By Anne Choe, SIWA President

Ebenezer is a Biblical name which means “Thus far God has helped us.” Doo Ho Kim, founder and director of the Ebenezer charity, finds the name to be most appropriate given the organization’s resilience and sustenance over the past 20 years caring for abandoned children with physical and intellectual disabilities.

When Kim, a former physical therapist, and his wife hit rock bottom after a failed business venture, they found new meaning and purpose in life by establishing a loving home to children with severe disabilities. Loving these children as their own has been their saving grace. Eight years ago, they also took in 14 elderly women whose children could no longer care for them.

Mr. Kim’s eyes welled up as he talked about the loss of two children and two women in the past few years. Eventually, five elderly women were moved to nursing homes. The House is the home to seven women aged 63 to 100, as well as five young men and women, three of whom are 28 years old, one is 25 and the youngest is 16. Only one of the men can walk on his own. The 16-year old girl was entrusted to their care when she was only 8 months old, when her birth mother was hospitalized after having a mental breakdown upon learning of her infant daughter’s severe disabilities. The couple beams with pride as they share the young girl’s published book of poems and speak of her excellent academics; she is the only one with fully functioning cognitive abilities.

I was surprised to learn that the children have parent(s) that Mr. Kim is aware of, but most of those parents have severed ties with their children. The singular exception is one birth mother who continues to send monthly financial support. Sadly, however, she never visits. An unintended look of disdain and disbelief must have shown on my face because he reassured me all of them are his children now.

Just then a young woman with a huge smile crawled out from one of the rooms, and immediately Mr. Kim embraced her and spoke to her. She responded with sounds only Mr. Kim understands, after which he told her to go to the kitchen to eat her lunch. She moved into the kitchen where Mrs. Kim and a volunteer prepared lunch while talking with her. Their faces were filled with love, joy and laughter.

At this moment, I realized everyone at House of Ebenezer was surrounded not only by love but also dignity. All that is good with humanity is alive and well here.

The director’s face lit up as a young man walked past us. He had just graduated high school. Although he is 25 years old with limited intellectual capacity, Mr. Kim finds it relevant and critical to give him milestones in life. Mr. Kim is very proud of each person’s accomplishments. All of his adopted children have private lessons at home with teachers, and additional enriching outdoor activities with therapists and teachers provided by the local government.

The couple continues to face monumental challenges but nonetheless seems to find ways to meet their needs. “Thus far, God has helped them.” As one example, the building they occupy was in shambles and about to collapse when a benefactor constructed a new building for them ten years ago.

Mr. Kim also, however, occasionally deals with neighbors who would prefer to see the Ebenezer charity move out of the neighborhood. Even so, when I asked “What is the biggest hurdle you face?” Mr. Kim smiled and stated “waking up almost every night because many children don’t sleep through the night.” I expected a different answer. But then again, his heart beats to a different drummer!