Just a Minute

Just a Minute

In honor of spring break I want to tell the story of a child and of the man he became. This man today loves children like Jesus does and helps other people do the same.

He didn’t have a good childhood. He was beaten nineteen times each week for nine months out of each year. He was the son of missionaries in the days when children were sent off to boarding school to keep them from interfering with the mission work. A head master and teachers who didn’t want to teach and were not called to caring for children used physical abuse to keepĀ  some 50 children under control and said that if the kids told their parents they’d become Satan’s tool and would harm the mission work being done. The children lived in misery, fear, and silence.

Finally one year Wess could not hold it back. Saying goodbye to his mother at the beginning of another school year, the nine-year old held her face and wouldn’t let go. “I want to remember your face, Mommy. They don’t let us have pictures of you and I won’t be able to remember what you look like.”

Then out spilled the truth about everything. Wess’s mother felt plans could not be changed at this late moment and sent Wes off but in the ensuing weeks had a breakdown thinking of what her son had been experiencing.

Meanwhile, Wess went back to school and word got out that he had told. The head master made an example, bringing him in front of all the children. He put a candle in Wess’s fingers, lit it, and told Wes to stand there as one who had been Satan’s tool. Filled with rage, Wes determined to let the candle burn his fingers. He would win this time. Closer and closer came the flame and Wes began to feel out of body as the heat increased. At that moment he knew he would spend his life looking out for other children who needed rescue. As Wes’s fingers began to blister from the heat a child jumped out of his seat and hit Wess’s hand, causing the candle to fall. But Wess’s burns had seared a determination that wouldn’t grow cold.

Wess Stafford met Jesus in a personal way as a teenager at a summer youth camp. After finishing a master’s degree he went on to spend 35 years with Compassion International, a relief and development organization focusing on hurting children, and today he is still president and living his love for children around the world and also right at home.

He wears a Mickey Mouse watch and he says every time he looks at it he’s reminded to watch for a child that day and to love the child in even the smallest way. A smile. A hug. An encouraging word. A compliment or question. It takes only a minute to care for a child, he urges, and sometimes that minute can impact a life forever.

When asked why Wess’s childhood turned him toward the heart of Jesus rather than making him bitter, he attributes only God’s grace. God allowed his childhood pain to make him who he is. He’s grateful. “I’m in the sweet spot of what God created me to do.”

You can find more of Wess’s story on radio broadcasts (http://podcast NULL.familylifetoday NULL.com/fl2012-03-12 NULL.mp3) by Family Life Today. What an inspiring man. He has recently published a book titled Just a Minute (http://shop NULL.familylife NULL.com/p-1949-just-a-minute-in-the-heart-of-a-child-hardcover NULL.aspx) with stories of children’s lives changed in only a minute by someone who cared. Wess also blogs for Compassion and tells more of his story here (http://blog NULL.compassion NULL.com/just-love-me/).

Happy Spring Break! Join Mickey and Wess and bring a smile to a child this week and beyond.

[Thank you to Wasabi Bob/Flickr for the use of your photo!]

{This post was first published in March, 2012 at brendaquinnwrites.com.}

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