Orphan ministry takes on a remarkable texture when it’s not just the parents doing it. After church on Sunday, Rachel and I piled our brood into the minivan for an hour’s drive out to a small walnut farm, residence of Eric and Lisa Kjeldgaard and their six boys and two girls. There’s an awful lot that could be said about the Kjeldgaard kids. Respectful. Exhaustingly energetic. Thoughtful. Unjaded. Helpful. Vivacious. (The evening ended with a spontaneous dance party when, as the sun set over the walnut grove, one put some raucous tune and the whole bunch began hopping and shimmying around the patio for a good 20 minutes).
What struck me most, though, is how the family is responding to God’s call to care for the orphan: together. In the family office, pictures of individual children they’ve sponsored around the world are spread across a map, prayed for most every day. The family is looking seriously at adopting, too—something all the kids are cheering on. Following Summit, Eric presented to the elder board about creating a new foster and adoption ministry in the church, a project all of them will be involved with as it grows.
Perhaps best of all, later this month the family will be hosting its fourth annual Riverbend Ranch Charity Carnival to raise money for orphan care. The kids were nearly breathless as they described their plans for the carnival, their respective roles in it, and how they love working together as a team to make it happen. From pony rides, a 24-foot slide and a dunk tank to enviable raffle prizes and mouth-watering foods, this is going to be one heck of a good time, with every penny made going to help orphan ministry. And each Kjeldgaard kid plays an indispensible role.
What’s the fruit? Certainly, many orphans’ lives have been impacted by the Kjeldgaards, and many more will be over years to come. But I also see such fruit in the Kjeldgaard family as well: spiritual maturity, compassion, real joy, a sense of family mission.
A short blog post by one of the two outnumbered Kjeldgaard girls, Kate, after our visit captured the spirit I sensed in all the kids. (You can see it here.) Kate’s words and her presence reflect the kind of heart I pray God will help Rachel and me cultivate in our children as they grow: passionate for Jesus Christ and lit up by Him in love for others. I suspect that one of the best ways to do just that is to make orphan ministry a family affair like the Kjeldgaards have done.