Robert Pierce

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For those of a similar name, see Robert Pearce (disambiguation).

Robert (Bob) Pierce (1914–1978) is best known as the founder of the international charity organizations World Vision International (now one of the largest Christian relief and development organizations in the world) in 1950 and Samaritan's Purse in 1970.

Biography[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2]

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." [3] 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.[4]

In 1959 journalist Richard Gehman wrote that "[Pierce] cannot conceal his true emotions. He seems to me to be one of the few naturally, uncontrollably honest men I have ever met." Pastor Richard Halverson wrote that Pierce "prayed more earnestly and importunely than anyone else I have ever known. It was as though prayer burned within him. … Bob Pierce functioned from a broken heart."

Pierce was also a filmmaker and during his leadership World Vision used movies, shown mainly for church audiences, as the main marketing tool. Since in the worldview of Pierce Christianity was the only religion able to counter communism, these movies were full of anti-communist cold war rhetoric and promoted Christian missionizing as a way to counter communism. In particular, movies like "The Red Plague" or "The Poison of Communism" radicalized originally apolitical evangelicals and the movies used by World Vision at that time can therefore also be seen as political propaganda movies. With the extensive use of movies as funding tool, Bob Pierce's World Vision had together with the Salvation Army a leading role in the development of the evangelical social action movie.[5]

Pierce was a close friend to Abraham Vereide. Like other leading figures of World Vision, e.g. Richard Halverson,[6] Senator Frank Carlson,[7] or later Winston Weaver[8] he was also involved in The Fellowship and the associated prayer breakfast movement founded by Vereide for which he worked during the 1950s as a field representative.[9]

In 1967 he resigned from World Vision. In 1970, he founded the hunger relief organization that became the evangelical Christian organization Samaritan's Purse that was modeled after the early World Vision International.[10] In 1978, he died of leukemia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roy Robertson: Developing a Heart for Mission: Five Missionary Heroes, Nav Media, Singapore, 2002, 349 pages
  2. ^ http://www.worldvision.ca/About-Us/History/Pages/History.aspx
  3. ^ http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Who_We_Are/History
  4. ^ J.R.Hamilton: "An Historical Study of Bob Pierce and World Vision's Development of the Evangelical Social Action Film" Dissertation, University of Southern California, 1980, p. 27
  5. ^ J.R.Hamilton: "An Historical Study of Bob Pierce and World Vision's Development of the Evangelical Social Action Film" Dissertation, University of Southern California, 1980, p. 1-8, 84, 103, 361-362
  6. ^ "A Secret Weapon Arms The Christian Soldier" The Miami News, 13. February 1965, page 5A
  7. ^ "Carlsons Role in Viet Aid Agency" The Fort Scott Tribune, Kansas, 28. June 1967
  8. ^ Ted W. Engstrom (President of World Vision): "The Power of One - a Real Life Example" World Vision Newsletter, February–March 1987, S. 23
  9. ^ "Records of the Fellowship Foundation - Collection 459" Archive of the Billy Graham Center (Accessed 12. July 2010)
  10. ^ J.R.Hamilton: "An Historical Study of Bob Pierce and World Vision's Development of the Evangelical Social Action Film" Dissertation, University of Southern California, 1980