Pastor Ken Sortedahl was promoted to Heaven!
February 7, 1934 – July 27, 2019.
He was the founder of Peniel Christian School, who took in, taught, helped and loved 1,000’s of children as his own for 43 years, including me.
It was his and his wife Melodee’s ministry that brought me to the Lord!
The verses in Genesis were the inspiration for Ken’s calling and vision for the students at Peniel.
“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel:
for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
Genesis 32:24-30 (KJV)
Ken and Melodee Sortedahl felt called by God to begin a home for boys in 1971 after seeing so many young men in jails who needed help and direction. So they purchased a farm with 77 acres in rural Wisconsin, and took in troubled boys with the hope of leading them to a solid footing by meeting and knowing Jesus. Within a few years, they opened the doors to girls as well. With the foundation of the gospel and supported by love offerings and donations from churches and local businesses, their long-term ministry was set in motion.
Peniel Christian School was a home for children of all backgrounds from around the country. Ages ranged from 8 to 17, which set the stage for a variety of circumstances that required several counselors to live at the school as well. Some of these students just had some bad parenting, many were doing drugs, and others came from gangs in New York City ir Chicago. Regardless of their background, most of them (us) had a rebellious heart and way of living that was leading each one of them down a dangerous, difficult road in life, and Pastor Ken wanted to turn their lives around, directing them toward Jesus.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”
With their 2 sons living on the same property as all of the students, the Sortedahls sacrificed much of their own family time to help the many kids in dire need. I basically grew up with their boys as we were all teenagers together.
Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
If anyone’s faith has affected my life, it was Pastor Ken’s. He was truly a soldier for Jesus Christ, and fully trusted God in every aspect of his ministry and life. By praying before he turned the key in the ignition, the Lord answered every time by protecting all who were either on tours across the country, or just running to town. Supporting anywhere from 10-50 students at a time and the faculty for 43 years meant large amounts of food, blankets, supplies, repairs, and vehicles, and the Lord never failed to provide Peniel’s needs. I believe it had to do with Ken and Melodee’s faithfulness in loving others so well and diligently.
Pastor Ken could have honestly said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Ken and Melodee Sortedahl, 2017