“Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."
Written on the flyleaf of Bob Pierce’s Bible, those words defined the man’s life. Founder of World Vision and later Samaritan’s Purse, Pierce started out in 1947 as an ordained Baptist minister with Youth for Christ. An entrepreneurial, energetic young evangelist, he set out for adventure in China and returned with a life mission.
While in China evangelizing to American servicemen, the poverty, human suffering, and the plight of orphaned children haunted Pierce, and he vowed to mobilize conservative Christians back in the United States to meet their needs.
When asked by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, how to "shake people out of their complacency," Pierce once said he had "become a part of the suffering. I literally felt the child's blindness, the mother's grief. … It was all too real to me…" Pastor Richard Halvorsen 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."
He wasn’t a perfect man, by any means. He had a temper and often clashed with the World Vision board. He traveled as much ten months of the year. "I've made an agreement with God," he said, "that I'll take care of his helpless little lambs overseas if he'll take care of mine at home."
His devotion to his ministries to the exclusion of all else cost him dearly. In 1963, he suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1967, he resigned from World Vision over differences that left him bitter, displaced and emotionally exhausted. While on a good-bye tour of Asia, his daughter Sharon called and asked him to come home but he refused, planning instead to extend his trip to Vietnam. His wife rushed home to find Sharon had tried to commit suicide. Later that year, she tried again and succeeded.
In 1970, Pierce legally separated from his wife and in 1978 he died of leukemia.
Yet Pierce's ministry lives on—bigger than he could have imagined—in World Vision and Samaritan's Purse. His dedication and compassion still inspire others to serve the poor.
Thank you, Bob Pierce and family, for all that you have given to the world. You have touched so many and your legacy lives on through these amazing organizations.
Have you touched anyone lately?