The Samaritan’s Purse International Disaster Relief organization was able to provide millions of dollars’ worth of relief to over 7,000 CNMI residents after the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yutu in October 2018.
This was learned in an interview yesterday with Rev. Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse president and CEO, who is visiting the CNMI to headline the Marianas Festival of Hope, an evangelical concert, this Friday at the American Memorial Park starting at 5:30pm.
Graham told Saipan Tribune that Samaritan’s Purse sprang to action immediately after learning of the severity of Super Typhoon Yutu.
“I didn’t know anything about it, because, you know, I just hadn’t read about [Yutu]. So, I Googled really quickly and I saw how destructive it was and how much damage it had done. We then put an action to send a couple of people here first. They came and talked to the churches to see what was needed,” Graham said.
The group, which is based in North Carolina, was eventually able to provide aid to 7,600 CNMI residents. “I think it was 80 tons of relief supplies, tarps, shelter material. We also had water purification units, and the generators that went to Tinian. It would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It may have been a couple of millions because it was not only the supplies but getting that supplies and airfreighting it over here,” he said.
Besides people, Samaritan’s Purse also helped transfer a lion and a tiger from a badly damaged zoo on Saipan to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. That earned the group the Compassionate Action Award from animal-rights group PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
In all, Samaritan’s Purse airlifted more than 80 tons of relief supplies to Saipan.
Graham said he is proud of their speedy response to the disaster because they were able to help thousands of families in need. “When people are hurting, you need to move quickly. So we loaded [our airplane] up with cargo, came, landed, then went back to United States, loaded up again, and came back. [We made] three trips, I believe,” he said.
Graham assures the CNMI community that in the event the CNMI faces another tragedy like Yutu, Samaritan’s Purse will be ready to help. “We will certainly come back if there was another tragedy. We love the churches here, the people here. We’ve gotten to know a number of people as a result of our work here. So we will continue to have Saipan in our hearts and we will continue to support Saipan,” he said.
With direct disaster assistance now done, Samaritan’s Purse is turning its focus to spiritual aid, Graham said. “We were here for the physical and now we’re going to take time to work with the churches and focus on the spiritual, which we believe to be far more important,” he said.
Graham added he wants to instill in the hearts of CNMI residents that, whether the economy goes up or goes down, they can be secure in the knowledge that their sins are forgiven.
“I think it’s very important that people know that…they can have a relationship with God,” he said.
The Festival of Hope, where Graham will serve as the main speaker, will also feature special guests Michael W. Smith, Tommy Goomes Band and Dennis Agajanian, among others.