us all the time." And I say, "No, Christians aren't the perfect the people. The people that really understand the gospel know that we're not even good." And I know that perfectly well. But the amazing part about knowing you're not good is that it actually sets you free, because then you surrender. And you get a new life, the one Jesus Christ paid for with his.

CP: Do you belong to a church?

Ivie: I do. I go to a church called Reality L.A. which is on Sunset Boulevard, which is pretty rad for me because they do baptisms on Sunset and everybody's like, "What's going on here? This is crazy." But I think that's part of the point. I want to be bold and loving with my faith, you know. The Bible talks about how you can say a bunch of really Christian things but if you say it without any love it'll just sound like noise, it'll just be a bad band.

But for me, I want to say all the things that I believe to be true because only those things that can really set a person free from the shackles of pornography, abuse, whatever it is, the patterns in their life. But at the same time, there's gotta be compassion and mercy and love in your voice, because Christianity's shared heart-to-heart. That's my hope for the book, that people would see something way more relatable than some canned testimony. They would see somebody...I lived the normal, clean-cut American dream life, and I need to be saved too.

Pastor Lee Jong-rak and Brian Ivie. | (Photo: thedropboxfilm.com)

CP: What's your relationship like with Pastor Lee?

Ivie: For me, Pastor Lee is my spiritual dad, so the connection, the contact with him is pretty frequent. I [intelligible] text his (adopted) son Ruri all the time through Kakaotalk, which is like this Korean texting app that's free. For me, Pastor Lee... I mean, I try to go there at least once a year. I'd like to go there without any cameras as often as I can. Even though my first trip was about using this family for my own fame and to tell their story so it would benefit my career, now it really is what Pastor Lee always wanted. It's me coming to live with him.

At the end of the day… I'll tell you this. I actually spent opening night of the movie in an airport in Miami, because of the weather. So I never went to the opening night of the movie. But that's OK, because it was never really about a movie. It was always about people and people that need hope, whether it was in South Korea or at Gate B36.

CP: You put the founding date of Kindred Image as 1987...

Ivie: That's when Pastor Lee's son was born. So we say established 1987 because his only biological son, he was the most disabled of all the children that was born, and he was the inspiration. That's why Ruri in the film says, "God did not curse Eun-man with this body. He blessed him" so that Pastor Lee would be inspired to save other lives that were most vulnerable and most devalued and discarded.

CP: Why did you think it was important to develop this organization?

Ivie: Really, for me, I wanted to turn up the volume on Pastor Lee's life, I wanted to stand with him in the fight. It's not about just telling the story. …To me, they're family to me. I wanted to start this organization so that people could also practically have a way to give, instead of throwing money into a blackhole. They could give money to an organization that was transparent and responsible, and would track how that money is used and how it's impacting people.

I also felt like...I wanted the movie to be in a structure where I wasn't personally benefiting from it. Maybe that's just my issue, but I wanted people to see that about my faith and about God. I'm not making movies
because I'm trying to benefit from the cash-cow business that suddenly "Christian films" have become. I actually want to see regular people go to the movies, pay money and know that their impact, even just buying a ticket is gonna help save lives somewhere in the world. Because I think that's really the impact I think Pastor Lee always wanted. So I'm trying to honor that, and honor the intentions of people that are supporting this film, and make sure that it's not just about a movie. It's always about a mission.

CP: What is the $50,000 figure noted for Pastor Lee on Kindred Image's website?

Ivie: The $50,000 was half of the money that we made at the film festival. We won this $100,000 grand prize so Immediately donated $50,000 to Pastor Lee's family, you know he has 19 children. Then the other $50,000 I used to start Kindred Image. So now, the way the company's structured is we bring in donations and they go to different programs. Whether it's supporting mothers who have decided to parent their children, whether it's funding the drop box site with counselors and people to take care of the children. We track all of that, of course, and allocate money wherever necessary.

CP: What's after the three-day theatrical screening? Is "The Drop Box" then going digital?

Ivie: Yeah, we're not sure exactly when. It's any time between one month and three months, but it'll be on VOD pay-for-play platforms and hopefully on Netflix ultimately as well, but you will definitely be able to buy it in stores like Walmart and places like that. Then it will be on Amazon and other platforms. People can rent it, invite their friends over and do their own screenings and, again, knowing that the money, because of Kindred Image and Kindred Image owning the film, that a portion of everybody's money that they pay will actually go back to helping Pastor Lee, and more importantly the children and the mothers that are going through the suffering on the frontlines.

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"The Drop Box" is back in select theaters nationwide on March 16 for a special encore showing that features a panel discussion with Ivie and other guests, according to Fathom Events. The proceeds from the movie are split between Kindred Image and Focus on the Family's Wait No More program that helps place orphans with families. "The Drop Box" was released by Pine Creek Entertainment in association with Focus on the Family and Kindred Image.

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