Junior lost his wife and new baby in a refugee camp shortly before his name reached the top of the list. Still mourning, he took his 8-year-old son, Jonas, and boarded a plane to Knoxville, Tennessee--a place he’d never heard of in a country where he didn’t speak the language. Bridge Refugee Services found him a place to live and a job. They helped Jonas get into school, and assisted in other ways, too. But this small family needed more long-term support than Bridge had the capacity to provide.
As Dan and his group learned about Junior’s struggles to manage life in Knoxville, they dug in, tackling one problem at a time. That’s when Dan realized, “We had to quit being social and be more like missionaries.” It wasn’t easy, and everyone in the group stepped up.
Some things were easy, others were hard. But even the small, seemingly easy things were big to Junior. Along the way, the wall between Junior and this Embrace group began to break down.
One day, they simply went for a walk. Junior and Jonas both relaxed, and Junior talked more freely to some of the men in his group—men who are the same age but have lived completely different lives. That’s the day they moved from being people who helped him to being friends.
Friendship. It seems like a small thing, but it’s big.
Junior still leans on this small group as he learns how to be self-reliant in his new hometown. But the learning isn’t one-sided. The group learned they didn’t need to provide all the answers. They needed to be present, sometimes learning alongside Junior, sometimes just listening. Because listening is a big, small thing too.
Read the stories of Knoxville's local internationals and the volunteers who have impacted their lives. Get a first-hand view of what it's like to move here and/or to serve those who've moved here from other countries. Discover how KIN has impacted life and culture in metro Knoxville.