Surreal: Samaritan's Purse Sets Up Coronavirus Field Hospital... in Central Park

Samaritan's Purse field hospital. Twitter screenshot.

The global Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse is setting up an emergency field hospital in New York City’s Central Park in order to help the Big Apple as it struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.

“People are dying from the coronavirus, hospitals are out of beds, and the medical staff are overwhelmed,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said in a statement on Sunday. “We are deploying our Emergency Field Hospital to New York to help carry this burden. This is what Samaritan’s Purse does—we respond in the middle of crises to help people in Jesus’ Name. Please pray for our teams and for everyone around the world affected by the virus.”

As of Sunday, New York State had 59,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 965 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Seven-hundred thirty NYPD officers have tested positive. New York City itself has more than 36,000 cases. Roughly 50 percent of all U.S. cases are coming from the state of New York.

“Medical facilities are running out of beds in their intensive care units, as about 20 percent of all people who test positive in New York City are requiring hospitalization. Ventilators and critical medical equipment are also in short supply,” Samaritan’s Purse claimed in the statement.

“Lord, our name is on the side of these trucks, but more importantly, Your Name is on the side of these trucks. We commit ourselves and our mission to You,” prayed Luther Harrison, Samaritan’s Purse’s vice president for North American ministries, as the trucks carrying the field hospital left North Carolina and began the drive to New York City.

As Samaritan’s Purse volunteers constructed the emergency field hospital on Sunday, the charity shared images on Twitter.

Emily Belz, a reporter with WORLD Magazine who watched the hospital constructed in New York City’s historic park, called the experience “surreal.”

“Volunteers from local churches (Church of the City, Redeemer, Emmanuel) came out in the windy, wet cold to build the hospital. Will be operational” on Tuesday morning, Belz tweeted.

She also reported that the city joined with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make it possible for the field hospital to become operational in 48 hours. “This is way more functional cooperation than I saw in [Hurricane] Sandy,” Belz added.

Earlier this month, Samaritan’s Purse airlifted a 68-bed emergency field hospital to Milan, Italy.

“We have an unbelievable staff willing to do this and share the hope of Jesus Christ along with their medical expertise,” Edward Graham, Franklin Graham’s youngest son and assistant to the vice president of Samaritan’s Purse, told media at the Italy airlift. “Medicine is a magnet for the Gospel.”

Franklin Graham is the eldest son of the late evangelical preacher Billy Graham, who brought about something of a revival through his “Crusades.” Samaritan’s Purse is best known for Operation Christmas Child, a program to send shoeboxes full of gifts to children in poor countries.

These extraordinary acts of Christian charity echo the sacrifice of the early church during ancient Roman plagues. During the two devastating plagues of the 100s and 200s A.D., pagan Romans would cast infected people out of their houses to die. Christians, by contrast, went to serve the sick, risking exposure themselves but saving many in the process. This act of service not only helped save lives but also helped spread the gospel in a hostile culture. The Christian witness during these plagues helps explain how the marginal Jesus movement eventually conquered the largest empire in the world at that time.

Samaritan’s Purse’s charitable outreach to Italy and New York City at this crucial time is a powerful witness to the love of Jesus Christ and Christians’ compassion for the needy.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.