(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo struggled not to show his emotions Friday as he recalled the “greatest highlight” of his job to date – bringing home three Americans held in North Korea – saying that the memory of the experience, even now, “reminds me of the greatness of our nation.”
And pointing to another American in foreign hands, Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey, he told the Values Voter Summit in Washington that “President Trump will never forget about our own – and that is one of the greatest American values of all.”
Pompeo’s audience at the Values Voter Summit in Washington applauded, whistled and cheered for a full minute when he told them, “Far and away the greatest highlight to date of my job as secretary of state was bringing home three Americans from captivity in North Korea.”
“When Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song, and Tony Kim got off our plane at about 2:30 a.m. at Andrews Air Force Base [last May], their faces were bursting with tears of joy,” he recounted. “They hugged and they wept with their families. And President Trump was on the tarmac to meet them.”
Pompeo said he remembers his hope and prayers that the three would be brought safely home, and when he “saw them get out of the vehicle and they could walk and they appeared to be in reasonably good health. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for the moment.”
Even speaking about it now he said, “It reminds me of the greatness of our nation.”
Pompeo recalled one of the men handed him an index card after they descended the stairs from the plane at Andrews, and he slipped it into his pocket.
“As I got home that night with Susan, I pulled it out and on it, on that index card, was Psalm 126. And it read as follows:
“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
Tony Kim, 59, was teaching at the Western-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology when he was detained at Pyongyang international airport in April 2017, and accused of “criminal acts of hostility” against the regime.
Kim Dong Chul, 64, a pastor, was arrested in 2015, charged with subversion and espionage, and sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years’ hard labor.
Kim Hak-Song, 55, another academic at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, who was detained in May last year, on suspicion of committing “hostile acts” against the regime.
Pompeo said there were thousands of Christians and people of other faiths, in North Korea and elsewhere around the world, “who are praying for deliverance from captivity and from fear of persecution.”
He turned to the plight of Andrew Brunson, the evangelical pastor who after living and ministering in Turkey for more than two decades was arrested almost two years ago and charged with terrorism and espionage – charges which he denies, and the U.S. government refutes.
After more than 20 months behind bars, Brunson was moved to house arrest in July. He remains on trial despite multiple appeals, from Trump down, for Turkey’s Islamist government to send him home.
“Let me say right now, here, we are sparing no effort to return Pastor Brunson home to the United States,” Pompeo said. “The work is important. He has been wrongly held, and his proper place is to be able to return here to once again practice his faith in our great nation.”
“On the day Pastor Brunson returns,” he said, “just like the men I spoke of a bit ago, they also will be able to say that ‘the Lord has done great things for us.’ And again our hearts will be filled with joy.”