In response to the suffering and devastation, staff from Samaritan’s Purse packed a Boeing 747 cargo jet this morning at Charlotte Douglas Airport that will soon deliver some 90 tons of relief and medical supplies to a country where few are allowed access.
“While much of the world’s attention is on Pakistan, and rightfully so, the suffering of the people in North Korea cannot be overlooked,” said Franklin Graham, who is President of the BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse.
“Relations between the governments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the U.S. have been strained,” Graham added, “but despite our political differences, the people of North Korea are suffering from torrential floods that have ruined crops, washed out bridges and destroyed homes.”
Graham has traveled three times to the country rarely visited by Americans, but his family has a long history in the DPRK, going back to 1934 when his mother, Ruth Bell Graham, attended a mission school in Pyongyang. His father, Billy Graham, visited in 1992 and 1994, meeting with President Kim Il Sung.
Graham’s most recent visit was in October of 2009 when he traveled to the DPRK and presented $190,000 in equipment and supplies for a new dental center being built in Pyongyang.
“When I was growing up my mother spoke often about her experiences here, and one of the high points of her life was the opportunity she had to return in 1997,” Graham said when he landed at Pyongyang airport last year.
Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs and government relations for Samaritan’s Purse, said during a press event this morning, “We were honored that the North Koreans called us from their United Nations mission in New York and asked us to come and help. There are only three groups that they’ve asked to do this.”
According to Isaacs, the good relations “stem directly from the ancestry and the history of the Graham family, going back to Ruth Graham’s father. I think a big part of this is coming from the legacy of Dr. Graham and the way that Franklin Graham has taken that legacy and nurtured it and grown it, and been proactive in very practical ways with humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people.”
Isaacs pointed out that the relief effort is “just a door. North Korea is a closed country. We are not sending Bibles there. We are not allowed to interface with everyday folks there. But we are meeting with government officials. We act transparently. We act with integrity. They know who we are and they know what we believe. Frankly, it is exciting and honoring that we’re invited to go there and help.”
The airlift includes medicine, water filtration systems and PUR water kits, temporary shelter materials, blankets and hand tools. It is scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang on Sept. 2, where Samaritan’s Purse representatives are on the ground to receive the relief supplies.