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Josephine House Mercy Ministry/Operations
Project # 94721

True Religion: Caring for Orphans in Cusco, Peru

By Andrew Shaughnessy, Jun 6, 2019

Once upon a time in Cusco, Peru, in the early hours of the morning, a man murdered his wife in front of their daughter. When the police arrived at the grisly crime scene, they took 1½ -year-old Rosa* away to the government adoption agency, and the office started making calls. “Will you take this child?” they asked the city’s children’s homes and orphanages. “Will you?” They made call after call, but no one would take her.

“Most of the homes won’t take a child that young,” MTW missionary Kristen Henson explained. “It costs too much, because you need more caretakers if they’re small … They still need diapers and things like that.”

Eventually, the ministry called the Josephine House, an MTW-founded orphanage where Kristen serves as director, and the Josephine House agreed to take in Rosa. The orphanage is off the beaten path, a pale green box of a house down a worn road patrolled by pigs and chickens and stray dogs. The Andes Mountains soar high and green in the distance, and if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of children playing on the Josephine House playground. It’s a wonderful place, but when Rosa first arrived, she cried for two days straight, screaming for the mother she had lost.

In the weeks and months to come, the Josephine House staff treated Rosa with patience and care. They prayed for her and loved her through the pain, and slowly, Rosa began to accept her new home.

“Now she’s a happy, 2-year-old girl who is developing well and who is waiting for her family,” said Kristen. “That may be an aunt or uncle or grandparent … or that may be an adoption. We’ll just have to wait and see what God has for her.”

The Little Miracle
In the years since MTW missionaries Keith and Ruth Powlison founded Josephine House in 2008, the children’s home has helped more than 140 children. Some have needed to leave difficult family situations only for a time and then are able to return. Others, orphaned or abandoned, have been adopted. Today, the Josephine House cares for 18 children, most of them under 3 years old. Some have special needs. All have experienced trauma and hardship.


One of these is Angelica,* who Kristen calls “our little miracle.” Angelica’s Quechua mother, just 32 weeks pregnant, gave birth to her in her pant leg on a bus bound for Cusco. Then she got off the bus and walked two kilometers to the nearest health post, with Angelica still in her pant leg. At the health post, the nurses cut the umbilical cord and put the little body on a scale, assuming she was dead. But then Angelica started to scream.

The nurses sent the baby to a neonatal ICU in Cusco straight away. Meanwhile, her mother disappeared from the health post and was never seen again. After a month in the NICU, the hospital called the Josephine House.

“When Angelica arrived at the neonatal ICU, it was discovered that she had a significant heart defect as well as respiratory issues,” said Kristen. “So we accepted her not knowing whether she was going to survive.”

Angelica was in and out of the hospital for the next four months. The Josephine House kept a 24-hour caretaker with her in the hospital the whole time.

“They told us she probably wouldn’t survive her first year of life,” said Kristen. “Well, she’s now a year and four months old! She’s a feisty little one. … Thankfully, she’s actually doing really well—healthy and growing… and we’re hopeful that in the next six months she will find her forever family. … I see our role in these kids’ lives as just to love them until they’re with the families that God calls them to be in.”

“We know from God’s Word that true religion is ‘caring for widows and orphans in their time of distress,’” added Kristen’s husband, Nathan, who serves alongside her in Cusco. “The Lord has done a lot in Cusco.”

There are many children like Angelica and Rosa in Cusco: kids born into families plagued by alcoholism or abuse, babies abandoned at the hospital or left on the street in a cardboard box. Looked at from a distance, it’s easy to reduce these children to statistics—faceless, unsurprising numbers from the developing world. But when you look closer, as Kristen and Nathan have done, you see that each one is a child of God with an individual story and a distinct identity, worthy of loving, worthy of saving.

God sees and loves the orphans, the poor, and the suffering, and He has explicitly commanded his Church to see, love, and care for them as well. At Josephine House, MTW missionaries are doing exactly that—sharing the love of Christ and the gospel of grace to “the least of these” in both word and deed.

*Names have been changed.

 Make an online donation to the Josephine House below.

Andrew Shaughnessy

Andrew Shaughnessy is a long-time word slinger who spent nearly six years as MTW’s staff writer, gathering and telling impact stories from missionaries across the globe. These days, he’s off working as an analyst and editor in the publishing industry, writing fiction, and mountaineering. He holds a B.A. in history and English literature from Covenant College, and an M.S. in political science from Portland State University.

Josephine House Mercy Ministry/Operations
Project # 94721
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Last year, a group of MTW RADD-Hispanic leaders went to Peru on a prayer journey vision trip. Pray for continued unity and mobilization efforts of our RADD Hispanic team!

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Pray for our ministry in Cusco, Peru, as they put MTW values into action among the Quechua through the church, a medical clinic, discipling medical students, an orphanage, and community outreach.

Pray for the church plant and medical clinic in Cusco, Peru. Pray that believers would grow in Christ and catch a vision for reaching their city.

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