My grandmother was an artist as well as a missionary to Korea, so the Taedongmun (gate) has always been a visual part of my life. Because I watched her paint, I can easily imagine a small, dark clad lady in 1940, with her easel and water colors carefully capturing the details as a curious crowd watched. I can see her, on a different sunny day, across the river painting the Taedongmun as boats toiled past.  These paintings have now followed into my home.  I can also visualize the drama of less bucolic times for the Taedongmun as it stood in the background of the dramatic 1590s siege of Pyongyang played out across a monumental eight-panel screen which graced my parents’ Chonju home. 

I knew that the Taedongmun was a much beloved destination for my parents as they explored the city of Pyongyang as teenagers.  I had heard fondly remembered stories and watched as my parents and their contemporaries relived their youthful escapades as students at Pyongyang Foreign School.  Now, with CFK, more than three quarters of a century later, I found myself walking the same ground, looking at the Taedongmun’s graceful lines and battered stones and feeling a flood of memories from the past.

Though the past is always foundational, something important has been happening. I was able to witness the results of the Kingdom expanding as a team of people from many nations worked together to assemble solar electrical systems, build water towers, install clean water systems, and assemble laboratory facilities.  This was not a one-sided exercise but a truly cooperative effort.  It takes multiple hands to plan, arrange supplies and logistics so that the willing hands can accomplish shared goals in the short periods allocated for our visits. I was privileged to be on the end where one experiences the sense of completion.  In every case our North Korean counterparts were fully engaged –working shoulder to shoulder to accomplish the task.

I watched the growing trust as shared goals were accomplished and new ideas were implemented. I saw the curious and expectant faces of patients as they lined up for their blood work and examinations. I got to see lab technicians working in a lab where just a few hours before a completed lab did not exist.  I heard the passion of a hospital director as he advocated for his patients.  I could feel the calm commitment of a TB rest home director as he explained the operation of his facility and spoke to the care of his patients and the successes he is experiencing in curing a horrible disease.  I was amazed by the pride of plans being presented for a new facility with the expectation that someday this would be built.

I know my parents and grandparents would approve.  Thank you CFK.

Contributed by: John Crane