In 1947, Robert (Bob) Pierce (1914-1978) worked for Youth for Christ, whose mission was to evangelize the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The young and compassionate evangelist held a crusade in China where thousands came to faith in Christ. He then encouraged them to share their new faith with their loved ones. 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 Pierce’s crusade and had shared her new faith. She was then beaten and abandoned by her family. Unable to care for this little girl herself, Tena asked Pierce, “What are you going to do about it?” He then gave the woman his last five dollars and promised to send her the same amount each month to help her care for the child. It was the just the beginning.
Bob Pierce saw the widespread hunger and need and his heart started to stir with compassion. He wrote this short prayer in the leaflet of his Bible: “Let my heart break 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 then asked for money to help these children. He showed their faces and asked his fellow Christians to “adopt” one. In 1950, he incorporated this personal vision as World Vision.
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.”
In 1967, he resigned from World Vision. He then went on to found the Christian humanitarian organization, Samaritan’s Purse. In 1978, he passed away from leukemia.
Since then, World Vision has grown into one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world, with 45,000 staff working in nearly 100 countries around the globe, helping transform the lives of nearly 4.2 million children in child sponsorship programs worldwide (2012) and providing $93 million for disaster relief and rebuilding efforts. And as the need continues to grow, so does the work of World Vision.