Kelli’s Journey of Faith
Thank you for letting me share about our new sister in Christ, Kelli. Kelli is the wife of Jeff and mom to two energetic boys Camden who is 7 and Jordan who is 10. Kelli has been on a long faith journey. She grew up with a loving family but sadly lost her father to cancer at a young age. She has always had a heart for God and has attended church on and off throughout her life. The person in the Bible Kelli reminds me of most is Cornelius. Acts 10:2 states, “Cornelius and his family were devout and God-fearing, he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”
I was incredibly blessed to meet Kelli in the fall of 2006 when my son Isaiah and her son Jordan entered pre-school together. The boys quickly became good friends and our relationship grew quickly as well. A year and half later, Kelli heard about HOPE worldwide and our TEAM-WORKS programs serving at-risk students in poverty. She wanted to do what she could to help, so she joined our golf tournament fundraising committee and became our most devoted volunteer. At that time, Kelli was already serving so many volunteer hours at the boys’ school they eventually gave her a small office. But she wanted to serve our program and did so with a tireless and cheerful heart.
Her entire family shares her heart for the poor. Jeff would often get off work and take care of the kids on his own so she could volunteer. He would bring the kids by while she put in hours to visit with her on break and bring snacks. Jordan devoted one of his birthdays to raising money for TEAM-WORKS, requesting donations instead of presents and he raised over $300. Jeff also showed support through golfing and generous donations, in addition to his own work at Eastside Christian where he was later asked to be President of the School Board.
In the midst of serving alongside myself and Erica, they started coming to our Bible talk discussions and building relationships with more and more Christians. Their family was easy to love and many people began praying for them. Ellen Soter recognized Jeff, realizing that they had worked together at Reagan McKenzie many years ago, before he was even married to Kelli. In 2010, Jeff and Kelli started joining us at church at the Bellevue Christian building. Kelli struggled with social anxiety, which caused her to miss church a lot, but at that time they started considering our church their spiritual home.
In the summer of 2011, as we were all preparing the 4th annual TEAM-WORKS Charity golf tournament, Kelli expressed that she had intense pains in her stomach and she could barely eat. Soon after the tournament, she went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. The cancer had already spread through several organs in her body and the doctor gave her 16th months to live. Kelli called and asked if Mack and I could join them when they told their children. I will never forget Kelli’s strength and her great sense of humor that day during an unimaginably challenging moment. I believe her and Jeff’s calmness helped her boys be at peace because after they listened, they ran off with Isaiah and Evan laughing and playing in the park.
At that time, we began meeting for Bible study when she felt up to it. During our Bible studies, she would often ask about TEAM-WORKS and apologize for not being able to do more. Erica and I felt that it was necessary to somehow thank her for all she had done for HOPE worldwide. We created an annual volunteer service award in her name and presented the first one to her this past summer.
This past year the chemo and treatments have wreaked havoc on her body and mind. She became more and more unavailable, afraid and weak. At one point a new chemo medicine tore a part of her colon, which caused her to go into a coma for a few days. After God strengthened her through that scare, she spent much of her time sleeping and rarely getting out of the house. Nikki Cloutier and I would try to get as many brief moments with her to pray and study the Bible, while many people in our church provided meals. More importantly, many people were praying for her. Even in the midst of her pain, she would still crack jokes. However, she would also express her fear and that she did not feel at peace.
At the beginning of this week, Isaiah said to me: “Mom, have you ever just asked Kelli whether or not she wants to get baptized?” I said, “I don’t think so.” I needed Isaiah’s simple faith. On Wednesday during my quiet time, I felt God calling me to go visit. The scripture in Romans 10 came to mind, “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” On the way to Kelli’s, Nikki happened to call and said it was on her heart to visit Kelli. We begged God that she would be awake, have a clear in mind and open in heart. When we arrived, within a short time she was in tears sharing about how she was up through out the night crying in fear. She expressed how thankful she was for Jeff trying to comfort her. We studied the Bible and Kelli said that she wanted to make Jesus Lord and get baptized. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if she would forget about our time, her illness and medications had been making things so difficult for her. Not too much later I got the text from Jeff that Kelli wanted to get baptized on Valentine’s Day.
I wish you all could have been there to see your new sister in Christ share her faith to the group while she explained her convictions on why she wanted to get baptized and her commitment to continuing to grow in her knowledge of God. Jeff went to draw the bathwater for her baptism. Kelli teasingly said to Jeff, “Honey, I would also like bubbles and candles with my bath.” Mack, Nikki and I had the privilege of baptizing her in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:4, Cornelius said, “What is it, Lord?” The Angel of the Lord answered. “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Soon after Cornelius and his entire family was baptized. Similar to Cornelius, I believe God heard Kelli’s prayers and saw her service to the poor, and so blessed her long journey of faith. She now has the hope of Heaven and the peace of God to help her through this difficult time.
You may never get the opportunity to meet Kelli, but I wanted you to know a little about her faith and how inspired those who know her are by her heart. Most of all, we stand in awe of God as we have watched him worked powerfully and mercifully in the Kaufman family’s life. Please continue to pray for our dear sister Kelli and her family.
Love in Christ, Zoe