2020 was coming to a close, the Antelope Valley was facing all-time highs in COVID-19 cases. The valley, which is situated in the northern part of Los Angeles County, is home to only one full-service medical facility, the Antelope Valley Hospital. The hospital was overwhelmed due to the surge in cases as well as a shortage of staff. Nearly a million people rely on AVH for their medical needs, but as COVID cases continued rising, the hospital staff was missing nearly 200 workers due to illness or exposure. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Pastor Paul Chappell and the Lancaster Baptist Church had been doing anything they could to support and show appreciation for all of the medical workers in the Antelope Valley. From bringing baked goods and gifts to writing thank you notes, Lancaster Baptist wanted to be a blessing to these essential workers in any way they could. As the situation grew worse, Pastor Chappell wanted to do something more to help the Antelope Valley Hospital. That’s when he contacted Franklin Graham at Samaritan’s Purse.
Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization led by Franklin Graham that provides humanitarian aid for communities in need. At Pastor Chappell’s recommendation, Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris contacted Franklin Graham and secured the aid of Samaritan’s Purse. Looking back on the events, Rex Parris said, “If ever my faith wavers and I start to think that prayers aren’t answered, I will remember that day, because out of nowhere, I got a call from Pastor Chappell saying, ‘Hey, do you want a field hospital?’”
In a matter of days, a fully-staffed field hospital capable of supporting fifty-four patients was on its way to the Antelope Valley. Volunteers from Lancaster Baptist Church worked with Samaritan’s Purse and the staff of AVH to construct the field hospital in the parking lot.
When the field hospital officially opened on January 16, they immediately took in thirty patients who had been waiting in the hallways of the main hospital for beds. The continued aid of Samaritan’s Purse over the next few weeks was a huge relief for the overworked staff of AVH. Samaritan’s Purse ended up staying in the valley for over a month and treated a total of 167 COVID-19 victims. Besides providing much-needed medical assistance in the valley, the team from Samaritan’s Purse provided an excellent testimony for Christ to everyone in the community.
Near the end of their ministry, Pastor Chappell commented, “This has been an expression of God’s love in our community.” Samaritan’s Purse provided both their staff and members of Lancaster Baptist Church with many opportunities to share the Gospel with government workers, hospital staff, and victims of COVID-19.
By February 18, the number of people who needed treatment had decreased to a manageable level for the staff of AVH. As Samaritan’s Purse prepared to leave the area, they gathered with local government officials, hospital staff, and church leaders to celebrate the work that had been done. At this meeting, Mayor Rex Parris said, “At our darkest hour, it was the churches that saved us. We should never forget that.”