The Italians' Job: To Stop the Spread

March 18, 2020

Proactive verse reactive. Hong Kong, which shares a border with China, took quick action when the world had barely heard of the coronavirus. The result? They flattened the curve to prevent an unmanageable outbreak. Italy, on the other hand, reacted slowly, and the consequences have been disastrous.

"None of us have ever experienced a tragedy like it." Marco Pavesi has been a doctor in Italy for years. He's seen his share of horrors. "We know how to respond to road accidents, train derailments, even earthquakes. But a virus that has killed so many, which gets worse with each passing day and for which a cure -- or even containment -- seems distant? No." We always think disasters like this will happen to someone else, he admits, in another part of the world. "But not this time. This time, it happened here, to us."

With the death and infection rates climbing, Rev. Franklin Graham made the decision: it was time for Samaritan's Purse to go in. "We reached out to them," he told me on "Washington Watch" Wednesday. "And I just offered, 'Do you want any help?'" The officials, he says, "were just shocked." To this point, no one had offered. "They just jumped at it," Franklin explained. From there, things happened quickly. The red tape was cut "within minutes." In fact, he said, the government is so desperate that the Italian military is rushing the supplies to the hospital for them.

"We landed at a military base -- [and] that is extremely unusual to take out your plane into a military base." By today, Franklin said, the 68-bed field hospital that they airlifted to Milan should be on the ground helping people -- along with more than 30 medical specialists they sent. That means medical equipment and respiratory units can finally start treating the tens of thousands of infected patients. "The Italians are just overwhelmed... And they didn't know what to do... So we are there," Franklin wanted people to know, "respond[ing] in Jesus's name."

But it's not just their physical condition he's concerned about -- it's their spiritual condition too. "We're going to Italy to help the people that are suffering, the people that are dying to care for them, to love them. But more importantly, we're there to tell them about God's son, Jesus Christ." So pray, Franklin urged. "We don't need to be afraid, but we do need to pray."

Like a lot of people, Franklin wondered if the whole crisis had been blown out of proportion. But all of that changed when the virus hit close to home. "I thought maybe a lot of this was overhyped until one of my staff came down with it..." he admitted. "He was coming back from a country that didn't even have the virus, but he must have picked it up on the airplane or coming through Europe at the airport or something. But it just shows you how fast it can come. And we just we need to be ready for it. But more importantly, we need to encourage people [that] our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in Christ."

One day, Franklin acknowledged, "my life is going to come to an end -- whether it's a virus, whether it's a car accident or a flu, cancer, whatever. But I know when that day comes... I'm going to be in the presence of God -- not because I'm a good guy, not because I'm an American or my father was a famous evangelist. It's gonna be because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. And He shed his blood for me."

For information on how you can help Samaritan's Purse minister to the people of Italy and others around the world, visit the website.