June 2019 – From Africa Missions to Global Advocacy – Wess Stafford

Featuring Wess Stafford, President Emeritus, Compassion International


Dr. Wess Stafford often says, "Everything I really need to know to lead a multinational organization I learned from the poor, growing up in an African village." Indeed, as President Emeritus of Compassion International, one of the leading children’s organizations in the world, Dr. Stafford draws from his unique experiences in Africa and his distinct preparation from the mission field to global advocacy for children in poverty. 

As the son of missionaries to Africa, Dr. Stafford was raised in a village in the Ivory Coast. He grew up with wise and loving African “extended family.” He experienced many of the same difficulties of life in the village as his African family – poverty, deprivation, hunger. As a young boy, he was heartbroken as he watched African friends die from poverty and diseases, and was troubled that he had been vaccinated but they had not.  When he arrived in the U.S. at age 15, he felt convicted to connect the abundance of resources in the U.S. with the abundance of love and need in Africa. 

Dr. Stafford’s life experiences uniquely prepared him for his future role at Compassion International. In addition to his missions experiences, he earned undergraduate degrees from Moody Bible Institute and Biola University, a Master's degree from Wheaton College, as well as a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He also is a veteran, having served four years in the U.S. Army as a linguist in military intelligence.

Dr. Stafford was drawn to the ministry of Compassion International by the way they were serving the poor through sponsorship of children. He joined the staff in 1977 and worked with the ministry since then, both overseas and at headquarters,  and served as President for 20 years.  Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and now as President Emeritus, he travels widely to share his life experiences and the impact that Compassion International has made on several million children around the world. 

No one could have imagined that a poor missionary child in Africa would one day become one of the world’s most recognized international advocates for children in poverty.  But Wess Stafford had a calling and a destiny to make a remarkable impact for the least of these.