My favorite places to visit in DPRK are the kitchens. There are many beautiful places in DPRK—lovely landscapes, flowers, and impressive buildings, but the kitchens really take the cake for me. The smells of a nourishing stew cooking and the smiles of the dedicated staff preparing meals impresses me more than the mountains of Gangwon or the stunning gold of ripe rice fields.

Through Christian Friends of Korea, the Mennonite Central Committee (where I serve as program coordinator for North Korea) and other organizations send canned meat from the US to care centers supported by CFK. Canned meat is often cooked into stews with cabbage and fermented soybean paste, a traditional staple. The meat juice in the cans is used to flavor the stew and the high-quality meat is fully cooked and easy to digest, especially for TB patients who may already have a suppressed appetite. The meat is processed well and sealed, and as a result does not spoil or require refrigeration.

The meals prepared by the staff with this canned meat are special for more than their caloric value. These meals represent a visceral tie between two countries; dedicated churches and volunteers sharing a meal in the name of Christ with patients who live far away.

The kitchen represents the heart of the home, of care for each other, and life being sustained through the sharing of meals. Through these meals we hope to share the message of Christ’s love and compassion for all with vulnerable people. The kitchens inspire me because of the potential for small acts of love and kindness to transform us, to open up space for a new future in which those who were once enemies are becoming neighbors and friends. I pray these small acts of love will open doors for reconciliation and relationship.

Contributed by: Jennifer Deibert