05 February 2011

Book Review: Too Small to Ignore

How does a kid who spent nine months a year being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused at a "Christian Academy" in Africa become the world's greatest advocate for poor children?

By the grace of God, he'll tell you. Dr. Wess Stafford was a missionary kid in Africa growing up, and he was the kid who eventually stood up for his friends and classmates at his school and eventually rescued them from the abuse. Today, he is the President and CEO of Compassion International, a non-profit dedicated to releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name. Today, Compassion helps more than 1 million children in 26 countries.

Dr. Stafford's book, Too Small to Ignore, is riveting and passionate. His stories of growing up in rural Africa - when he wasn't at school - offer great lessons for Western parents. In the small village of Nielle, children were part of the community. They participated in the work, learned from the old, and were parented by everyone. They mattered, not just to their parents, but to the whole community.

Some quotes from the book:
Kids want more than entertainment; they want the chance to make a difference. They are itching to get out of the pigeonhole into which we have shoved them.
When the poor and the wealthy get together, each ends up meeting the desperate needs of the other. Too often Satan achieves his wicked agenda by keeping them apart - geographically and philosophically. The result is that one tends to die in need, the other in greed. 
Jesus never admonished children to become more grown-up. He did, however, exhort grownups to become more like children.
Children matter in God's Kingdom, and Too Small to Ignore is a great way to learn how to make them matter in your life.


  1. I had never heard of this book, but I would really like to read it now. Thanks for the review.

    Without having read the book, and confessing my own ignorance of African communal life, might I still make a comment?

    I live and teach on a Native American reservation, where there is a similar community mindset. Unfortunately, I have seen that often the children who should be "raised by the community" are often in actuality raised by no one. I just wanted to comment that sin can really affect this model.

    Also, while the community can have a collective good impact on a child's life, the primary responsibility to train up a child and teach him/her the ways of wisdom is given by God to the parents. If they are wise, they will seek to garner the wisdom of others and expose their children to good examples and role models outside the home. I wholeheartedly agree with having children participate in the work and learn from "the elders," as they would be referred to in this culture.

  2. Yep, that could happen, but it didn't happen in the author's community. Parents still took primary responsibility for their children, but it was truly a community: cross-gender, cross-age, cross-family.

    Like any model, it can break down. But learning from elders and participating in their work is critical, as you said.