Twelve heads bent over the table, seven of them covered by scarves. Sunlight poured over the space from a wall of windows. Six cultures were represented. On this day, they were making potholders: tracing a mitten shape onto colorful fabrics and liners, then hand-sewing the pieces together with strong, white thread.
Several conversations were always going, participants shifting between them without missing a word. One lady stacked her cut pieces on the table, saying, “I can sew at home by myself. I came here to talk.”
Orange shirts were everywhere, and we weren’t at a UT football game! The shirts welcomed everyone who entered in their own language. Drums echoed beyond the doors, beckoning us all into the space. Smiles played across every face—volunteers and visitors.
Where was I? At this year’s World Refugee Day celebration: one day marked to celebrate people from many nations who have immigrated to the United States, escaping violence and oppression while bringing beauty and creativity to metro Knoxville.
Esther’s kids walked six blocks to and from school every day. It was less than a mile each way. As a child back in Africa, Esther and her siblings had walked much further without giving it a second thought. There were homes along the way, so Esther never imagined her kids were unsafe.
Sundays are different at Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church these days. Swahili songs bounce off the beautiful stained-glass windows, and people greet a few church members as “Teacha” when they pass.
Just one year before this was written, Pastor McLain and others looked across the chain-link fence separating their church property from an apartment complex full of African refugees. How could they reach these new neighbors? How could they tangibly love them? How could they break through the figurative fence separating the two cultures?
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.