It Takes A Village
Nestled just below Kijabe, Kenya in the heart of the Rift Valley Region sits a Village offering hope and possibility to every child who enters its gates. In January of 2005, Dr. Bob and Julie Mendonsa stood looking over a five-acre plot of barren and dry land at the base of a mountainous landscape in a remote area known as Maai Mahiu.
On this day the vision for Naomi’s Village was born. Here, the Mendonsas prayed, asking God for direction and provision to buy the land and provide a home for abandoned and orphaned children.
Bob and Julie, joined by their two young children, first began traveling to Kijabe, Kenya with Samaritan’s Purse in 2003 to participate in short term mission work. Dr. Mendonsa was a successful orthopedic surgeon specializing in arthroscopy and sports medicine with a practice in Lewisville/ Flower Mound, Texas.
During these trips Bob volunteered at Kijabe Hospital where he performed challenging surgeries, while Julie and their children spent time serving in the community meeting the needs and listening to the stories of the Kenyan people.
“The surgical cases were difficult, nothing like I had ever seen while practicing in the states,” Bob explains. “These surgeries required expertise and equipment difficult to find in a third-world country,” he adds. With each year that went by while serving on these short-term trips, Bob and Julie began to experience a deeper level of purpose and calling.
Julie recalls how they felt after seeing so many children left parentless by the AIDS crisis, “When we looked deep into the eyes of the Kenyan orphans, it was as though they believed God too had abandoned them.
“We knew we were given a gift in seeing the deep needs of the children in Kenya and we also knew we were called to meet these needs,” Julie adds. So, in August 2008 the Mendonsas found renters for their home, Bob left his surgical practice, and they moved their family permanently to Kijabe, Kenya.
In September of 2009, the parcel of land they had prayed for several years earlier was purchased and two short years later in January of 2011, a first-world children’s home offering hope and promise opened its gates.
Today Naomi’s Village is home to 44 orphans, all children under the age of 13, from backgrounds of extreme poverty, whose parents have both died, often from AIDS, tragic accidents, terrorist acts, or family violence. Some have come from homes where the mother was still living, but unable to care for children due to severe physical or mental illness. The goal is to grow the enrollment to 100 children as new facilities are built.
Statistics show 700 children are orphaned daily in Kenya. Bob and Julie realize the number is daunting, yet through God’s strength and the generous giving of others they will continue working tirelessly to help as many kids as possible.
They have a vision of raising a small corps of like-minded, empowered adults from within the current group of kids at NV, who will continue the work of helping build further homes for orphans throughout Kenya one day. This will create a movement from within Kenya to continue saving valuable young lives.
One such life is a beautiful young girl named Ann. Ann was born HIV+ in January of 2005 about ten miles from where Naomi’s Village sits today. Not long after Naomi’s Village opened, an older woman appeared just outside of its gates begging for help for one of the two granddaughters she was raising. Recognizing the urgency in this grandmother’s voice, Julie asked Flo, Naomi’s Village social worker, and Bob’s sister who was visiting at the time, to accompany her to this home to assess the situation.
What they found was heartbreaking. There in a tiny one-room hut was a gravely ill six-year old girl.
Julie shares, “I knew from the moment I saw Ann the circumstances were dire and help could not wait long. Ann had stopped eating and looked to be no more than 30 pounds at 6 years of age; she no longer had the strength to walk to school.”
The three ladies returned to Naomi’s Village where they quickly went to work completing the necessary steps and paperwork to welcome both Ann and her sister to their new home. In just a few days Ann was carried into Naomi’s Village.
The Mendonsas immediately took Ann to the Kijabe Hospital where tests confirmed their worst fear. Ann’s blood work revealed she was not only HIV+, but one step from being diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, and was also suffering from tuberculosis.
A fight for Ann’s life began. Daily she was administered 7 strong drugs with the addition of an antibiotic and vitamins, as well as fed a high-calorie diet. Bob traveled back and forth to the hospital, holding Ann as she went through the painful and difficult treatments, all the while praying for God to heal her body and save her life. Slowly, Ann began to recover.
Several months passed and gradually Ann gained weight, her strength returned, and her medicines were reduced. Through God’s hand of mercy and the love of a Village, Ann not only survived, she began to thrive.
On a Sunday in January of 2012, during the church service the chaplain asked a question, “Has there been a time in your life when you had to wait on God to answer your prayer?” Pastor Bonface asked those gathered to divide into groups and share their experiences with one another.
Providentially, Bob and Ann ended up in the same group near the very same spot Bob and Julie had stood to pray in January of 2005, asking God to help them build a home for children. Bob shares how Ann spoke up quickly answering the question, “Yes, for a long time I asked God to rescue me and He did when Naomi’s Village found me and brought me here.”
Bob continues the emotion still raw in his voice, “We recently started having birthdays for the children in January of 2012, and Ann’s 7th birthday had been the first one we would celebrate as a Naomi’s Village family.
Standing there listening to Ann’s voice, I looked out over our land and in that moment I remembered that day in January 2005 when we stood together praying for God to help direct us and provide the resources for us to build this home.
And the math came to me suddenly and I realized that 7 year-old Ann was born just a few miles away in January 2005, HIV+, and a desperate battle began that would not end until over six years later. And through the power of a greater affection, He provided Naomi’s Village for Ann and every other child here.
We were a part of God’s bigger plan. Every child at Naomi’s Village has a story all their own of God’s mercy, love, and unmerited favor. Here in the gates of this special place God’s redemption is felt, His restoration is seen, His love is poured out, and His grace is unending.”
Yet the work of Naomi’s Village is not finished. Fundraising is currently underway to build a first-world school in a third-world country. Today, there is an overwhelming lack of quality education in Kenya. This deficit is devastating Kenyan children, paralyzing the economy, and hindering the progress of a nation.
Most schools do not have electricity, running water, textbooks, nor teaching materials. Finding a computer in a classroom is rare. The teacher to student ratio in many Kenyan schools is one teacher to 100 elementary-aged children. As one can imagine, this creates an impossible learning environment.
The vision for Cornerstone Preparatory Academy was born out of a higher call to make a greater difference once the need for quality education for the children of Naomi’s Village and the children from the surrounding villages was recognized. The school is founded on the principle that change starts within Kenya.
Cornerstone Prep will provide an excellent education for children without requiring any costs to their families. This provision will enable a nucleus of bright young leaders to rise from their circumstances of poverty and find encouragement and empowerment to be the change for their beloved Kenya’s challenges.
When asked the question, “What can we do on this side of the world to make a difference and support the work of Naomi’s Village?” Bob and Julie answered with great enthusiasm and gratefulness, “First and foremost, pray for us as we strive each day to bring light and hope to a very dark and broken place. Secondly, we need people – those who can teach and can help us to train our teachers, who are willing to join us for short and long-term service. Lastly, we need financial support in order to build new facilities, sponsor more children, and take care of the needs of others.”
Jesus cares deeply for people and so should we. It does take a Village to make a difference and Naomi’s Village is making a difference not only in the lives of the children in Kenya but also in the lives and hearts on this side of the world.
The Mendonsa family walk out the scripture “to whom much is given, much is required.” Change comes when hearts open and hands give. Perhaps the greatest question becomes, why not me and why not now? There is a Village in Kenya and they need our help.
To learn more about what you can do help, or how to get involved please visit Naomi’s Village
Learn more about the situation in Kenya, God’s Global Family – Call to Prayer
Raschelle Loudenslager has over twenty years of experience working in multiple facets of the publishing, marketing, and public relations industries. As a seasoned writer and editor she finds great joy in encouraging others to walk successfully through their literary journey. Raschelle is a passionate speaker delivering keynote addresses and customized seminars that empower women, corporate teams, and organizations. She encourages people to pack their bags full with opportunity, energy, and the tools necessary to reach exponential success both professionally and personally. With humor and authenticity Raschelle inspires others to live their best life while making an impact in this world.
To learn more about the author visit Raschelle Loudenslager
Sonoma Christian Home Online Magazine is honored to be an official sponsor for Naomi’s Village. To help our readers get to know more about this ministry, SCH will be publishing a series of beautiful stories on the important work Bob and Julie are doing for the Kingdom. We know know you will be captivated by this amazing ministry and fall in love with them, just like we did. Stay tuned! SCH is the fastest growing Christian Women’s Online Magazine, created for the online community of faith.