Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve was a great time of Celebration at Agape.  Boys started returning from the Christmas break and we lit Fireworks, sang songs of thankfulness, danced around the bon fire, enjoyed ice cream and received an inspired Biblical message from House Parent Vincent.  All of the KJ’s were on hand to enjoy the celebratory end to the vacation time for the boys and many staff.

Vincent teaching the boys on New Year's Eve

Next week everything changes for us!  The Agape Campus school will begin on Wednesday, January 4th; the nearly 94 boys living on Campus and the nearly 100 day students will begin the 2012 academic year in Kenya.  Included in the student list will be Matt, Christopher, Jack and Charlie who will sit in on some of the Agape School classes with the rest of the Kenyan students.  Lisa and I have been blessed with a “homeschool” room in the new dining hall and part of our daily routine will be overseeing the schooling for the rest of the children while monitoring the progress of these four during the day.

This will be a change for all of us as for the past two plus weeks we’ve been blessed with the ability to come and go as we wish while participating in a lot of Agape Craft afternoons, time at the Remand Center and just fun, interactive time with the boys that remained on Campus during the break.

Gracie getting a ride across the soccer field!

Lisa and Eric have also started working on a few of the projects that they’ll be attacking this year.  Lisa’s been busy writing up Kitanda Project descriptions, asking a lot of questions, planning for school, learning about life in Kenya and working with Eric to help the Agape Campus Director, Chris Page with a few of the projects he’d like to see accomplished.  Eric just finished working on a surprise Campus project with many of the KJ kids and a few local helpers, he began organizing thoughts and resources for the creation of a formal church/work group program that will help bring numerous groups from the United States to Kenya.

Christmas Carnival at the Remand Center

He’s also making local connections and doing research to help the Reintegration Staff reach out to more Agape families that would benefit from micro-enterprise opportunities and he’s spent quite a bit of time letting lots of young boys hang on him while trying to learn as many Kiswahili words as possible.

Our family has been blessed with time to be together for most meals and also during many mornings and evenings to discuss our experiences at Campus, with the boys, with staff and how God is using what we’re experiencing to teach and stretch us all.  Eric keeps saying that he thinks one of the things God wants us to learn while in Kenya is patience, since there are no fast food restaurants and nothing moves very quickly here.

We’re so thankful for those of you who have financially supported our work with Agape in Kenya and all of you who have been praying so diligently for us.  We’ve already survived lost luggage, three illnesses, a couple daring car rides (with Eric behind the wheel – on the right side of the car that is) a few lost Tuk-Tuk driver outings, many bicycle rides around the neighborhood by Chris & Matt, the slow healing of Lisa’s broken foot and the blessing by most of the guards, staff and boys who speak far more English than we do Kiswahili.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS!  We’ve got a great team of fellow American missionaries here that we’re so thankful for and we’ve met some very nice and kind other missionaries working with organizations we had never heard of before arriving in Kenya, some doing very different work than we do at Agape and some doing similar work.

God is really broadening our minds, eyes and hearts to the people of Kenya and what He has for us to do to benefit the youth and those hurting and in need here.

Crafts

Tie Dye Craft project this week. The bright colors bring many smiles to the boys' faces.

Lisa (with tears in her eyes) shared earlier today with one of the Agape Social Workers that since we can’t speak Kiswahili, our job is to love the boys and do everything we can to assist, equip and empower the Kenyan staff who can more easily share the Gospel and God’s love in words with the boys thereby leaving us to share His love in Action.  Though many of the boys speak English in bits and pieces along with some more commonly used phrases, they are more comfortable speaking Kiswahili or their tribal language until they are much older.  Your prayers and financial support allow us to do this important work and allow us to be a connection between you and the children at Agape.

Blessings to you and your family in 2012 from the Kjeldgaards!

 

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The Kjeldgaards are in Kenya!

This is just a short update to make sure everyone is aware that we’ve arrived safely in Kisumu and have been enjoying our time here. It’s been quite a whirl-wind settling our family into a new country, a new culture while at the same time trying to find what God would have for us here. Over the next 11 months, we hope to share some of our ups and downs from the field and make sure that everyone knows that God still hears the prayers of those most disadvantaged and abandoned here in Kisumu.

Until we bring all of our collective writings under this blog, please join our family in experiencing life in Kenya from many different viewpoints by also visiting the following websites:

http://www.towheadedrambler.weebly.com   (Nick’s Blog)

http://www.confessionsofanafricaaholic.blogspot.com   (Kate’s Blog)

http://www.swimmerinafrica.blogspot.com   (Stephen’s Blog)

http://www.agapechilren.org   (where you can learn about Agape and see an archive of all of the Kjeldgaard Monthly Newsletters in the Newsletters/Media tab)

Thanks for wanting to follow our activities in Kenya serving the Lord!

Proverbs 31:8-9 “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

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God reigns now and forever!

This morning I was listening to some great worship music and Chris Tomlin’s, Let God Arise cycled through, sung by my friend and church Worship Director, Mitch Fewell.  Some might think the song repetitive, but like many subjects I’ve learned over the years, sometimes I just need to get whacked over the head a few (hundred) times for the content to really sink in.  The words, “Our God is a God who saves” and “Our God reigns now and forever” prompted me go re-read Isaiah 52:7.  “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, Your God reigns!”

As my family prepares for our adventure in Kenya, I don’t want to forget that this great work we’re about to undertake is not about us, but it is about Him!  I do not reign now, nor will I forever.  I can’t save anyone.  Thankfully, I have a big God who can and His arms stretch from Oakdale to Kisumu.

Lord, as we will look at the mountains from our apartment in Kisumu, let our feet bring good news.  Let us proclaim peace; let us bring glad tidings of good things.  Lord, let us proclaim salvation and let us love the children at Agape and in the City in word and action so that they come to know You, reign now and forever!

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Humbled

Not too long ago we hosted the 5th Annual Riverbend Ranch Charity Carnival.  Our family started the Carnival in 2007 after Lisa and I decided we needed a way for our whole family to be able to join in to what God was doing around the world and not just be passive observers.  We chose James 1:27 as our family mission verse, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself un-spotted from the world.”

Lisa and I both have huge hearts for kids and even though we prayed that one day we would have the opportunity to serve God directly in ministry, we had no idea where, when or with which ministry that might happen.  So the Carnival was born and we raised funds for the orphanages we couldn’t visit, the widows we wanted to bless and the children who were alone to care for themselves in places where we hadn’t been.

This year we were blessed by nearly 100 volunteers who came to the Carnival with a heart for service and a vision of their own to help!  Some worked with the horses, others sold tickets, dozens worked games booths, a few blessed us with song and worship, more sat in the dunk tank and others stood all day making and selling food.  We were humbled that God would tug on the hearts of so many to come help.

Our volunteers love God and love the opportunity to serve as families.  These families are friends from our past and present.  We met them through church, football, swimming, speech & debate, Facebook and by living in our community.  Their denominational heritage and affiliations include Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Church of Christ, Catholic and the famous “non”-denominational denomination.  The volunteers were a beautiful picture of God’s love and grace and they came not just to help us or even indirectly help Agape Children’s Ministry, but they came to serve the Maker of the Universe, their Lord and Savior.

The Carnival is a great day of fun and excitement, loads of laughter and smiles from hundreds of kids.  We raise funds for worthy ministries doing amazing work for the Lord in far away places where few people take notice.  But the Carnival also reminds me of Paul’s instruction from Ephesians 4:1-3.  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  On Carnival day we all come together in Unity of the Spirit, to the glory of God.

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Why?

When I meet people who don’t know my family very well and I tell them we’re moving to Kenya, I get a variety of reactions.  Questions like, “how long will you be there” and “How many of you are going” are common and met with my reply, “about a year and….  all of us.”  After they pick themselves up off of the floor, their next question is always, “Why?”

Good question!  What would motivate my wife Lisa and I to move all eight of our children to Kenya for nearly a year and then return to the United States for a life that will be focused on ministry?  The easy, short answer is God.  The longer, more detailed answer is still God; it just takes a bit longer to get there.

Since the age of 16, Lisa knew she wanted to be a missionary in Africa.  That desire came from the Holy Spirit working in her and Godly adult influences in her life that gave her a passion to serve.  After she graduated college, she was sidetracked from her dream by a husband (me!) and eight little blessings that came one at a time over 14 years.  I on the other hand, missed (or should I say, ignored?) any communication that God was sending my way about serving overseas.  Even though Lisa and I, before marriage and after starting our own family, had huge hearts for kids and helping them, we weren’t doing much to be doers of His word when it came to serving His children.  In 2007 we decided that our comfy life in suburbia needed re-prioritizing.  Lisa and I purposed to find a way to take our children overseas and until we found that way, we would work to help children and more specifically orphans and the impoverished, while we stayed in little old Oakdale waiting for our turn.

God blessed us with a family verse, James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”   From this verse we created the first Riverbend Ranch Charity Carnival and with the help of our family and friends raised over $8,000 for Acres of Hope, an orphanage based in Liberia.  Since 2007 we have raised over $65,000 that has been given to worthy ministries serving orphans and widows.

One of the ministries we supported in 2009 was Agape Children’s Ministry based in Modesto, California.  The Directors, Blake and Esther Gibbs were kind, encouraging, enthusiastic, had a mentoring spirit and the joy of the Lord in their lives.  We were drawn to what God was doing with this ministry and the street children of Kisumu, Kenya.  After a few meals and visits with the Gibbs and over a year of time, we journeyed with our oldest daughter in September 2010 to Kenya and called the Gibbs on their invite to come and see what God was building in Kenya.  What happened?  We fell in love with Kenya, the children, the ministry and what God is doing there and decided that we wanted to be part of it!

I’ll admit, I left for Kenya feeling a bit more like I was going there to help Lisa fulfill her dream, but God blessed me with a vision of my own while there.  A vision that a family of ten could travel around the world and serve God by loving children that know poverty and hardship like no other children I know.  Our tools will be our love for the Lord, God’s commands to love the orphans and the poor, our own children filled with hope that each of them will have a way to personally minister to the street children of Kisumu and one another where Lisa and I will work together as a team glorifying God and loving those who think that they can never be truly loved.

Simply, a family being doers of the Word, living and sharing the gospel not only in word but also in action.  We invite you to join us while we discover more fully how God is moving in Kenya and in the lives of our family of ten.

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