What Didn’t Burn

On one side of town, smoke billowed into the air and mingled with white clouds. Below it, a woman imprisoned in her flame-engulfed shack screamed in terror as a raging fire ate away at her home and belongings and flesh. Nobody came to her rescue.

Her ex-husband was the only person within earshot, but he was running in the other direction – matchbox in one hand and empty kerosene can in the other. Frustration, divorce, and a fit of extreme rage had turned the former lovers into the Murderer and the Murdered, a testimony to the evils that run rampant on Earth.

One fruitlessly cried for help, the other vanished into the world and was never heard from again.

And on the other side of town, their two children played in sweet oblivion and ignorance. John and Ruth, aged six and three, had been deposited at their aunt and uncle’s house just hours prior to this tragedy and expected to soon be retrieved by their father. Their anticipation was met with sheer disappointment, and later grief.

“Orphan” was not something that they had ever expected to be labeled, and “Criminal” was not a name befitting of their Daddy. Yet here they were – fatherless, motherless, and heartbroken.

John and Ruth spent the next eight months of their lives as second-class citizens in their aunt and uncle’s home. Their four little hands were responsible for the majority of the household chores and their four little feet were bare. While their cousins attended a nearby private school, the Orphans made a dangerous five-mile walk to an overcrowded public school. Alone, they daily braved highways and waded through cornfields to receive nothing more than a sub-par education. Unnecessarily abusive punishments were distributed without hesitation, and no apologies were made to the two unfortunate Cinderellas of Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

But one sunny Wednesday in July, all of this changed.

At Naomi’s Village, we were giddy and giggling with excitement. Children, staff, and visiting team members lined the driveway of the children’s home as the white Landcruiser barreled onto the property, honking loudly.

Two filthy, barefooted children ventured out of it, into the Unknown.

And the Unknown burst into song and dance and cheering.

Love overflowed from a sea of hearts and became audible as a joyful roar, visible as a jubilant celebration. Washed hands held dirty ones and all mouths sang praises to Jesus and welcoming songs to His children. Past horrors faded in the light of the hope that became the orphans’ futures.

John and Ruth came home.

In much the same way, we will soon forsake the suffering and pain of this Earth and go Home. Despite our filth, we will be led into eternal bliss and perfection. Past forgotten, overwhelmed with love, we will dance on the brink of eternity.

Until that day, I do not think I will witness a more beautiful celebration than I did on that sunny Wednesday in July.

 And he will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

– Revelation 21:4-5a

by Emily Mendonsa

John and Ruth's temporary home- the house of their aunt and uncle.
John and Ruth’s temporary home – the house of their aunt and uncle.
Welcome home, John and Ruth!
Welcome home, John and Ruth!
Ruth (center, green sweater) being led across the Naomi's Village yard for the very first time.
Ruth (center, green sweater) being led across the Naomi’s Village yard for the very first time.
John, already deeply loved by new family.
John, already deeply loved by new family.
Brother and sister- home at last!
Brother and sister – home at last!

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24 reviews
  • Emily Kavalich
    8:32 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    This is so beautifully written and captures the horror and hope of John and Ruth’s story. My life was forever changed by being a part of this rescue and homecoming. I love what you are doing at Naomi’s Village…beauty out of ashes.

  • Celeste
    8:44 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    Emily! What an amazing story! You told it so well and heartfelt. I went from crying from sadness to crying from joy and hope that Jesus has given to these sweet kids through Naomi’s Village! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Jenni Downing
    8:54 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    Oh, how this blesses my heart. Brings me great joy for Ruth and John!! A lovely reminder of the hope for all of us whose await our heavenly homecoming.

  • Cindy
    9:00 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    I am overwhelmed, Emily. Thank you for the perspective. Hug all those babies for us!

  • Gisela Daniel
    9:19 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    Haunting and beautiful. Thank you.

  • Rita Presley
    9:41 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    Made me have tears in my eye. We are so blessed to have you and those others to help us see what it is really like over there and ways we can help.

  • Natalie Muncy
    10:01 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    Emily, as I read this tear-jerking depiction of the last year for precious little adorables I assumed the whole time that Julie was writing. Emily, what a gifted writer you are to capture the raw emotion of disgust turned beauty in this story, and the way you tied it in to the story of us and the gospel was amazingly perfect! Thank you for sharing this with us, Emily! Love you guys, and love those little ones more than we can say in words! = )

  • Ken Massey
    10:21 am - July 16, 2013. Reply

    Absolutely amazing, Emily. Loved the story.

  • Donna Lowther
    1:43 pm - July 16, 2013. Reply


  • Beth Slack
    3:05 pm - July 16, 2013. Reply

    I am crying tears of gratefulness that there is a place for these beautiful children to go to! Thanking God for making that possible! He is SO GOOD!

  • Chadwick
    7:14 am - July 17, 2013. Reply

    Thank you

  • Jeffery Stockdale
    8:52 am - July 17, 2013. Reply

    Awesome story! Love it!

  • Vicki Seals
    9:47 am - July 17, 2013. Reply

    Absolutely beautiful. Praying God’s continued blessings on this ministry of hope and restoration. I love it!

  • Sarah Crockett
    10:42 am - July 17, 2013. Reply

    Excellent demonstration and presentation of The Gospel, Emily!

  • Lana Adkins
    2:35 pm - July 17, 2013. Reply

    So overwhelmingly beautiful. Thank you, Emily. Welcome home John and Ruth!

  • Amy Jones
    8:00 am - July 19, 2013. Reply


    I have now met you a couple of times, and each time, I’ve been impressed with the young lady you are. Your parents have raised you in HIS amazing way and God has blessed you to be who you are. I had the privilege to see you speak at a fundraiser in Texas a few months ago. Now to read your writings – BEAUTIFUL! I encouraged your sweet Mommy to write down the stories of each child . . . maybe YOU do it!!!! Love you ALL and pray for your family and the Naomi’s Village family daily. God Bless You All!

  • Bob Shirley
    8:27 am - December 9, 2013. Reply

    Emily, you captured this so well, great job. John & Ruth, so blessed to hear you escaped the pain and suffering of your previous environment. Good news, there is more to come for us all! As Emily said, soon all our tears will be wiped away. Love you all!

  • Melissa Demster
    7:35 pm - December 9, 2013. Reply

    Thank you for sharing this story. You did a great job writing it, and God’s glory is all over it. It stirred me toward the Lord and brought tears to my eyes 🙂

  • Randy Smith
    8:34 am - December 14, 2013. Reply

    What a beautiful story and living example of adoption. Thank God that He planed John and Ruth’s physical rescue and a new loving home for them at NV where they can experience the redemptive love of Christ in their daily life. May God bless and reveal Himself to them now!

  • Jeff
    2:20 pm - May 24, 2014. Reply

    What an amazing story! Psalm 96:3 🙂

  • Brandi USA
    8:44 am - June 16, 2014. Reply

    this is such an awesome life change for these 2 little ones. i’m proud to say that my dear friend, Merideth, has sponsored these two beautiful kids and they have taken to her. Happiness can come from something terrible it TRUE LOVE is shared!

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