A Candle in the Darkness
Just then, a child in the front row couldn't stand it any longer, and he jumped up and slapped the candle out of my hand. The children scattered in all directions. The meeting was over. But standing there alone on my chair, I had received my calling. In an instant, I had gone from victim to victor. From that day forward, I would protect children. I would forever speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
The school was eventually shuttered, and many years later, the abusers were held accountable—not jailed like they would be today due to the statute of limitations, but after an official inquiry, when they were "censored" by the mission and no longer allowed to work with children. The school's MKS limped away from their childhoods, many with lifelong scars. Thankfully, for me, my story—a story that Satan intended for evil but that God redeemed for good—has a different ending.
The Ongoing End
My story finally emerged when I wrote a book, Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most, in 2007. My idea was to present a manifesto—strategically, statistically, and scripturally sound—about the importance of championing children, one that would awaken the church. But my publishers challenged me: "Wess, they won't care what you know until they know why you care. Are you going to write a book, or are you willing to really fight a battle for children?" At that crossroads, I realized that I must allow God to redeem even the painful parts of my story.
My story is what has fueled my passion against injustice, my crusade against abuse, my fight against poverty. It is what drove me to Compassion International. For 32 years, I have fought for little ones who have no voice and no choice. The passion that gripped me at age 10 still rages within me today.
Poverty and abuse speak the same message into the heart of a child: "Give up. Nobody cares about you. There's nothing special about you. Nothing will ever change. You always lose, so give up!" As I travel across the world, I see the fingerprints of Satan; he is using the same weapons he used on me. In children the world over, I see empty, hollow eyes where the flame of a spirit created in the image of God is reduced to a smoldering ember.
My job now is to champion the cause of these children, to help them understand the love Jesus Christ has for them. Imagine my joy when every day hundreds of children accept Jesus as their Savior, at the knee of their pastor or with a Sunday school teacher under the mango tree. Imagine my joy that we daily vaccinate thousands of children. Imagine my joy that I get to challenge the church about the importance of children—to explain, for example, that budgets that devote 10 percent to children's ministry make little strategic sense considering that 85 percent of people who come to Christ do so before the age of 14.
All these years later, I am still never more than 10 seconds away from tears. But not all my tears are from sorrow. Just as easily, I can be moved to tears of great joy at what I get to do. I see victories in children's lives as evil is defeated, just as it was defeated in my own life.