Tuesday, April 26, 2011

12th Annual MPAK Picnic

Dear MPAK Friends,

It's that time of the year, the 12th Annual MPAK Picnic.
I am happy to announce that this is a joint picnic for MPAK Families in Los Angeles, Valley Areas, Orange County, and San Diego Areas.  Non MPAK members and guests are certainly welcome.  Because this is a joint picnic with families from San Diego, we are meeting at half way at Laguna Niguel.
The picnic is as follows:
Date:  May 21, 2011 (Saturday)

Time: 11AM - 5PM

Place:  Laguna Niguel Regional Park, 28241 La Paz Road, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Shelter:  Shelter #5

Food:  BBQ provided by MPAK.  I have listed some basic items needed for the picnic under "Please select something to bring" and you can check it off. All others please bring your favorite dish.

The picnic will feature:Great Foods
Giant Moonbounce with slide
Fun and Games
Lots of playgrounds
A lake in the park
Gifts for kids

Let's gather together under the May sky and enjoy a day of adoption.

Thanks and see you all at the picnic.

Steve Morrison
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/mpakpage

Monday, April 25, 2011

Benjamin's Confession

Benjamin is doing very well with our family.
He has been enrolled into our medical insurance and his mother took him to the school to start the process of enrolling him.  He is full of smiles, and gets along with our four other kids. 

On past weekend we took the kids to Desert Hot Springs and the kids had a great time swimming and getting burned by the Sun.  It was super windy, but we had a lots of fun.

Last night we (all seven of us) sat down together for a dinner meal at our home.
Helen, our oldest daughter is also 14 years-old. So is Joseph whom we adopted 11 years ago is 14 as well.
So we have three teenagers at our home that are all 14 years-old and their birthdays are all within a month apart. I guess it will be quiet a challenge to send them to colleges all at the same time.

As we sat down to eat dinner, Helen prayed for the meal for all of us.
She thanked God for bringing Benjamin home.  She asked God's blessings on our home.
When I explained to Benjamin what Helen had prayed, he said,
"No one has ever prayed for me like that. It is the first time for me." Benjamin said this with a hint of gratitude.

The dinner time (or any meal time) with kids was loud and noisy with unceasing amount of conversations exchanged between the kids and the two parents.  As usual, the most loud and talkative of all was Joseph, and understandably Benjamin was the most quiet one.  With his limited understanding of English, he didn't know what was being discussed unless I periodically explained to him what was being said.  At one part of the conversation, the subject turned to school, as the kids were at the end of the spring break and the next day Monday was their back to school day.

At this point Benjamin spoke up with a Southern Korean accent (just like in the US, Southerners speak with accent). 
"Will I also be going to the school, too?"  he asked in Korean.
"Yes, your mother will try to enroll you into a school tomorrow."  I replied.
"Will I be safe at the school?  He asked that with a bit of worry on his face.  He continued,
"While I was in Korea I heard some stories where the kids in the US are very rough and tough and violent.  Is that true?"  Benjamin was concerned.
"It really depends on which neighborhood you are in.  There are some places that are dangerous, but our school is a very good school and you do not need to worry about that sort of things."  I tried to calm his fear.

"In Korea we have to 'school fight' a lot because there were fightings at our school all the time. What if I get into a fight?"
"Fighting is not an acceptable behavior at the school here in the US. If a person starts a fight, he will most likely get a suspension." I spoke this in Korean where the word 'suspension; is called '정학' (Junghak) in Korean.  Benjamin then asked,
"What is 정학 (suspension)?"
"It's a form of punishment where you may not be allowed to be in a class or from the school for a few days."
Benjamin mentioning the word 'school fights' brought me the old memories from my past where I have witnessed many fightings by individuals and by groups in the schools.

Benjamin then looked at me and wavered a bit as if he wanted to say something.
"How do typical Americans view Asians?"
"Well, based on my experience they view Asians as good people that are hardworking and tend to do well at schools and in business."  I continued,
"So that means Benjamin would have to work hard at school to keep up with that image, right?  I smiled at him as I jokingly told him this.

"Well, I wasn't a good student, and I have a confession to make." Said Benjamin.
"A confession?  What is it?"
"Well, um, ah,...well, ah..., I change my mind.  If I tell you this you will be in a great shock."
That got all of us interested in what he was thinking of.
"It's OK. Just go right ahead tell us.  Nothing will surprise us at all.  Go ahead, what's on your mind."
"Ah...well...no, I better not you will get too shocked at this."
By then all of the kids were interested in hearing what the secret was all about, and they all beckoned him to speak.
"Well, if you promise me that you will not get upset or be shocked then I might.  I'm not sure if I should tell it." He shook is head as he said this.
"Benjamin, it's OK. We won't think any less of you.  Go ahead."  I encouraged him again.
"Well, um,...at one time...ugh...well, one time I went to school carrying no text books and did not do any homeworks for a while.  This went on for a few weeks and I even slept during the classes."

We all looked at one another, and I blurted out,
"That's all?" I asked.  "You call that shocking?"
All of us expected something really bad, but not doing homeworks and not carrying the text books?  That wasn't what we expected to hear.  At this my wife spoke.
"In the US, kids usually keep their books at school lockers and you probably don't need to worry about that."

I confessed to Benjamin, "Your Dad did a lot worse things than that when he was an orphan kid in Korea."  At this my wife chimed in and said,
"Yeah, tell him about the story of how you broke the windows at a church for fun."
This was a news even for the rest of the kids that heard this fact for the first time.
They all beckoned me to share my story.
So I went on telling Benjamin and the kids some of the bad things that his Dad had done as an orphan.
One of my daughters asked me, "Why did you do it?"
"Well, because I was stupid at the time."
At this, they all erupted into laughter and the good dinner continued on.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hyeondong (Benjamin) Enjoys the DC Experience

Hyeondong (Benjamin) fully enjoyed the first few days in Washington DC. 
One morning I woke him up and he told me later that when he woke up, he thought that he was still in the orphanage until he saw my face. He said that as soon as he saw my face he was comforted that he was really in America. 

Benjamin in the morning at the balcony of the Doubletree Hotel overlooking the Potomac River

We moved over to Hyatt Hotel later as the International Forum on Intercountry Adoption was being held there.  Benjamin with Mrs. Kim Jin Sook, the Deputy Director at the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) enjoy swimming at the Hyatt Hotel.

A very informative meeting was held with Dr. Dixie Davis of the Adoption Exchange based in Colorado.  Mrs. Kim of MOHW, Mrs. Han of MPAK, and I gain so much from the meeting with her and plan to implement a few ideas to promote adoption in Korea.

At the Hyatt Hotel, there was the Holt International's 55th anniversary celebration through the International Forum on Intercountry Adoption.  Various guests from several countries came and presented their studies in intercountry adoption.  There were many familiar faces at the event, some adoptees, and some Holt staff.  The Forum was well planned and attended by around 250 people, and many of them were adoptees. 

Ms. Susan Cox, an adoptee and a vice president at Holt organized the event and I realized again as I always have, that what an important asset she is to Holt and to all the adoptees and parents that look up to her leadership as her efforts results in giving back to the adoption community and moving forward as well.  I am glad to call her my "Nuna" (older sister).

I was also very glad to see Molly Holt, the daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt.  Since her graduation from a nursing school in her early 20's, she dedicated over 60 years of her life for the cause of homeless children in Korea and she still lives with some children that need her care.  Molly was my Sunday School teacher while I was at the Holt Il-San Children's Center.  Although I have seen  her many times since, it is always humbling and inspiring to see her. 

Molly Holt and me at the Forum

The event capped with a breakfast to honor Dr. David Kim, who dedicated nearly 60 years of his life for the cause of homeless children in Korea.  He was Harry Holt's right hand man, and I remember seeing him in the orphanage when I was young.  When Holt was in financial trouble he saved Holt from being shut down a couple of times, and they wanted to honor him and his work. In the early years of Holt, there were many children that died while in the care at Holt, and Harry Holt would take Dr. Kim to bury the children.  One day after the burial of a child, Harry asked Dr. Kim, "Borther Kim, when we stand before the Lord, who will answer for these children?"  Dr. Kim never forgot Harry's words and that was the inspiration that kept him going all these years.

Dr. David Kim and his wife Nancy with me and my wife on the right.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Day with Our New Son in DC

Our Son Hyeondong (현동) has spent his first night in the US, and he has adjusted to the new time very quickly.  Hyeondong seems to be very happy to be with us and he said that it hasn't registered with his mind that he is really here.  When asked how he feels to be here, I was very happy to hear from him, "It's really wonderful."  In fact, when he was about to land in LAX, he wasn't sure that this was not all a dream. So he had to slap on his face a couple of times to make sure that he wasn't dreaming.  When I heard him say that, it made to realize how much he has longed to have a family of his own.  For him this was a dream come true after living all 14 years of his life in an orphanage.  I know how he feels, for I was once in his shoes.

On Wednesday, April 13th, we participated in an important meetings, and the most meaningful meetings was with Ms. Heidi Staples of Administration for Children and Families to learn about various programs on adoption and foster care system provided by the US government through all the states and local government.  All of us benefited so much from this and gained a lot of knowledge to help homeless children in Korea.

In spare time we did some sightseeing around the Washington DC area.  Most notably the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial as they brought me a wonderful memories of visiting the Washington DC with my family when I was also 14 at the time.  In addition to my wife and my son, we had Mrs. Kim from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and Mrs. Han of MPAK-Korea.  One poignant moment was when we visited the Korean War Memorial.  Mrs. Han remarked, "Our nation is greatly indebted to these brave soldiers. Too great a debt we owe."

The first night at a hotel with Hyeondong

Visited with Heidi Staples of the Administration for Children and Families under Heath and Human Services (HHS) Department.  Ms. Staples had a welth of knowledge and experiences in adoption and foster care.

At the US Capitol Building (From Left: Mrs. Kim from MOHW, Hyeondong, Mrs. Han from MPAK-Korea, my wife Jody, and Steve)

Mrs. Han and Jody Morrison at the Washington Monument

Hyeondong eating his first American sandwich and hot chocolate at the Washington Memorial.

At the Lincoln Memorial, me, Hyeondong, and Jody

With my proud son Hyeondong

Mrs. Kim fo MOHW and Mrs. Han of MPAK

At the Korean War Memorial
The stone pavement had these words inscribed: 

Our Nation Honors
Her Sons and Daughters
Who Answered the Call
To Defend a Country
They Never Knew
And a People
They Never Met

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Son Has Finally Arrived Today

It took some time to process, but our son Hyeondong has finally arrived in the US today.
My wife and I traveled to Washington DC from Los Angeles to attend the Holt International's 55th Anniversary International Adoption Forum, and one of the several guests attending the Forum from Korea escorted our son.
My interest in the Forum is that I will be presenting my story as an adoptee under the theme "Giving Back".

The Forum is being sponsored by Holt International and an adoptee group named Adoptees for Children (A4C).  The Forum is being attended by representatives from many countries.  Visit http://www.holtintl.org/ for furthern information.

I will post blogs of each day's happenings as we will spend a few days in the DC area.  One of the important guests from Korea is a deputy director who oversees the adoption bureau in the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW).  Also in attendance is Mrs. Han Youn Hee of MPAK-Korea President.  MOHW has made a special request through MPAK to visit a few government organizations related to adoption. 

Our son Hyeondong is 14 years old.   41 years ago I was adopted by the Morrison family as a 14 years old boy.  Today, another 14 years old by became a Morrison.  Even though it was not a deliberate plan to adopt a 14 years old, it just worked out that way.  We though Hyeondong was a couple of years younger.

Tomorrow when I get a chance I will post some pictures.  So stay tuned.