The year was 1982. The World’s Fair in Knoxville captured the nation’s attention, and one insolent reporter gave us the “Scruffy City” moniker. At the same time but less widely known, the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR), through Bridge Refugee Services, began placing Burundian and Congolese refugees in our city.
Twenty-eight years later (2010), refugees and other internationals from around the world populated certain apartment complexes and neighborhoods across metro Knoxville. A few churches and other organizations already served our new international neighbors, but they knew they needed to do more. They began praying together and discussing how to increase their effectiveness. How could they unite all the disparate ministries and nonprofits so that new internationals could get the help they needed? How could they tangibly obey God’s command?
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
-Leviticus 19:33-34 NIV
Within a year, this small band founded Knoxville Internationals Network as a volunteer organization. They hosted community meetings to raise awareness and invited other organizations to connect for the purpose of sharing information and resources.
The needs—and the number of internationals—continued to grow. In 2014, KIN appointed a full-time director and became an official nonprofit. Now, in 2021, we have added two part-time employees as well. In fact, every year since 2014 has brought increasing impact:
2014 – ESL teacher training began
2015 – first ESL summer camp
2016 – first Mommy & Me ESL class
2017 – first ESL and culture classes at an apartment complex, partnership with the Knox County School Welcome Center
2018 – 4 new ESL sites established, focused on ethnic leadership development, celebrated more than 500 volunteers in 5 years as a nonprofit
2019 – launched INVEST (Internationals’ Network for Vocational and Educational Support to Thrive)
2020 – established our Language and Mentoring Partners (LaMP) program to connect individual volunteers with enthusiastic language learners
READY TO GET INVOLVED?
Want to hear the stories that go along with each of these events? We're excited about what's happening at KIN! Take one of us out for coffee or invite us to speak to your group. We would love to talk more.