Church Members from 23 Countries Serve Together
October 20, 2020
By: Judith Kimsey
Between the pandemic and the social unrest in the United States, these are difficult days. Among the many problems, economic hardship has led to increased food insecurity. Church members in Knoxville, Tennessee, wondered, “What can I do to help?”
Into this situation, Operation Inasmuch and Knoxville Internationals Network – KIN received a grant from Y-12 Federal Credit Union to pack simple, nutritional meals that would feed families of four to six people.
The mission of Operation Inasmuch, a nonprofit serving 26 states, is to help churches “mobilize their members to get out into their own community to help people in need,” said David Crocker, founder. When a church in South Knoxville volunteered, the group focused their effort in that part of town.
“We could have just rallied our American-born church partners to volunteer, and they would have risen to the challenge,” added Jani Whaley, KIN’s Acting Executive Director. “But our non-English-speaking church partners have the same desire to bless their neighbors. We needed 150 volunteers, so, in line with KIN’s mission to connect churches with internationals, we invited a mix of churches to contribute 50% each: 75 American-born volunteers and 75 volunteers born elsewhere.” Regardless of where they were born, most of the volunteers now live in South Knoxville: neighbors helping neighbors.
This project was a true collaboration. Woodlawn Christian Church offered their fellowship space. Operation Inasmuch set up tables, equipment, and supplies, keeping everyone as socially distant as possible. KIN recruited volunteers and contacted food pantries to receive the finished boxes of meals.
Finally, on August 29th, 150 volunteers representing 23 countries came together. Ms. Whaley took a moment to observe, “We have people from Congo who are helping Iraqi people. We have people from Burundi who are helping people from Mexico, and they’re working side-by-side with long-time American citizens as well.”
At this integrated community service event, one American-born volunteer said, “I’ve never met anyone from Africa before.” Arabic, Spanish, English, a couple of African languages, and others flowed freely, with bilingual volunteers translating for those who needed it. Everyone had a job, and everyone contributed equally, modeling our equal value before God (Galatians 3:28) and introducing church members to other believers from around the globe!
In just four hours, these 150 volunteers from nine churches packed 40,806 meals, which were distributed to six local food pantries in the South Knoxville area. “Our volunteers exceeded the goal of 40,000 meals, and they exceeded our goal of helping people building relationships with people different from ourselves,” Ms. Whaley reflected afterward.
One Iraqi-born volunteer observed, “In my country many churches fight among each other. It is different in America!” Even in these difficult days, the global body of Christ came together to bless their neighbors and make new friends.
Judith Kimsey is a member of Two Rivers Church and the communications coordinator for Knoxville Internationals Network in Knoxville, Tennessee. Part of her role at KIN involves advocating for internationals among church-goers and business people. Judith and her family have twice lived overseas long-term, where she learned the importance of telling God’s stories well.