Our Founder

Timeline of Bob Finley's life including, meeting Billy Graham, travels to Asia and founding of Christian Aid Mission

Robert (Bob) V. Finley

A few years after Christian Aid Mission founder, Robert (Bob) Finley, surrendered his life to Christ, he became an evangelist for Youth for Christ, alongside another young evangelist named Billy Graham. The two were sent all across the United States to speak at youth rallies, churches, seminaries, colleges, and Bible institutes.

From 1945 to 1947, more than 10,000 men and women dedicated their lives as missionaries during events at which Finley spoke. During this time, Finley was also working for another new organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, as an evangelist among university students.

Missionary to the Nations

In 1948, Finley went to Asia as a representative of both YFC and IVCF, and conducted evangelistic meetings in India and the Philippines. Later that year, Finley went to China, fulfilling the missionary desire the Lord had placed on his heart. But in 1949, the communists took over China and all foreign missionaries had to leave. Finley moved on to South Korea, where he and Bob Pierce—who later founded World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse—were the two principal evangelists in a great evangelical awakening that swept through that country. They conducted the largest evangelistic meetings ever held in Asia up to that time. But when communists invaded from the North in June 1950, all foreign missionaries had to leave the country—just like they had to leave China the previous year. That’s when Finley began questioning the paradigm of foreign missions. “When all 6,000 of us were put out of the country, we had to fall on our knees and ask God how this could possibly be His will,” said Finley. “Could it be true that we should not be there at that time?”

Paradigm Shift

Finley remained in Asia as an itinerant evangelist, conducting crusades in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India and the Philippines. In those places, he observed the effectiveness of indigenous Christian leaders in reaching their own people with the gospel. They spoke the same language, knew the culture and customs, and lived among the people they were trying to reach.

He heard about Bakht Singh, the most influential Christian in the history of India, who became a believer as a student in Canada and returned to his native land with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Finley returned to America determined to inform churches and ministry groups about the need to support indigenous missionaries and share the gospel with foreign students visiting the U.S. Those who accepted Christ could then take God’s Word back to their respective countries or people groups.

“The example of the Apostle Paul stood out to me,” said Finley. “He left his native Cilicia and went as a foreign student at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem. While there God called him to return to Asia as an apostle to his own people. As I read more about missionaries in the Bible, I noticed they were nearly all native to the people they reached.”

Christian Aid Mission

In 1953, Finley started International Students, Inc. to share the gospel with foreign students all over the U.S. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association provided ISI with headquarters office space in D.C., while Dawson Trotman, founder of Navigators, loaned four Navigators staff members to help grow the work in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Finley served as president of ISI for 17 years.

From the beginning of ISI, Finley realized the need to provide financial assistance for indigenous ministries, especially those led by men and women of God whom he had known as foreign students in America. In 1970, he started Christian Aid Mission, the premiere and foremost supporter of indigenous missions worldwide.

As the organization grew to support new ministries overseas, they quickly outgrew their space in D.C. In 1976, Christian Aid Mission moved to Finley’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Finley retired as President and CEO of Christian Aid Mission in 2011 at age 89 and is fondly remembered by those who worked with him as a pioneer and visionary who gave his life for the sake of the gospel. He passed away on March 22, 2019, at the age of 96.

Since its inception, Christian Aid Mission has assisted thousands of indigenous ministries that have led millions of people to Christ throughout the world.

In his autobiography, Apostolic Adventures, Finley wrote: “I am humbled to see God’s hand leading me to be an advocate for native missionaries. I’ve seen these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much, sometimes their own lives, because of the call of God to reach their own people for Jesus Christ. I pray that Christian Aid Mission will continue to support native missionaries until every one of the tribes and nations on earth has a witness for Christ.”

Died, Robert Finley, Reformer of Foreign Missions (Christianity Today)
Send Dollars and Sense by Bob Finley (Christianity Today)