I was invited back to help with the rice project which I wrote about in my picture book RICE FROM HEAVEN. This time, it was the prepping of the rice and balloons for the North Korean refugee church's next launch. They wait for rainy weather to send the balloons up. So Saturday June 1st, my husband and I rode the subway for an hour to Seoul. (Previously I had helped with the balloon launch in 2016 and didn't get to participate in this prepping step.)
It was very organized with a meeting first. The N. Korean pastor told of their project's history and purpose. Before he was a Christian he just wanted North Korea to basically be destroyed. But after he became a Christian, God placed on his heart to show love to them, and one of the ways is through this rice balloon project. The church buys bags of rice, around 20 kg per bag, and then they measure the rice into plastic bags, put 3 plastic bags in a Styrofoam box, and tape them up. They also buy plastic to make their own balloons. My husband and I helped on the rice side. Most of the volunteers are North Korean refugees. Some are South Koreans or foreigners like myself who either attend the church or are helping with the project.
The pastor also brought out my book and showed the volunteers as some were new. I'm thankful to support such an important project. And an added bonus: I met a North Korean who studied at Iowa State University last year in their intensive English program. (I'm from Iowa.) What a small world for a North Korean refugee to study in Iowa! As I said in the author's note of my book, we may never know if they even receive this rice. But I hope they feel the love and care that was sent to them. Perhaps it will be a malnourished soldier who takes it. I've heard a true story of a soldier who found literature, escaped, and found the organization that sent it.
Today is Korea's Independence Movement Day, a holiday, in which I had no school so I caught up on writing projects like this blog. They are celebrating 100 years of freedom from Japanese rule and honoring the lives of those who stood up for freedom, giving up their lives in the process. I'm researching one of those people for my next story.
Also, in the wake of this Independence holiday, President Trump held a 2nd summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. I'm thankful to God that Trump walked away and stood his ground for Kim Jong Un to dismantle ALL nukes, not just the major ones. Plus, I'm horrified over the human rights problem in that country.
Last Friday was Reading Day at my own school. I spoke to our elementary about North Korea and the back story of Rice from Heaven. The students made these balloons and wrote their wishes/prayers for North Korean children. This project was thought up by my friend Laura Baker Mun. I give her all the credit. Believe it or not, students living here on the Korean peninsula don't know about North Korean refugees or how kids are living not more than an hour away from them. It was a big eye opener, and good comments from parents have been trickling in. I think an impact of compassion was instilled in their hearts.
If you or a teacher/librarian would like a visit or Google Hangout Visit, let me know. I enjoyed talking to kids in NY and TX last month for World Read Aloud Day. They, too, had no idea.
It's March. Spring! Happy Writing, all!
Today, Sunday, October 14th, 2018, I had the privilege to give a copy of RICE FROM HEAVEN: THE SECRET MISSION TO FEED NORTH KOREANS to the North Korean Pastor who led the group of us two years ago to send balloons of rice over the border to North Korea. Another friend who had gone with us that night showed the pastor her copy of the book earlier this morning. He said he almost cried. He was very touched.
My husband, son, and I traveled by subway to Seoul, about an hour away. Due to wrong directions, we arrived in time for the last song of the service, go figure. But he announced to the small congregation that I was there, and he held my book up. Many people came up to me and said "thank you," and that they were very touched. Greatest of all, I re-met a North Korean defector from the event in 2016 and met a new one, both of whom speak English :) Now I can interview them and get more nitty-gritty details. And I met a Korean adoptee like myself who will be a big help on another WIP (work-in-progress). I also met a guy who defected three years ago, and he is now in the South Korean military special forces who will drop by parachute with his unit onto North Korean soil if there is a war. (Even though the news makes everything sound peaceful, we don't know if Kim Jong Un will truly hold up his end of the bargain...)
We ate the church's lunch and had great conversation. The pastor thinks it's a good idea the South Korean President and the North Korean leader are talking, as the pastor is for unification. But as for the people living there now, things are still not so good.
Hopefully, I can visit them again soon. I'm happy to know they are pleased with RICE FROM HEAVEN. By the way, they do the balloon launch every year.
Rice from Heaven has been out for two weeks now. School has started in many places. If you'd like to use my book with your students or homeschoolers, please take note of the resources available on the graphic above. There are teacher guides for lower elementary and upper elementary. And the coolest thing, is that a writer friend directed me to a website where you can earn rice for needy countries. They are currently working on a newer version of the game here. You can also check FreeRice on Facebook for additional updates. I think students would have a blast earning rice + learning vocab along the way.
For U.S. educators, I'm available for Skype/Google Hangouts on your Friday mornings and a couple days the end of September during our Korean Thanksgiving holiday. The first 15 minutes are free. If you'd like a longer time, please contact me for pricing.
Korean educators, it looks like I'll be doing a book signing in September at What the Book Bookstore in Itaewon. Still waiting on the exact date. They have my book available. :)
I heard from one of my art teacher friends in CA, that she used my book for her Heroes Around Me art project. Heroes can be regular people helping others. Let me know how you used Rice from Heaven and your students' reactions! Thank you!
Lastly, Congratulations to Patricia and Ellen, winners of signed bookplates and a little gift from Korea :)
Don’t Forget the Children
In honor of Rice from Heaven's book birthday, I dedicate this post to the children of North Korea.
In the mess of politics, wars, famine, and hunger, don’t forget the children. Jesus didn’t. “Let the little children come to me,” He said in Matthew 19:14.
Technically, North and South Korea are still at war from the 1950s. The heavily-armed demilitarized zone is a testament to that fact. Yet, every year, North Koreans try to make the escape. Some fail. Some succeed. November 2017 one such person did. However, he was a North Korean soldier who fled on foot over the DMZ and received numerous gunshot wounds from his fellow soldiers. It was even caught on tape and released on the news and You Tube. He was sent to a hospital less than an hour from where I live in South Korea. One of the top surgeons operated on him and to his surprise discovered numerous parasites and worms living in his abdomen. These were parasites that the doctor had only heard of in textbooks. One worm was 27 cm or almost 11 inches long. http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2017/11/16/2017111601450.html
When I heard this, I thought about the children living in North Korea. If all these parasites and worms were living in this soldier, think about what parasites and worms are living in the children. My heart and prayers go out to the kids. And its for these children that I wrote Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans.
In May 2016, a fellow teacher and her family and I helped a North Korean refugee church in Seoul send balloons carrying rice over the border to North Korea. We drove to an undisclosed island to another church that was assisting. Rain poured. The perfect weather to bring winds that would carry the balloons. We were given ponchos and had our umbrellas. I helped carry Styrofoam containers of rice out of a shed to our launch place. We put the containers in big plastic balloon bags. We worked in groups of 3s. One held the balloon, another added helium, and another tied on the rice. It was incredible watching these giant, translucent balloons ascend over the mountains. I asked lots of questions, knowing I would write an article or something about this. I pictured children or families finding the rice on the ground in the morning. That made me think of the story in the Bible about how God provided manna or bread on the ground each morning for the Israelites in Exodus 16. Instead of bread from heaven, North Koreans would find rice! I kept that image in my mind. Soon after, that became the title of my first draft Rice from Heaven.
In all the news around the world, don’t forget the children. Pray for them. Support them. Be the reason a child smiles today!
If you purchased Rice from Heaven, please email me a copy of your receipt at tinamariecho(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I'll put your name in a drawing. Two winners will receive signed bookplates + either a Korean magnet or a small Korean mirror. Drawing on 8/28.
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!