As president and CEO of Compassion International, a Christian child sponsorship agency, Dr. Wess Stafford is naturally passionate about children. But in his book TOO SMALL TO IGNORE: Why Children Are the Next Big Thing, Stafford goes beyond heartfelt excitement to build a compelling case as to why investing heavily in children will not only transform the face of Christianity but also our world.
It's well known that the majority of people who embrace Christianity do so while still young. In fact, two-thirds of people who give their lives to Christ make a personal faith commitment before the age of 18. Yet children are literally dying around the world as a result of the effects of poverty. Sickness, disease and starvation are stripping the world of one of its greatest resources. Stafford notes that every major movement in world history --- from the Nazis to the Communists to the Taliban --- has strategically mobilized children. If such a force can be used for darkness, it can also be used for good. Yet Christianity has not done an outstanding job of investing in and raising up younger followers of Jesus.
That's why Stafford argues that it's time for the church and believers around the world to wake up and begin investing their time and resources into the lives of children. He champions four sets of freedoms that every child deserves: a freedom from drivenness, materialism, competition and fear. He argues that these are some of the most precious gifts that we can give to the next generation in order to equip them to reach their full potential.
While TOO SMALL TO IGNORE begins much like a lawyer on a soapbox outlining a convincing case, the book becomes intensely personal and exposing about halfway through as Stafford shares his story of attending an abusive boarding school in Africa. He tenderly recounts the emotional, spiritual and physical abuse that he and the students endured year after year. He describes the classmates who never recovered and whose lives were marked by further abuse, divorce and hopelessness. And he recounts what happened when the former students who were still alive --- more than two decades after the school's closing --- finally confronted those who had committed the atrocities.
At this point, TOO SMALL TO IGNORE becomes more than just a book or a manifesto for children. It becomes a stained glass window into a man's soul that provides a distinct light and an understanding of why children must be protected, transcending all other arguments. As an author, Stafford did not have to go to this vulnerable place to write this book. He chose to go there anyway, and as a result, countless readers will find healing and a touch of restoration for their own soul. Others will find the strength to do what they are called and created to do: defend those who cannot defend themselves.
As if Stafford didn't give enough of himself in this book already, all author royalties from the sale of TOO SMALL TO IGNORE will be given to Compassion International. This is a book that everyone --- including you --- should read.
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg on October 18, 2005