Giving her heart to orphaned boys in Peru

Erika James shares her journey how God linked her heart with the Lima, Peru-based Santa Maria’s Boys Home

Erika James poses with children of Santa Maria's Boys Home, an orphanage in Lima, Peru that houses 120 boys. Erika was inspired by the Lord to come to Peru and God led her into Santa Maria's and the hearts of the boys there. © Courtesy of Erika James 2010

Boys from Santa Maria's play music. Forty recorders were donated by Misha Chernov from Centerville Elementary School. She had been collecting them for years knowing one day she would donate them to a good cause that is the needy boys of Santa Maria's. © Erika James 2009

A young boy, Jesus, 4, of Santa Maria's Boys Home snuggles with a stuffed lions. Jesus shares a twin bed with another boy (like many others). The stuffed lions were bought by Erika for the young dormitory (4-8 year-olds). There are 38 boys with only 1 person that takes care of them, so she thought the stuffed animals would be something they could hold at night and feel safe. © Erika James 2010

Embarking upon my 7th journey in 13 months, to Santa Maria's Boys Home, my heart resumes a familiar feeling of fulfillment. I feel God’s hand upon me here. The boys reaffirm my faith - the 120 of them, that live in the compound... rushing to greet me with joy and shower me with LOVE and affection. Their presence in my life is just one more glorious gift our loving Father has bestowed upon me. My heart goes out to each of them: they are so worthy, yet don’t have the chance or opportunities that we do, here America. Not in the way my own two kids, Natalya (12) and Joseph (6) do.

On this particular trip, taken in early February, I’m here for some quality time with the kids and to familiarize myself with their daily activities. In doing so, I‘ll be more prepared when I arrive with future mission teams. I would LOVE to create a curriculum for the special needs kids here (about 40 of them) and “God providing” build a new dormitory! The buildings they live in now are not architecturally sound and have holes in the ceilings, which leak down rain at night. God has provided the vision: now it’s simply a matter of following through in my faith and making His vision my reality.

Many have asked me... why a stylist and single parent, from N. Virginia……. living thousands of miles away, continues to reach out to an orphanage in a third world country. The answer is simple: God has called me to do so. I’ve been blessed with a mission…. to be a vessel, to link hearts in America, to collect and deliver needed items to the boys at Santa Marias Home. On this trip, I’ve traveled with 200 pounds of clothing and shoes, fitting in four 50-pound bags brought by myself and my friend, Jennifer. It warms my heart to know that every item will be greatly celebrated and used.

* * * Why Lima, Peru? I’ve traveled many places, from the Middle East to Africa. But unlike many journeys I’ve made in my life, this journey is of a different kind. I’ve always been a spiritual person, but I truly feel that God was asking me to do more; to trust in Him and focus on His will for my life. After a season of fervent prayer and ensuing oneness in Him, I gave up many things to be obedient in what He was calling me to do. Every step of the way, I could feel the Holy Spirit guiding me. Every step of the way, I could feel Him guiding me to reach out of my “bubble of comfort”.

Logistically, Peru was a good match: my parents owning a vacation home in Lima. My mission: once in the country, would be to find an orphanage or a people, in dire need, to reach out to. On our first trip my then 11 year-old daughter, Natalya, and I took over 700 pounds of clothes. Our plan was to deliver it to those living in extreme poverty—in the name of Christ. We asked around and visited various places to find a suitable match for the clothing, including the largest orphanage in South America Segrada Familia (Holy Family), which houses 760 children ages 0-18. At that moment, it felt like mission accomplished… though I sensed there was an even more intense need, the kind that God had placed on my heart to find, left to be discovered.

When I arrived at Santa Maria’s Home on that same trip, I found the profound purpose God had placed in my heart and His Almighty hand resting on my shoulder saying, “Well done, my faithful child.” At Santa Maria's so many of the kids have no shoes, only one meal a day, lack basic meds., and the reality of their living conditions are extremely humble. My heart immediately went out to them. I gave them, not only the boys clothes I had, but my commitment to raise their quality of life. I felt ignited and knew I would not rest until the orphanage reached a sustainable level, giving the boys hope for a better future.

* * *

I grew up in a family of drastically varied spiritual views (agnostic, atheist, and non-practicing beliefs.) It was around the age of six that God began moving in me very powerfully. The road was bumpy until 2008, when I simply got in the mindset of reading and studying His Word and saying to Him, “I surrender, You’re ways are far greater than mine, please guide me and I will do whatever You ask.”

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be building a non-profit to uplift an orphanage in Peru… He certainly does works in mysterious ways! My friends and I have started the process of something called Santa Maria's Rainbow. Our focus is to create an umbrella organization to give the boys living at Santa Marias Home, a chance. The process of building such an organization can be discouraging at times, but mirrors my journey to Santa Maria's. My mind set is this: "Lord, I will go, with you, wherever you lead me, just show me the way." And like many journeys, I’m just taking it one faithful step at a time.

* * *

There have been so many priceless moments here at Santa Marias….

This past November I delivered Bibles to the boys… literally putting God’s Word directly into their hands. I remember giving a brail Bible to William, a blind boy, whose brail schooling I began providing for a year earlier. When I gave him the Bible I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I was about to experience, seeing the tears stream from His humble eyes, was something I will never forget. It was one of the most moving moments in my life. It reaffirmed my belief that God is allowing me to be a vehicle of His Awesome Love and Generosity.

God is GOOD…Santa Maria's Boys Home and the many miracles I’ve witnessed here are proof of that. I’ve found my second family, and each time I leave it gets harder and harder.

I’ll be returning in March with a team of 4, for more outreach and more uplifting. I know that through prayer and faithfulness, God’s vision in me will eventually be seen through.


For more information about Santa Maria’s Rainbow and contributing to Erika’s efforts, you may e-mail her at