Robert Pierce

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Robert Pierce
Personal details
Birth nameRobert Willard Pierce
Born(1914-10-06)October 6, 1914
Fort Dodge, Iowa, United States
DiedNovember 6, 1978(1978-11-06) (aged 64)
Arcadia, California, United States
SpouseLorraine Johnson
OccupationLeader of World Vision International and Samaritan's Purse
EducationPasadena Nazarene College

Robert Pierce (1914–1978) was an American Baptist minister and relief worker. He is best known as the founder of the international charity organizations World Vision International in 1950 and Samaritan's Purse in 1970.

Early life and education[edit]

Pierce was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa. He moved with his family to southern California in the mid-1920s. He attended Pasadena Nazarene College and studied for the ministry. From 1937 to 1940 he spent time traveling across California working as an evangelist. In 1940 he was ordained a Baptist minister and soon thereafter he became involved with the Los Angeles branch of the WWII-era “Youth for Christ” (YFC) movement.[1]


In 1947, Robert Pierce joined Youth for Christ, in a series of evangelical rallies held in China. [2] On the trip, he met Tena Hoelkeboer, a missionary teacher. She presented him with a battered and abandoned child. 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.[3]

He was deeply affected by the poverty and human suffering that he witnessed. In 1950 he founded World Vision International.

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 importunately 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. 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.[4]

Pierce was a close friend to Abraham Vereide. Like other leading figures of World Vision, e.g. Richard Halverson,[5] Senator Frank Carlson,[6] or later Winston Weaver[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] In 1978, he died of leukemia.


  1. ^ Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals
  2. ^ Roy Robertson: Developing a Heart for Mission: Five Missionary Heroes, Nav Media, Singapore, 2002, 349 pages
  3. ^
  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. 1-8, 84, 103, 361-362
  5. ^ "A Secret Weapon Arms The Christian Soldier" The Miami News, 13. February 1965, page 5A
  6. ^ "Carlsons Role in Viet Aid Agency" The Fort Scott Tribune, Kansas, 28. June 1967
  7. ^ Ted W. Engstrom (President of World Vision): "The Power of One - a Real Life Example" World Vision Newsletter, February–March 1987, S. 23
  8. ^ "Records of the Fellowship Foundation - Collection 459" Archived 2017-01-03 at the Wayback Machine Archive of the Billy Graham Center (Accessed 12. July 2010)
  9. ^ 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