Wess Stafford is an internationally recognized advocate for children. Since 1977 he has worked with Compassion International, serving as their President since 1993. Wess’ own life experiences have uniquely prepared him for his role. He often says, “Everything I really need to know to lead a multinational organization I learned from the poor, growing up in an African Village.” Wess now lives on a small ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife Donna. They are the parents of two daughters, Jenny and Katie.
Just A Minute, Wess’ second book, was released by Moody Publishers in January 2012. More information, including free study guides, can be found at http://www.justaminute.com
I sincerely believe an entire life can be launched with as little as a single phrase, an uplifting word or an act of kindness.
Who believed in you before you believed in yourself? Who said, “You have a beautiful voice; I loved your song,” and now you sing for a living or get great joy from singing for others? Who said, “My, what a lovely picture you drew,” and now you make your living as an artist?
For me, it was my father who first believed in me. He changed my life in one moment, one sentence, at the age of fourteen. My family had just arrived from Africa—the only country I had ever known—to the United States. While in Africa, I lost nearly half of my village friends to measles, malaria, smallpox, hunger, or snakebite. I had cried myself to sleep hundreds of nights after we buried my childhood buddies.
Now stepping off the ship that had carried my family across the Atlantic, I was a lost soul in this new and foreign place. I had been torn from a gentle African village to land a month later in the biggest, most intimidating metropolis known to humanity. I was shell-shocked.
A man was driving us to a church service one of those first days. My father was in the passenger seat, and I sat alone in the back. The driver glanced my way and said the familiar words, “So, Wesley, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
After a long, awkward pause, my father came to my rescue. “I’ve been watching Wesley for a long time,” he said. “He has seen a lot of pain and a lot of suffering. He has a big heart…he loves helping people who are hurting.”
I remember thinking, Really? Is that who I am? Is that what matters most to me? That was the end of the conversation, but not the end of the thought. In fact, it was the beginning for me. With those simple words, my life was launched!
Every life option now found meaning and purpose as it was put to the test of “How does it help people? If it doesn’t, then is it even worth doing?”
My father’s words echoed through the corridors of my life from that minute forward. Eventually, I found the ministry of Compassion International, where I could pour all my passion into my calling, my purpose, my mission.
Trust me, moments matter—for a lifetime.
Our lives are compiled of many minutes. If you’re blessed enough to live out your full “threescore and ten years,” you will have been given, from birth to death, the gift of nearly 37 million minutes. And each one spent in the presence of a child is a divine appointment. With each child you encounter, you have the power and opportunity to build up … or, sadly, to tear down.
This is the foundation of my latest book Just a Minute, in which I share the stories of doctors, soldiers, international leaders, sports heroes, politicians and many more whose lives were indelibly marked by the words or actions of the adults in their lives. Through the stories of Colin Powell, Tony Dungy, Adolph Hitler and others, we see how an encouraging word, well-timed hug or hurtful comment can radically transform a childhood, or even the course of an entire life.
You don’t have to be a teacher, a parent, a pastor, or a doctor to make a positive difference in the life of a child. You only have to be willing!
By: Dr. Wess Stafford
Answer this question in the comments below and we’ll choose 5 winners to win a copy of Just a Minute. Winners will be announced on Friday:
Has someone ever said anything to you that changed your life in just a minute? Is there something you can do today in just a minute that could change a child’s life?
Learn more about Compassion International here and click here to purchase your copy of Just a Minute.
When my husband said “I do”, that moment changed my life.
My moment may not change his life, but your post reminded me how important my letters to my Compassion child, Luis, could mean to him. I think I’ll write him in the morning. 🙂
When I was in a high school play a lady from my church mailed me a card that I received later that week telling me what a great job I did. I was so surprised and touched that someone I barely knew made such an effort for me. I what encouragement could mean to others. Also that the actions I did are effecting more than my small circle of friends and family.
I’m not sure it completely changed my life, but a few years ago my best friend told me I was a processor. I don’t remember how it came up, and at the time it didn’t mean much, but once I had time to…process…it, it was really comforting. To me it meant she accepted me even though my contribution to conversation was little more than I don’t know, yes, or no. It meant she wasn’t annoyed by my need to write her ridiculously long notes after we talked. That on phrase had a huge impact on me. It let me know I’m not stupid and I’m not unloveable; I just need time to process things and that’s okay.
Emily r says
What a lovely idea for a book. Right now, I wake each morning to spend time nursing my son before I go to work & I pray for him & my family.
Lindsey Bell says
A teacher in high school told me I was a great writer; now I’m about to publish my first book-all b/c she believed in me.
And me…I could be more intentional with my children and the words I say to them.
I think sometimes people have said things that didn’t strike me at the time, but as I look back, I can say “Wow…that person knew me better than I knew myself.”
I am going to write to my Compassion kiddos this morning; thanks for the reminder! I would love to read this book!!!
A friend dying from breast cancer that had metastisized to her brain shared this life changing thought with me in the midst of her dying – “Life is hard, God is good; both are true all the time.”
Lorie Winslow says
When I was 15 years old , I received a compliment that I was a good teacher, referring to my teaching swimming lessons to children. This comment has always remained with me. I am now 42 years old and have had a 19 year career as an elementary teacher and principal. This compliment has always remained with me!
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while, as such simple actions on the part of others has had a profound influence on me. A woman I met on a mission trip in Africa wrote me a note that said ‘I am in awe of Christ in you’. Those words changed the way I looked at myself and the way I looked at others.
Laura Pokas says
Has someone ever said anything to you that changed your life in just a minute?
Yes — “We got it all.” Words spoken by my cancer surgeon. I was always one of the more “positive focused” people, loving God, family, friends and life in general. However, being a cancer survivor (I was 47 at the time) really created a more passionate focus for helping others.
Is there something you can do today in just a minute that could change a child’s life? Yes — use social media to raise awareness. Share posts and links on my wall. I currently am very passionate about http://www.locoministries.com where my niece (Kim) and her husband (Karl) are on a long term volunteer project working with orphans in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Oh Yes this is very true…. I have been a bible study teacher for adolescent age boys and girls and watching them evolve and grow up through the years has taught me that my comments to them can have lasting impacts… Seeing them grown up now and even married, they remind me of things I said to them that stayed with them through the years… I always remember what I was taught, and how my teacher was so loving, kind and gentle. Patient with me learning the stories of the bible… pronouncing the names of kings that had more letters than I could handle at one time… She was precious to me that even now in my forties… I still remember her teaching…. She inspired me to teach… yes what we say, how we say can have lasting results…. Bless you!!
Mindy Pfab says
I was sexally abused as a child. Exposed to pornography, molestation, and other such horrors from the age of 4-9 rocked my young mind with confusion, to say the least. Amidst the chaos of DHS, trials, foster care, and follow-up counseling my life was turned upside-down. When I was 11 years old, a counselor told me that “Children that have been abused as a child, are very likely to be abused repeatedly in the future. This is because offenders/pedophiles can “sense victims.” In this very moment the abuse went from something done TO me, to something done BECAUSE of me. In that moment, I felt shame on a level never before experienced. Those words said in that moment in the counselor’s office-became the fear and the expectation-the tape player on constantly in my mind. Little did she know that when I was molested by my grandfather at 12, and then raped by my uncle at 13-that I would Blame myself. I felt it was my fault that I was hurt again-because I “looked” a certain way-which meant there was no protection and I was at the Mercy of this “unknown” trait about me that would forever attract pedophiles. I spent the next 10+ years desperate to transform who I was on the inside, and what I looked like on the outside. This resulted in a 10 year battle with Anorexia. That shame lasted until I fell in love with Christ Jesus in November, 2010.
Today, in just a moment- I will love a child. The simple act of saying “I’m sorry this happened to you, and I understand. God loves you, and so do I” can change the world of a child. It may not change the physical circumstances that they are in-but their “lens” or view in how they see their world will be transformed. Whether a child is upset over a skinned knee, not being included in the child-hood play on a playground, or “bigger” things such as abuse in all it’s forms; when you peer into a child’s eyes you can see the desperation and the searching as they await your response. Hug a child, kiss their boo-boo, listen to their stories, laugh at their jokes, sing a silly song-SHOW that child their WORTH!
My eleventh grade English teacher told me I was a good writer when I shared my poetry with her. I remember her words today as a blog writer.
Jessica Budd says
I was a pre-teen and the words were not words of encouragement. I had gone to a specialist for back issues. He looked at my mom and then looked at me. He said “if you don’t watch what you eat, you will end up looking just like your mom”. That started a battle with eating disorders all through high school. Now by God’s grace I know that I am perfectly and wonderfully made. I also know that one statement said without thought can scar a person for life.
sheeba m says
When I became a wife and then a mom, I struggled accepting the roles of being a homemaker and mother after working so hard to get through 2 master degrees and high-flying jobs…I remembered my paternal grandmother and her struggles as a mother and wife to a man who was an atheist,disrespectful and abusive to her.
Her dedication to walk with God and glorify Him with her life inspite of the difficult circumstances left a very lasting impression on me. Though I regret that I was not close to my grandmother this however remains the legacy I want to leave my son when I am gone and I hopes it serves him as a reminder when he goes through the trials of his life.
In 6th grade, my teacher told my parents that I should be getting straight A’s… instead of being encouraged, I was made to feel like a failure because I had a couple of B’s. I still struggle with the feeling of not being good enough, of not measuring up. As a teacher (of students with disabilities), I am very careful to encourage my students daily–to show them their potential and help them see that they can be successful. I have many challenges waiting for me when school starts again in a few weeks, but God’s love and grace sustain me and enable me to keep going, to share this amazing love and grace with all I meet.
Debbie Murphy says
Someone once said to me “God doesn’t call the equiped, He equips the called”. Never did I realize how much those words would change my life. My husband and I are now misionaries at a Christian Camp, which never would have crossed my mind! But God is equiping us through this journey and we are loving every minute of it!
Grace KP says
For me it was my dad, too, who believed in me and pushed me constantly to stay out of my comfort zone and live for Christ.
When I was 8, I did something noteworthy and I don’t remember what it was. I do remember my mom telling me that every noteworthy thing I did was from God. This has guided my steps for over 50 years.
Michelle Brinson says
Four words… “I believe in you.” It was something my mom always told me and I believed it and knew it in my heart that I could do anything. Now that I’m older there’s no one to tell me that anymore and I guess for a while I’ve stopped believing in myself. Now I’m a mom to a 3 year old little boy. I’m a single mom, but not by choice. I know the impact of words. I tell my son every day I believe in him, that I love him, that Jesus loves him and if you’ve seen the movie The Help… we’ve started saying this, “I’m smart, I’m kind, I’m important” and I added a little extra “And Jesus loves me.” My son can tell you this without a second thought. I believe anything is possible for him and in the process of telling him these things, I’ve started to believe them again for myself.
My answers to both questions are similar. The minutes spent by my parents in prayer for me have changed me, and the minutes that I spend in prayer for my own children as well as for my Compassion child will change them.
Thank you for this giveaway!
Laura Crosby says
I tutor a young boy who moved here from Togo, Africa. He has struggled and been teased by kids who know their times tables and how to play american baseball, but he has persevered. I try to affirm him in many specific things, but I always end our time together saying “Eric, remember…YOU are an AMAZING young man!” The first time I heard him say to the head of the tutoring program “I am an amazing young man!” I knew something of that truth had taken root in him.
Emma Iosue-Roe says
When I was maybe 13 or 14 I went through some stuff that knowone should ever have to go though. To make it harder noone knew what I went through all anyone saw was that I never smiled anymore. But noone ever talked to me about until one day a friend of my older sister came over to me and said “Why don’t you ever smile anymore? Your smile makes everyone around you smile, so please smile, we all need you and it will make you feel better too”. He was right, he didnt leave me until i gave him a smile and when I did my life just changed.
I would say that this is something to tell children as well, a simple smile can change a lot!
I remember three years ago, when I was still a young gratuate from uni and I was looking for a job as a teacher. I could recall that I sent 200 application letters and had job interviews in more than 20 schools in different areas of my city but still couldn’t get a job offer. As i look so young at that time, many principals were worried that I could not manage the students. After the third interview in a Christian school, the vice-principal phoned me and told me “Never give up”. He told me that the principal and other school supervisors were impressed by my heart in teaching. They reminds me of the verse in 1 Timothy 4:12. The vice-principal said that I was their 2nd choice and he told me the principal promises that if there appeared to be any teaching vacancies in their school, they would immediately offer it to
me. I was so encouraged and thankful for their kind words and continued with my job search, not long after, I eventually got an offer.
This year I worked as an English teacher in a boy school, I remembered one evening I brought one of my students to the Annual Speech Festival solo-verse speaking competition. Just before the competition, I discovered that my student accidentally omitted to recite several verses in the poem he was going to perform. He resisted to enter the competition because he thought it was embarrassing. I encouraged him to go for it and I told him not to waste his effort in the past weeks. I told him, “if you escape now, you win your face but you lose your effort and a valuable experience.” He finally entered the competition under my “force” :p Though he did not win any prize, he told me he enjoyed the other competitors’ performances very much and this competition broadened his horizons. Eventually I treated him a Mc Donald meal as the prize.
Weesie Poole says
Oh, yes. A Guidance Counselor told me I would never amount to anything!(I was in the 7th grade).That changed my life forever. God directs my path, not that hateful woman. She was my first brush with evil and yet I am grateful to her for strengthening my relationship with God. That happened 46 years ago.
A genuine hug to a child, shining His light through kind words and deeds can alter any direction.
Debbie Mass says
I love children and feel like as a child they need encouragement all the time. Being a child is very hard in this world. So called friends who make fun of you and teachers who label you among all the pressure children go through. My children are grown, and I failed miserably at doing what I think is the right way to parent. So now I try to always make a child feel special in some way. As the bible says, We must become like a child to enter heaven!
When I was a timid college freshman away from home for the first time, the president’s wife, whenever she saw me in the hallway, would call me “dear heart.”
Those simple words immediately made me feel loved and welcomed.
Now my primary job is giving private piano lessons to about 30 students. I pray that in the precious 1/2 hour a week I have with each child, I will be given the right words to say that will bless and encourage them!
Megan Henderson says
When my husband tells me that I’m beautiful, even if I don’t feel like I am, that changes my view of myself instantly.
My husband and I pray for my sons every night. They don’t realize the impact of prayer right now, but we are praying, even now, that they will come to know Christ as Savior and put their faith in Him.
Amy in Wanderland says
The one phrase that changed my life? Something a funeral guest said to me as I stood under the cemetery tent beside my husband’s casket:
“The greater the need, the greater the grace; the greater the tragedy, the greater the opportunity for God to be God and to show Himself as Almighty.”
Those words turned everything around in an instant.
I can’t remember specific words that have been spoken to me, but I’ve been taught to think for myself and that I don’t have to think/believe something just because everyone else does.
A friend encouraged me to take the step and take one college class.
I could tell a child about Jesus. That would change her life!
Malory H says
Yes, several have. I believe that God puts certain people in our lives at just the right moments to give us words…His Words…to confirm, encourage us in different ways. Like recently with me going back to school and finally finishing my degree 🙂 I am somewhat nervous about it, but I can do it!
Give of myself or what I can to help out whenever possible!!! Be HIS hands, feet and all to them 🙂
Stephanie O. says
I can’t remember specific things that were said, but I fondly remember the people who were always kind to me growing up. Those good feelings they gave me just by the way they talked to me sent me away knowing I was valued, loved, and cared about. I try to be careful of the things I say, because it’s very difficult to forget unkind things someone says to you. Even if they don’t remember the exact words said, they’ll remember if they came away from my class with a good feeling or a bad one. I know I need to be even more careful with my own kids, and really be present to them when they ask me to do something with them. I’d love to read this book!
My third-grade teacher, Miss Marquardt, continued to encourage me long after I graduated from her class. Her positive comments helped me to finish a music degree.
Phronsie Howell says
When my, now husband, went on a walk with me and said “I really like you. Actually, I love you.” We weren’t even dating yet but I knew he’d liked me for a really long time (we met when I was 6) so the “I like you” didn’t surprise me because I’d heard it before. The “I love you” totally changed everything though.
As far as doing something in a minute to change a child’s life. We’re Compassion sponsors so I could take a picture of our kids. I know it seems trivial but that picture has the potential to show our child that we do love them.
A leader at a camp I worked at all through college: After a terribly tough week of inner city camp I was panicked that I’d chosen the wrong field to major in at school. I’d just graduated with a degree in Human Services but struggled so that week (along with the entire staff). He pointed out things he saw in me that made me uniquely gifted for this work and this population. He was right. I spent 20+ yrs working foster care and mental health.
I now work in a middle school minstry which mentors middle schoolers. We tell our college and young adult leaders all the time…the impact you make on these kids will stay with them their whole life. You never know what God will use in someone’s life!!
Beth Williams says
My hubby and I sponsor a child from Ninos De Mexico. Periodically I will write a simple letter to her. Each Christmas and birthday I send extra money for her to buy something special that she wants.
One time she wrote about getting a pair of purple boots & that just made her whole day & life. I’m glad to be a part of it!
Several people have encouraged me over time. 1) when my hubby said yes to marriage that completely changed my life.;
2) when hubby says “you’re smart, beautiful and the best wife a man could want”. That speaks volumes to me.
Tonya G says
I’ve had a friend tell me what a good Mom I am of my children, one who has special needs. She has affirmed me as his advocate and it’s really helped send me in the direction of advocating for others.
Also, I have thought about this in relation to my oldest son. He wants to know his purpose so bad and really soaks up our affirmations.
I always encourage my two daughters (4 and 7), that their best is good enough for me.
Kelly Jones says
My group leader told me right after I gave my life to Jesus that I was made to be a worshipper. It has always stuck with me and impacted me.
I always try to encourage my kids by telling them they are great at what they are doing. My son (5) has taken this on too and is always encouraging to my husband and I. He loves telling us and his little sister that we are doing a good job. He has a strong heart for God and seems to really hear his voice and encourage others just when they need it most.
During dark childhood days, after the passing of my father, the pastor’s wife said that I was beautiful (even though I felt ugly) – she was such an example of the beauty and love of Christ! Her life has and still continues to impact many!
debbie pete says
God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. That was when we decided maybe God really did want ordinary US to go to the mission field.
Roy N Cook says
“You are 27 going on 17, happy go lucky, fun loving, irresponsible, immature, sit down
we’re going to see God change you into a Godly man,” and with those words, I found the first person in my life that loved me enough to hold me accountable and say the tough things to me that needed to be said. I had 6 years of college was still 2 years away from a degree, a very low GPA, had no direction or defined purpose. This pastor also told me to go back to school and finish my education or it would hang over my head the rest of my life. I did, got 2 degrees, taught and coached and have been a
leader in a couple of para-church ministries. I’m grateful to God for the man HE used.
When I was a young girl, my father was finishing a new bathroom in the basement. As I was ‘helping’ him he would direct me to different tasks. At the end of our time together he said ‘I don’t know what I would have done without your help.’ Even though it would have likely been faster to work on his own, he took the time to teach and give words of encouragement.
It is a goal to find each opportunity to highlight the good in our children, to help them to see their gifts and use them for goo.
I remember as a child when I would write poems to express my feelings about the weather, my cats, and how I loved my State of Texas. Fortunately my Mom and Dad never discouraged me but complimented me on what I was writing. After I received an award for poem I wrote, Mom excitedly told my grandmother of my accomplishment. From that moment on, I have written poems, stories and now am attempting to write a novel. The input from my parents paved the way for words to become stepping stones to numerous adventures in my writing endeavors. Now that I have grandchildren, I want to be a catalyst to help them find meaning and direction in their lives.
Shawn Bensley says
A lady in my church saw my potential as a leader of a missions group when I was pretty young. Now I lead mission studies for our association.
As we’ve seen here in the comments, one comment can have either a negative or a positive impact on you for years to come.
As a teenager, both a doctor and an older female relative told me repeatedly how my cousin was so beautiful — so I got the impression that she was the pretty one in the family, while I was not. I still struggle today with feelings of inadequacy over my appearance.
On the flip side, my mother told me as a girl that it’s OK to be different. She let me know I didn’t have to go along with the crowd. That has guided me in many situations throughout my life.
A member at our church congregation told me, when I was a teen-ager, that I was beautiful. No one had ever said that before and I thought all the other girls were prettier than me so to hear that compliment was a huge deal. I still think of that occasionally and am so grateful to her for speaking to me.
I try to encourage other young girls, as they enter their teen years, with special words of praise so that they will grow up believing in themselves and trusting that God has special purpose for their lives.
And every phone conversation with our grown children still ends with “I love you” which I never heard as a child. Thank you for reminding me of the impact of our words – children are a precious gift from God and need to be loved and mentored by all those who are around them.
My Dear Friend, Joyce told me something that I’ll never forget. She said that it was OK to say no & that I didn’t owe an explanation. I always was so busy trying to please others that I was allowing others to come in the way of even my own family. I learned it was OK to say no <3
When I first read the topic for comments, no individual came to mind. But God is reminding me of several people who encouraged me along the way: a camp counselor who said I was good with kids, a friend who liked my artwork, an aunt who said I wrote so well. I’ve always been fairly quiet and have felt inadequate in so many ways. Maybe that’s why I can recall many different people encouraging me through the years– I needed lots of encouragement! It makes me realize how important it is to point out to the children I encounter how special they are, to take note of what they do well and let them know I noticed.
What an insightful, tender, healing father. That was a really beautiful moment.
I’ve had one moment that meant the world to me when my boss and his wife were talking with me and they told me I was the kind, gentle intimate part of the faith organization I worked at and that they wanted to keep me working there. I treasure those words.
When I was in the 2nd grade my teacher, who was generally very kind, made a joke about a small part of my appearance that wasn’t so kind. I have remembered that comment to this day, and (sadly) it actually influences my hairstyles. I still haven’t been able to let go of a comment made to me 27 years ago. You can forgive, but it’s much harder to forget.
How mindful we need to be of our comments, especially to children. In highschool, a teacher told me he gave me a B even though I had done A+ work because he didn’t feel I had worked hard enough. Taught me life is not at all fair and I need to go the extra mile, giving more of myself in everything I do. I hope I’ve encouraged my children, and not squashed their potential.
Yes, there have been several “moments” in my life that have changed everything. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and was told at the age of 10 by my aunt that I had to be “the grown-up” in our family of 4 (mother, father, and 27 yr. old brother and myself) or else everything would fall apart…….I needed to do whatever was necessary to keep one of these loved ones happy. One of my loved ones continually abused me verbally, emotionally, and physically and the other two were afraid of this loved one and afraid to “rock the boat” for fear of what the loved one might do. I was told I was a mistake, couldn’t do anything right, was a big disappointment, etc., and was the source of all my loved one’s problems. The other two in our family were pretty much left alone. My fourth grade teacher provided that “moment” for me. She continually told me how bright I was, how helpful and kind I was, what a good student I was, and how proud she was of me…..words I’d never heard before. She knew of my home situation….so to get me out of it even for a short while invited me to spend Saturday mornings with her, helping her do her laundry and just hanging out 🙂 This was appreciated by my loved one so as to get me away from home. This teacher continually told me that I was bright and that I wasn’t a failure but would amount to something wonderful someday, that I’d really be able to contribute to my world. She inspired me to want to be a teacher, and she also showed me that we’re always influencing others either positively or negatively. It wasn’t till years later that I truly understood that God had given her to me as a special blessing in a very difficult time of my life.
Love this thought… in just a minute, I can help shape my son’s life. How can I be too busy for that?
My grandmother always told me that I could do the impossible with the help of the Lord. She had a magnet on her refrigerator that said, “God doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called.” She gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and work for the Lord. I am continuing to do that 40 years later!
tell my children what i see in them.
when I was a very young girl, we rented an apartment below an “older” couple. To be honest I have no idea how old they were, they seemed ancient to my 7 year old eyes. The lady’s name was June Burgess. She was nice. I remember her presence but not her face or even the inside of her home. The year we moved in she gave my brother and I a Bible for Christmas. She didn’t say anything important but she put a Bible into the hands of a young impressionable child. It was anchor for me. Before I was taught anything about what to “do” with it… I did with it. I would hold it in times of family instability, in times of prayer, in deep sadness… I get overwhelmed thinking how in her obedience to God she opened the door for my Salvation then I was led by The Spirit.
The words that changed my life…words by a small group leader “We will always love you…no matter what. Even if you hurt us, we will still love you.”
I had never experienced such love and acceptance before. Knowing I had those three people behind me…no matter what…made all the difference in my life.
It is now my dream that I can pass that acceptance on to others.
Saying, “God loves you. I love you. I am praying for you!”
Natasha Devries says
Having our first child changed my “love” in a minute!