Blog Alumni, Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Stepping Into Levi's Hope

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

portrait of Gagner Family

Kyle and Melissa Gagner found their home at Northwestern from fall of 2004-2006. Melissa (Springer) played Volleyball her freshman year while Kyle stayed active in intramurals. You also may have known Kyle back in the day as the late-night host for the NoCo show. The Gagner’s now live in Cavalier, North Dakota.

After their time at Northwestern, Kyle and Melissa’s family grew to six with the addition of four beautiful children: James (11), Isaiah (9), Levi (6), and Hannah (5). Today, Kyle owns the Nodak Insurance Company, operating out of North Dakota. Melissa is a homemaker, doing everything to care for and run their home, as well as homeschooling their kids! She also works alongside Kyle as an administrative assistance for the insurance company. Kyle and Melissa’s third son, Levi has a rare form of congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD). This means that Levi’s muscles are slowly deteriorating over time and he does not have much control of his body save some movement in his hands and feet. Levi uses a wheelchair that he can drive to move around. This also means that life for the Gagner family looks different than most.
Levi’s disease is so rare, there is no certainty in daily life for the Gagner family. There has not been a case where someone has had the same type of CMD as Levi and lived past the age of twenty. As humans, we are always striving to get better, have better, and do better. With Levi, that’s not possible. His muscles are continually getting weaker and are unable to support him. The harsh reality for the Gagner family is coming away from doctor’s appointments without answers and without progress while death is constantly looking at them in the face.

Childhood faith and biblically based teachings became real for Kyle and Melissa during the early stages of diagnoses and navigating Levi’s disease. Kyle talked through the pain and how, “facing the reality that your child will proceed you in death strips you down to your bare core.” The heartache led Kyle and Melissa to seek out the gospel further, leaning into the One who is their safety, always hanging on to the hope that is found in Jesus.
Given the mindset that life is short and for Levi even shorter, things aren’t easy for the Gagner family. Knowing that life is going to be hard and look different than anyone else’s, it has brought the family to a deeper understanding of each other, of God’s design for life, and of what is truly important. This journey has brought the family closer, experiencing the good and bad together. In dealing with the lowest of lows, it has also expanded the family’s ability to experience incredible joys and happiness with each other. Levi’s condition has enabled the Gagners to make the most of the time they have with him. Thinking about the reality of death every day has brought this motivation to the family in giving Levi everything they can while he is here, as well as creating memories for James, Isaiah, and Hannah to hold onto and remember after Levi goes to be with Jesus.

Romans 15:13 says, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. This verse has been a rock for the Gagner family to lean on and a promise that has encouraged them throughout this journey with Levi. In finding this hope enriched part of scripture, the Gagner family utilizes it as a platform to share more than just medical updates for Levi. The amount of Christ-centered conversations they’ve had with strangers who are curious about Levi has been a blessing for their family. The Gagner’s have also created “Levi’s Hope” social media pages out of a desire to spread the joy and hope we all have in Jesus. Levi’s story is raw, and the Gagner’s always want to be real with the people they reach. Romans 15:13 is used as a message board that in their reality, the one hope they have is in Jesus Christ.

In reflecting on their time at Northwestern, Kyle and Melissa shared their heart for the community and fellowship of believers. They cherished the accountability and long-lasting friendships they gained through their Christian education. Melissa shared how grateful she was for the gift of two years at Northwestern and seeing everything through the lens of God’s creation, his plan for us, and purpose for our lives. Kyle and Melissa talked about how thankful they were for Northwestern during such formative years. Being grounded in scripture and biblical teaching was foundational for them to carry into their journey.

The newest adventure for the Gagner family has been the launch of their own clothing company! Fifteen Thirteen (15:13) Clothing Company spreads Levi’s story and the hope we all have in Jesus, while encouraging people to “dress yourself in hope”. The company also serves as a ministry, giving all the proceeds of their clothing company to support families with kids who have muscle disease.

Two years ago, the Gagner family had a mini film created to tell their story and the becoming of Levi’s Hope. We have included the link below and encourage anyone reading this to take the time and view it.


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