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Child of God

Child of God

We drove 6 miles down the steep muddy hillside, having just returned from three long but fruitful months abroad, away from our “other” 82 kids at Naomi’s Village. This had been our lengthiest separation ever, during which over 30 inches of rain had fallen in the Maai Mahiu area, leaving its roads a rutted and treacherous mess. Despite the jarring transition from smooth American highways to these challenging conditions, we had missed our Kenyan children badly enough to banish any thoughts of ever pulling up stakes and moving back to the US.

Once, during one of our many euphoric moments at Naomi’s Village on a day long past, Julie expressed her love for them to me with a term of motherly endearment – the Adorables. This kind of love, which is also shared for and by Emily and Will, is a given love, and one worth more than any treasure. If you know it, surely your neck hairs stand on end when you feel it, as mine do simply composing these words. Since January 2011 when the magic of Naomi’s Village began, this group of beloved redeemed have hugged, laughed, and cried their way into our hearts. Inside the two of us, colorful bits of each child now help substantiate who we are, as thin threads combine to make a quilt, if woven together deeply and intentionally.

The cypress dining hall ceiling resonated with the soaring voices of children on Sunday morning, spilling from open windows as I parked our mud spackled Land Cruiser by the gate. My favorite church service on Earth had begun. We hurried in, our small voices joining a multitude of others as the Great Rift Valley filled again with the worship of God. Disparate choruses emanating from community churches, rescue centers, and children’s homes echoed off the rock facing of the escarpment, reverberating back with a peaceful hum over thousands of struggling homesteads dotting the rain soaked landscape.

Crippling worries and burdensome traumas, some the fresh results of a difficult week gone by, were forgotten for a while in order to give glory to the One who alone is worthy of praise.

Our kids sang wholeheartedly, knowing they belong to Him now, no matter their pasts. No more glorious sound exists than a chorus of those set free, every heart in consonance with the pleasure of true Hope. Such holy moments give me a divine inkling of the eternal worship already happening in the throne room of Heaven, into which I will one day enter.

My names are Robert Eugene Mendonsa, Jr., Dr. Mendonsa, Bob, Dad, Uncle Bob, and a few other nicknames that Julie calls me. I am a married man whose heritage originated on a Portugese island called Madeira. I have two children, Emily and Will. My vocations include orthopedic surgeon, executive director of a nonprofit, and overseas field worker. My calling is to see that an army of once broken children are raised to be redemptive leaders who will take up the cause of their suffering peers in Kenya, for the glory of Jesus Christ.

But my identity, so easily forgotten at my own peril, is that I am a child of God. That name really counts. Surely the health of His church, the work of our hands, and the joy carried in our spirits, must rest on this understanding.

I was a slave to sin, an orphan, alone and adrift in the world. He chose to ransom me, setting me free to live the life that was always written on my heart. To be awakened from years of torment, given sight from blindness, told to stand and walk, to go in peace…these parable endings exemplify but do not fully capture the fullness of the salvation I received in 1998. Twenty years have passed and there are still no adequate words for what happened to me.

We are not different from the 82 at Naomi’s Village in any meaningful way, oh Children of God. We all stand beside them and feel our brokenness and the joy of being brought in to the Father’s house, swept there by his warm and forgiving grace. With Him, all fear is gone and we may join in with their unbridled worship, should we accept our identities.

We could have our spiritual eyes opened today. We’d have to choose and would need His help to lay our false selves on the altar and accept His mantle, given by the very words of Scripture to us:

Rom 8:16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

Gal 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

2 Cor 6:18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

1 John 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

John 11:52…and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

You are a Child of God, chosen, gathered together with others, and loved by the Father, through faith in Christ Jesus. Truth carries within it great power to heal.

Now imagine yourself in a room of the once broken, raised again to life. Look left and right at your siblings, other orphans made whole, scars and all, and accept them as your equals. Close your eyes and join the imperfect hymn they are singing to our Father. Listen for hints of the perfect home that awaits you. Let go of measuring yourself by this world’s fading standards. Instead, carrying your own precious gift of freedom, go forth and live today, tomorrow and all of your days in light of your true identity – the one He has given to you forevermore.

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Free at last He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

[Bridge]
I am chosen, not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me, not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen, not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me, not against me
I am who You say I am
I am who You say I am

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

By Bob Mendonsa

Click below for a short video of a recent Sunday worship with the NV children singing Beautiful Name.

http://https://vimeo.com/274435248

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tempo

Just before 2 a.m. Saturday morning this past Thanksgiving weekend, our slumbering children’s home suddenly sprang to life. Lights flickered on, squeals of delight filled the air, and 112 small feet rumbled about on the cool laminate flooring of all four children’s dorms. A great and eager departure was underway. Clothes were thrown on, faces washed, toilets flushed repeatedly, and soon the central courtyard began to fill with chattering kids and staff. From a birds-eye view, the scene must have resembled the instantaneous appearance of hundreds of purposeful fire ants defending a disturbed mound, but with their exit marked by joyful expectation rather than menace.

Within minutes, 3 Toyota Coaster school buses roared to life, warming diesel engines in preparation for the trip. Packing had been a team effort, already completed by the older kids and a few key leaders over the prior days. As children settled in beside their seatmates, prayers of thanksgiving and for safety in travel filtered back from the front of the buses.

By 2 a.m., the Naomi’s Village convoy turned left onto the 2-lane Trans African Highway, beginning what would become a 15-hour journey to the Indian Ocean for our annual family beach trip. 56 children ages 5-16 and 17 Kenyan staff joined 15 American field workers as we descended on Baobab Resort in Diani Beach, just south of Mombasa.

Despite the preparation of all meals in advance to be eaten on the bus, the drive this year took longer than most. Passage through 2 major cities (Nairobi, Mombasa), numerous bathroom breaks, a traffic jam at the coast ferry, and a minor accident all played a part. Yet the children never complained, even though they arrived at the resort too late to enjoy any swimming on the first day.

JoJo, orphaned at age 3 months in September 2011, saw me at dinner the first evening. He ran up and hugged my legs, chortling, “Uncle Bob, I am here in Mombasa!” He repeated that same exclamation to numerous adults in the first 24 hours, apparently unable to grasp the notion that it was finally his time to come.

Jojo and Evans

At times men and women return to the sea of the vacations of their youth, to find their bearings, to rest, and to gain perspective. Others are unable to say why they are drawn there, except to enjoy its incomparable size and beauty. Dominic, Lloyd, Archibella, Christine, Anastasia, Naomi, Hannah, Mercy, and Chris all saw and heard the vastness and power of the ocean for the first time. None had ever seen an ocean, nor truly imagined what it could be like, having grown up in rural Kenya. Looking out over the endless body of swaying waters, a mix of bold blues trimmed by white foamy surf on its leading edge, their faces lit up with wonder.

If I had to distill the essence of the next 4 days down into one word, it would be wholesome. The children ate buffet food in a beautiful restaurant 3 times daily, swam until their muscles were tired and eyes bloodshot, and slept in air-conditioned rooms with big comfy beds. Every child felt anew what family means, through the giving and receiving of hundreds of congratulatory hugs and high fives during swim lessons, the individual conversations with aunts and uncles over a meal, or the playful games and pranks going on throughout every day. Devotional times focused on the seven days of God’s creation, a subject easier to emphasize every morning while in direct view of the gorgeous sea, with vervet monkeys curiously watching nearby, and after the sound of bush babies screeching from the trees in the dark of night.

Perhaps my favorite memories of this coast trip, the ones I hope will never fade, are these:

  • Christine’s ebullient grin, as I watched her enjoy every milestone in learning to swim, give out happy morning greetings, and walk across the restaurant with full plates of colorful food
Christine
  • A spontaneous poolside dance-off put on by the Itty-Bitties (Chris, Naomi, Nancy, Mary G, Hannah, Mercy, Evans, Francis, and JoJo) – video below (The full version can be seen at https://vimeo.com/245341686)

 

 

  • Seeing so many of our first-time kids learn to swim, and especially the confidence boost this brought to each of them
Dominic, just before he took off his floaties and swam on his own!

Sadly, they all departed early this morning, the buses rolling out for Maai Mahiu before dawn. Julie and I decided to stay here for 3 more nights to rest, feeling exhausted from our recent travels in the US. I love all of them so much, and miss the high-pitched sound and bustle of dozens of excited children now.

The bittersweet hollowness of our recently empty nest hung in my mind for a bit, that ache for things I cannot hold onto, the childhoods of my own Emily and Will.

I looked out over the ocean again today and wondered again at how big His love for me, for us is. I thought of endless waves, grains of sand, the fading voices of 56 children now traveling down the highway.

He cannot be contained or fully understood. The ocean reminds me of Him and what He has done, is doing, and will do again. I may try to look beyond the edge of all that water, or imagine its depths beneath my own small hands. But that is folly.

The best I can do is to breathe in and out, letting my tempo assume its even and unhurried pace, and try to remember these things until I stand here again.

By Bob Mendonsa