Expertise: Compassion’s Ministry, Global Poverty, Holistic Child Development, Leadership, Wydick Research
Wess Stafford is the President and CEO of Compassion International and a passionate, global advocate for children in poverty. Wess authored Too Small to Ignore and Just a Minute and holds a PhD in education.
Wess has often stated that if Compassion International did not exist in 1977, when he joined the organization, he would have needed to start it because it is so close to his passion and priorities. Wess firmly believes that Compassion is the most developmental organization today meeting the needs of children in poverty, and its mission is as close to the heart of God as you can get. His dissertation in 1986 started out to prove that sponsorship was not a necessary developmental tool to care for children in poverty. However, his research proved the exact opposite was true and he chose to pour himself wholeheartedly into Compassion’s ministry.
Wess was raised in Nielle, Ivory Coast West Africa as the son of missionaries from age 5 to 15. Although he lived among the Senufu tribe for 3 months out of each year, he spent the remainder of the year at a boarding school where he suffered verbal, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the dorm parents and older students. He also saw most of his boyhood friends in the village die from preventable causes due to a lack of resources.
Wess later lived in Haiti for 3-1/2 years while overseeing work for six relief and development organizations in that country. He has since spent 35 years traveling internationally, speaking and encouraging others toward ministry to children. Twenty of these years have been as President and CEO of Compassion.
Wess believes it is possible to push extreme global poverty off this planet within our lifetime. “We have made tremendous progress in the last few years, and as more and more Christians become aware of our mandate to care for the poor, we can make even greater strides,” Wess says. “I believe that God is calling Compassion to be better equipped to handle tremendous growth…even to care for as many as 4 million children in Compassion’s near future.”
- Diploma, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, 1970
- B.A. in Communications, Biola University, Los Angeles, California, 1975
- M.A. in International Broadcasting, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois, 1977
- Ph.D. of Philosophy in Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, 1986
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Biola University, 2004
- Honorary Doctor of Humanities, Colorado Christian University, 2005
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Asbury University, 2010
- Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Michigan State University
- The McGlathery Award in Communications, Wheaton College Graduate School
- Graduated with Highest Honor, Wheaton College Graduate School
- Graduated Magna Cum Laude, Biola University
- U. S. Army Security Linguist
- Author of Too Small to Ignore, released in October 2005
- Author of Just a Minute, released in January 2012
- Best Outreach Resources Award, Outreach Magazine, 2006 for Too Small to Ignore
- Higher Goals in Christian Journalism Award, First Place in First-Person Article Category for "Candle in the Darkness", Christianity Today, 2011, Evangelical Press Association
Wess is fluent in English, French and Haitian Creole. He has moderate fluency in German and Spanish, and some conversancy with Czech and Senufo (Ivory Coast).
Wess lives on a small ranch near Colorado Springs and is an avid hunter and fisherman. He also loves camping and riding his motorcycle when he is not traveling for Compassion.