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Too Small to Ignore (WaterBrook Press)

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Too Small to Ignore

Jeremy Reynalds
Assist News Service ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- It’s a book whose time has come and one that is too important to ignore.

In his new book Too Small to Ignore, Dr. Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International, the respected evangelical child development ministry, says that Americans need to dramatically change the way they think about children.

Stafford argues that adults need to intervene and take a stand for those who don’t have a voice. He says we fail to do so at our peril.

This important, well-written but easy-to-read book, which revolves around Stafford’s own dramatic and compelling story, provides a number of important and practical ways that adults can champion children, including Stafford’s “Four Freedoms for Children.”

Those freedoms are: freedom from drivenness, time pressure and hurry, freedom from materialism, freedom from corrosive competition, and freedom from daily fear.

Stafford says that those are the most important gifts we can provide the next generation of children. Without them, he says, children will have a very difficult time trying to reach their full potential.

Stafford also says that churches also need to shift their priorities, and suggests that among other things churches designate at least 40 percent of their budget to reaching children and teenagers.

However, Stafford emphasizes that being an advocate for children starts with taking immediate action.

“Every child you encounter is a divine appointment,” Stafford said in a news release. “It’s a huge responsibility for each of us.”

Why Stafford Wrote Too Small to Ignore

In a recent interview, I asked Stafford about both the book and its unusual title. He said he chose the title, Too Small to Ignore, because that’s what the book is about.

“Usually we talk about stuff too big to ignore,” Stafford said. “There are things very important to God and too important to ignore. Children don’t have the voice or the vocabulary to speak on their own behalf. They don’t vote and get in the normal political arena, and they don’t tithe. They are pretty much out of the limelight, but they are too small to ignore, because they have our world in their hands. They are marginalized, but they will not always be so.”

Stafford explained. “If we miss the opportunity to shape their soul, we will (end up) being marginalized and then they will be making decisions about our souls. Children hold our future in their hands.”

Stafford said that children end up paying the greatest price for what goes on in the world. Everything that occurs they end up shouldering as a weighty burden. For example. Diseases kill far more children than adults, Stafford said.

Then, he added, there are other horrifying issues such as child soldiers and child prostitution, “Sins that children pay the greatest price for.”

In so saying, Stafford said, “Children have become a second rate mandate all over. I am arguing that although we are responsible they pay the price for (what we do).”

Stafford reflected on his own story.

“I can see that what has happened in my life is no mistake,” he said. “God was shaping me for the responsibilities I now carry.”

Writing the book was not just an academic exercise for Stafford. He knows of what he speaks, having been abused many years ago. It was evident that the abuse suffered by Stafford still weighs heavily upon his mind. During our interview, he asked me to read chapters eight and nine of the book before writing a review. Those chapters document Stafford’s experiences of being abused while he was at a missionary boarding school, and show firsthand the terrible things that can happen when children are considered unimportant.

Referring to his horrifying and traumatic school experience, Stafford said, “A handful of adults had absolute right over us. (Along with others), I was (terribly) abused. There was no one to speak on our behalf. We loved our parents, and we silently tolerated our abuse through our childhood. I look at my life, and think I understand poverty because the boarding school was (then) too painful to speak (about).”

Stafford said, “I didn’t talk about it for so many years, because I was looking at it from the wrong side. I thought it was a big mistake what God did to me down there, but I understand abuse and poverty because I have been down that road. Abuse and poverty speak the same language, because they both tell a little child to give up.”

Stafford describes the horrifying abuse in compelling terms, writing in the book that the abused youngsters were told by their tormenters, “‘If you tell your parents that you are unhappy here, you will be Satan’s tool to destroy their ministry in Africa. They will become discouraged and may have to leave the field. If that happens, there will be Africans in hell because of you!’ What a diabolical trap we were in. Our love for our parents and our love for God were used to conceal the horrors that were heaped upon us. Believe it or not, this rationale was even strong enough to keep our lips sealed when we went home for the three-month vacation.”

Another portion of the tragically descriptive narrative reads, “What an amazing irony that, after a day of hitting us, screaming at us, and humiliating us, our tormentors would sit down at bedtime and read us Bible stories. Like little lambs, we sat at their very feet. We were so quick to forgive them ... (But) many of us were nearly destroyed. Many of my childhood friends fell to the ground and have never gotten up. Their adult lives continue down a sad trail of dysfunction, multiple marriages, addictions, and depression. I emerged with heavy damage, but not beyond the reach of my heavenly Father's arms. To this day, I am merely a product of God’s grace.”

It's no wonder that Stafford told me, “We need to step up and champion the little ones. I am pleading for a world change here.”

Changing the World

Stafford called Too Small to Ignore, “a book that everyone who has a child in their life needs to read.”

“There are 440,000 Americans who are sponsoring children through Compassion (,” Stafford said. “Our sponsors are unique people. These 400,000 people across the United States have separated themselves from (all the other) people who are ... good ... but have done nothing. I wrote this with them in mind to make them feel good about what they have done.”

Stafford called Compassion sponsors, “Unsung heroes in our community who rarely get the limelight. They pour themselves into the children. I want to put this book in the hands of these unsung heroes, (and have them pass it on to) those who have the destiny of children in their heart. The book is a pebble in the pond. I want to mobilize a grassroots tsunami of love.”

Stafford said that anyone who reads the book no longer has the option of continuing on unknowing about the importance of children.

He added, “When a child is small it takes very little effort to make an impact for good, or (one) that can destroy them. A child's life can be launched or derailed, and the effects will last a lifetime.

“This book in the hands of the right person can absolutely begin to change the world,” Stafford said. “Although it is a book about children, it is written in a light hearted way and has a lot of poking fun at myself. It is a very readable book and not a hard read.”

What Readers are Saying About Too Small to Ignore

Stafford said that initial reaction to the book has been “wildly enthusiastic.” People have been calling the book a must read, saying that it changed everything for them.

For example, commenting about Too Small to Ignore, disability advocate Joni Eareckson Tada said, “As I travel around the world, I see so many children in desperate straits–especially children with disabilities who are relegated to the lowest rung of the social ladder. My heart goes out to them! It’s my prayer that through Wess Stafford’s new book, a passion will ignite in the hearts of Christians around the globe to reach these little ones with his tender mercies and hands-on help.”

Singer and songwriter Michael W. Smith wrote that the book is “a wake-up call for all of us. It speaks to our responsibility to ‘the least of these.’ The truths in this book speak directly to the heart. If you want to understand children and why they matter to God, you have to read this book!”

Jim Groen, president of Global Connection International commented, “Nearly a half- century ago in an African village, God was beginning to shape the destiny of one who would appear on the stage of life as a powerful voice and advocate for children of the world. Later his leadership skills would be sharpened in the soil of Haiti. Now, as president of Compassion International, Dr. Wess Stafford has written a compelling book of his own pilgrimage interwoven with the reminder of the importance Jesus placed upon children. It is a must-read that will inspire all hearts to join with Wess to champion the cause of children all over the world.”

Compassion at Work

All proceeds from the book go to Compassion’s ministry to children, which I completely endorse. I have seen firsthand the wonderful work done by the ministry. Just over two years ago, I was privileged along with some other media representatives to visit Guatemala -- where the ministry’s 500,000th child was being sponsored – and observe first hand Compassion’s ministry.

More information about the book, which also has an audio version and a study guide, is available at I suggest you go there and pick up a copy. As I said earlier, both the book and its subject matter are really too important to ignore.

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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