Wess Stafford

President Emeritus of Compassion International

Dr. Wess Stafford is President Emeritus of Compassion International, one of the world’s largest Christian child development organizations, partnering with more than 60 denominations and 7,000 local churches to serve nearly 2 million children in 26 countries. Wess is an internationally recognized advocate for children in poverty, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

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Dr. Wess Stafford is President Emeritus of Compassion International, one of the world’s largest Christian child development organizations, partnering with more than 60 denominations and 7,000 local churches to serve nearly 2 million children in 26 countries. He has worked both overseas and in leadership positions at ministry headquarters for four decades, and served as President and CEO of Compassion International for 20 years. The author of Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most and Just a Minute: In the Heart of a Child, One Moment Can Last Forever, and host of the radio feature Speak Up with Compassion, Wess is an internationally recognized advocate for children in poverty, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

Wess’ life experiences uniquely prepared him for this role. While he earned undergraduate degrees from Moody Bible Institute and Biola University, and a master’s degree from Wheaton College, as well as a Ph.D. from Michigan State University, Wess often says, “Everything I really need to know to lead a multinational organization I learned from the poor while growing up in an African village.” The son of missionaries to the Ivory Coast, Wess lived the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” He grew up as one of the village children, watched over by a wise and loving African “extended family.” But his young heart was often broken when his African friends died too soon from the cruel ravages of poverty. Wess feels privileged to now minister to those who have always been so close to his heart.

Wess joined Compassion’s ministry in 1977, first serving in Haiti. “Compassion and I were a perfect match,” Wess has said. “Their philosophy of development reflects everything my experience told me was true—the importance of preserving the dignity of the poor, focusing on empowering people by equipping them rather than doing for them, and enhancing cultures by enabling the local church to disciple children. If Compassion had not already existed, I would have had to create it!” Compassion’s approach works—hundreds of thousands of its program’s “graduates” are now giving back in their own countries as Christian spouses and parents, national leaders, educators, health care workers, pastors, church workers, lawyers and entrepreneurs. 

Wess has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Biola University, Trinity International University, Asbury University, Colorado Christian University and Lancaster Bible College. He is a veteran, having served for four years in the U.S. Army as a linguist in military intelligence. An avid outdoorsman, Wess lives on a small ranch in Colorado with Donna, his wife of 37 years, who was a Compassion sponsor even before she met Wess. They have two daughters, Jenny and Katie—the two children in the world for whom Wess is the greatest advocate of all. 

 

Wess Stafford - 100 Huntley Interview

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