May 20, 2019

Living in a State of Survival

Photo: Nickol Teague

Being a friend of The Boaz Project, you are no stranger to the term “orphan.” In fact, not only are you familiar with the term, but you understand that definitions vary. For example: a child could be a “single orphan,” meaning that there has been a loss of one parent, or a “double orphan,” implying the loss of both parents. A child could also be an orphan, not because of death(s) but because the mother and father gave up rights of the child or abandoned them.

These are things that you have sadly come to learn by courageously engaging in the plight of the orphan.

Yet, many things are buried under the label of orphan that aren’t always common knowledge. Sometimes these things, if we are unaware of them, can take us by surprise when we visit or adopt the orphan.

We at The Boaz Project work hard to understand the term orphan as well as the child who carries this label and the complexities that come with it. We do this in order to become well equipped to care for them and walk alongside them to a place of healing.

All too often it would seem that the simple solution to the orphan crisis would be to try to fix the things that qualify a child as an orphan. We could just take them off the streets or out of the system, permanently place them in a loving family, and meet all their physical needs. Then we could look and say, “We did it. There is one less orphan in the world.”

Unfortunately, there is much more to a child spiritually, emotionally, and mentally that will forever keep them identifying as an orphan unless we dig deep and get to the root issues. The deep, hidden issues that come with the label “orphan.”

One of these issues is the mental state in which a child lives. Children who come from hard places can live in a constant state of survival mode.

Living out of survival mode means out living from the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the brain that sends signals to the rest of our body when we feel as though we are in danger. This part of the brain is what triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response. When a child is an orphan, he or she may constantly live in this state of fight, flight, or freeze. This can be where a child lives mentally whether he physically lives on the streets, in an institutionalized orphanage, a family style home, or even an adoptive home.

When children are trying to survive day to day, the brain shuts off parts that are used for deciphering if we are loved, if we are making a difference in the world, and even the part of the brain that is used for making decisions, simple and complex.

Children who are living out of the sympathetic nervous system day in and day out, may not necessarily be physically fighting, fleeing, or freezing. This could look like a child flying into a tantrum at the drop of a hat. It could be a child who seems to have a “glazed over” look in their eyes because mentally they have checked out to protect themselves. It could even be a child who seems much younger than her actual age because developmentally they have “frozen,” her brain cannot take in the information it needs to learn and grow and develop.

So why is this important? This is important because as an organization who equips leaders around the world to care for orphans, we need to make sure that we are addressing all the needs of the orphan. While we can clothe a child and place them in a family, if this child is living each day in fight, flight, or freeze mode they will never be able to know that they are safe, loved, and can become a contributing member of society. It is important that we work along caregivers to help them get to the root of the trauma.

It is important for you, a donor/advocate/adoptive parent/mission trip team member, to understand so that you know being an orphan is so much more than being without parents. It comes with trauma and deep pain that can affect a child’s daily life.

But there is hope.

God has made our brains in incredible ways. Healing can happen and often times does through safe, nurturing connections and healthy relationships. In Romans 12:2 Paul writes, “. . . be renewed by the transforming of your minds. . .” This gives us great hope, for the children we work with and even ourselves, we are not stuck in trauma.

We at The Boaz Project as so thankful that you have engaged in the plight of the orphan. We pray that by engaging, you are learning and gaining more knowledge of the orphan. Through this knowledge, building of relationships, and much prayer we hope to address all needs and help bring healing. And we know that this is possible only through Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals.

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Read more from our blog.

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.

Just imagine the impact you can have—from saving a child from the horrors of the streets to helping them become community leaders, educators, and nurturers of the next generation.

Join the James 1:27 Circle Membership


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What does an orphan mission trip include?

  • Hotel accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Application support and fees for your Visa
  • In-country language assistance
  • All meals in-country
  • Ministry curriculum and supplies
  • Cross-cultural training and preparation
  • Trip insurance
  • International medical insurance
  • Fundraising assistance

Apply for a mission trip.

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.

Level 2

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.


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?

This would be answered on a case-by-case basis. This would also be open to middle schoolers or high schoolers looking to complete volunteer hours (i.e. National Honor Society) or build college applications. We always encourage young people to be involved if they feel led by God to do so!

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

We will adjust your requirements to accommodate you and provide different opportunities to engage.

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.

How do I get started?

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!

Who do I contact if I have any other questions?

Please complete the form below or contact with any questions.

Corporate Sponsorship Levels

Company logo in all event programs
Company thanked by name at start of each event
Shared table provided for your promotional items at events  
Company name and logo displayed on the office sponsorship wall  
Published interview article in The Boaz Project newsletter  
Social media (Instagram/Facebook) promotions during the year  
Event day materials read "The Boaz Project's (event name) sponsored by (your company name)" for one year  
Private table provided for your promotional items at events with table tents  
Exclusive company mentions in promotional event emails  

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