TBN/Friend Ships Partnership
TBN founder Paul Crouch visits devastated area
by Dave Bohon | WDCmedia News
Sept. 23, 2005 (Los Angeles) Two weeks after docking its 180-foot cutter Hope at Gretna, Louisiana , the humanitarian agency Friend Ships has assisted thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina with food supplies, water, personal items, emergency home repairs, and spiritual encouragement.
With the help of a $100,000 gift from the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Friend Ships set up quickly in a special area designated by the mayor of Gretna, who had personally asked Friend Ships to assist the community. "The mayor has been amazing to us and is so grateful for the help we've given to the people down here," says Don Tipton, Friend Ships' founder and director.
The Bell JetRanger helicopter donated to Friend Ships by TBN, affectionately dubbed "Wings of Love," flew in teams of volunteers and a huge cook kitchen to serve people with hot meals. "After setting up two prayer and cook stations our teams unloaded food, water, ice, and other disaster items," says Tipton. "It's been the perfect place because it's been really accessible to the people we're serving, and we've been able to move them through quickly."
Tipton recalls the scene of devastation and chaos he and his team witnessed as the Hope made its way up the Mississippi past downtown New Orleans. "It was like entering a third world country at war," recalls Tipton. "Along with the terrible destruction that covered the area, Blackhawk's and other helicopters swarmed the skies, while Navy ships and Coast Guard vessels patrolled the waters."
With the help of law enforcement provided by the mayor to secure the area for their work, Friend Ships volunteers quickly swung into action and started massive cook-ups of meals to serve the devastated residents who soon arrived in masses.
Greeting each person in the line with a warm smile and greeting, volunteers offered them hot meals, personal care and other items and prayer. "These folks have experienced such overwhelming devastation in their lives that their hearts are really open to God's mercy," explains Tipton. "We listen to them, we hold their hands, and we pray God's love over them."
One man coming through the line was asked if he wanted some hot gumbo, a Cajun specialty Friend Ships has provided as a "comfort food" for local residents. "No, I want prayer first, and then maybe some gumbo later," he replied.
Tipton emphasizes that the hearts of people are being touched as their needs are met by people who really care. "The key has been showing the love of God in a tangible way," explains Tipton, "with food, clothing, and other needs met, and then offering prayer and encouragement with it"
In addition to operating two sites for distributing food and relief aid, Friend Ships volunteers have also made emergency repairs to many homes damaged by the storm. Tipton says that Friend Ships was given thousands of feet of heavy-duty roofing, and they've been able to help many residents with emergency repairs. "Our teams just make their way through a neighborhood, measure and cut the roofing, and have it installed in just a few minutes," said Tipton.
Six Friend Ships teams have been going door-to-door throughout the devastated New Orleans area, finding the needs of the people. "They then go back to the warehouse we've set up, fill bags with the needed supplies, and deliver them back to the homes," says Tipton. "And they always offer to pray for the people, something nearly everyone wants."
Shortly after Friend Ships arrived in New Orleans, TBN founder Paul Crouch visited the devastated area to encourage and pray for victims and the volunteers. "Paul was deeply touched by what he saw," recalls Tipton. "The incredible destruction and devastation to the lives of these people, as well as the ministry of mercy he saw going on down here, just moved him to tears," say Tipton.
Crouch says that what he witnessed convinced him that the Church has a real opportunity to provide long-term aid both physical and spiritual to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area. "Groups like Friend Ships have made the first quick response to provide emergency relief," Crouch points out. "They 'stormed the beaches,' and now it's time for others to come in behind and make sure these people are covered with prayer, continued relief and help, and spiritual encouragement in the long months ahead."
Friend Ships is continuing to accept gifts of money to help with its ongoing outreach to Katrina victims, as well as a wide variety of needed items, including new and gently used clothing, bottled water, rice, beans, and other food supplies, roofing nails, hammers, and other tools needed by volunteers doing repairs to homes in the community. For a more complete listing of needed items visit www.friendships.org/hurricane. You can also reach them by phone at 337-433-5022.
TBN has already sent over 10,000 Bibles for distribution to affected areas, as well as more than 85,000 dolls and other toys for the children whose families lost everything. "This is an important opportunity for Christians to minister God's mercy in a tangible way," says Jan Crouch, TBN co-founder and wife of Paul Crouch. "That's what Jesus meant when he said, 'When you've done it to these, you've done it to Me."
For more information about TBN, visit www.tbn.org .
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