A Candle in the Darkness

This month’s Christianity Today cover story is Wess telling his story of childhood abuse and deliverance in a West Africa boarding school.

magazine cover featuring Wess StaffordThe houseparent had marched me to the school’s dining hall, dragged a metal chair across the concrete floor, and slammed it down in front of my schoolmates. He threw me up on the chair and jammed the candle in my hand.

“Children,” he said, “you cannot serve both God and Satan. Wesley has tried. You cannot burn a candle at both ends without getting burned. Watch what happens when you try.”

Read the entire article at Christianity Today.

After you read the article, come back and let us know what you think. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Wess’ book, Too Small to Ignore.

We’ll randomly pick a winner on Monday.

52 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Ndamyumugabe Jean Claude August 16, 2012

    Thank you Wess, you are talented God’s servant. God bless you!

  2. Juli Jarvis May 28, 2010

    So glad to know about this article, and how well written, as always! Wess, you really have bared your heart before us, and for that we are eternally grateful. I come out of extremely painful (verbal) abuse in my childhood, too, and I know it is part of the reason I advocate for children so strongly today. Your words always inspire me to speak up for children in need.

  3. Amy Wallace May 13, 2010

    I love Too Small to Ignore. Such a powerful testimony from Wess!

  4. Alan Johnston May 13, 2010

    thanks for all you do Wess, you and Compassion have done so much for my ministry and my life in challenging me to Christlikeness.

  5. James May 10, 2010

    Thank you for sharing this powerful story. Please keep working for the children. Together, one child at a time one less child will grow up wondering where is God. Blessings to you and all at Compassion. Throughout the world.

  6. Emery Smith May 10, 2010

    Your story is similar to one in the scripture and your overcoming is also the same. GOD brought you through the pain of what the enemy meant for evil. GOD made it good, but it is never without consequence. I grieve for your friends unable to feel the love of the Father because of these childhood experiences. We must be vigilant in our care of those unable to protect themselves. Thank you Wess for your obedient and sensitive heart! You are a great example of GOD working where few see.

  7. Sarah Mac May 10, 2010

    I can’t even put into words how I feel after reading that article. Thank you so muc for sharing your story. Absolutely incredible.

  8. jennifer May 10, 2010

    I had never heard Wess’ testimony before. It really helped me to understand how passionate he really is about this program. It’s not a job to him. I really respect that and thank God for bringing him past those experiences to who he is today. If he had taken on the victim mentality that would have been so natural, Compassion wouldn’t be what it is today.

  9. Rachel May 9, 2010

    Yes, satan tried to destroy your faith in God and turn something so ugly into a life of pain and sorrow. However, God had another plan and your love for His children and the love to further His kingdom, is proof that there is good that can come from pain.

  10. Pam Jones May 9, 2010

    What a powerful story. This was the first time I had heard his story. There are many organizations that try to help and that is wonderful, but I thank God for bringing me to Compassion International because it is the one place that I know in my deepest heart that is dedicated from the bottom to the very top to the welfare and spiritual wellbeing of the children they care for. Thank you Wes and thank you Compassion for all that you do!

  11. Jeannette Peterson May 9, 2010

    I finally worked out how to leave a comment!
    Thankyou Wes, for having the courage to share your painful experience.
    It is a choice to either be bitter and twisted, full of unforgiveness or to allow forgiveness to enter your heart, to let an experience empower you to move in the Holy Spirit to be able to use the pain to turn you into a better person.
    I thank God for the inspiring journey of faith which reflects in this testimony.
    Bad things sometimes happen to Good people and how they move through them in faith and forgiveness helps us all.

  12. Paul Clutterbuck May 9, 2010

    So heartbreaking, so devastating, and for me, so close to home too. I could have told much the same story about my experiences at a Christian school in New Zealand, in the early 1980s. Thank God that He gives more grace…

  13. Jenni May 8, 2010

    Wow. What an amazing powerful story. God takes what is intended for evil and turns into good. I praise God for Wes stafford and for using him in a mighty way. I also thank Mr Stafford for allowing God to use him and for being such a transparant man. I am in awe of God and Have the highest respect for Mr Stafford.

  14. Marlene Hurshman May 8, 2010

    I am so sorry for what Wes Stafford and other MKs had to experience at their boarding school. It is so very sad.

  15. Lindy May 8, 2010

    I have Wess’s book, and I’ve always meant to write and thank him for writing it! His story broke my heart, but also is a powerful reminder of God’s amazing ability to use even our past hurts to lead us into reaching out in love to hurting people! So, thank you, Wess, for having the grace and the courage to share your story. You have blessed many lives, and we thank God for you!

  16. Lisa Miles May 7, 2010

    Don’t enter me in the drawing for the book. I already own it. I think everyone should read it.

    What happened at the Mamou Alliance Academy is so awful. It’s hard to comprehend that much cruelty in one place. Of all the stories I’ve read about Mamou, what really got to me is reading about one dorm parent from the ’40’s and ’50’s who forced children to eat their own vomit as punishment.

    Missionaries working for the Christian Missionary & Alliance church were required to send their children ages 6 and up to these boarding schools for nine months out of the year. I find that setup abusive in and of itself. What a horrible thing to ask of a family.

  17. David Pascoe May 7, 2010

    Really grateful to be able to read your story Wess, thanks for sharing it. So awesome to think that out of such pain and suffering God can grow a huge ministry like Compassion.

    I had some quite sad moments as a kid too. Makes me want to hug my kids just a bit more.

    I love that this blog challenges me to keep me focusing on the calling we have as believers to look after the orphans and widows and to pursue justice.

    Blessing to you all at Compassion.


  18. Justine Huntington May 7, 2010

    I’d love to recieve the book for free 🙂

  19. Ashley May 7, 2010

    Thank you, Wes for your commitment to Jesus and to the needy and oppressed children all over the world that He loves.

  20. ron fox May 7, 2010

    I have a freind that go with me on mission trip to Ecuador what was a mk in Africa to. what did tha same thing as you did . may God bless you thank youfor tha you do for chid

  21. Jodi Chattin May 7, 2010

    I actually read the whole article the other day in a Doctor’s office, and felt such enormous admiration and respect for Wess Stafford by the end of it. I had no idea that he suffered what he did. I have often felt confused and troubled by all of the evil that God allows, especially towards children. It was healing, in some ways, to read this story and see a real-life example of how God can redeem and use such horror. I’m thankful that Wess both told and used his story for such good.

  22. Mary Choi May 7, 2010

    A powerful story that everyone should read. Thank you Wess for sharing yours story.

  23. Jennifer Delavan May 7, 2010

    Gripping, heart-wrenching story. Amazing testimony of strength and passion. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Heather May 7, 2010

    I had not heard Wess’ story before. It is amazing. To use all of those experiences from childhood to help change the lives of so many others, amazing. Overflowing Jesus to the world.

  25. Jam May 7, 2010

    It was a powerful thing to read. I’m so glad Wes was able to allow God to redeem the horror of it. It’s an almost impossible thing to do, but as we see, with God all things are possible.

  26. Wendy May 7, 2010

    What an inspiration Wess is to all. Its amazing how God has a hand in every situation and uses it for His good. May God continue to Bless this ministry and the children whose lives will forever be changed because of Compassion.

  27. Andre Harris May 7, 2010

    The work compassion does is amazing. I love the heart Wess has for children!!

  28. Crystal May 7, 2010

    Thank you God for using Wess and his life as he ministers to children and serves Compassion. I am amazed every day at the stories within Compassion and how God is using them to inspire me.

  29. Glen May 7, 2010

    Wow. What an incredibly sad story that has fueled a passion for children. His passion is what has inspired me to become an advocate, along with the message of ministering to the “least of these”. I had no idea of the source of that passion.

  30. Kees Abbring May 7, 2010

    Thanks so much for this powerful tetimony! I love, appreciate, and support the work of Compassion a lot. The testimony of Wess Stafford makes it even stronger!
    God is good… all the time!
    Never give up, Keep the faith!

  31. Jenny Schapekahm May 7, 2010

    Amazing. I feel sick that things like this go on, but praise God that Wes heard the call of the Lord in the midst of such abuse. It is a testimony that God can and will redeem anything if we will let him. Our God reigns!

  32. Beth May 7, 2010

    Over and over, God uses the worst things imaginable to make us into the tools He designed to do His work. Thank you for your honesty, and for giving us this insight into why you do what you do. May God continue to bless Compassion even more!

  33. Chris Harwood May 7, 2010

    Thanks for your ministry – God uses all our experiences.

  34. Mayling Wong May 7, 2010

    Amazing story! Such a powerful testimony in how God works in mysterious ways to bring glory.

  35. Jacqui Graham May 7, 2010

    Thank you, Wess, for sharing your story. I pray it will inspire many to become involved in the life-saving work of Compassion International, and will help others to understand God’s place in their lives. It has certainly given me a different perspective on the black moments from my own childhood.

  36. Jen C. May 7, 2010

    Wow. Amazing story, clearly the power of God working through one person in that one moment. I am thankful that God wins and can redeem something as dark as that and turn it into a bright light.

  37. Suzanne May 7, 2010

    I’m writing with tears in my eyes after reading Wess’ story. What a powerful testimony. The world needs more men and women like him who are willing to stand up for children.

  38. Ann May 7, 2010

    Powerful story. God know all our hurts and will use them for good and His glory.

  39. HeatherS May 7, 2010

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. God has redeemed your story for good and is using you and Compassion in a mighty way!

  40. Maggie May 7, 2010

    Thanks for sharing this. Powerful stuff!

  41. Elizabeth Dueck May 7, 2010

    A wonderful book. We’ve been missionaries for years and also have friends who have grown up as MKs. Wess’ story is a powerful one and speaks clearly to both adult MKs who’ve had similar experiences and missionary parents who face many decisions regarding family and ministry. Thank you for sharing, Wess.

  42. Nina May 7, 2010

    Thank you for sharing your incredible story. Clearly God has used the horrible events of your life to rescue many millions of children, thru you and your work with Compassion. For this, we praise Him.

  43. Julie May 7, 2010

    This story breaks my heart. It leaves me pondering just what it is within each of us that motivates our choices about whether or not we will be defeated by our circumstances. Believers and nonbelievers struggle with it.

  44. Cheryl May 7, 2010

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with the world on top of all of the work you do to help the children of our world. It gives me hope that God can redeem anything and anyone and use the horrible things we’ve gone through for his purposes and his glory. Thank you.

  45. Katie Fronk May 7, 2010

    What a powerful story. To endure that is amazing!

  46. Jennifer Farrell May 7, 2010

    I don’t even know what to say…it breaks my heart how cruel “Christians” can be. How beautiful that God can work even the worst situations into something that draws others to Him.

  47. Andrew Hsieh May 7, 2010

    I have never heard Wess Stafford’s testimony until now.
    Heartbreaking to read. But the end is glory. Looking forward to reading Wess’ book.

  48. LeeAnn May 7, 2010

    Such a powerful story… Thank you Wess for sharing- you’re not only inspiring Christians everywhere to care for ‘the least of these’ but giving hope to those who have also experienced abuse as well…

  49. Amy May 7, 2010

    Great article! Thanks for posting it.

  50. Honnalora Hubbard May 7, 2010

    Thank you. That is what is on my heart for a million different reasons. Thank you for holding onto Christ and for letting Him hold onto you. For allowing Christ to use what was meant to harm you and extinguish the flame that is within you, but instead is burning brightly. For having the courage then to stand up, as well as now for sharing your story. I was recently asked to share my story as the beginning of a new program in our state called “profiles in courage” and I haven’t been able to do it. Thanks for being that example I needed.

    Our Church is praying for 500 children through Compassion International and doing an 8 week series called WIDE SOUL – each week with a Compassion Int’l speaker. So glad that we made the decision last week to sponsor our child that we have been praying for. We have also developed a huge heart for Uganda and just took the first steps to see about traveling their with Compassion Int’l.

    You have just confirmed everything we knew in our Spirits! Thank you again!

  51. Lydia May 7, 2010

    Wow. I guess I had never really heard Wess’ story before. It’s powerful!

  52. Kristina Johnson-Short May 7, 2010

    God works in wondrous ways. Life experiences that are so devastating that they can leave deep wounds unseen by others yet are just as painful as the black and blue reminders of unwanted and undeserved beatings. Sharing these experiences brings awareness of the problems that take place to millions of individuals around the world.

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