Bob and Julie Mendonsa are back in the United States, but only for a visit.
"We plan to be in Kenya for the rest of our lives," Bob Mendonsa said this week.
It is in Maai Mahiu in the Rift Valley Region where the couple operates Naomi's Village, a children's home that currently cares for 45 orphans. It is also the site of the couple's new Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, which delivers an education to the orphans and area children.
The home's slogan is "Hope Begins When a Child Belongs."
"There is nothing more fulfilling than giving a child a life they never could have had," Bob Mendonsa said.
He believes in that so much that he gave up a lucrative career as an orthopedic surgeon in Texas to begin the children's home. Julie Mendonsa was a teacher in Texas.
The couple has two teen children, Emily and Will.
Bob and Julie Mendonsa will be in Columbus on Sunday to speak at morning services at St. Luke United Methodist Church. The public is invited to the services at 8:25 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10:55 a.m.
St. Luke has sent mission teams to Naomi's Village for two years and is a major backer of Cornerstone.
While here, the couple will stay with Leland McCluskey and his wife, Suzanne.
Like Mendonsa, Leland McCluskey is an orthopedic surgeon. Leland met Bob in Kenya several years ago when they were making short-term medical mission trips for the international ministry Samaritan's Purse.
"They are really working to make life better for the people in Kenya," Suzanne McCluskey said of the Mendonsas.
She said the Mendonsas will raise leaders who will go out and help others in their homeland.
"It is a ripple effect," she said.
She said not many would give up the lifestyle the Mendonsas had in Texas to help others and to live in an area of extreme poverty.
"These are special people," she said.
"There is an overwhelming lack of quality education in Kenya," Bob Mendonsa said of the need for Cornerstone. "This hinders the nation's progress."
The Mendonsas moved to Kijabe, Kenya, in August 2008, purchased five acres of land in Maai Mahiu in September 2009, began construction of Naomi's Village in November 2009 and started to welcoming children in January 2011.
The Naomi's Village website describes Maai Mahiu as a truck-stop town on the Trans-African Highway that stretches from Lagos, Nigeria, in Western Africa to Mombassa, Kenya, in Eastern Africa.
The semi-arrid region has no sustainable industry other than trucking and prostitution. As a result, HIV rates are high and there is severe poverty. A lack of rain does not allow people to grow crops well.
Bob Mendonsa said AIDS and terrorist violence are among rea
sons for the large number of orphans.
Plans call for Naomi's Village to be able to accommodate 100 children one day.
Bob Mendonsa believes many of the children in Kenya feel that God has abandoned them.
"We knew we were called to meet the needs of those children," he said
A few of the children who stay at Naomi's Village have living mothers who are unable to care for them because of severe physical or mental illness.
Naomi's Village, which has 39 paid Kenyan workers, depends on donations, with each child having a sponsor.
Bob Mendonsa still does medical work, including surgery one day a week at a local hospital.
He said before he had ever been to Africa, he had been on mission trips to the Philippines and Brazil.
He recalled that one night the minister in their Texas church told the Mendonsas he had a dream in which he saw them in a tropical climate in safari outfits. Two weeks later, Bob Mendonsa received a telephone call asking him to make his first medical mission to Kenya.
"It was amazing," he said.
What makes Naomi's Village different from other orphanages, he said, is that it's about more than rescue, more than just giving children a roof over their heads and food. It is about raising children to one day be part of the answer to Kenya's problems. Children are encouraged to be actively involved in service to the poor as they grow at Naomi's Village.
"We are not just protecting them," he said. "They are going to be adults who can stand on their feet and make a difference in their country."