Remembering the Kaardals

Kaardal descendants meeting with CLB representatives at the grave of Jetmund and Sofie Kaardal.
I can only imagine the emotions and thoughts that flowed through the minds of Jetmund and Sofie Kaardal on September 7, 1920, as they stepped off a trans-Atlantic ship onto African soil in the port city of Lagos, Nigeria. Doubtless, they thought about the uncertainty of what experiences lay before them; what sacrifices this missionary calling might mean for their family; what sicknesses or worse they may have to endure… but they pressed on because of a divine calling. For the next three months, they traveled inland to a region then called the Yola-Melut Gap, a large swath of the African interior recognized as an area totally devoid of Christian witness. This was their calling, to bring the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a people who had never heard about it. And the conviction of this calling trumped all the other doubts and concerns they may have felt.

Together with Berge and Herborg Revne, the Kaardals pioneered a mission in Africa that the Lord blessed greatly. They labored; they sacrificed; they made the painful decision to leave children with family in Norway (Alice and Ivan) and in the United States (Elmer), believing that this was for the best, while they continued to be faithful to their calling to the unreached of Africa. Ivan died as an infant from burns sustained in a tragic accident. All of this added to the sacrifice endured by Jetmund and Sofie, but they labored on through sickness, through the death of colleagues, through years of seemingly no spiritual fruit. They persevered for 51 years, finally leaving the field in 1971.

When they first arrived in current day Chad, not one of their national neighbors knew Jesus Christ as Savior. When they left, there were thousands! How did that happen? Because, as they labored, as they learned language, as they translated the Scriptures, as they taught, as they loved, as they served, as they witnessed, as they suffered… God worked.

Their faithful and persevering obedience to their call—even through the valleys of loneliness, pain, sickness, heartache, and innumerable challenges—pioneered a CLB mission heritage in Chad and Cameroon that today is manifest in a Church that reports over 2,600 congregations and over 300,000 believers! Praise the Lord!

On June 29 of this year, the CLB Synodical office in Fergus Falls, Minnesota was blessed to host four grandchildren of the Kaardals, namely:

  • Carol Hokanson (daughter of Elmer Kaardal and granddaughter of Jetmund and Sofie)
  • Marit Halleraker (daughter of Alice and granddaughter of Jetmund and Sofie), with spouse Kjetil 
  • Thor Kaardal (son of Elmer and grandson of Jetmund and Sofie), with spouse Deb
  • Karen Sofie Kaardal (daughter of Alice and granddaughter of Jetmund and Sofie), who joined the group online

After a visit to the grave site of Jetmund and Sofie at Oak Grove Cemetery, the family joined CLB leadership and veteran missionaries and friends of the Kaardals for lunch at the Synodical headquarters. There, stories were shared; stories about the impact of Jetmund and Sofie’s ministry; stories of courage; stories of friendship; stories of humor; stories of heritage and hope.

Granddaughter Carol writes this about the day: “We are grateful for the hospitality and kindness we received during our visit to Fergus Falls. It was wonderful to meet so many individuals who knew our grandparents well. We deeply appreciated learning more about the lives and legacy of our grandparents. Thank you for a lovely and memorable occasion!”
Since her founding as a Church in 1900, the Church of the Lutheran Brethren has, is, and will remain a Church sent to the nations for the sake of the gospel. I am so grateful for this heritage and this hope!

Dan Venberg serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as Director of International Mission.

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