During July and August, flooding in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea killed hundreds and wiped out thousands of homes, power stations, crops and roads. The weeks following brought additional danger in the form of waterborne diseases.
Samaritan’s Purse chartered the cargo jet to airlift emergency and medical supplies to the country, where few are allowed access. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association partnered in the effort by matching a $50,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development.
“In spite of the political differences that divide our two countries, we need to do all we can to care for the people of North Korea,” said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of both Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA. “We pray for the North Korean people at this time, and we pledge to do all we can in the name of Jesus Christ to extend a hand of friendship and practical assistance to them during this period of suffering.”
The airlift included medicines, medical supplies, antibiotics, plastic sheeting, temporary shelter materials, water filtration equipment, blankets, hand tools and other equipment. The plane arrived in the city of Pyongyang Aug. 31, where Samaritan’s Purse staff members were in place to help facilitate the distribution of supplies.
The Graham family has had a long history with the people of North Korea. During the 1930s, the late Ruth Bell Graham (whose parents were medical missionaries in China), attended high school at the Pyongyang Foreign School. In 1992 and again in 1994, Billy Graham visited North Korea and met with its leader, General Kim Il Sung. In 1997 Ruth Graham was able to return to the city where she had spent her high school years. Franklin Graham was permitted to fly into North Korea in 2000, and he visited with then Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun. In recent years, Samaritan’s Purse has been involved in aid and development projects in the country, including ongoing work to provide tuberculosis care, to refurbish several hospital operating rooms and to provide equipment and supplies for a number of medical and dental facilities.