The kvandal's story
Take a moment to read about how one man, with a heart for the Lord, and a desire to do His will, can spread and multiply and ripple through many lives across many miles and change hearts for all eternity. Here is the story of Scott Kvandal and his wife Michelle.
SCOTT'S TESTIMONY & THE START OF SU REFUGIO
Being raised in a Christian family, my early life revolved around attending church activities, including Sunday school, church services, prayer meetings, et al. My mother and father had a deep love for God. My parents were quite happy in their simple lifestyle focused around what I perceived to be their religion. But, I was unhappy. My mother and father were poor, from my perspective, and I could not understand why a God they loved so much would allow them to live in poverty.
I can remember one day my mother came home with great joy because she was able to buy me two pairs of NEW pants. The problem was that these pants were ones that no one would buy and the store was practically giving them away. They were florescent orange and florescent lime-green. I can remember how proud my mother was as she was able to buy me new pants. But as I wore these pants, other children would make fun of me - they could see me from a mile away. The jokes of my friends led to embarrassment, which led to me becoming angry at my mother and father. My parents did the best they could but that was not good enough for me. Eventually, my embarrassment led to anger and rejection of their God.
At the age of 14, I decided that I was going to make a different life for myself. I established a goal for my life. By the time I was 50 years old, I would have enough money to buy whatever I wanted, to go anywhere I wanted and to not have to work anymore. I decided that I would have a family that was well taken care of and no one would make fun of my children.
I set out on that journey; I started working hard at an early age. I went off to college earning a degree in civil engineering at San Diego State University. But, that was not good enough for me. I earned a full scholarship to Stanford University where I received a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering. I was on my way. I began working in a small company and soon I was opening new offices around the world and quickly became the President of this company. Then in 1996, we sold the company to a larger firm. The day had finally arrived, after nearly 30 years -- my goal was to be accomplished. But, I had a surprise that day that I never anticipated. As soon as I received the check in my hand, I had a feeling of emptiness in my heart. I realized that my goal was not going to make me happy. After working for nearly 30 years, and then to realize it did not produce the result I wanted, resulted in depression. I had been living a life of sin that I had hid from others and, in reality, I had tried to hide from myself too. I got divorced from my beautiful and caring wife. My two wonderful children turned away from me because of my sins. I did not feel life was worth living.
One day, a young woman I had met asked me to go to a meeting that was being held in an elementary school gymnasium. I knew what this meeting was. It was "a church". I liked this woman and my business skills had taught me how to influence people. I wanted her to like me, so I said I would go. That day, something else happened that I didn't expect. As soon as I walked through the doors of the gymnasium, I felt God speaking to my heart. He said, "How are you doing Scott?" I could hide who I was and my sin from others but not from God. Since my youth, I knew who God was. I even knew He had sent His Son to die on a cross for me. But my "head knowledge" did little for me because this knowledge had never penetrated my heart and I had no relationship with His Son, Jesus. His voice penetrated my heart that day as He said, "I gave you everything you wanted: a beautiful family, money, success and I gave it all to you four years before your goal. So, how are you doing?" God knew I was miserable and was broken as a result of a sinful life. I was living a life so far away from Him, but He said, "Do you want to give me your life today?" That day, I received Jesus as my personal Savior. Not a word was spoken by or to anyone else, the silent conversation was just between Jesus Christ and myself.
That day my life began anew. I still suffer from the consequences of my sin, as I am divorced and my children have chosen not to forgive me or have a relationship with me. But, God gave me new life. That same woman who invited me to the meeting at that elementary school became my wife. Michelle and I have been able to raise Michelle’s two children in the ways of the Lord and see the fruit in their lives.
A few years later, at a men's retreat on the top of a mountain, I went off by myself and had a special time in prayer with my Lord and Savior. My salvation had already been secured, but I asked God to give me a new heart for Him. I asked Him to give me a heart that would honor Him. A few weeks later, as I was sitting in church I noticed an invitation to go on a mission trip to Argentina. I remember leaning over to my wife, Michelle, saying we need to go to Argentina. She told me if the Holy Spirit was telling me to go to Argentina, please go. But, she said the Holy Spirit was not telling her to go. I asked her if she would pray and seek God's desire for her to go or not. She committed to praying and 10 days after the terrorist's attack on the United States, Michelle and I were on a plane to Argentina not knowing what we were doing. In reality, I had only shared the gospel with one person before in my life. But, for some reason, God was sending me to go. That week we worked in the small town of Humberto, in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina. God changed our lives that week as we saw Him restoring many lives. We realized that God could actually use us to fulfill part of His great commission ... to go and make disciples of all nations.
I began going on lots of mission trips: Columbia, Paraguay, Cuba, and India. I was always wondering what God's plan was for my life. God had given me some skills in the engineering and business world, but how did God want to use those for His Kingdom purposes. I began praying and after three years of prayer, God answered those prayers while I was flying from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to my home in San Diego, CA. When I boarded the plane, God began sharing what His will was for my life. By the time I landed in San Diego, I had five detailed business/ministry plans that I believed God wanted me and my wife to complete. One of those plans was to develop a special place that He wanted to call Su Refugio after Psalm 91:1-2. It was to be a special place where children living in unstable conditions can find "REFUGE". A place where children with empty stomachs can be filled with nourishing food, their minds filled with a quality education, and their hearts filled with love. It was to be a place where the sick can receive medical care and spiritual healing. It was to be a place where women are taught skills to economically provide for their family. Most importantly, it was to be a place where His Word is taught.
The construction of Su Refugio in Paraguay began in 2008 and continues today. The Su Refugio campus, located outside of Tobati, Paraguay, currently includes a church, a children's orphanage, a feeding center for street children, an amphitheater, and a Center of Hope with lakes and a river. Plans are now underway for Su Refugio Christian School, to be located in Rafaela, Argentina, and a feeding center in Canente, Peru. God continues to mold my heart for His glory.
Do you know the lyrics, “looking for love in all the wrong places”? That lyric seemed to epitomize my life before I surrendered it to Jesus. My unquenchable longing for love started as a young child. My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. That in itself is not that unusual for the 1960’s. However, what caused me to develop a lifetime of seeking security and stability, was the fact that every year for the first 16 years of my life, I moved to a new town. No my dad was not in the military. My parents were “modern day gypsies”. A change of scenery was how they defined contentment. In addition to going to a new school every year, was the fact that my mom has been married four times and my father twice, so I have had several stepparents. I also lived with different people throughout my childhood years, between my mom, dad, grandparents, stepsister and her family. I so desired a sense of stability and security. I knew of God and that He loved me, but I didn’t KNOW God. So I began to search for Him. I studied many religions but still couldn’t find a relationship with God. One day in college, some students came to my dorm room and shared the Gospel with me (using the 4 spiritual laws), it sounded good to me, but then they left and I didn’t know what to do next. So I continued on my path to search for love.
I began to look for unconditional love in relationships with men. I thought that being married and having children would give me true peace, contentment and unconditional love. I found a man who would make a good father and got married. While my children were and are a major blessing for me, my marriage was not going well. Instead of really working on my marriage, I was unfaithful to my husband and then divorced. At this time, I began attending an evangelical church, where I heard the gospel again and decided that I wanted to go to heaven when I die, so I said yes to Jesus. It was a decision I made in my head, but not in my heart. You know how they say the 18 inches between your head and your heart is one of the longest 18 inches, this was true for me. Soon afterwards I married the man I had been dating, Scott, and I got married. Six years after attending church, I decided to go to a woman’s retreat. The retreat’s theme was on forgiveness. After the first night, I told my retreat roommate that I couldn’t accept God’s forgiveness for my sins. I believed His forgiveness was good for everyone else, but not for me and not for my sins. Together she and I read verses in the Bible that I knew in my head and had taught the children in AWANA and at 2:00 am on March 1, 2001, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I was released from the bondage of unforgiveness that Satan had on me. I removed myself from the throne and placed Jesus there and fully surrendered my life to Jesus. I finally found the one true source of peace and contentment that had eluded me most of my life. I found what Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
My life began to change dramatically. My husband Scott saw the change in me the moment I came back from the retreat and he said that he needed to go to a man’s retreat. So two months later, he went to a man’s retreat and there asked God for a new heart. God gave him a heart for missions as he rededicated his life to Jesus after 35 years of being a prodigal. Three months later on 9/21/2001 (yes, ten days after 9/11), my husband and I went on our first foreign mission trip to Argentina. Since then I have had the blessing of going on countless mission trips around the world, to witness before my eyes the saving grace of God as He brings people from darkness to light. Our daughter also served as a missionary in Paraguay and our son is seeking God’s will for his career at a Christian college. My ex-husband and his wife are also now Christians. As Romans 8:28 tells us, “God works together all for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.” Following a 20-year career in engineering marketing, God blessed me with the ability to retire and be a stay-at-home mom. This was something I had longed for since my daughter was born. Scott and I lead a small group in our home and I participate on short-term overseas mission trips several times each year. For the last ten years, I have had the honor of leading women’s discipleship conferences in Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Portugal. I also serve the Lord as a Country Helper in Paraguay and Peru for Moms in Prayer International, teaching moms to pray. And we of course are blessed to lead Su Refugio Ministries where we care for orphans and widows in South America. I have two favorite verses, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (I am amazed that God would use someone like me, but I understand it is all for His glory) and Proverbs 3:5-6 (I must not lean on my understanding, but trust God in all things).