Today I’m going to let you in on one of the most incredible, inspiring, emotional and amazing stories I’ve ever heard.
My heart is glad to be able to share this story to the world.
I owe this story with special thanks to a former colleague of mine in advertising named ‘Halifax’.
He told me this story one day and it left me utterly moved and captivated.
He told me the story of a little half caste girl who was abandoned in South Korea and left on the streets to die, mostly because she was a half caste. It was a terrible war stricken time in South Korea when people were backwards thinking, the economy was poor and the people were very superstitious. (Not at all like the developed and educated South Korea of today)
In those days, if you were born out of wedlock or of mixed race you were ostracised from the society. The half castes reminded the South Koreans of what they didn’t want to be, what their country had gone through, and of the fact that they might be losing their cultural identity.
After Halifax finished with the story I wanted to know more.
Our ensuing conversation went something like this, “What is the girl’s name?” (Me)
“I can’t remember, I heard it on the radio.” (Halifax)
“You can’t remember her name at all?” (Me)
“No… I can’t… I just remember that she is now a motivational speaker traveling all over the world with her story.” (Halifax)
With only that information and a hazy story to work with I was determined to find out more about this woman and dig further into the story.
I was always on the look out. I never forgot the story.
The Extraordinary Women project made me even more determined to research and uncover this woman’s story.
Roughly four years later (today) I’m excited to declare that I finally uncovered the full and miraculous story of this four year old child abandoned on the streets who went through so many unspeakable ordeals at a tender and innocent age.
And I cried.
This is the story of Stephanie Fast – a motivational speaker and an extreme advocate for child adoption and the liberation of the girl child. She has made it her life’s work to try and rescue every orphan child out there.
She also preaches the word of God and is the founder of Destiny ministries.
Stephanie Fast is the biological daughter of a Korean woman and an American soldier. She was born in a time when being a half caste was unacceptable in Korea and her mother (surprisingly when Stephanie was four years old) abandoned her on the cold, cruel streets of Korea.
Her mother put her on a train going to the city capital and lied to her that her uncle would meet her there.
Stephanie looked up at her mother with fear and asked her, “But mummy are you going to come for me?”
Her mother replied, “Yes I’m going to come for you.”
But she never did. And there was no uncle.
Stephanie got off of the train when everyone else did and waited on the train platform for her uncle to come and get her in vain until it became dark.
The train master came to her and called her “Tooki.”
Tookie was a word that meant child of darkness and nothingness in Korean. (It also means – ‘You half breed.’ ‘You mistake.’)
That is the name that Stephanie grew to accept and respond to as her name as a child. She has no recollection of her original name.
He said “Tooki, you need to leave.”
Stephanie still hung around the train station area for some days waiting for her uncle to come for her.
After a few days it dawned on her that no one was coming for her.
She cried, “mummy, mummy, mummy, where are you?”
For the next 3 years Stephanie followed the train tracks backwards thinking she could find her way back to her home – hungry, scared and alone.
She slowly realised that she had to look for food and shelter to hide and sleep in, all by herself. At the age of four.
However she was born and blessed as a survivor with the will to stay alive.
Stephanie was caught stealing food from a farm one day.
The farmers dragged her screaming and kicking up the mountain side and to a water field. They tied her up and they dumped her in the water.
She screamed and screamed any time her face came up from the water until a long time later a man came to rescue her.
The man told her ‘Listen These people don’t understand that you need to live. But you need to live. Okay? You need to live. Live little girl.”
Stephanie passed out and when she opened her eyes he wasn’t there anymore.
She was supposed to have died that day.
Here is a bit of what Stephanie endured while living on the streets:
She lived in a garbage dump area and ate food found in the dumps.
She survived the cruel, terrible Korean winters.
She was thrown into human septic wells by other kids teasing and laughing at her. They called her a witch. People tried not to make eye contact with her. They told her she was nothing.
She truly believed that she was nothing.
But she kept hearing that man’s voice who told her to live.
She was thrown into a well once for stealing food in another village.
A kind woman rescued her from the well and wrapped her in warm clothes to keep her warm.
The woman told her the same thing – she said, ‘Girl I know your life is hard now, but you have to live. Keep on, don’t give up.’
She slept in bore holes that the soldiers had made at night and in the cold winters.
When Stephanie was seven years old she stumbled into a busy city and she met a large group of orphan kids who took her into their street home. They stole food for her and kept her warm at night. Until one day the boys told her she had to give them something back in return. She was gang raped at the age of seven.
She left that place after a few months when she began to feel sickly and she and another newly abandoned little girl were thrown into an abandoned building where extremely large rats lived and had the reputation for eating anything (humans and little children included) that found its way in there.
Having lived in that area for a while now Stephanie knew what lay behind that abandoned building and she pleaded and begged the men who had caught her stealing food to do anything to her but not throw her in there.
Stephanie should have died in that building. She doesn’t know what happened to the little girl who was thrown in with her.
She has no recollection of how she got out of that building.
All she remembers is that one day she woke up in a garbage dump and saw a woman with blue eyes staring at her.
She thought that she had died and gone to paradise.
“Am I in paradise?” she asked this woman.
“No you are not in paradise.” the woman replied.
The woman was about to leave her there but her legs suddenly felt like cement and she couldn’t move her limbs to walk away. Then the woman heard a loud male voice ringing out and telling her “She is mine.”
The woman turned back and went to rescue Stephanie. It turns out she was a Swedish nurse who helped young children.
The reason why she almost left Stephanie lying there was because she was older than the children that her hospital could help, and she didn’t know what to do with her.
Stephanie miraculously survived that ordeal.
The Swedish nurse placed Stephanie in a children’s home which by every account wasn’t much better than living in the garbage dumps.
By this time Stephanie had boils, scabs and lice all over her skin and worms crawling in and out of her throat. She was also cross eyed from malnutrition.
Stephanie says :the worms inside me couldn’t get enough food and so when they were hungry they would come out of my body in search of more food.
When Stephanie was 9 years old later at the orphanage, the kids were told that an American couple were coming to look for a young boy to adopt.
Stephanie and the other girl orphans were put to work to wash and groom all the boys in the orphanage in preparation for the Americans who were coming.
The day finally came and all the orphan children were lined up for the couple to look at and pick the child that they wanted.
Stephanie looking so skinny, tattered, dirty and sickly was sure that she wasn’t even going to be given a second glance.
But surprisingly the American man after looking at all the children stared at Stephanie long and hard and said, “This is the child. She is the one I want.”
He went up to Stephanie and spoke some kind words to her in a foreign language that she would later come to know as English. He held her face and looked down at her affectionately and emanating love.
To Stephanie he looked like a giant to her. She had never seen a huge man like that before. In Korea at that time, only if you were rich could you have a bit of extra weight on your body.
Stephanie had never been touched affectionately before. She had never been shown love before and she didn’t understand how to react to this. She also hated all men.
So she looked up at the kind man and spat into his face then ran away.
Stephanie was emotionally dead.
The man insisted that he wanted her.
Stephanie was taken up for adoption by the American couple.
She thought she was going to be a bond servant. She kept waiting for them to do something terrible to her.
To her surprise they just kept bathing her and bathing her and deworming her. They shaved her head off because they could not get rid of the lice.
They gave her a bed. (which she kept falling out of at night because she wasn’t used to it)
They calmed her and stroked her and they showed her so much love.
It took Stephanie many years to finally say – ‘Daddy I love you.’ and she meant it, and she finally knew what love was.
She finally learnt how to stop living in survival mode.
Many years later today, she is no longer a survivor. She simply lives.
She’s not a Tookie anymore.
Today she is a strong and healthy woman. A mother, a grandmother, a wife and an advocate for the 153 millions of orphans that surround the world. She brings hope and salvation to them as most as she can. Using her years of experience and pain as an orphan to help the others abandoned on the train platform like herself. Preparing her as an advocate for foreign and rejected children the world over.
Stephanie’s life, in the early years, was tragic and heart breaking and real. What is even more heart breaking is that this story is just one of millions that could be told.
Stephanie wrote a book about her life and you can find Stephanie’s book on Amazon or order it through her website –
The name of her book is ‘She is mine’ – a war orphans incredible journey of survival.
Stephanie is an accomplished speaker known around the world for her candor, warmth and honesty. Stephanie speaks at churches, non-profit events, conferences, women’s retreats and many other events nationally as well globally. Her story moves audiences to tears but what moves them the most is her determination to become part of the solution and show them how they can too.
Aside from being a writer and a motivational speaker, Stephanie acts as an orphan advocate with special support for orphans to be placed in permanent homes either in the land of the orphan’s birth or through international adoption. Stephanie mentors all ages of adoptees as well as those who have not been adopted, to navigate crisis points in their journey.
Stephanie also supports the following organizations that are working hard to alleviate the plight of orphans worldwide:
Called To Love: Annual Retreat for Encouraging and Supporting Adoptive Moms
Chosen International: Celebrating … Educating … Encouraging … Those Whose Lives are Touched by Adoption
Christian Friends of Korea: Hope and Healing to the People of North Korea in the name of Christ
Holt International: At Holt International, we seek a world where every child has the support and resources to reach their full potential — a world where every child has a loving and secure home.
Loving Shepherd Ministries: Pursuing God’s Best for Vulnerable Kids
New Beginnings: New Beginnings operates a NGO in Nepal. Your donation will help fund relief for the most recent earthquake.
Restore International: Our goal is to change lives for the better!
According to Stephanie’s research;
There are more than 87 million orphans in Asia, double sub-Saharan Africa’s more than 43 million.*
A conservative estimate of orphans in the world is 143 million.* Some organizations place it currently as high as 153 million or more.
There are three countries in Asia where 10% or more of their children are orphans: Afghanistan 12%, Lao People’s Democratic Republic 10%, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) 10%.*
The proportion of children who are orphans generally increases with age with just over half of orphans above the age of 12. However, 12% of orphaned children 0-18 years of age are under 5. These are the most vulnerable children.*
Check for Stephanie Fast by the name of Stephanie Fast on Twitter and Facebook.
Visit her website here – http://stephaniefast.org/
Every day, thousands of human beings around the world either abandon their children, or have their children kidnapped from them. Many of these abandoned children are left to live their lives in extreme poverty on the street, usually facing an early death, and the kidnapped others are often sold into the global sex trade to live their lives as slaves for the wealthy. Stephanie is truly a bright light who shines out of the depths of this kind of hell.