Ministry arrives in Italy, where death toll has topped China's

Friday, March 20, 2020
Michael F. Haverluck (

Samaritan's Purse plane, medical staffAs Italy passes China for the most deaths as a result of the coronavirus, Samaritan's Purse is beginning its humanitarian aid and Christian outreach, which includes various types of assistance, medical supplies, and the gospel message.

Since China announced the coronavirus at the turn of the year, the global pandemic has claimed more than 10,000 lives worldwide and infected nearly a quarter million people – as of late Thursday – but just before Italy reported more deaths than China Thursday (3,405 vs. 3,248), the World Health Organization declared Europe the epicenter for the virus.

Samaritan's Purse stepping up

With more than 33,000 active cases, Italy has more than double the number of the next highest nation (Spain at more than 16,000 infections); and of those, a whopping 2,500 infected patients are in serious or critical condition throughout Italy. As a result, the growing threat is causing a supply and support shortage for those with the virus – but more help has been sent to the coastal nation nestled between the Adriatic and Tyrhennian seas.

On Tuesday, Samaritan's Purse sent a plane to Italy packed with 20 tons of medical equipment, complete with masks, tents, pharmaceutical medications, monitors, ventilators, medical equipment and supplies for volunteers, according to Faithwire.

In addition, a 68-bed emergency field hospital – comprising eight intensive-care beds and 60 inpatient beds – is being flown in by the nonprofit organization from the United States on the plane to assist the Italians.

Also, approximately 60 medical specialists are scheduled to touch down in an airport in northern Italy to provide 90 days of assistance to those infected with coronavirus.

Italian gratitude

Dr. Elliott Tenpenny, Samaritan's Purse COVID-19 response manager, is based in the outreach ministry's international headquarters. He has been busy over the past several weeks coordinating a strategic relief effort with the Italian government.

"They are overjoyed, honestly – it's been sort of shocking in the way they've responded so positively," Tenpenny reports. "The Italian people are a welcoming people, and it's very much been borne out by this. They're incredibly excited and are contacting us at many different levels to express that excitement and their anticipation of this, and just thanks that somebody from the international world … would come and help them in their time of need."

Along with physical healing, the Samaritan's Purse team will help deliver spiritual healing via the gospel message as they "support the Italian hospitals and people in the name of Christ" and cater to patients' spiritual needs as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the Mediterranean nation.

"As we always say to our staff, 'If you wait until the point that we're deploying to start preparing spiritually, it's too late,'" Tenpenny emphasizes. "We expect our staff to have a strong faith and a strong walk with Christ in their own personal time … so that when we call, they can answer that call."

As the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. approaches 15,000 – with the death toll passing 200 – Samaritan's Purse is also poised to assist the infected in America as needs arise and numbers of those infected continue to rise with more tests being administered.

Photo credit: Samaritan's Purse

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