Born in Korea in 1956 soon after the end of the Korean War, Steve Stirling was stricken with polio at age one when his father unknowingly brought the virus home after consoling a friend whose child had contracted the disease. Steve survived; the son of his father’s friend did not. Marital and financial struggles caused Steve’s father to leave him at an orphanage when he was five. Three weeks later, his three-year-old sister was left there as well.
After four years, they were adopted by an American couple, Jim and Lynn Stirling, who settled in Anchorage, Alaska. The Stirlings now had seven children, all but one of whom was adopted.
Steve’s legs were paralyzed but his mind was sharp. He excelled in school, earned degrees at Cornell and Northwestern universities, and married. He and his wife, Sook Hee, moved from city to city as Steve moved up the corporate ladder with several Fortune 500 companies. They had two children and plenty of money, but their marriage was not happy.
Then they came to a saving faith in Jesus and their lives changed forever. They traveled to Korea and miraculously located Steve’s birth family. On a subsequent trip to visit the orphanage where he had grown up, Steve encountered a fellow handicapped orphan who had also become a Christian and his words caused Steve to rethink his life direction. He decided to shift his executive career away from the corporate world in order to devote his energies to nonprofit charities, working for World Vision and several others. Now he is the executive director for MAP (Medical Assistance Programs) International, based in Georgia, and spends as much time as possible spreading the gospel message as well as distributing medical assistance to developing countries. “For me, joining the MAP family feels like ‘coming home,’” he says. “It’s a culmination of my personal and professional life experiences.”
A vial of polio vaccine costing sixty cents could have prevented Steve from contracting the disease.
Steve’s favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (nas). He sees God’s hand bringing all the elements of his life together perfectly for His purpose.
“I believe God has called me to be the voice of millions of children who desperately need life-changing medicines,” Steve says. “He has given me these experiences, even polio, to prepare me to be used by Him. I’m not bitter because I know God is using this for His glory. One day, in heaven, I will walk and run again! Meanwhile, if I can prevent a child from suffering, I will.”