Welcome To My World

You may have noticed that I am an infrequent blogger. I have a lot I would like to say, but most of my thoughts remain hidden from cyberspace. I have always believed that if I am going to do something, I want to do a good job of it. Whatever I put my heart to, I am in it 100%. Blogging takes a backseat because of the busyness of my life. How busy can things be, you ask? I would like to share with you a little about my world.

As many of you know, I am married with a big family. I married my high school sweetheart, Mike, 22 years ago when I was just 18 years old. Together we have 7 kids and 2 grandkids.


Summer 2016. All 7 kids together for a pic.

Andrew is 24 years old, has been married to Kristal for 5 years and they have 2 children. Alonzo is 3 and Celine is 2. Andrew served 4 years in the Navy and is now serving in the National Guard Reserves as well as finishing his degree in Criminal Justice. Kristal is the most amazing daughter-in-law I could ask for.

Tiffany is 19 and was married last year to Thomas whom our family has known for 14 years! It was a joy for our two families to be permanently linked together with this union. Thomas is also serving in National Guard.

Kaylie is 17, homeschooling and attending Community School of the Arts. She is hoping to graduate soon.

Isaac is 14, homeschooling and learning computer animation, as well as occasionally working with Mike.

Lillia is 12 and homeschooling. She also attends Community School of the Arts. Lillia and Isaac are active in the church youth group.

Josie, age 8, and Scarlet, age 6, attend elementary school and are doing great there. Last year when I made the decision to put them in public school, it was a big change for me. I had homeschooled my kids full-time for 16 years, but I couldn’t deny that I felt the Lord was beginning a new season in our lives. They are learning a lot at their school, have great teachers and I get to have lunch with them anytime I want. 😀



My Family May 2017

This past Fall (2016), I began classes with Johnson University, pursuing a degree in Intercultural Studies with an emphasis on ESL. I don’t know how long it will take me to get a Bachelor’s because I am only doing a part-time load. I almost did full-time courses, but opted not to because 1) I don’t want to go in debt and 2) I want to still have a life outside of school!

I am still very busy with refugee ministry and this is something that I love doing. Because of some unfortunate dealings and unjust situations that could not be resolved with the resettlement agency this past summer, I chose to separate myself from them after 2.5 years of extensive volunteering. This doesn’t mean that I’m dropping out of refugee advocacy by any means!  I continue doing what I’ve been doing– assisting refugees, befriending them, teaching them English– through my church and other community organizations. I like to keep my schedule open to accommodate unexpected needs– which usually occur on a weekly basis, either with my own family or my refugee family.


img_7403I am no longer on Facebook. I don’t do Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest. I try not to fret about the future of my country and I’ve found that taking a social media “fast” is peacefully therapeutic. However, I do keep myself updated with international news and remind  myself that for all of my country’s faults, my kids are being raised in relative ease and can go to sleep in peace without the worry of barrel bombs raining down on them in the middle of the night. My apologies for not faithfully keeping up with this blog. I am assuming you will understand why after reading this post. My days are busy, or I’d rather say, fruitful. If you have any questions about refugee advocacy, I would love to connect with you privately. You can email me at brenda.weatherly@yahoo.com. May God bless you!


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Female Refugees Say: Thank-you, America

“What are my rights as a woman in the United States?”

This was the very personal, painful question asked by a refugee woman who was having marriage problems. Many refugees come to the U.S. having been raised in cultures with much different values regarding women than what I have been raised with. I take it for granted that I am equal in the eyes of the law. My worth is the same as a man’s here. If I were ever placed in a situation where I would need to call the police, I can make that call with confidence that I will be defended by those in authority, not physically assaulted.

congo_woman_crying2010-med-bigRecently while accompanying an African woman to court who is in the middle of a domestic situation with her husband, I could sense the burden on her face. The United States is a scary place for a woman who does not speak the English language, but when this same woman faces a future possibly as a single mother, things look even scarier. Especially when the only thing this woman knows is what occurs to single mothers back in her home country: They are oftentimes left to beg for food. They are shunned by the community. Those in authority cannot be trusted because of corruption.

I looked this mother in the eye and told her not to worry. I explained in the most elementary English that she is safe here, that she will not be forgotten, that she has rights. I explained how she will not become homeless. She will have financial security through child support. She will receive government assistance with childcare and food. The stress melted from her body and was replaced with a smile. “Thank-you, America. God bless America” were the words that flowed from her mouth as her hands lifted in prayer.

I live in a land that does not make excuses for honor killings or violence against women. If a woman has experienced verbal or sexual or physical abuse, it does not matter if she is rich or poor; she can call 911 and entrust that she will be taken care of. There are domestic violence shelters that offer immediate protection. My mom is co-Director of one such shelter, Branches of Monroe County in Tennessee. In cases of separation from a husband or divorce, a woman will not be dumped on the streets or forced to live at the mercy of friends. There are many social services that she can take advantage of to help her get a second chance in life. These services are offered to citizen and immigrant alike.

When a refugee woman realizes that her worth is the same in the eyes of the law, an amazing thing happens. She begins to see herself through different eyes. She is worthy to be cherished. She has value. She does not have to be victimized by abuse. She can rise up and create a new future for herself and her children.


The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom for all, but female immigrants take extra notice. The Statue of Liberty is a woman who represents: Liberty Enlightening the World. Indeed, many countries of the world have much to learn in regards to how they treat women. I pray that they will be enlightened with what most Westernized countries inherently believe: All humans are created equal.

I have 5 daughters. I am thankful they were born here in the US. They can do anything they want with their lives. No man has the legal right to abuse them in any way. No matter how depressing the political forecast for my nation is, when I think of the personal freedoms and protection under the law that my daughters have, I, too, join my female refugee friends and say

“Thank-you, America.”



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Unfair Medical Expenses For Burundian Refugees

Refugees coming to the United States should trust that their basic needs will be provided for, one of those being free medical care upon arrival. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I would like to introduce my friends, Benjamin and Yvette.

Photo: Benjamin and Yvette with my daughter, Scarlet.

Benjamin and Yvette arrived in Knoxville in August 2015 along with their 4-year-old son and Benjamin’s parents. They are originally from Burundi, but because of the ongoing war and serious threat against their lives, they had to flee to Tanzania. For 15 years, they lived in a Tanzanian refugee camp. Then they received word that they were approved to come to the United States to begin a new life!

Because life in an African refugee camp is primitive, medical care is sorely lacking. Such was the case for Yvette. She suffered from an abscess to her head that was left untreated. In the midst of their move to Knoxville, this abscess became seriously infected. On the airplane flight, she began running a high fever and the swelling became so intense that she was not able to open her eyes. Immediately upon arrival, she was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was given prompt medical attention.

Benjamin and Yvette were under the impression that their expenses were being covered by medical insurance– as they are for all new refugees– but within one month of the hospital visit, they began receiving medical bills from the ambulance company and the doctor totaling over $2,000.  A friend of mine helped Benjamin file an appeal with the insurance company asking if their insurance could cover all expenses beginning on the date of their arrival, but their case was dropped. They were turned over to Collections and are now liable to pay for all medical expenses. The Collections agency arranged for them to make small monthly payments, but will not budge on lowering the amount owed.

Photo: Benjamin learning English at church

How can a refugee who went from living 15 years in a refugee camp to now making $7.25 an hour expect to pay $2,000 in medical bills? This is too great a burden to place on Benjamin’s shoulders who is already struggling to cover basic life expenses such as rent, utilities, phone, in addition to repaying the US government for the travel loan of airplane tickets from Africa to Knoxville. Benjamin has given me permission to tell their story here because he has run out of options in asking for assistance.

I would like to ask if you would prayerfully consider making a donation on behalf of Benjamin and Yvette. You can do so at a GoFundMe page that I set up for them. I will personally see that all donations go directly to paying the medical expenses. Benjamin works hard at his full-time job and also attends English class 3 days per week. He is determined and motivated to create a successful future for his family. Being released from this burdensome obligation will give Benjamin and Yvette freedom from debt and peace of mind that they don’t have to go from one struggle in Africa to a new one in the United States. Thank-you for your time.

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Refugee Resettlement: On The Frontlines: Christian Compassion Meets Rugged Reality

imageExcerpt from the book:

For the past 2.5 years, I have been actively involved in assisting refugees as they adjust to this strange new land, the United States. This is not always easy, especially when there is a language barrier. Most of the women I have met do not know English. How can I build a friendship with a woman who has endured horrific hardships when there are no words we can exchange?

Sometimes the silence is deafening. It is a silence created from grief, from loneliness, oftentimes desperation. The silence envelops me and washes over me as I sit on the couch next to a widowed Iraqi mother at her apartment. Her husband was killed working as an interpreter for our Army. There are no words I can speak to comfort her as she cries. I do not know Arabic. She does not know English. But the blurry photo of the aged woman on her lap tells me everything. My Iraqi friend misses her mother, a mother on the other side of the world in a combat zone. As we shed tears together, she murmurs those two words over and over: ‘My mom.’ It is all she can say. I know there are mountains of words she would like to express, but they remain bottled inside of her.

The silence spoke volumes on that brisk winter morning when a friend and I drove to the apartment of a Congolese single mother. I intended to introduce the two of them, to somehow explain that this new American friend would be her English tutor. As we arrived, the crumpled figure of this Congolese woman sat shivering on the edge of the sidewalk. She usually greeted me with a beautiful smile, but this time her teeth could not stop chattering. Her face appeared drained of all strength. It must have been 40 degrees outside and she had no jacket. Finally, a fellow refugee arrived with a blanket and helped us figure out what had happened. For 2 hours, she had been locked out of her apartment. As she shook relentlessly, we hoisted her off the sidewalk and to her feet. I wanted to do more. I wanted to say more. I wanted to find out how she could have been left outside for 2 hours without anyone coming to her aid. Where was her son? But I was just there, a spectator, unable to offer more than my presence.

Yet offering my presence has been the key to breaking the silence. Sharing my life with a refugee takes patience because this requires a unique friendship, a friendship which extends beyond cultural and language barriers. It is a friendship built on trust. These foreigners that I share my life with are not the typical immigrant. They have been broken, they have been battered and bruised. And I have been given the privilege of meeting them at a time when hope begins anew. Can they trust that life will be better in this foreign land? Can they put their guard down and share their heart with me? The widowed Iraqi mother knows she can trust me. I did not tell her those words in English. It is learned when we go to the market, learning new words as we shop together. It is learned when I hold the hand of her daughter on the little girls’ first dental visit, discovering that 12 of her 20 teeth are rotted. Trust is learned as my presence has endured the test of time. And where there is trust, fear cannot endure. Together we experience the gift: Shared silence brings healing.

Within 5 miles of my home in Knoxville, there are dozens of churches filled with people who will never know the intimacy of sharing their life with an ‘outsider’. I imagine that Christianity may have never spread beyond Israel if the early Christians discriminated against ‘undesirables’ such as Romans, barbarians and Pharisees. I am a busy mother to 7 children and 2 grandchildren and I, more than anyone, can give excuses as to why I have no time to befriend refugees. And yet, there is a fulfillment I experience by helping the helpless, defending the fatherless, caring for the widow. My Christian faith should look captivating to a crumbling world. Only because of Jesus’ teachings about love and radical hospitality have I chosen to do what I do. I want my children and my foreign friends to see my faith in action.


Amazon Book Description: The topic of refugee resettlement has become a divisive issue in the United States since the terrorist attacks in Paris. Being on the frontlines of refugee resettlement in her community, Brenda Weatherly has a window into a world that is uncommon for most Americans. Having become acquainted with over 100 refugees in her city through volunteer work, as well as sharing meals with over 40 refugees in her home, Brenda offers a voice that is not often heard: the voice of reason. Discussing the need for Americans to advocate on behalf of refugees, while acknowledging that there are challenges involved with a clash of cultures, Brenda does not peddle easy answers.
Join Brenda in this book–part-memoir, part non-fiction– as she takes a critical look at the resettlement process and discusses:

Her convictions as a Christian in helping ‘the stranger’
Her personal experiences as a volunteer with refugees
Europe’s challenge with unregulated mass migration
Her desire as an American citizen to balance compassion with discernment in who we allow to enter our country
The Elephant In The Room: Islam, diversity and women’s rights
A game plan in how we can help refugees assimilate to a new culture
The need for a complete overhaul of the current system of refugee resettlement

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Do You Want To Review My Book?

imageOn Tuesday, May 31, my Ebook “Refugee Resettlement: On The Frontlines: Christian Compassion Meets Rugged Reality” will be published to Amazon. I am looking for a few folks who would like to review my book for free in exchange for an honest review on Amazon. I am looking for people who have time to read it and post the review within 7 days. The book is 105 pages long.

Amazon Book Description:

The topic of refugee resettlement has become a divisive issue in the United States since the terrorist attacks in Paris. Being on the frontlines of refugee resettlement in her community, Brenda Weatherly has a window into a world that is uncommon for most Americans. Having become acquainted with over 100 refugees in her city through volunteer work, as well as sharing meals with over 40 refugees in her home, Brenda offers a voice that is not often heard: the voice of reason. Discussing the need for Americans to advocate on behalf of refugees, while acknowledging that there are challenges involved with a clash of cultures, Brenda does not peddle easy answers.

Join Brenda in this book–part memoir, part non-fiction– as she takes a critical look at the resettlement process and discusses:

  • Her convictions as a Christian in helping ‘the stranger’
  • Her personal experiences as a volunteer with refugees
  • Europe’s challenge with unregulated mass migration
  • Her desire as an American citizen to balance compassion with discernment in who we allow to enter our country
  • The Elephant In The Room: Islam, diversity and women’s rights
  • A game plan in how we can help refugees assimilate to a new culture
  • The need for a complete overhaul of the current system of refugee resettlement.

If you are interested in this assignment, please email me at Brenda.weatherly@yahoo.com.

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Malawi Schoolchildren In Need Of Food


Charles and Mary with 3 of their children (Brenda on the right) and 2 grandchildren.

For the past 14 years, I have kept in touch with a sweet family from Malawi, Africa. Our friendship started after the mother, Mary, read an article that I had written in an internationally-distributed magazine. The magazine somehow made it all the way to Malawi and we began writing letters back and forth as pen pals and now keep in touch through Facebook. Mary’s husband, Charles, is a school teacher and Mary is the school’s treasurer. I am honored to say that Charles and Mary chose to name one of their daughters after me. Brenda is now 12 years old and in 7th grade.

Throughout all of these years, our mutual friendship was based on our love for the Lord. I have never been asked to send money to them. Charles and Mary, although living in a country riddled with many problems, have chosen to focus on teaching the children at the school rather than succumb to despair and desperation. That is, until this past week.

I received a message from Charles letting me know of the dire circumstances they are in. Malawi has been hit with a severe drought. There have been no rains since July 2015. Because of this drought, the people have not been able to plant their crops. Corn is difficult to buy and it has become very expensive. Charles said, “Absenteeism is now a major challenge as most minors cannot come to school on [an] empty stomach.”


The above photo is of the Mulambe school. There are 89 students enrolled, but today (April 27) only 14 were present.


Of the above photo, Charles says: “At Kadyang’anda school 103 learners enrolled but only 16 were present (April 27). We used to receive soya flour from the government but funding ceased. Sourcing of food was left in the hands of the community which is failing completely. If we can have maize it can be grinded into flour and cook porridge and this can encourage minors back into school.”

I promised Charles and Mary that I would do whatever I could to help them feed these children. The only thing I know to do is to write a blog post and share this on social media. If you would like to ensure that these precious children will not have their education interrupted and if you would like to know that they are being fed at least one full meal per day while at school, I ask you to consider donating towards the purchase of sugar, salt and maize as well as the cost of transportation and milling involved with this process.

I am trying to raise $1,000 for these children. The funds would cover the cost of both schools feeding the children through July 2016. I am thankful to call Charles and Mary my friends. I know that if the tables were turned, they would be helping me in my time of need. Please prayerfully consider making a donation that will go directly to these schools in Malawi. You can either make a donation directly to my Paypal account, brenda.weatherly@yahoo.com, where 100% of the money will go to the schools. Or if you feel more comfortable donating through a GoFundMe account, you can do so here, but please be advised that GoFundMe will deduct a 5% fee from each donation. Thank-you for your generous support!

For more information about the Malawi drought, please read these news articles:

Africa Drought Fears Grip Malawi And Mozambique

Malawi Declares State Of Disaster Over Food Crisis

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Upcoming Ebook About Refugee Resettlement


I was invited to speak on NewsTalk 98.7 this past November along with my Afghan friend, Parwiz, about refugee resettlement and the Syrian refugee crisis.

I am in the beginning stages of writing an ebook titled, ‘Refugee Resettlement: On The Frontlines.’

Some of the topics that will be covered are:

  • My convictions as a Christian in helping ‘the stranger’
  • Personal experiences as a volunteer with refugees
  • Europe’s problems with unregulated mass migration
  • My desire as an American citizen to balance compassion with discernment in who we allow to enter our country
  • Coming up with a game plan in how we can better help refugees assimilate to a new culture
  • The need for a complete overhaul of the current system of refugee resettlement
  • The Elephant In The Room: Islam
  • Brief interviews with refugees and refugee volunteers

Coming soon to Amazon!

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My Top 10 Books of 2015

I read 56 books in 2015. I’d like to share with you my 10 favorite books of 2015. You’ll see that I enjoy biographies/autobiographies.

These books made the Top 10 because they deeply impacted me in some way:

born survivorsBorn Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope



secret thoughtsThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith

full body burdenFull Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

hardest peace

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

great fireThe Great  Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide

insanity of obedienceThe Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places

to be a friendTo Be a Friend Is Fatal: The Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind

seeking allahSeeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

nesting placeThe Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful

a thousand shall fallA Thousand Shall Fall: The Electrifying Story of a Soldier and His Family Who Dared to Practice Their Faith in Hitler’s Germany

Coming soon…My Book Challenge for 2016. If you have any recommendations for a book that you think I’d enjoy, please let me know!


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Before Welcoming Syrian Refugees…

Before welcoming Syrian refugees into the United States, there are a few challenging questions that we, as Americans, should ask ourselves.

Are Middle Eastern refugees that are currently living in the United States thriving?


Sharing Easter dinner with a few of my good friends.

From my personal interactions with refugees over the past 2 years, I believe that Middle Eastern women, in particular Muslim women, are especially at risk of isolation and cultural alienation. Refugee mothers that I have befriended from African countries have made a determined effort to learn English as quickly as possible and to become active in the community either through employment or church activities; Middle Eastern mothers are often isolated at home.

Join me as I give a background summary of a few women I have gotten to know over the past 22 months. These 4 women came to the United States fleeing persecution with the intention of beginning a better life. The relief from danger has now been overrun by feelings of emptiness, homesickness and/or anger over what they have lost. They are torn between a home country that is unsafe and a host country that feels foreign and unwelcoming. *Names have been changed to protect identity.*

Lana has been living in the United States since October 2014. She arrived from Iraq with a supportive husband, a 3-year-old and 2-year-old and also 7 months pregnant. She knew no English, so each time her family came to my home for dinner, she sat silently while her husband engaged in lively conversation. Fast forward another year to November 2015. Lana still does not speak English. Her life revolves around her 3 lively children in a small apartment in a sub-par neighborhood. Her only avenue of socialization is by communicating with the family and friends she left behind in Iraq through Facebook and phone calls.

Consider Abida, an Iraqi refugee in her early 30’s, who has been living in the United States for 6 years. She still knows only rudimentary English. Each conversation with her is strained because of the language barrier. She, too, spends her days at home with her 3 young children. Her husband unexpectedly sold all of their belongings this past July to move to a different state 30 hours west for the promise of a job that did not pan out. They are now attempting to begin life all over again in a new state which I am worried will leave Abida further disconnected.

Scarlet waiting at the airport for Fatima.

Scarlet waiting at the airport for Fatima.

Fatima arrived December 2014. My daughter, Scarlet, and I were the one’s to pick her up from the airport. Two months later, Fatima’s son, “Ali”, a single father, arrived from Iraq with his elementary-aged son. Ali, who had worked in military special forces for 8 years, was now relegated to factory work. Money was scarce. Each time I visited the family at their apartment, their demeanor continued deteriorating. There were problems with Fatima’s medical insurance. Because of her extensive health problems, she could not afford the medication for her asthma and high blood pressure. In April, I joined Fatima at the hospital when one of her asthma attacks left her too weak to walk up the flight of stairs to her apartment. In June, I tried to call Fatima and Ali to check on them. The phone was shut off. Their neighbor told me that they had abruptly moved back to Iraq.

Finally, meet Jazmin, my Iranian friend. She is Muslim. She married a non-Muslim, so to continue living in Iran equated to prison. Jazmin has been living in the United States for 6 years. While her English is good, she feels a deep loneliness at being separated from her extended family. Her daughter is constantly bullied at school. Jazmin does not work, so she has plenty of time to brood in their 1-bedroom apartment about how their lives have come to a halt. Jazmin’s main goal now is to ‘find happiness’. She said she may divorce her husband and return to Iran with her daughter.


ESL Class

These real-life examples are not embellished. I do not share them as a means to ‘smear’ refugee resettlement or the refugees themselves. I believe that the American public has a right to know of the challenges we face as a nation over not properly understanding the importance of cultural assimilation in the lives of refugees. My volunteer work has taught me that integration into a local community is essential for the success of a refugee placement. I did the best that I could with the women mentioned above, but integration is a two-way street. It goes back to the questions in my previous post that I believe must be asked of prospective refugees: Will you be willing to adjust your lives to Western society? Will you promise to learn English as quickly as possible and integrate into your local community? Refugees must understand that if they are not willing to do these things, it will be a long and lonely road for them. We can promise safety, but we cannot promise happiness.

For Americans who are pro-refugee and in favor of allowing Syrian refugees to come to the United States, here is a  tough question for you.

Are you willing to be more than a public voice for refugees, but also a friend and advocate- which requires a sacrifice of your time?

My suggestion is for you to use the energy you have currently been spending on pro-refugee social media posts to instead contact your local refugee resettlement agency today and find out how you can make a difference in the life of  a refugee that is already here.

If Syrians are permitted to immigrate to the United States, what will our response be?

We have to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that our country may soon see Syrian refugees arriving.

If Americans are not willing to welcome Syrians into their communities, can these refugee placements be considered a success?

Will we- 1 year or 5 years down the road- see an influx of Syrians determined to make their way back “home” after our country has spent billions of dollars in the initial vetting and resettlement process?

Can our government brainstorm any alternatives for the Syrians that could keep them in closer proximity to their home country so that those who prefer to return to Syria after the war can feasibly do so?


My friends and I gathered at the park for a picnic from U.S., Iraq, Iran, Israel and Congo.

My hope in volunteering with refugees is that they will become thriving, successful American citizens that contribute to making the United States a stronger country. Without a doubt, most of the refugees I have met are hard-working, hopeful, grateful people. Their children are thankful to be receiving an education and many of them have high aspirations in life; to become a doctor or nurse is a common goal that I hear. America is the land of opportunity, but sadly for some, we are the land of loneliness. Syrian refugees who have already arrived in the United States battle isolation and financial and cultural hurdles. One of them described his new situation in Baltimore with these words: “For me, everything is blackness.” My hope is that President Obama will consider my plea to carefully weigh all of the ramifications of welcoming in a traumatized people group that 1) may not be welcomed by their neighbors and 2) may not have the capacity to fully assimilate without extensive intervention.

These are complex and deep questions that deserve deep thought. Honestly, there are no easy answers. Everyone has an opinion. I look forward to hearing yours.




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Refugee Resettlement: Balancing Compassion With Discernment


Refugees from DR Congo enjoy lunch at the Weatherly house one Sunday after church. Photo courtesy of Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel.

I have been a volunteer with a refugee resettlement agency in Knoxville, Tennessee since January 2014. My family and I welcome refugees to our city by taking them to get their Social Security cards or medical screenings and I teach ESL one day a week. We have also welcomed refugees into our home for meals from many different countries over the past 22 months. We have done our best to befriend these newcomers to our city so that they will have the best possible chance to be integrated into American culture. I want my children to have a compassionate heart for persecuted peoples and people of all nationalities.


Unrest at a European train station

Over the course of the last few months as the migrant crisis in Europe escalated, I have found myself in a state of anxiety about what the future may hold for Western Europe. I have friends and family in Germany who are singing a different tune today than they had been last year. In January, when I asked their opinion about welcoming refugees, they seemed very open to assisting them. Now, they said their whole country is being changed and they are worried that Germany will not be able to cope. When I see YouTube videos uploaded almost daily by regular citizens showing brawls in migrant camps or of heated protests between Germans over the refugee crisis , I feel anguish. Some of these refugees who have fled persecution in the Middle East are expressing heartache that the very violence they fled has followed them to Europe because of the open borders.

My own feelings towards refugee resettlement are being transformed before my very eyes as I struggle with what I know to be morally right: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’ Yet, my greatest prayer is for my own children to grow up in a country that is secure from the threats and terrorism that we see in the Middle East. As a mother, how can I deny this same hope to a Syrian mother? 

parisMy heart has become in even greater anguish because of the turn of events over the past week: Paris attacked by terrorists possibly from many different countries. And in the wake of that, thousands of Facebook users changed their Profile Pic to that of France’s flag colors. I changed my Profile Pic in solidarity as well. But not everyone stands in solidarity with France. An Iraqi refugee family that has been living in the U.S. for 18 months (father, mother, 2 grown sons, 2 high school sons) that my own family befriended chose to change their Profile Pics to the colors of the Iraqi flag. Under one of the grown son’s profile pic, his mother (a woman that I have shared many dinners with) wrote in Arabic: ‘Go to hell, America. May God curse America and Israel to hell.’ I replied with a warning to use great caution when making online curses against a country that has taken them in, provided them with refuge, financial assistance and free education. Up to this point, there was no indication that there were any negative feelings toward the U.S. I took them to be very friendly, engaged, thankful refugees.I am still in shock over the French attacks and over my “friend’s” post. Because of all the emotion and confusion I’m experiencing, I deactivated my Facebook account, but not before screenshotting this damning post and reporting it to the refugee resettlement agency. 

syrianRefegees2_2374507bWhat are my thoughts now about allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States? Six months ago, I would have rolled out the red carpet for them. Now, I am hesitant. I believe that we need to use extreme caution about who we allow in the United States if we want to continue living with freedom and pleasant ease. We need to include difficult questions in the vetting process, such as: What are your thoughts on American culture? Will you be willing to adjust your lives to Western society and teach your children to value our values? Will you promise to learn English as quickly as possible and integrate into your local community? And maybe one of the toughest questions to ask of Muslim refugees: What is your prayer for Israel? Some may cry that this question is too personal and unfair, but I believe it cannot be ignored. Why is it important to ask this question? If a Muslim cannot suppress his hatred for Jews, then he should not be permitted to immigrate here. To live in a modern, welcoming society, all nationalities and religions must be protected and valued. If Syrian refugees would like us to accept them into our country, then they need to be ready to lock arms, neighbor to neighbor, with people groups they may have a cultural or religious aversion to: Christians, Jews and homosexuals. They don’t have to agree with those peoples’ religions and values, but they need to be willing to join this great American melting pot. If refugees cannot do this, then the United States should not be encroached upon to accept them in our midst. It would not mean that we rejected them, rather it would mean that they rejected us.

Statue of Liberty seen from the Circle Line ferry, Manhattan, New YorkI believe that the United States government should not downplay the anxiety voiced by its citizens regarding Syrian refugees. President Obama recently stated, in reference to many Governors wanting to deny entry to Syrian refugees: “Apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion… They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns.” Personally, I am not a politician nor do I speak for Republicans; I am speaking as a concerned mother who would love nothing more than to continue offering hospitality to persecuted refugees, trusting that my government’s scrutiny in refugee vetting has ensured my safety. I am not attempting to drum up unnecessary fear to advance a campaign. There are not many Americans who can say that they have opened their home to share meals with Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans, as my family has done. We are not naive to the dangers that Islamic extremists have carried out and continue threatening to carry out. Having a sympathetic heart towards the persecuted is heroic, but demonstrating collective discernment towards the admittance of refugees promotes a love for humanity even more courageous than immediate displays of compassion. We owe it to our own citizens- as well as Syrian refugees who are seeking refuge here- that this great country will continue to be a safe haven for future generations.

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