Going to the Orphans

Join the Journey's Adam Cole spends Christmas Eve with the boys of Santa Maria in Peru

Jubilant Children during the conclusion of a Christmas presentation. © Adam Cole 2010

Adam poses with some of the boys. ©  2010

Brotherly love here is ever-present as the boys rely on each other to make it through. © Adam Cole 2010

Isaiah 1:17: Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Their joy is contagious and in so many ways peculiar. Peculiar because of the conditions they face: a life without parents, a life where food is scarce and material comfort is non-existent.

One hundred-thirty boys are housed here, on a compound with dormitories, a dining hall, barnyard animals, and lots of play space. The boys here leave the grounds daily to attend school and sometimes on the weekend when parents that cannot care for them on a regular basis take them for a day out. The boys are like a band of brothers, with the same kind of closeness and rivalry that you seen in those united by blood. They are overseen by young men (20-24 year-olds) who were once just boys at the home; the tutors (name for the overseers) work there simply for room and board and to give the kids the same care that they received growing up. Without much in the way of pleasantries, the joy spurns from the moments of play: they are all free spirits and get to let that spirit run wild.

I am here at Hogar de niños Santa María, a home for Peruvian boys whose parents lack the resources to properly raise them. I am here as another milepost on my ever-winding journey with Lord, taking advantage of an opportunity to spread His love and compassion to others.

God calls us to the orphans. In His Word, He denotes them as the fatherless and links them in the same group with widows and the “alien.” By this notion, they are the ones on the periphery, the forgotten…yet God, in His bountiful love, does not forget anyone and sends each of us, by the power of His Spirit, to go to them with our blessings, much in the same way He specifically directed the Jews through Moses as was written in Deuteronomy.

And so I am here, for just a brief moment, just a quick break in the operations of regimented military life, to give some Christmas cheer…but in reality receive, by soaking up the joy that is abundant here.

The children of Santa María are lively kids. They come up to me, so excited to see a visitor, shaking my hand and asking my name. They are so curious about where I am from.

The Lord picked the perfect day for me to visit the home, a day of celebrating His perfect birth. The kids presented a special “Christmas story” performance to begin the evening of fanfare and activity. A Christmas mass—the home, like most orphanages in Peru and throughout Latin America, is affiliated with Catholicism—followed next, providing a moment of peace within the boisterous is ubiquitous at the home. A splendid meal of goat and tasty sides was the evening meal; meals with meat are rare, so this was a true treat for the boys—and certainly a tasty meal for me too. Lots of laughter crackled right alongside the crackle of fireworks as the fun went deep into the night.

As I reflect back on Hogar de niños Santa María, my heart is filled with more envy than pity, despite the poor conditions there. Envy because of the overwhelming joy there. May we all live like those kids, without care of material blessing, but just a gladness of life.

-- Adam Cole, the executive director/editor of Join the Journey ( Adam may be reached at