Voices on Disruption: Sandy Ovalle Gomez

Sandy Gomez (disruption)

The morning of November 9, 2016, I feared the new season our country was about to enter. I worked for a nonprofit organization empowering local churches to serve refugees and immigrants in their communities. I knew it would be a difficult time for the families we served, but did not know the magnitude of the change that was coming.

When the new refugee quota was announced, our hearts dropped. Our country went from 100,000 in one year to 45,000. Our hearts dropped again when refugee families from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen were banned from being resettled to the US. Many of their relatives were getting ready to receive them. I had to break the news that we did not know if they would make it anymore. On June 27, 2017, we resettled the last refugee family we would welcome at the airport.

For our office this closure meant we needed to reinvent ourselves. We shifted from resettlement to integration. We expanded our immigration legal services unit, hoping to provide greater stability to families who are already here. This year alone we have given access to free legal counsel and representation to over 800 people. Disruption allowed us to broaden our focus.

Life is not resolved for many of the families we serve, particularly those who could not be reunited. But the spirit of resiliency in those who flee countries to save their lives is inexhaustible. Similarly, many of us in communities of color have learned to thrive in disruption. Our lives are constantly interrupted by policies that could end them or significantly challenge them. Adaptability becomes part of our DNA. We need agility to survive the systems that have forgotten us and often work against us. We stand in line asking for help just to watch them be shut down. We stand in line waiting for our turn to lead and are cut off. Yet we have learned to stand strong on the line that connects us to hope. Disruption has not stopped us. It has propelled us to adapt, to be agile, and to resist.

+ Sandy Gomez is the Church and Outreach Manager at World Relief Southern California and a MA in Theology alum. Read her additional poem below:

Like fiery lava disruption bursts UP

It flows
Destroying the very essence of our being
Purifying like refining fire the habits, the spaces, the faces

Location location location
For me it has been about migration
At sixteen I left the home of my ancestors
In a foreign land I hoped to find a rest stop

Across the largest state I roamed to let my heart settle
Among exiles I found faith rooted deep in the earth
And people in the land showed me kindness without measure
And other faces shouting “catch the illegal” gave me a welcome


Location location location
For me it has been about migration
At twenty five I left the home of mis hermanas
In a new land I hoped to find a rest stop

To the fifth largest economy I came
To find homeless brothers in decay
To the long south-facing beaches I went
To meet neighbors who are friends sharing evenings, finding rest

I keep moving

Every place, a new habit, a new face
And experiences that shape us
Ancestors in the making
Disruption has made us