Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Too Small to Ignore – Chapter 10

I am Jennifer Wilson. I am a 35 year old stay-at-home mother of two. My husband and I have been sponsors for more than 13 years. I traveled to Peru last year to meet one of our sponsored children, which is where I became acquainted with Jill. My husband, Josh, just returned from a Compassion trip to Guatemala, where he met one of our other sponsored children.


When I first read “Too Small To Ignore”, chapters 10 & 11 were the ones I highlighted most. They are the chapters that describe in the most detail not only how Compassion’s child development model works, but why they use the “child-focused” model, versus the more common “community-focused” model. To put it plainly, Compassion doesn’t seek to change the child’s circumstances primarily, but to change to the child so he or she is empowered to change their own circumstances.

Part Two of this book shows a dramatic shift from where Wess Stafford came from to where he is today and where he wants to go. He still references Nielle, the African village where he was raised, but it is no longer the principal focus.


If you have ever traveled internationally to a developing country, you can probably partially relate to the culture shock that Wess describes in chapter 10. Wess says at the end of the chapter, “Suddenly it hit me like a blow to my gut. There is plenty of food in this world for everyone!..There is enough medicine, too!...For most of my teenage years in America, I lived with a broken heart.” Since I traveled last year to Peru with Compassion, I feel that I have lived with a similar broken heart. It is difficult to know that poverty is too readily tolerated and accepted in developed countries and dually received and expected by the poor in developing counties. “Systems” often fail to remedy the problems of poverty the way people who truly care can.

Wess describes in this chapter the values that he learned growing up around those living in poverty.

“These most precious values I have come to call the ‘pearls of poverty,’ given to me by the peasants of West Africa. The pearl is a jewel…But unlike the others, a pearl comes originally from suffering. The oyster gets a grain of sand inside its shell…Over time, the oyster begins to protect itself from that irritant by coating it with a secretion, layer upon layer, until it becomes a smooth, brilliant, shining treasure-a pearl!” pg.164-165

The pearls he lists are:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Hope
  • Time Perspective
  • People Matter, Things Don’t
  • Knowing How to Give and Receive

The first sentence he writes about the pearl of Love is…

“Nothing is more powerful in the world today. It cannot be bought; in fact, it belongs to the very poor as much as the very rich.”

About Joy he writes…

“The poor comprehend that joy is not dictated by the circumstances of life. Joy is a decision, a very brave one, about how you are going to respond to life.”

About Hope he writes…

“Even when life’s harshness and injustices pile up, the poor cling tenaciously to hope. They will humble you with their absolute belief in a loving God who can be trusted to sustain and bless them.”

About Time Perspective he writes…

“The poor understand that time is to be our servant, not our master, and as a result they manage always to have time for one another and what is important. The tyranny of time, I find, is a dreadful disease, especially for the wealthy; among them it is a nearly fatal condition and horribly contagious.”

When he discusses the pearl that “People matter, things don’t” he writes...

“If we stop and put the values of eternity into perspective, we realize that we take nothing with us. Our only legacy is the lives of the people we have touched in Jesus’ name.”

Lastly, about the pearl of “knowing how to give and receive” he writes…

“To give selflessly is truly on of the greatest joys in life….In my experience, it is also easier to give than to receive….In my village, selfishness was considered a tremendous evil. I witnessed amazing displays of the strong using their strength to lift up the fallen, to carry more than their share of the load-and doing it modestly in ways that honored those they were helping.”

This chapter introduces what the poor taught Wess Stafford and chapter 11 will discuss how he, along with others in the Compassion leadership, developed the child development model, based on their experience living alongside the poor.

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