Wallace “Wally” Erickson, who oversaw Compassion International’s move to Colorado Springs and was its president from 1975 to 1993, died Sunday in his Grand Junction home. He was 90.
The nonprofit Christian child development group moved to Colorado Springs from Chicago in 1980, and Erickson helped it more than triple the number of children it helped to 180,000. The former Church of the Nazarene pastor started with Compassion in 1968 and directed its work in South Korea, where it began helping war orphans in 1952.
“We will forever be in the debt of this remarkable, compassionate man of God. He built the foundation for Compassion to become the beautiful worldwide ministry it is today,” said Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, Compassion’s CEO since 2013.
“We can only imagine the joy of the children in Heaven when this hero of the Kingdom walked in Sunday morning.”
As a member of the Colorado Springs Airport Advisory Board, Erickson led efforts in 1992 to convert a former maintenance-supply storage area into a chapel in the airport’s old passenger terminal. (That terminal has been demolished, but the current terminal also has a chapel.) He raised $7,500 to furnish the 10-seat chapel with paneling, drapes, chairs and a nonsectarian stained-glass wall hanging.
“I had the great honor of watching and learning from one of the most outstanding Christian leaders in this era of ministry,” said Wess Stafford, who replaced Erickson after he retired and was the ministry’s president for 20 years. “He was a man of real integrity, of heart and faith.”
Compassion last year generated nearly $900 million from sponsors recruited from more than 7,000 churches to help nearly 2 million babies, children and young adults in 25 countries. The group’s programs range from prenatal care to leadership development to helping children escape “spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty,” according to its website.
Steve Rabey, who edited Compassion’s magazine in the late 1980s, said Erickson “was obsessive about financial transparency. He mandated that once a year we add eight pages to the magazine to print entire audited financial statement so donors can see where their money had gone.” He described Erickson as “an executive with a pastor’s heart. I remember him taking me to breakfast and lunch in order to get to know me better and care for my emotional and spiritual well-being.”
Erickson is survived by his wife of 68 years, Mary; children Debby, Karen and Wally Jr., and several grandchildren.
Services are pending.