March 1, 2021

Are You Labeled?

I got my first tattoo recently. Though it’s a topic that’s often debated, for me it was a really pivotal and empowering expression-to literally wear a piece of my heart on my sleeve . . . to make something inward permanently outward. It’s quite vulnerable, really.

Tattoos invite questions. “What does it mean?” “What motivated you to get that?” “You really want that on you forever?” 

They also invite assumptions. “Oh, she must be a cool girl.” “She must be rebellious.” etc., etc.

Ultimately, I made the decision to express myself in this way and the various responses come with the territory. The whole experience, however, got me thinking . . . in a sense, we all have tattoos.

We all carry aspects of our identity that are evident to those around us, signifiers of who we are and what we’re about. Some things are within our control, and some are not.

For the children our partner homes in India, Russia, and Kenya have brought into their care, the word “orphan” might as well be tattooed across their foreheads. 

The identity of “orphan” comes with loads of assumptions and pre-judgments. In many countries, orphans are considered society’s refuse. Unwanted. Unloved. A burden to bear rather than children in need of redemption.

It is so easy to believe the lies projected onto our identities. My heart breaks for the children who believe that to be an orphan is to be rejected, unseen, and alone. I imagine they wish they could scrub long and hard enough to remove this “tattoo” that they never asked for from their aching skin.

To be honest with you, the term “orphan” has so many negative connotations that I have even struggled with whether or not to use it when referring to the children The Boaz Project serves. It isn’t the ultimate mark of their identity. I see so much more. God sees so much more.

However, when we pay attention to how God refers to orphans in Scripture, it is clear to see that to be an orphan is to be endlessly near to God’s heart. 

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5

God unashamedly identifies with those society despises. He declares Himself family to those who have none. 

“The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” – Psalm 146:9

The Lord’s loving, protective hand remains firmly on those who are oppressed and abused.

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” – Isaiah 1:17

God comes to the defense of those whose voices are stifled. He promises to bring about justice.

All throughout Scripture, the Lord pleads with us to see orphans the way He sees them. Once we fully grasp the ferocity of God’s love for the fatherless, we are responsible to change the narrative of their identity to chosen, wanted, and worthy.

Sometimes it only takes one person to tell a child that they are loved and known by God to begin the process of healing their scars and spark confidence in their identity as His child. 

Many orphans may never be able to hide this identity that often provokes shame. We all have “tattoos” that we never asked to carry around for all to see.

We must remember that what God sees matters more. When we become His, He lovingly carves the identity of “son” or “daughter” on our hearts. This identity is eternally more permanent than the tattoo on my arm.

Please pray today that every orphan would recognize the treasured position that comes with their circumstances. God proudly wears the badge of “Father to the fatherless.” No amount of worldly rejection will ever change that.

Please also remember the following in prayer:

  1. Lift Peter, an 11-year-old boy living in our Kenyan partner home. He’s been struggling with mental and behavioral challenges that interfere with his schooling.The caregivers need wisdom as they seek an educational path for him.
  2. Ask for protection over our Indian secondary students as they return to school, that they would remain virus-free (younger children remain in distance learning).
  3. Thank God for the use of phone and video in Russia as a means for our teams to still connect with the children (all of whom are still in quarantine). Ask God not only to maintain, but actually to strengthen those connections during these difficult days.
  4. Bring the Christ Youth Bible Clubs in the U.S. before God as they learn about caring for orphans and provide wish list items (school uniforms, school books and supplies, and birthday gifts) this month. May their hearts be moved with compassion and love.

7 Comments

  1. Aunt Kat says:

    Very moving and well written.

  2. Jill says:

    So impactful to think about our outward identity in relation to who God says we are. Indeed, all of us who are labeled are near and dear to God’s heart.

  3. Teresa Hall says:

    I’m sure I’ve been labeled throughout my life, for example what opinions I have can cause people to label me. Or it use to bother me when someone would ask me where are you from? You sound like a hillbilly they may say. I automatically identified and labeled myself as a person uneducated because many people label southern people as being slow and uneducated. It doesn’t bother me anymore but it use to. Just goes to show you we label ourselves and what we think people may label us.

  4. Sarah Shake says:

    Great article! It is not just the labels that society puts on us that effects us. I am guilty of assigning labels to myself. Labels that don’t always align with how Scripture defines a child of God. God has been so kind, gracious and patient with me. As a popular song on the Christian radio says, “I am who You say I am.”

  5. Sarah Coin says:

    Beautifully written and a great reminder that we can find our true identity as a child of God in His Word!

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Because God knew that abandoned children would need help to survive, He tells us to actively meet the needs of orphans in James 1:27.

If you also feel the weight of this responsibility and the desire to make a real difference, consider partnering with us. Through our innovative in-home care model, specialized caregiver training, and humanitarian aid, you’ll help children not just survive—but truly thrive.

When you choose to partner with The Boaz Project, you'll restore hope, ensure a brighter future through education, and share the love of Jesus with children who desperately need it.

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Orphan Advocate Training Certification Levels

Level 1

Learn about the mission and vision of The Boaz Project through activities such as watching an Encounter webinar, exploring our website, and following us on social media. You will also have the opportunity to meet and interact with your Orphan Advocate Training Coach, who will help you as you go through the levels.


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Gain more insight into the realities of the orphan crisis through reading "The Orphan’s Abba" and visiting The Boaz Project YouTube page. You will also meet The Boaz Project staff.


Level 3

Grow in your understanding of the orphan crisis, meet some houseparents by reading their stories, and create your own "Pick 2" with options like watching a movie and completing a creative project utilizing your unique skill set.


Level 4

Enhance your knowledge of healthy attachments for orphans, watch a webinar about Eastern Europe’s institutional orphanage system, and visit the Boaz office virtually or in person.


Level 5

Utilize all of the knowledge you have gained throughout training to develop methods based on your personal experience to share the mission and vision of The Boaz Project with others. Read a portion of our first level Houseparent Trauma Training and use your unique skills to impact orphans with a special project. Completing Level 5 gives you the option to apply to become an OAT Coach and/or a Regional Coordinator for The Boaz Project.

FAQ

Do I have to live near Greenwood, Indiana to complete the training?

No! This certification is intentionally created to allow opportunities for anyone in any location to fully participate.




How much of a time commitment is it?

This is completely up to you. The entire process is self-directed. There are no deadlines, and you may take as much or as little time as you need to complete each course.




Can I do this training with my spouse? Or a friend?

Yes! Going through the training with a spouse or friend can provide accountability and motivation. As you progress, you may be able to accomplish more together!




How much will it cost?

All Orphan Advocate Training courses are free to join! While you may choose to spend money while completing some projects, there are only minimal costs involved (such as a book or a few supplies) depending on which course you choose to do.




Is there an age requirement to become a Certified Orphan Advocate Trainee?

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What if I don’t have any social media accounts?

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If I complete the five-level Orphan Advocate Training Certification, can I put it on my resume or LinkedIn profile?

Yes! When you complete each level, you will receive a certification that you can use to enhance your professional profile and to show involvement in community service.




Will I be able to get a signed letter to verify my volunteer hours?

We are sorry that we cannot verify volunteer hours that are done outside of the office or an event due to the fact that these hours are not supervised. However, we can write about the quality of work that was done, your commitment level, and the training courses achieved. We can also say that your self-reported, unsupervised hours fit into the typical number of hours that are usual for that course.




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If you think you would like to begin Orphan Advocate Training, please complete the form below, and you’ll be assigned an OAT Coach. Once your coach reviews your information, he/she will send you an email with your next steps!




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Please complete the form below or contact OAT@boazproject.org with any questions.

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