A lot of people have heard of Samaritan’s purse lately because of the problems in Liberia, Africa. Many people associate it with Franklin Graham but it was Bob Pierce who founded Samaritan’s Purse in 1970 with a vision “to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches.” Pierce had previously founded World Vision in 1950. Bob was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa but his family moved to southern California in the mid-1920s. He attended Pasadena Nazarene College and studied for the ministry. In 1937 Pierce took the road as a travelling evangelist in California. Imagine founding two great NPO’s in a lifetime.
Franklin Graham met Pierce in 1973, and they made several trips together to visit projects and mission partners in Asia. Graham became president of Samaritan’s Purse in 1979 following Pierce’s death in 1978. As the organization grew, Samaritan’s Purse not only funded mission partners but also began to develop its own large-scale relief projects such as:
- Medical care in the midst of conflicts in Somalia in 1993, Rwanda in 1994, Sudan since 1997, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2002, and Iraq in 2003.
- Rebuilding or repairing thousands of houses following Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the El Salvador earthquakes in 2001, the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
- Chartering emergency airlifts to Indonesia and Pakistan in 2005, North Korea in 2007, and Myanmar and China in 2008.
- Distributing food to hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Uganda and Darfur.
The organization’s medical mission in Liberia, West Africa, is one of only two medical NGO’s active in Liberia. Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA both have been actively engaged in treating the recent outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Liberia.
In 1947, Robert Pierce worked for a religious non-profit organization called Youth for Christ, whose mission was to evangelize the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The young evangelist held a Crusade in China, where thousands made public commitments as followers of Christ during four months of evangelistic rallies. On the trip, he met Tena Hoelkedoer, a missionary teacher. She presented him a battered and abandoned child named White Jade who had given her life to Christ at Mr. Pierce’s crusade and because of that was beaten and abandoned by her family. Unable to care for the child herself, Tena asked Pierce, “What are you going to do about her?” Pierce gave the woman his last five dollars and agreed to send the same amount each month to help the woman care for the child.
While there Pierce saw widespread hunger. It is said that he felt compassion for others. Pierce later wrote these words in the flyleaf of his Bible: “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” Dragging a movie camera across Asia—China was soon closed—Pierce showed the resulting pictures to church audiences in North America. He asked for money to help children. He showed their faces and begged Christians to “adopt” one. In 1950 he incorporated this personal crusade as World Vision, which was then a service organisation for missionaries and was originally not supposed to operate any projects.
What can God do when a heart is moved with compassion? You may not work on such large scale projects but for the love of God and people you can change the world too every day of your life. Good things can come out of Northwest Iowa or anywhere else.