Bob Pierce was an evangelist in China when he met some Christian women who were living as missionaries among lepers. In 1970, their devotion inspired him to create a new nondenominational ministry that would support evangelical Christians providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. He called the group Samaritan’s Purse, echoing the Biblical example of the Good Samaritan. It soon developed a specialty in getting assistance to victims of war, poverty, natural disaster, disease, and famine in some of the neediest corners of the globe. (Pierce had previously founded the Christian overseas charity World Vision—see 1950 entry.)
Billy Graham’s son Franklin was a bit of a prodigal, but during a period when he was drifting abroad he connected with Bob Pierce and his group. Franklin Graham was powerfully moved by their mission, and after Pierce died of leukemia, Graham became president of Samaritan’s Purse in 1979. He proved to be a formidable fundraiser, and led the charity through a period of explosive growth.
Today, Samaritan’s Purse raises more than $500 million every year to feed African children, provide medical care to cyclone victims, offer HIV treatment in countries like Peru, donate Christmas gift boxes to the dispossessed, and otherwise deliver physical aid and spiritual hope. The group has a particular reputation for operating without bureaucracy or corruption, and for eschewing red tape in ways that allow its planes and aid workers to arrive first and get things done when poor people are hurting. It has been named many times as one of today’s most efficient religious charities.