Samaritan's Purse

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Samaritan's Purse

Samaritan’s Purse was founded in 1970 by Bob Pierce after he "stumbled across some courageous women who were living among lepers and orphans, sacrificing everything to share the love of Jesus Christ. Through their selfless love, God gave Pierce a vision for ministry. He dedicated himself to finding and supporting other such Christians who were caring for the poor and suffering in the distant corners of the world" (source).

Samaritan's Purse

One of those courageous women was Beth Albert. As recounted by Bob Pierce's daughter: "My father met American missionary Beth Albert when he took a break in his speaking schedule to fly to a remote area of China called Kunming. “I got off with my camera and gear and just stood there, not a living soul in sight. Then along bounced an old jeep. ‘You Bob Pierce?’ the driver asked. ‘I’m Beth Albert. I work with lepers.’” Over the next two days, Beth introduced dad to a world he never knew existed. In 1947 leprosy was still considered a death sentence, and anyone infected was either driven out of town or shot. Beth had discovered more than 100 men, women, and children struggling to survive in the only place they were allowed to live - a cemetery. They were starving, naked, and dying without any medical intervention. And most heartbreaking of all, their healthy babies died with them. Beth, a nurse who had trained at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University), was determined to help. “Beth had no help from the outside,” my dad would later recall. Until he began supporting her, she was dependent upon whatever locals would give her. She scrounged among the trash for old cans and taught the people - many without fingers - to fill them with mud to make bricks. With this they managed to build small shelters. Through food, clothing, medicine, Bible studies - somehow one indomitable woman managed to bring life and hope to those whom the world had written off. And every one of the precious people she served came to know Jesus, not because she preached, but because she loved" (source). Bob Pierce died in 1977. A year later, Franklin Graham became the CEO and Board Chair of Samaritan's Purse.

The stated mission of Samaritan's Purse is to provide physical aid to promote the Gospel: "Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ" (source).

Strengths

Samaritan's Purse has grown into one of the largest Christian charities in the world, with 2020 revenues of $899 million. Samaritan's Purse also transparently posts the salaries of its officers on its website. And unlike his father, who started well but loved the praise of men more than the praise of God and became a heretic (watch), Franklin Graham has stood by the true Gospel and against homosexuality, Islam and other false religions.

Weaknesses

1.  The leaders of Samaritan's Purse pay themselves obscene salaries.

The average household income in Boone, North Carolina, where Samaritan's Purse is headquartered, is $22,434 (source). In 2020, the top ten leaders of Samaritan's Purse each took from the donations given for the poor and suffering an average of $371,968 in salary and benefits (source), which is 17 times more than Boone's average household income and more than double North Carolina Governor's annual salary of $150,969:

Officer Title 2020 Pay
Franklin Graham CEO & Board Chairman $740,704
Ronald Wilcox Chief Operating Officer $352,677
Kenneth Isaacs VP of Government Rel. $347,351
James Harrelson VP Op. Christmas Child $344,673
Christopher Weeks Director of South Korea $342,418
Paula Woodring VP Quality Assurance $326,670
William Maupin VP of IT $324,309
James Dailey VP of Communications $314,982
Merrill Littlejohn VP of Finance / CFO $314,849
Brian Gresham Director of Domestic Op. $311,020
Average   $371,968
     

In 2015, Franklin Graham was discovered to have been claiming to work 40 hour work weeks at Samaritan's Purse while working 40 hour work weeks also at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which he also heads as CEO and Board Chair, and taking full salaries and benefits from both organizations; he took $258,677 from BGEA in 2014 (source). In 2016, Franklin Graham reclassified BGEA as an association of churches so that it no longer needs to disclose his pay (source). Even if his pay from BGEA has increased only at the rate of inflation since then, his annual salaries and benefits today from the two organizations now exceed $1 million, which is 2.5 times the $400,000 annual salary of the President of the United States.

2.  The Board of Samaritan's Purse is stacked with puppets.

The 16 Directors on the Board of Samaritan's Purse include Franklin Graham, his children Roy and Cissie, his cousin Melvin, two of his direct subordinates (Phyllis Payne and Paula Woodring), and two managers (Thomas Hodges and John Scott) from Truist Bank, to which Franklin Graham has moved all assets of both BGEA and Samaritan's Purse (source):

Samaritan's Purse Board

Since Hodges and Scott risk losing their day jobs if they were to displease Franklin Graham and lose his BGEA and Samaritan's Purse accounts to a rival bank, Franklin Graham controls at least 8 of the 16 Board seats. Even if the other 8 Directors were truly independent and unite against him, he can break the 8:8 tie as the Board Chair and therefore has de facto control over the entire Board, hence his ability to get away with paying himself such an unconscionable salary from the donations collected for the poor and suffering.

3.  The stated mission of Samaritan's Purse is unbiblical.

In the Bible, Jesus fed the hungry and healed the sick out of "compassion" (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34, Mark 1:41, 5:19) and to demonstrate His deity, not to make them feel grateful and then leverage their gratitude to have them accept Him. True converts are driven to the cross by anguish over their sins (see true Gospel). Those who come to the cross to have their physical needs met become false convert "rice Christians" who fall away when too little or too much rice materializes.

 4.  Samaritan's Purse pulls in more money than it can handle.

The fundraising budget of Samaritan's Purse ($53,762,607 in 2020) is many times greater than the total revenues of most missionary organizations and fields an army of fundraisers who bring in more money than it can spend. In 2020, Samaritan's Purse managed to distribute and spend only 75% ($677 million) of the $899 million received, and dumped the rest onto its mountain of cash, which grew to $429,843,807 (see "Cash and cash equivalents" under Consolidated Statement of Financial Position in source):

Expense 2020 Of Total
Operation Christmas Child $284,651,667 42%
Emergency Relief $115,918,829 17%
Community Development $  86,151,129 13%
Medical Ministry $  50,069,523 7%
Christian education $  30,748,697 5%
Children's Ministry - Other $    4,333,388 1%
Other Ministry $    5,041,408 1%
Fundraising $  53,762,607 8%
General & Administrative $  46,226,753 7%
Total $676,904,001 100%
     

5.  Samaritan's Purse has high opportunity cost.

The world's 800 million Protestants field about 140,000 missionaries today and only 1% of them (1,400) work among unevangelized and unreached people (source). While handing out $284,651,667 worth of Christmas gifts is nice, that sum could have provided $6,000 of annual ($500 monthly) support to deploy 3,400% more indigenous missionaries (47,442) to the unevangelized and unreached people.

6.  "Samaritan's Purse" is a misnomer.

The Samaritan whom Jesus described in Luke 10:30-37 gave his time, energy, "bandage", "oil and wine" and money to help a wounded stranger. Money came out of his purse, not into it. In particular, he didn't parade around the wounded stranger to passersby to get money from them, get rich from the money collected, and then use some of it to care for the stranger. Hirelings serve for money. The Samaritan served out of true love, which, as he and Jesus demonstrated, is sacrificial. The leaders of Samaritan's Purse sacrifice nothing; their purses are those of hirelings.

Solutions

1.  Replace all Board members, who have failed to keep Franklin Graham in check, with people like Beth Albert.

2.  Cut all six figure salaries, including those above, to $100,000, which is still more than 4 times the average annual household income in Boone, NC. The Samaritans, if any, will stay; the hirelings will leave.

3.  Rely on God for funds; get rid of the fundraisers.

4.  Meet physical needs purely out of compassion.

5.  Drive people to the cross by addressing their need to have their sins paid for, not by offering Christmas gifts.