Only God Himself is pure, honorable, and powerful enough to cover sin and cast out fear. Because He is love, Peter and John tell us that His love both covers a multitude of sins and casts out fear (1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:18). John describes this love as “perfect” love, which carries the sense of completeness and wholeness. For the children we minister to through Kids Alive Peru, God’s love for the whole child casts out fear. It begins by seeing God’s love formed in our own lives as His servants, and it extends to children like the one in this story…
A child living in one of our children’s homes took the trash out to help with the chores. Upon reaching the entrance, this one was stricken with fear upon finding the gate open. Visibly shaken, she quickly handed the trash to a missionary who was standing nearby, and she ran back to her house and wrapped her arms around another trustworthy adult, squeezing too tightly (likely seeking a feeling of safety and attention). When corrected by a staff member who did not understand what was happening, the child lashed out physically against this member of the staff before curling up on the floor crying.
With a group of visitors on-campus at the time, this child’s sensory processing difficulties were already on edge, and triggered by the episode at the gate, this child became trapped in the response of flight, fight, or freeze. In this case, the child progressed through each one. After the flight from the gate to hug someone too intensely, the child fought against the caregiver trying to confront the behavior, leading to the frozen state on the floor. Now the caregivers faced the challenging task of not accepting such behavior while also showing love and forgiveness and providing a new start for the child. A typical punishment might include the removal of a privilege for a period of time. However, typical approaches struggle to gain traction in the heart of this child, with such episodes repeating and getting more complicated with age.
Love requires more than a typical response. It calls for a powerful and redemptive response. This is why Kids Alive Peru, undergirded by our biblical vision and values, has begun to dive into the truth and practice found in the research-based method for working with children from hard places, called Trust-Based Relational Intervention. Such an integrated and proactive approach prepares caregivers to see beyond this child’s fleeing, fighting, and freezing behaviors to the hidden root of fear. For reasons we do not fully comprehend, this child’s sense of felt-safety decreases outside the confines of the children’s home property. The sight of an open gate triggered a fearful and downward spiral. The missionary who witnessed the episode only later pieced together the fright at the gate with the behavior that followed once back in the house.
Rather than stopping short with the typical loss of privileges, love compels us to uproot what lies beneath the misbehavior – fear. While the gate being open for the arrival and departure of visitors in that moment did not represent anything abnormal or any breach in security, for the child it triggered behaviors rooted in fear. Uprooting such fear requires the consistent, skillful, and peaceful presence of caregivers, who themselves may have experienced the entanglement of fear from their own trauma and difficult backgrounds. With freedom from their own fears, caregivers can discern helpful responses to children like the one in this story. If we want to see changed behavior in the house, we must have the patience and wisdom to discern what happened at the gate. Once that fear that operates beneath the surface is disarmed through the power of God’s love in trusting relationships and a sense of security, new growth of changed behaviors can emerge above the surface.
This story represents the heart of how transformed caregivers can meet children from hard places “at the gate,” offering true freedom and security. It reminds us of how often we see Jesus in the Gospel narratives go and find those on the outside, cast out because of fear (see John 9 for an example of Jesus finding one who had been put outside the house). Instead, He brings the lost into His Father’s house by offering a complete love that casts out fear. This is what we have begun to learn in a deeper way, beginning with the recent retreat for all of our Peruvian staff from Lima’s school, care center, and children’s home. Below are some testimonies from the staff on what they learned from the teaching at the retreat. Imagine what this love will mean for the kids in their care…to cover sin and cast out fear!
For me, this is new. I find it very interesting to know how to have communication with my children. I am very grateful for this retreat.
To remember and reaffirm that what we should attack is the behavior, not the child. Thank you very much.
May the child see that together with God and me we are going against the world. The importance of understanding and identifying emotions. We must be a clear and sensitive authority who know the fears of the children.
I thank the Lord for this great opportunity to remember that God’s Great Love covers all sin and removes all fear. I understood that I must first work with myself to remove my fears to help the children do the same.
What blessed me the most is the new goal of correcting the action, and the real test is the connection.
More than anything will be using new teachings backed by the word of God.
I learned that we must heal our wounds first because everything influences our children. Also that nothing is impossible for God and that we should only persevere. Practice … practice … practice.
I learned that sometimes bad behavior is the child crying out with the need of a greater connection. The connection must improve.
From someone who read the presentations over once again following the retreat: To review and re-read all this has blessed me a lot. I finish with my eyes full of tears with Zechariah 8. Thank you very much for bringing to Peru the blessing of this teaching and knowledge.
In His perfect love,
Mark, Kristin, Caleb, Jacob, and Rachel Coté (pictures below!)
Director of Discipleship and Development, Kids Alive Peru
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P.S. Enjoy some recent fun pictures…our family wearing green at a Super Bowl party; a special Valentine’s Day meal for the children at the Juniper Tree Children’s Home in Lima; the boys participating with another missionary in a big post-dinner water balloon battle at (on top of!) the Juniper Tree Children’s Home; visiting a beach one morning following the retreat in Lima; and Rachel sleeping in a taxi after all of this fun…and of course one of Jacob laughing!