This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

MCC medical aid reaches North Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea — It had been a long trek for eight small bags of medical supplies. They had been packed and re­packed, crossed an ocean, passed through three countries and numerous airport security checks.

On an early November day, the bags reached their destination, a small medical clinic on a farm near Pyongyang.

MCC Canada senior writer Julie Bell and MCC Northeast Asia representative Chris Rice with medical staff at a farm clinic near Pyongyang, North Korea. — Jennifer Deibert/MCC
MCC Canada senior writer Julie Bell and MCC Northeast Asia representative Chris Rice with medical staff at a farm clinic near Pyongyang, North Korea. — Jennifer Deibert/MCC

Chris Rice, Mennonite Central Committee’s Northeast Asia representative, handed one of the bags to the medical staff.

Rice and three MCC colleagues were in North Korea at a time when tensions between the country and other parts of the world were running high. U.S. President Donald Trump was traveling in the region, and most people, including North Koreans, were aware of that.

And yet, the story of how the medical kits came to be is what mattered most. Through translation, the medical staff were told MCC workers had come to North Korea to visit projects supported by MCC — including providing canned meat and soybean products to orphanages and schools and agricultural support on their farm.

Their faces lit up when they were told a conversation during a previous visit to the farm had prompted a collaboration of people around the world.

During that visit, medical staff told MCC about accidents on the farm — everything from cuts and scrapes to sprains and broken bones. Word of the need for medical supplies traveled through MCC’s regional office in South Korea and on to MCC offices in Canada and the U.S.

It was decided to put together medical kits. MCC consulted with medical experts on what to include. Thanks to the generosity of donors, MCC bought the supplies, which were delivered to the material resources warehouse in Winnipeg, Man.

That’s where longtime volunteer Natalie Gulenchyn got involved. She cut the fabric and sewed the bags, complete with MCC’s iconic dove logo.

Everything was packed into a piece of luggage, which traveled from Winnipeg to Beijing, China.

The luggage crossed its last border when MCC staff traveled to Pyongyang. In yet another hotel room, supplies including bandages, surgical tape and disposable gloves were transferred into the eight bags lovingly sewn by Gulenchyn.

As the nurses and a doctor at the clinic thanked the visitors for the supplies, the MCC visitors were grateful for all the hands and hearts involved in bringing these simple gifts to their destination.

On that day, geopolitical hostilities and harsh rhetoric were irrelevant compared to the Bible’s call to do the work of God’s hands. Carrying gifts of comfort and words of peace was the only truth that mattered.

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