May 7, 2012 | 7:53 a.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications and Marketing Specialist for University Relations
Wess Stafford, internationally recognized advocate for children in poverty and the CEO of Compassion International, visited Bethel University recently during a two-day event that was part of the Office of Campus Ministries’ “Faith and Values” symposium series.
Founded in 1952, Compassion International is one of the world's largest Christian child development agencies, partnering with more than 60 denominations and thousands of local churches to serve more than one million children in 26 countries.
During his visit, Stafford spoke at a leadership event for area pastors, which was co-sponsored by Bethel’s Office of Church Ministries and Transform Minnesota (formerly the Greater Minneapolis Association of Evangelicals). Afterwards, a crowd of several hundred gathered in Benson Great Hall for “A Conversation on Compassion.”
The next day, Stafford addressed the Bethel community at Chapel, where he shared his journey to faith and his experience growing up as the son of missionaries in the Ivory Coast, off the south coast of western Africa. Campus Pastor Laurel Bunker introduced him as “one of the most humble men . . . who does all his work for the glory of God.”
During his chapel address, Stafford said he was moved to advocate for children (“the least of these,” Matthew 25:40) when, at age six, he witnessed many of his friends dying from measles. He remembers crying as he realized that not all children had the same protection or safety he did. Stafford’s resolve was strengthened when had a similar experience when he came to the United States at age 15. Marveling at all the food and medicine available, he wept again at the loss he had witnessed in Africa, losses that he says didn’t have to happen.
Stafford challenged the audience to join him in listening to, and advocating for, children. He called children innocent victims who pay the price for all that goes wrong in our world. “More children died in the last decade than did soldiers,” he stated. But death and poverty aren’t the only evils facing children. “There are now 27 million women and children in slavery, and their price is based on their vulnerability.”
Referring to his book, Just a Minute, he encouraged the audience to spend time with a child. “If you have just one minute with a child, take it; you might be the one who makes an impact on them.” And, he stressed, “You don’t need to be an expert in child development!”
He then challenged students, “What’s your cause? What moves you so deeply that you’re moved to tears in 30 seconds? Whether those are tears of loss or tears of joy. Find your cause! Something that’s bigger than you and that requires your time, talent, and treasure.”
He concluded, “My prayer for you is that you find that and that it drives your life. Find your cause and live it to His glory.”