Friday, June 19, 2015

Long Overdue

It has been a long time since our last update. The reasons for this are many, but for those who follow our blog we are sorry. For us, after we really started to get comfortable to all that we used to find so amazing and new it was a bit more difficult to come up with new posts. Although when we take the time to reflect on our daily lives and all the grace and blessings the Lord gives us day in and day out we realize that our now “normal” is so far from where we came from it is almost unbelievable.

The girls are flourishing here in faith, education and personality as we had prayed they would. Lily has completed 4 grade with close to straight A’s and will be in 5th next year. Josie finished her first year of school in reception (4K) and will be moving on to kindergarten next year. Both surprise us nearly daily with their growth as young girls and we thank God everyday for His blessings upon them.

We have also been blessed with a new addition to our family. We wrote a short piece for the Comboni Newsletter recently so we thought we’d share it here also.

After the flooding that ravaged many parts of Malawi and left thousands without food and shelter, we traveled south to distribute much needed aid to a community in which our Comboni Fathers are working. While there, we received a message from a social worker in Mzuzu, the far north of the country, stating that there was a 2 ½ month old baby that was in desperate need of help.

During our time here we had prayed and discussed the option of adoption, but never actively pursued it apart from a couple visits to local orphanages and making contact with some people involved in the process. Just before departing for Mzuzu, we learned it was a baby girl, 2.5 months old, her mom died shortly after her birth, her father had no part in her life and her grandparents could no longer care for her. We prayed as a family and we all felt called to go and help this baby. Little did we know how desperate the situation was. We arrived at the rural village home Sunday afternoon to find a precious baby girl who in hindsight was almost lifeless. The family had run out of formula days before and had no means to buy more. She did smile, but that was all. No tears, little movement, no wet diaper. After a visit with the grandparents and the social welfare officer, they asked us to adopt this child the next morning. We decided we needed to pray as a family as we assumed we were being called to offer Foster care for this child, not adopt her the next morning. We were given primary custody the next day, took the little angel home with us and haven’t looked back.

We have officially adopted Amari Margaret Wezi Kleven and she is now the youngest Comboni Lay Missionary in the Kleven clan! Over the past four months she has grown beautifully and has brought immense joy to our family. We thank Almighty God for this wonderful gift.

Over the past two years the Lord has challenged, pushed, and blessed in more ways we ever thought imaginable. Our work here is often measured in smiles and greetings each day rather than deadlines met and goals accomplished. Though this can seem to be a relaxed “easy” way of life, it can also be a point of frustration.  We are reminded though in Phil. 2:14 “Do everything without grumbling or questioning”.  So with obedient hearts we continue to listen. We are starting to realize that after almost 2 and half years here in Malawi our work for the Lord is just getting started.

Love and Blessings,
The Klevens

Jacob, Tonya, Lily, Josie, and Amari

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Catching Up

Jacob, Josh & girls crossing handmade bridge
It has been a bit over a month (or maybe two, sorry) since our last update and although the time is not that long, chronologically we are much further behind letting you all know what we have been up to and what God has been doing in our life’s. So for this update I will make a bit of a summery of the major blessings the Lord has given us over the past months, but not to take away from the daily love we feel from Him.

In late June we took a trip to the northern region of Malawi to spend the last few days with our Friends Josh and Doressa before brining them back here to Lilongwe so they could fly back to the good ‘ol US of A. We had an awesome time with them. They showed us so much hospitality taking us to a game reserve, lake Malawi, among many other things all the while packing up their life here in Malawi, at least for the time being. God brought them into our lives for many reasons and to Him we are eternally grateful. We pray that the states are treating them well and look forward to their return to this part of the world.

Playing in the waves of Northern Lake Malawi
Shortly after seeing Josh and Doressa off, we received the best gift we have had since our arrival here, Meg. Meg (Tonya’s mom for those that don’t know) gave us the biggest spiritual, emotional, and physical lift imaginable. It is one thing to write and talk to the one’s you love but getting to hug, spend time and have their presence when you have so longed for it is like nothing else. We spent her time here showing her our life. Taking her around the town, introducing her to our Comboni Family, to our friends and to the number of organizations we are involved in. We cherished every moment she was with us and even though she was here for almost two weeks it seemed like it was only a day or two. We thank God for her time here and look forward to our future embrace.
Josie and Grandma Meg in the market

While Meg was here, Lily was able to receive the Sacrament of First Communion. We had been preparing Lily for this most joyous day during our time and thankfully the Fathers were gracious enough to hold a small mass for this celebration at their chapel. We were joined by a number of Sisters from various communities along with Father Somanje celebrating mass and Father Kanyike attending. Watching Lily grow in knowledge and faith in our Father has been a wonderful experience in itself and to celebrate this sacrament here in Malawi is a gift from God that she will never forget.

Some of the other fun things we have done is taking most of our preschoolers on a field trip to
Lilyanna's First Holy Communion Mass
the Lilongwe Wildlife Center about 100 kids. Most of these children have never been out of the village and just to be able to go into town was a joyful event. We all took the tours, ate lunch, and then played on probably the most dangerous playgrounds on earth. Seriously, the slide was almost straight up and down, the raised levels on a “tree house had no rails and most of the equipment was either broke or just plain had razor sharp edges. I paint a grim picture but only as a parent and caretaker of the kids. They all had a great time and were talking about it for weeks. 
Our preschool field trip

   In July we had the pleasure to meet and spend time with one of father Somanje’s friends Valentina. She is now working in Zambia and had come to see father and we were lucky enough to also share in her time. Josie took right to her because of her playfulness and gentle way. They quickly became best buds and Valentina was all Josie could talk about. While she was here we were also fortunate enough to be witness to and involved in the meeting of AMECEA here in Lilongwe. Basically it is a huge meeting of an organization that includes the leaders of the Catholic church in seven different countries of this part of Africa. 


During the first Sunday mass of this meeting we were in church expecting to greet members from one of the countries as guests, and I looked up and thought I was dreaming. There in front of me was Sister Huwet, a Comboni Sister we had met and grown to love very much in Chicago! We were all so filled with joy to see an old friend that we never knew if we would get to see again. We were blessed to spend time with Sister Huwet and other Sisters from her area in Eritrea. During our time spent with Sister Huwet  she gave us reassurance that the life of a missionary is not measured in the “things” you have accomplished but in the love of Him and from Him that you give each and every day.

Tili tonse, First Holy Communion
One of our main ministries here has been to assist in tili tonse, which is basically the catechism of the youth in preparing them for the sacraments.  Most of the youth speak very little English and with a limit on our Chichewa it is a challenging ministry, but with the help of other teachers to interpret where our language skills lack, it has also been very rewarding.  To be able to share the word of God to these children who in many cases have very little else in life is a humbling experience. They come in the hundreds every Saturday, many dressed in what we would call in the states rags, some with shoes, some not. None of that matters though. We all come as children of God.  I was privileged to facilitate the receiving of the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation for well over 300 beautiful children of the Lord. To see the excitement and joy on their faces filled my heart with joy. We have now started a new year of tili tonse and we are excited to continue to share His love to the youth.

Josephine's 1st day of Reception/4K
Lilyanna and Josie have both started school at ABC Academy. Lily is in the fourth grade and Josie is reception (4k). Both are doing very well and we are thankful for the opportunity for them to receive a quality Christian education. Lily is on the swim team this year and Josie will be starting lessons soon. Both are building strong friendships with children from Malawi and many other parts of the world and we are happy to see them growing as beautiful young ladies of the Lord.

We thank God daily in our prayers for the love and support that all of you have given us during our time here in Malawi so far. Without your prayers, your support and the love and mercy of Jesus Christ we know that none of this is possible. Please continue to pray for us, as we will do the same. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We're Alive!!!

Since our last post we have received many blessing and have encountered a lot of change. Some of our closest neighbors have moved out, we celebrated the death and resurrection of our Savior, climbed some trees, met and had lunch with the new Arch Bishop, delivered much needed goods to a family in a nearby village, built a wall fence and said goodbye to good friends, just to name a few of these blessings.
Lily and her good friend Monica who moved away

Our neighbors, who we have had a very good relationship with and of whom Lily had been building a strong friendship with their daughter, suddenly said, “we are leaving tomorrow”. We responded with “what, for how long”.  They had been building a house for a while, about a half hour walk from here and were now ready to move in. Our family was first sad that we would not be able to see and spend time with them anymore but soon realized that this was a great day for them. They had worked hard, doing their job and spending every available moment building their own house literally from the ground up by hand and could now have their own space and adequate room for their growing family. We spent the evening with them, playing and laughing and made them a bit to eat after their transport was VERY late. We will miss them very much but are proud of their accomplishments and pray that God will continue to bless them.
Tonya and our friend Mary
Giving our blessings to the lady to the right of Tonya

We’ve become actively involved with CFM (Christian Family Movement) in our church. The group has been wonderful to us; ensuring translation during meetings when we don’t understand, inviting us to participate and treating us like members rather than strictly “missionary providers for various projects.” We organized a charity effort to provide various items to the most needing and vulnerable in one of our outstations. The outstations are located in the villages outside of Lilongwe. Items our group donated included chimanga (corn), sugar, soap, salt, clothing, and money. On Easter Monday, we spilt up into 4 groups and set out to visit and deliver the items our group gathered. It was a blessing to see the smiles of appreciation and gratitude on the faces of the families who we were helping. We hope to be able to do more of these works of charity in the near future.

Easter celebrations were no less wonderful this year as they were last year. The members of our parish came out in the thousands for the 4 mile way of the cross and the rest of the weekend celebrating the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ was a strong reminder of why we are here.
Easter celebrations with the Bishop, there has to be a goat
Our new Arch Bishop, nice guy

The biggest change in our daily life is the new wall fence we now have around our property. The security of our family has been issue since we arrived and through the understanding and generosity of the Comboni Fathers both here and especially from the North American province, we now have sufficient security for our home. A big thanks to you our Comboni family!

Saying goodbye to our good friends Nicky and Travis and fam
Something that we have come to realize that is a great blessing and also a difficult challenge in mission life is, we get the pleasure to meet and get to know different people from many parts of the world. Unfortunately, many times the time is short and goodbyes are a common occurrence. At the end of the school year, we said goodbye to many people and families that we had built strong friendships with. Although this is a difficult thing to do, we are thankful to God for bringing them into our lives however short the time may have been.

We are sorry for the long time between entries. We all had hit spiritual, emotional and some physical low points in recent months. Through prayer, reflection, and the support of all of you, we are once again sturdy and strong.  May Almighty God send His Grace and Blessings on all of you. 

Jacob and his ladies.
Dirty face girls after having our first campfire
 and as close to smores as we can get
Cutting down a big tree with a machete, top down,
yes, those are the power wires

Sunday, March 30, 2014


How about a spiritual and emotional kick right in the teeth…. That is about what we received this past week. After a short stretch of feeling like we were making the tiniest bit of difference, we were asked from some, what have you been doing…, and then to add salt to the wound, “we expected more from you.”  The questions and comments weren’t made from a curiosity point of view, because if that were the case, we could have made some sort of answer back. Instead they came from people in which we thought supported us and if they had some specific goal in mind, then they could have easily asked for assistance or given some sort of direction much earlier.

We never expected this journey to be easy, but through the numerous struggles we have had, we have contemplated, is this where we are supposed to be, and what on GOD’S green earth are we doing here? After some time of reflection, we have realized that all of this is just a test of our fortitude and faith.

The love that Christ has put in our hearts is something that must be shared and that is the main goal of our mission here. There are councils, groups and programs that want our involvment and of course financial assistance but we will not succumb to just the wants from some of these groups. We have come to give something that is much more real. That is the knowledge and the true love of all the people on earth that our Savior Jesus Christ has given us.

If He had not given us this love, then we wouldn’t put up with the challenge of learning a new language, security of the family, driving in a place where evidently human life doesn’t matter when you are behind a wheel, unsafe water and the million other things that our family accepts and deals with on a daily basis.

We are here to share the salvation of the gospels just as our founder St. Daniel Comboni had done so long ago. This past week has reminded us that as much as it is an awesome work of the Holy Spirit to share in His love, it often come with a price. That price comes with sacrifice, humility, humbleness, and acceptance of things that we do not fully understand.

With a Patient Heart,