Dr. John D. Nichols Legacy: Operation Compassion

By , February 17, 2006

Dr. Nichols began Operation Compassion as a ministry to motivate and train churches, groups and individuals to become involved in the war on poverty. With a core of six hundred churches, fourteen hundred additional churches and groups began various outreaches to the poor. Since those humble beginnings and through an enlarged vision more than 3,000 ministries are now involved.

Dr. John D. Nichols

In 1994, I found myself standing at the crossroads of my ministry, not knowing which way to turn. As I sought God and waited patiently, I began to sense god’s blessings as His lighted signposts came into sight. My heart was stirred with a deep compassion for the poor and needy, young and old. God’s word flooded my heart: ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…’ (James1:27). ‘…Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40). What have I done? Fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, cared for the stranger, clothes the needy, cared for the sick, and ministered to those in prison! As God’s Word bore witness in my heart, circumstances revealed themselves in which god moved mightily. Operation compassion was born!

—    John D. Nichols
President of Operation Compassion
International Executive Director, Care Ministries

After five years of solidifying a base of ministry partners, Dr. Nichols wanted Operation Compassion to expand its focus. It was not enough to train and teach how to do benevolence. Operation Compassion needed to be doing benevolence. In 1999, Operation Compassion began by delivering two pick-up trucks of food, clothing and other supplies to poor and needy families. Dr. Nichols’ vision of product distribution had begun and the expansion would prove to be successful. Operation Compassion not only trained but also provided a model of distribution. By the end of the first year, one hundred semi trucks of product had been moved through Operation Compassion helping the poor and in times of disaster.

One of the most difficult aspects of Operation Compassion’s relief effort came on September 11, 2001. Dr. Nichols was determined to make a difference especially after he was escorted by city officials to the site of the smoldering Twin Towers buildings. During the next several weeks, Operation Compassion delivered thirteen semis of relief product to the city of New York as well as partnering with the city’s Police Department in sponsoring children’s block parties for Christmas.

By the end of 2003 under the leadership of Dr. Nichols, Operation Compassion had become the largest partnering agency to four of the top ten charities. More than 3,000 semi trucks of product had been moved through the network and millions of people were supplied with needed goods. Operation Compassion had reached another milestone but the challenges of disaster relief and helping the needy continued to be a driving force for its continued success. Dr. Nichols relentless and tireless efforts were paying great dividends!

In addition to moving product, Dr. Nichols’ vision created solid partnerships that have resulted in four Dream Centers. Dr. Nichols did not fully realize what would transpire when the Dream Center concept was birthed. However, with the completion of the Dream Centers, Operation Compassion has an influence in the four major areas of extreme poverty in the United States as designated by the United States Census Bureau. Appalachia Dream Center was operational in 2001; First American Dream Center opened in 2002; Delta Dream Center was developed in 2003; Borderland Dream Center started in 2004.

Dr. Nichols’ vision was not just for domestic relief but also included an international scope. Operation Compassion began responding to natural disasters. First, the response was in the Caribbean and Central America. But through Dr. Nichols’ desire to reach far beyond the United States, plans were in place and governmental approval was given to operate in Indonesia two weeks before the tsunami. With the tsunami doors opened to respond in other countries such as India.

Since 1994, Operation Compassion has transitioned through many stages of growth. However, the five program priorities established by Dr. Nichols have remained timeless. Compassion America continues to be an influence in urban benevolence programming. Dream America serves as the driving force for the rural poverty programs. Compassion World reaches into third world developing countries. Community Love Connection impacts local communities with one-day events. Disaster Relief continues as Operation Compassion’s response to catastrophic events, domestic and international.

Operation Compassion, under the leadership of Dr. John D. Nichols, President has experienced metamorphic success. This success is not illustrated in number of trucks or poundage but in the countless faces of the girls and boys, women and men that receive necessary life sustaining help across the United States and around the world.

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