Note to Readers: I had a very successful trip to Pakistan December 1995. Now I was returning to oversee another $500,000 shipment of medical supplies into Quetta and also meet up with Mr. Raja M. Zafar-al-Haq, the head Senator of Pakistan and the Secretariat General of the World Muslim Congress in Islamabad. I had no idea what I was in for.
New York City: Monday March 11, 1996: By the time 6:00 rolled around this morning (Monday), Anna Marie and I headed once again for the Denver airport. The sweet, young thing took time off from school just to take me to the airport.
I arrived at LaGuardia Airport in New York just a little past 2:00 p.m. I had made arrangements to meet a delegation from the United Nations group from North Korea at the Sheraton Towers Hotel in downtown Manhattan at 3:30. I knew that I would really have to hustle and make good bus connections from LaGuardia to the meeting place if I were to make the appointment on time. The bus got stuck in mid-Manhattan traffic, so when we got close to the hotel, I asked the driver to let me out, and I hurried down the streets and entered the hotel through the side door on Fifty-Third Street. It was exactly 3:30 p.m. Han Song Ryol (Minister Counselor and former Minister of Foreign Affairs) was just coming in the front revolving doors off Seventh Avenue. We all went to the coffee shop for our meeting.
It was really necessary for me to meet with the North Koreans on this trip. When Jay and I visited Pyongyang, North Korea, in September of 1995, Project C.U.R.E. had already shipped the first cargo container of medical supplies into Nampho Port via Hong Kong.
I had the privilege of making the first-ever formal presentation of such a gift to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in fifty years. In the ending months of 1995, Project C.U.R.E. was able to send a total of seven containers into the DPRK, with an approximate value of $1,750,000.
The government leaders had then asked me if I could help orchestrate some groups that might be able to donate foodstuffs to the North Korean people the way we were gifting medical supplies.
I told them about Dr. Ted Yamamori and the Food for the Hungry organization located in Phoenix, Arizona. Ted, Stan Schirm, and the wonderful people at Food for the Hungry have been such a great help with our Project C.U.R.E. operation in Phoenix and with Vern and Mary Gibson, our southwest directors of Project C.U.R.E.
The North Koreans were extremely hesitant to even consider inviting Dr. Yamamori to come to Pyongyang because he is Japanese—an American citizen married to an Anglo lady, but nonetheless Japanese. And because of the long history of Japanese cruelty and their occupation of Korea, the Koreans immediately had a problem with Dr. Yamamori being a part of bringing aid to them.
I had to push the New York delegation to a point of making a decision as to whether I could bring Dr. Yamamori with me to Pyongyang in April 1996. I did not want the issue to become an embarrassment to Ted. Finally they answered that I was an honored part of DPRK history, and I was openly welcome to come and go to Pyongyang anytime I desired … but now was not a good time to bring Dr. Yamamori with me. I was disappointed. Ted was disappointed. But Ted and I began to reprocess the plans for a new date of August 21–28, 1996.
In the meantime I wrote a letter to the DPRK stating my disappointment and reinforcing the fact that Food for the Hungry had already come up with funds in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars to help ship two of the containers of medical goods donated by Project C.U.R.E. into Nampho Port. And furthermore, I had encouraged Dr. Yamamori to go ahead and ship a container of goods to Pyongyang even before he physically was able to go and visit North Korea. The meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Manhattan was set in order to discuss my letter.
After Han Song Ryol and I had talked about our families, Pyongyang, and other topics, I began to discuss what I had written in the letter. To my surprise, Han Song Ryol started out by conveying words of appreciation from the head offices in Pyongyang. “Mr. Jackson is to always be an honored guest in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” he began. “Therefore, it is the desire of Pyongyang for you to reschedule the trip as originally suggested by you and to bring with you Dr. Ted Yamamori.”
My mind did some interesting flashbacks and calculations. God had opened the door for Project C.U.R.E. to go to North Korea in April 1993 just as decidedly as he had shut the door on my scheduled recent trip to Havana, Cuba. I was scheduled to go with my oldest son, Dr. Doug Jackson, and Dr. Rich Sweeney, to Havana in late January of this year. I even went to Washington, D.C., and met with Miguel Nunez at the Cuban Interests Section of the Swiss embassy, where we thoroughly planned out our time in Havana. I then returned to Denver, and on Tuesday phoned Miguel and told him that I had not yet received our visas from the Cuban office. He said he could process the visas in ten minutes, but he was waiting for one man in Havana who was to confirm the necessary appointments for our meetings while we were there.
I told him that if I did not receive the confirmation and the visas by Wednesday morning at 9:30, I would simply have to scrub the trip and reschedule it for later in the year. I did not want to schedule the expensive trip for the three of us to Miami and then have a possible problem of getting a charter flight on Saturday from Miami to Havana at that late of a date.
I did not receive word from Miguel on Wednesday, so I called off all the plans and informed Doug and Rich that we would not be going at that time.
Can you imagine how I felt when on Saturday I heard about the Cuban fighter jets shooting down the expatriate planes of Miami Cubans? Then President Clinton imposed new restrictions against Cuba, including halting all charter planes going in and out of Havana from Miami.
Simply stated, the three of us would have been in Havana with no way to get home. Plus, there was always the possibility at such a time of crisis that some “crazy” in Cuba would have spotted one of us as American, and we easily could have become lightning rods for their anger or their desire to become local heroes by bringing harm to an American devil. At any rate, God’s intervention stopped us from going to Cuba in January just as certainly as it appeared that God’s direct intervention had turned a no from the North Korean government officials into an impassioned yes for Dr. Yamamori to come with me in April.
It’s really hard to explain the feeling of being involved in a situation where God directly intervened, unless I was there to witness it unfolding firsthand.
After the meeting with the North Koreans, I immediately went to the hotel phones and got the process started to reschedule everything. I really had to rely on the dedicated people back home in Denver to just take over, because I would not even return to the US from Pakistan until about four days before I needed to turn around and leave the country again for Beijing, China, and Pyongyang, North Korea.
Having finished all my phone calls, I again caught the Carey bus from the hotel to the JFK International Airport, where I got on a Pakistan Airlines A310 Airbus ultimately headed for Islamabad, Pakistan.
Next Week: The Situation Turns Very Strange in Quetta.