Why I Stand with Refugees (and How You Can Too)

I don’t know about you, but all the political changes and news headlines about refugees in the last few months have given me a serious headache. But let’s set politics aside for a moment. Can we remember who exactly we harm when we succumb to misplaced fear? The refugees our world is arguing over are not monsters, pawns, nor mere political “annoyances.” They are real people with dreams, passions, skills, fears, and hopes–just like you and me. The one major difference being that they are fleeing war and persecution.

Exactly one year ago I traveled through seven European countries alongside the people photographed below to learn the truth behind this crisis. I discovered the names and stories of every person you see here, and in doing so I learned to see each of them as friends and allies. These are the faces and characteristics of individuals who forever changed the way I view refugee/immigration policy. Their stories taught me the importance of how we treat one another, especially those who are heartsick from long and painful journeys to find peace.

I pray that when you look into the faces of these refugees you will see yourself reflected in their eyes. I certainly do. Read on, or scroll to the bottom to learn how you can practically respond (this includes a 2017 letter-writing initiative for local refugees that you can participate in)!

These are the reasons I stand with refugees.

1.) They are families who love deeply and want the best for their children.

2.) They are daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers.

3.) They are men and women who ask, seek, and pray for a safer future.

4.) They are children who can still find a common language through laughter and play.

5.) They are future scientists, writers, architects, mathematicians, heroes or oppressors. It all depends on the opportunity they are given to thrive.

6.) They are future advocates for peace, and defenders of the downtrodden.

7.) They are warm and hospitable to any who cross their path.

8.) They are fierce protectors of their family and children.

9.) They have remarkable stories to tell of resilience and defiance against violence.

10.) They have senses of humor like you and me (duh!), and make silly faces that could melt even the toughest of hearts.

11.) They laugh and cry, the same as you and I (again, duh).

12.) They long for people to look them in the eye and see them once again as human.

13.) They are ready to reach the end of their long journey toward peace.

14.) They are tired and lonely, and in many cases feel forgotten.

15.) They are mourning the loss of their children’s childhoods.

16.) They desperately long for stability, especially for their children.

17.) They carry sorrow in their hearts, yet courageously push forward for the sake of future generations.

18.) They are fearfully and wonderfully made, just like you and I.

19.) They are worthy of our love, and not our fear.

20.) They are people I will continue to speak up for, because I know they would do the same for me.

If loving refugees matters to you too, get involved! Here are three practical steps you can take right now:

  1. Call your representatives! It’s ridiculously easy. Text your ZIP code to (520) 200-2223 and you will immediately receive a list of your local representatives and their phone numbers. Give them a call, say your zip code, and express your concern to welcome and support refugees (there’s an example of what to say here). It takes 60 seconds and it’s pretty much pain free. BONUS: If you’re weirded out by phone calls, you can Tweet directly to your representatives (way to go, #worldchanger)!
  2. Give! Whether you give to an organization working in the midst of conflict zones, along the refugee route, or on the American side (or all of the above!), let your spending reflect your heart. Need some ideas? Check out these organizations I love and trust: Preemptive Love Coalition, World Relief, World Vision.
  3. Write a letter! After the tremendous response from last year’s #NotForgotten campaign, I’ve partnered with World Relief this year to bring your letters of encouragement and love to local refugees. We’re joining the broader conversation and calling it #RefugeesWelcome. So write a letter welcoming refugees who have recently settled in the United States and I’ll get them to my friends at World Relief Seattle to distribute. It can be a few sentences or a few pages. Get your kids involved too and allow them to get crafty! Share this idea online with the hashtag, #RefugeesWelcome.

Email your letters to:
giselle.gonzales7@gmail.com
Subject Line: #RefugeesWelcome

Mail your letters to:
World Relief Seattle
ATTN: Meredith Seversen
841 Central Ave. N. Suite C-106
Kent, WA 98032

What Adventure Does

“Most great adventures work that way. You don’t plan them, you don’t get all the details right, you just do them.” -Bob Goff, Love Does

Think about a book you love. A story treasured from one generation to the next; one so powerful it offers readers insight each year it’s read.

Stories like those have a funny way of sticking to your heart, like snow on frozen ground. Yet it often seems hard to decipher what qualities connect them all to greatness. Is it a complex prose? Captivating dialogue? Or, a meticulously planned storyline?

Maybe.

But when I think of my all-time favorite stories (like Harry Potter, The Alchemist, or the Narnia series), the common theme I find is the unexpected adventure their characters find themselves in.

Continue reading

Scary-Beautiful Change

Let me be honest; I’m not a fan of change. You see, I celebrate some changes–like new seasons and scenery–I just hate when change penetrates deep enough to affect my “constants.”

We all have things in our lives that we think of as constants; our childhood homes, families, friendships, even our annual vacation spots. We hold these portions of our lives close to our heart because they can often seem unchangeable in world that is constantly changing. However normal this tendency may seem, I am learning that this is no way to really live.

Continue reading

Let Me Introduce Myself

Photo by Courtney Bowlden

(photo by Courtney Bowlden)

Who am I? Those three words combine to create a loaded question that few dare to ask and even fewer take time to thoughtfully answer. But don’t worry, I won’t hit you with that one just yet. The purpose of this post is to act as a little introduction. Whether you are reading this for the first time on your phone, in line at a coffee shop, or you merely stumbled across my blog while procrastinating from work (don’t worry, it can wait), let me just say…

Hello and welcome to my new blog, “See, Hear, Explore,”–but you can call it S.H.E. for short!

For years I have had the itch to write, and it is a passion I have indulged sporadically with a travel/personal blog I kept my last two summers in Eastern Europe and through a stack of old journals currently stuffed under my bed. I have shared bits and pieces of my life with the World Wide Web, yet recently yearned to have a single, consistent place to share my thoughts, dreams, stories, and faith in a blog that flows like a journal. I wanted to create this blog so that you can all walk along side me as I experience life the way I truly believe it to be; a grand adventure.

So what inspired the name, “See, Hear, Explore?”

Continue reading