By Paige K Slighter
“Our lives were filled with a lot of chaos and hurt. We questioned our faith.”
Jason and Kelli had a lot of similarities growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. They were both raised by faithful Christian parents, they each made the decision to follow Jesus at an early age, they participated in weekly activities at church and they attended the same high school.
Jason says, “An obvious assumption is that we were high school sweethearts, but that wasn’t the case. It was a large school, and we ran in mostly different circles.” When Jason graduated a year before Kelli, she gave him a card with her email address in it. Jason says, “Email was a pretty new development at that time, but I sent her a response a few months later during my freshman year at Mississippi State University.” From there, the friendship bloomed. The next year Kelli joined Jason at MSU, and they were married four years later.
After Jason graduated with a master’s degree in 2003, they decided to “explore the world a bit” and “see what else was out there.” Jason says, “We wanted to go somewhere new, and exciting—somewhere exotic. So, naturally, we ended up in Fargo, North Dakota.” Jason currently works as an administrator in residence life at North Dakota State University.
Faith has been a central part of Jason and Kelli’s relationship: “First as friends, then as we dated, and now as a married couple.” However, that’s not to say the journey has been easy. They have been through many trials and heartaches along the way.
After their first child, Wyatt, was a toddler, they were ready to continue growing their small family. At a routine doctor’s visit, they learned Kelli was pregnant again. Naturally, they were ecstatic. They were even more surprised to find that she was expecting multiples. Jason says, “Not twins or triplets, but identical quadruplets. The odds of that happening are approximately one in eleven million.”
Knowing it was a high-risk and complicated pregnancy, they were referred to doctors in Minneapolis. Kelli went on bedrest for a very short while and one baby was lost at that time. After many ups and downs, the rest of the babies were delivered via Cesarean at 24 weeks. One baby passed away at birth, and a third died three days later. The surviving child, Callie, was in the hospital for 209 days before she was able to be brought home to Fargo. During that time, Kelli lived at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis and spent her days in the hospital with Callie. Jason worked during the week in Fargo. On weekends, he would make the drive with Wyatt back to see Kelli and Callie.
Callie had many surgeries while she was in the hospital. Jason says, “There were several close calls when we thought she wouldn’t pull through. Needless to say, our lives were filled with a lot of chaos and hurt. We questioned our faith. I’m confident that we cried more during that season of life than perhaps the rest of our lives combined.” Though their hearts were heavy, they still sensed God’s presence. A strong network of family and friends, across several states, supported them in prayer. Jason remembers writing in a blog, “Although our circumstances have shaken us to the very core of our being, we are still convinced of the goodness of God. We can sense His presence, and we know that the prayers of other believers are helping to carry us through this dark period of our lives.”
Jason and Kelli heard about Woodland Hills in 2007 when they caught a portion of the service on TV. Jason says, “Greg was preaching about the fallen world in which we live, and how bad things happen to good people. It’s like God was talking directly to us.” After that, they looked up Woodland and started attending services each weekend while Callie spent time in the hospital. When Callie was finally released to go home to Fargo, the family continued to tune in as podrishioners.
Wyatt is 15 now. He’s almost halfway through his sophomore year of high school. Though COVID took a toll on typical school functions and activities, prior to the pandemic he was on his school’s mountain bike team and clay target team. He decided to follow Jesus a few years ago.
Callie just turned 13 and is in seventh grade. She still has some residual effects of being born a medically fragile micro-preemie, but overall she is doing very well. She’s a good student and thinks she’d like to have a job one day that involves wildlife. She’s definitely an animal lover. She asked Jesus into her heart a few years ago and followed that decision with baptism.
Wyatt and Callie now have more siblings—Sadie, Watson, Elsie and Wilson. Sadie and Elsie are two more biological girls they added to their family. Jason says, “With totally normal pregnancies, thankyouverymuch.” Watson and Wilson are biological brothers from Texas who joined their family through adoption.
The Medders have seen so many examples of God’s faithfulness throughout the years. They’ve found good things to be thankful for despite difficult circumstances. Jason says, “I know without a doubt that our experiences with Callie made us more empathetic toward others who are hurting.” They continue to carry that empathy with them. Jason says, “We live in a fallen world. Bad things happen. As Christ-followers, we need to be more in tune with the suffering and hurting of others.” They are currently living out that calling by going through the certification process to serve as foster parents for children in their community. We pray that God will continue to show them his goodness in every season.