Historic $8 Million Airlift From Charlotte Lands in North Korea
“We’ve been told that this airlift of aid is the first direct flight from the United States to North Korea since the Korean War.” - Franklin Graham This morning Franklin Graham, president of North Carolina-based ministries Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, received a remarkable phone call from Pyongyang. “Our team called to say the cargo jet landed, they met with the Foreign Minister and are now in the process of delivering the relief supplies over the next few days,” said Graham. After midnight on Thursday, August 30, Samaritan’s Purse sent a Boeing 747 cargo jet loaded with 75 tons of emergency and medical supplies from Charlotte to North Korea. The airlift included $8 million worth of medicines, medical supplies, antibiotics, plastic sheeting, temporary shelter materials, water filtration equipment, blankets, hand tools and other equipment. Recent flooding in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea is one of the country’s most serious natural disasters – killing hundreds and wiping out thousands of homes, power stations, crops and roads. Now there is more danger as waterborne diseases begin to develop. “This is much more than an airlift of aid,” said Graham. “It’s historic and symbolic not only because the flight went directly from the United States, but also because we’ve had such good cooperation with the North Korean and U.S. governments. My hope would be that this aid for those suffering can also be a bridge building opportunity between our two countries.” The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is also partnering in the effort matching a $50,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development for the emergency response. World Vision Canada and MAP International are also making a significant contribution to the airlift by providing medical supplies. The Graham family has had a long history and interest in the people of North Korea. During the 1930’s 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. Later, in 1997, Ruth Graham was able to return to the city where she had spent her high school years. In 2000, Franklin Graham was permitted to fly into North Korea and visited with then Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun. In recent years, Samaritan’s Purse has been involved in various aid and development projects in the country, including ongoing work to provide tuberculosis care, refurbishing several operating rooms and providing equipment and supplies for a number of medical and dental facilities. The organization’s project Operation Christmas Child has delivered thousands of gift-filled shoe boxes to underprivileged children in the country.