Amazing Possibilities!

  • Matthew Kelly

For the Martyrs Founder Gia Chacon Interviews with Matthew Kelly


Matthew Kelly:

Hi. I'm Matthew Kelly, and welcome to Profoundly Human. Gia, how are you?


Gia:

I'm doing well. Thanks so much for having me.


Matthew Kelly:

You are very, very welcome. Tough question to start. Are you a coffee drinker?


Gia:

I'm a hardcore coffee drinker.


Matthew Kelly:

Hardcore coffee drinker. What is your coffee rituals and routines?


Gia:

Well, my coffee ritual isn't anything fancy, but every morning the first thing I do when I wake up is make a hot cup of coffee and I'll probably have several throughout the day. Coffee is my life of blood.


Matthew Kelly:

Do you need to stop drinking coffee at some point in the day to be able to sleep at night?


Gia:

No. It has almost no effect on me. Interesting.


Matthew Kelly:

Very, very interesting. You've traveled all around the world. Where is the best coffee to be found?


Gia:

Italy.


Matthew Kelly:

Italy?


Gia:

For sure.


Matthew Kelly:

All right.


Gia:

Cappuccino.


Matthew Kelly:

Cappuccino?


Gia:

Nothing like it.


Matthew Kelly:

What about favorite food?


Gia:

My favorite food is probably something that my mom makes, something from our childhood. She used to make these potato tacos. Sounds simple, but there's just something nostalgic about it. That has to be my favorite food.


Matthew Kelly:

What about favorite band or music?


Gia:

I listen to a lot of Christian music and my favorite artist right now is Brandon Lake. He's awesome.


Matthew Kelly:

Favorite song-


Gia:

Favorite song-


Matthew Kelly:

... of Brandon Lake.


Gia:

... of Brandon Lake. Right now I'm listening to Lion by him and Elevation Worship.


Matthew Kelly:

And what about favorite movie?


Gia:

My favorite movie is Signs by M. Night Shyamalan. Do you know that one?


Matthew Kelly:

I do not know that one.


Gia:

It's a good one.


Matthew Kelly:

This is the first time.


Gia:

It's a good one.


Matthew Kelly:

What's it about?


Gia:

It's about an alien takeover, which ... but the purpose of the movie is or the underlying storyline is that everything that happens, happens for a reason and it all plays in at the end. And that's how eventually they end up, I guess, winning the takeover.


Matthew Kelly:

Is that why it's your favorite movie?


Gia:

It is.


Matthew Kelly:

And is that working out in your life?


Gia:

It is. Yeah.


Matthew Kelly:

It's happening for a reason.


Gia:

I think of that theme often that even the bad, the good, the ugly, all of it has a purpose that God will use.


Matthew Kelly:

Tell us about your childhood. What was it like growing up? What are your memories of childhood?


Gia:

I had a very fun childhood. I'm one of six children. So I have four sisters and one brother. And we're all very close to this day, but my childhood, we lived on a cul-de-sac at the top of the hill and at the bottom of the hill was a Catholic church. So some of my favorite memories are my mom and dad walking us down to mass on Sundays and just hanging out with the family. Still my favorite thing to do this day is just hang out with my brothers and sisters.


Matthew Kelly:

And that was California?


Gia:

Yes. California. Orange County.


Matthew Kelly:

Were you a sports person? Did you like playing sport growing up?


Gia:

I played a lot of sports, but I don't know if I am a sports person.


Matthew Kelly:

What sports did you play?


Gia:

I played tennis. I did baseball. I was actually a total tomboy growing up, if you can believe it or not. I wanted to be just like my brother because he was older than me. So I played on the boys' baseball team. I was the only girl and I was horrible, but I also did horseback riding and swimming. Yeah. I was involved in a lot of sports. Basketball.


Matthew Kelly:

Do you like watching sport?


Gia:

In person?


Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.


Gia:

Yeah. I like going to a game getting a Dodger Dog if you're from California.


Matthew Kelly:

So baseball would be the game you would most like to attend?


Gia:

I think so. Yeah.


Matthew Kelly:

And you're a Dodgers fan?


Gia:

Yes.


Matthew Kelly:

Now what is the difference between a Dodgers fan and other California baseball fans?


Gia:

Like a Dodgers versus Angels or something?


Matthew Kelly:

Yeah.


Gia:

Dodger fans are better.


Matthew Kelly:

Dodger fans are better.


Gia:

It depends on who you ask.


Matthew Kelly:

Interesting. I'm going to edit this out, but I'm thinking about my favorite baseball player, Shohei Ohtani. And it looks like the Mets are trying to steal him from the Angels for a massive amount of money as they usually do.


Gia:

So they probably will.


Matthew Kelly:

They probably will. Who is the most interesting person you've ever met?


Gia:

Most interesting person I've ever met. I've met so many interesting people, but I think the most interesting person that I've ever met was this young girl named Serena. She was a survivor of Christian persecution in Iraq. Her story was the first story that radically changed my life. So if I can give you a little snippet.


Matthew Kelly:

Give it.


Gia:

So she was living in Iraq during ISIS and ISIS or Islamist militants came into her home, kidnapped her sister, and killed the brother in front of the family. And they threatened the family that they were going to come back and kidnapped Serena if they didn't leave or convert. So ISIS left the family that night with the option convert or be killed. So her family fled Iraq with nothing, but their passports in their hand. And they were living in Jordan. And the reason why this is so interesting to me is because I couldn't believe that this girl only 19 years old had chose Jesus for everything. And when I spoke to her, she still had hope despite that she had lost everything and suffered so much. And that resonated with me so deeply and I think about her story often.


Matthew Kelly:

Now this was your first trip to Egypt when you met her?


Gia:

No. So I met her in Jordan in 2018. Okay. And this is my first experience with the Iraqi and Syrian refugees. So I had traveled for the first time to the middle east when I was 12 years old. And even at 12 years old, I visited Egypt with my grandmother. I remember how touched I was by the faith of the Egyptian Christians. But I returned to Egypt as an adult for the first time when I was 20. And being surrounded by the faith of the persecuted church, hearing their stories changed my life forever. And then through the years I had the opportunity to continue to go back and visit the persecuted church throughout the Middle East.


Matthew Kelly:

Wow. So you come back from that trip. What's happening in your mind? What are you thinking? What's on your heart? What does that look like?


Gia:

When I visited Egypt?


Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. And that was with your grandmother, right?


Gia:

Yeah. So the story that leads up to me visiting Egypt for the first time, if I can share with you, I was working on what I thought was my dream job at the time. I had everything that I could have wanted from the outside looking in, but on the inside I felt really empty. And I felt like when I looked in the mirror, I didn't recognize the person looking back at me. So eventually it got to the place where I didn't like the person looking back at me. And so I said a simple prayer. I said, "Lord, I know anyone who is in you is new creation and I want that new creation life." And within the course of maybe a week, God turned my life upside down. But it was for the better. It's kind of amazing what happens when we give God permission to turn our lives upside down. I called my grandmother and I said, "Grandma, do you have any trips coming up?" Because she has run a non-profit organization that focuses on international crisis relief for over 40 years and she's always traveling somewhere. So in my mind, I was just going to go on a retreat, get out of town and figure out what my next step was going to be. And she said, "Yes. We're going to Egypt and you're welcome to come."


Gia:

So two weeks later I was in Egypt and surrounded by people. For the first time in my adult life that I realized people are being persecuted for their faith. That Christian persecution is not just something of the past that happened in the early church, but is happening now today. And that there are Christians, young people, my age and even younger who are willing to die for their faith. And that resonated with me so deeply. So while I was in Egypt, surrounded by these young people so on fire, I made the decision, "Lord, I never want to live another day of my life not totally in service for you." So I came back to the United States, radically changed and I told my mom I had a moment with the Lord in Egypt and I gave my life to Jesus again. And it was never the same after that.


Matthew Kelly:

So you're sitting on a plane coming back. What are you thinking?


Gia:

Thinking I need to stop talking to a lot of the friends that I was hanging out with. Truthfully, I was thinking how grateful I was for that experience because not everybody has an opportunity to travel at the top of the hat and get out of her comfort zone and experience people who were suffering and hear their stories. So the first thing that I was thinking that I was grateful to God for answering my prayer in such a short timeframe. And I was thinking about all the things that I needed to change about myself, short-term, in order to align myself with Christ. Although I didn't know what he was going to do. I had no idea what my life looked like. I wasn't sure what my next step was going to be, but I knew that I had to make some changes.


Matthew Kelly:

You mentioned friends. I think one of the things that prevents conversion from taking root in people's lives is that their friends are not supportive of the changes that they're making.


Gia:

Yeah.


Matthew Kelly:

Did you lose friends?


Gia:

I lost all my friends except for one. I have one friend that I've had since high school and she's amazing. She's my best friend to this day. But yeah, it was painful. I lost all of my friends and actually I started an Instagram page to ... because I was so excited about the transformation that happened to me. And I wanted to share how exciting it is to follow Jesus and the truth of gospel. So I started an Instagram page. And one of my closest friends actually made a fake Instagram page to mock me. So that was really painful. But I'm thankful for my mom because she was really the closest friend that I had at the time. And we started praying the rosary together and going to mass. And I got so close to Jesus during that time where I felt so isolated.


Matthew Kelly:

What memories do you have of your mother from childhood?


Gia:

My mom was so awesome. I can't say enough good things about my mom, but a few favorite memories. She was really involved. She was a stay-at-home mom. So we were with her 24/7 and just compassionate, but fearless at the same time. Something that I appreciate about my mom to this day, but goes back even to our childhood. She always encouraged us not only to seek a personal relationship with Christ, but that God had a special calling for each of our lives. And that we should pursue that calling, and trust Jesus, and go where he's calling us. So those are my early memories of my mom, but also I think of when we used to have ... we used to do these things called family meetings. We would go into my mom and dad's room and come around the bedroom, talk about like things that were happening in our lives and then we would pray the rosary together. My mom was the one that started that.


Matthew Kelly:

When you were a child and your mom was telling you, "God has a plan for you." What did you think?


Gia:

I think I was always a big dreamer, to be honest with you. When my mom told me that God has a plan for my life, I thought He has a big plan for my life. I think she always encouraged us that way, that we had a special calling and that God wanted to do something big in our lives. So I'm not sure exactly what I thought, but there was periods of my life where I thought, "Okay. I want to be a doctor or I want to travel around the world helping people." Which I guess I fulfilled in a sense. Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what I thought, but I knew that it was something big.


Matthew Kelly:

And it's carried with you. I think that like the interesting thing about that for me is that I think very often parents think, "Oh, my kids aren't listening. My kids aren't listening." But then you're sitting here today saying, "God had a profound effect on me. Hearing that from my mother had a profound effect on me." And I think that's great encouragement for parents. How would you describe yourself to somebody who didn't know you or if the aliens came?


Gia:

If the aliens came. I would describe myself as maybe a go-getter. I think of the word perseverance a lot and I try to live out a bold life. I'm not always fearless. A lot of times I have hesitancy or I get discouraged, but I try as best as I can to at least act out courageously. And of course, a lot of that comes from my prayer life, but I don't know, maybe outgoing, passionate is a good word.


Matthew Kelly:

What are you most excited about in your life at the moment?


Gia:

I'm most excited about our March for the Martyrs that's coming up. So the organization I started is called For the Martyrs. We raise awareness about Christian persecution, advocate for religious freedom, and provide aid to suffering Christians around the world. We're best known for our March for the Martyrs, which is an annual march held in Washington, D.C. to stand in solidarity with the persecuted church. And I'm so excited about that because it's always so amazing to see how many people, Christians of all ages and of all denominations coming together as one voice for the persecuted church.


Matthew Kelly:

September 24th this year?


Gia:

Yes. September 24th in Washington, D.C..


Matthew Kelly:

And where can people learn more about that?


Gia:

You can learn more about it by going to forthemartyrs.com or if you have Instagram, you can follow us at March for the Martyrs.


Matthew Kelly:

Fantastic. You grew up Catholic. What are your memories or favorite memories of growing up Catholic?


Gia:

My favorite memory of grow growing up Catholic has to be walking to mass with my siblings from my house. I told you we lived on the top of the hill and then we would walk down to the bottom of the hill where the church was. So that has to be my favorite memories. Just waking up on Sunday, getting in our cute outfits. I think little kids are more excited to dress up than we get credit for at that age. Yeah. And making a day of it. Sundays were always a special day in our family. And so it was a time to bond with my brothers and sisters and it was a time that we were all together because my dad did work a lot. So on Sundays being able to spend time with him and my mom at church was special.


Matthew Kelly:

Fantastic. You've had this journey with God. How does God amaze you?


Gia:

God amazes me every day to be honest. I'm blown away by his mercy, the redemption that can be seen in our everyday lives. I really believe that God is always speaking to us and it's just up to us to listen to him. So I'm amazed day to day. The little miracles that are happening, the little ways that God is speaking to me and the way that He's always calling us to Him, always calling us to something greater.


Matthew Kelly:

So you make this trip to Egypt when you're 20 with your grandma and you come back and you make these changes. Were there moments where you thought, "Oh, what am I doing?" And were they three months later or three years later? Or what does that look like?


Gia:

Sometimes I think that to this day. No. I'm just joking. Yeah. It was, it was really difficult to be honest at the beginning. I was excited because I had given my life to the Lord and I knew I was doing the right thing, but transformation is painful. It's difficult to give up your comfortable life, the life of friends and doing what you want to do all the time. It's difficult to live a Christian life the way that God intended. So it was hard at the beginning to make that transformation. And it can feel isolating. I think I mentioned that earlier. A lot of it is just you and God because even the people in your corner that do support you don't really understand everything that you're going through. So yeah, I think in the beginning three months in, three days in I was like, "What have I done?" But I don't regret it for one minute. I always tell people that the life that you have with Jesus is the best life that you could possibly live.


Matthew Kelly:

Does boldness bring on more boldness? Do you draw on those bold leaps for the strength to do more bold things?


Gia:

Absolutely. I think that if you choose small ... or if you take advantage of the small opportunities to be bold, then when you need ... when you really need to be bold, it becomes easier. So if you can, every day, make a little act of courage, when you need a lot of courage, it'll be easier.


Matthew Kelly:

So if there's someone out there who has a bold decision to make or a leap of faith that they're being invited to, what would you say to that person?


Gia:

I would say you need to pray because really we get our holy ... we get our boldness from the Holy Spirit. We learn that in scripture that the Holy Spirit will give us the boldness that we need to fulfill the calling that He's giving us. So I would say if you have a big decision or if you have a moment where you need courage, then to seek the Holy Spirit through prayer. But also I think a lot of times the devil will try to talk us out of these callings. He'll say, "Well, it's not your time yet. You're not experienced enough. You're not the right person for that." And a lot of times it's ourself. Our own insecurities that we've put on ourselves. So we have to be able to look past that and not listen to those voices. And I say, "Just go for it."


Matthew Kelly:

Yep. Even family and friends who love us, they might say, "Oh, think about this, or think about that, or think about the other thing." And it can be a drain on our boldness. I've heard you say that sometimes God breaks us in order to heal us. What do you mean by that?


Gia:

Well, I think a lot of times we build up so many walls around ourselves. We don't want to get hurt. We don't want to let anybody in. And sometimes that person that we don't want to let and is Jesus because we're afraid of what will happen, we're afraid of being too vulnerable. And in my own story, I needed my life to be turned up to upside down. I needed the wrecking ball to come in, so to speak. In order for me to have that wake up moment that, "Okay. I'm not doing what God needs, what God is calling me to do. I'm not living the life that God is calling me to." And really when we become broken, when we become vulnerable, we realize that the only person that we have to turn to is Jesus and we become fully dependent on him. And when we're fully dependent on him, that's when healing can start.


Matthew Kelly:

I've also heard you speak about this conversion experience that you had and how you've got your friends, you've got your family, you feel this call, but you feel still the culture is pulling you very strong in one direction. God is inviting you to walk a different path. What was that like?


Gia:

It's difficult because especially as a young woman, the culture is offering us so much. Especially in the age that we're living in there's so many ways that we can find opportunities or be recognized. I mentioned that I was working my dream job. I was moving up really quickly. I was working for a cosmetic company that I thought was amazing and it was a dream to be working there. I was one of the youngest business managers that they had hired and I saw a lucrative future for myself. And it was easy for me. And so giving that up was difficult, but I knew ... And even though I didn't know what it was going to look like living my life for Jesus, I knew that I would never be fully satisfied until I chose Him. And I think that's really the message that I want to bring to people, is that we search so much for our identity in other things. In social media and our jobs, sometimes even in our family, the people that we surround ourselves with, but our true identity can only be found in Christ. And we're never going to feel satisfaction, wholeness, we'll never have healing until we start seeking our identity in Jesus.


Matthew Kelly:

So when you look back on that, how do you see culture affecting young people and maybe in particular young women?


Gia:

The culture of the United States is frankly evil. We're pulling young people in. They're waiting for young people. I think even 10 years ago it was different. Social media has made it so easy for people to be influenced. And we think of influencers and we think that the only thing they're influencing us is to buy products. That's not true. We're constantly, young people are constantly being fed ideas, opinions. This is right, this is wrong, this is how you should dress, this is how you should act, this is what's good and this is what's bad. Because of social media, it's so easy for young people to subconsciously start giving in and be influenced by these honestly dark forces.


Matthew Kelly:

Do you think they're aware that it's happening or because they have no exposure to the other side that they just sort of sleep walking through it?


Gia:

I think it's a little bit of both. I think maybe if you were raised in a Christian or a Catholic household, or you have someone in your family, or your life that's speaking truth to you, then maybe you have some understanding of what the truth is. But in this generation, broadly speaking, I think that most of the young people are blindly following a lot of these trends in culture norms.


Matthew Kelly:

You have described college and universities as indoctrination or liberal indoctrination camps. If someone woke up from a coma today, they've been in a coma for 25 years, and they asked you, "What's happening on college campuses? What would you tell them?


Gia:

I would say that college campuses went from being a place that you could expand your understanding, debate ideas, have healthy conversations with people, learn different opinions, and of course be educated. It's so important to have liberal education quotes around that. But now we've gotten to a place where if you don't align yourself with what your professors are teaching with, what the college and what the culture aligns with, then you're an outsider and you'll be silenced and you'll be punished for that. And especially when it comes to a Christian speaking out on campus, there is becoming less and less space and room for a Christian to speak from their place of faith on college campuses.


Matthew Kelly:

So if someone does speak up in a class, what does that look like? What happens to that person?


Gia:

If you have an opinion that does not go with the majority, your professors, these days, they can literally fail you in your class. We've seen that actually that kids on campus received Fs or fails or bad grades from the professors just because they spoke in favor of an opinion that wasn't popularly held. We've also seen professors on campuses across the United States being fired for sharing their personal beliefs with their students, which is a dangerous and scary place to be in the United States.


Matthew Kelly:

Yeah. I saw you speaking to a group of people and you talked about breaking up with the brand. Tell us about that.


Gia:

Yes. Well, Americans are consumers. We are constantly buying products. And what we don't realize is that a lot of these products and organizations put money into activists, agendas. For example, a lot of makeup companies blatantly and funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into the abortion industry. So we have to not be afraid to break up with our favorite brands, our favorite products in order to put our money where our mouth is. If we say that we're pro-life and then we're supporting makeup companies that pay for or that donate to planned parenthood, then how are we really pro-life? We need to make sure that our money is representing ... where we're spending our money represents our morals and our values.


Matthew Kelly:

Why don't people break up with brands?