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Refugees and Jubilee staff lead the local Christmas parade in Comer, Georgia.

American Hospitality

Don Mosley of Jubilee Partners

Sam Hine

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  • Adewale Ebenezer Olemoh

    The Lord will bless you immensly for your good work. Plse do not relent the good Lord we serve will alway make a way for you . Keep it up.

In rural Georgia, Jubilee Partners offers refugees and other immigrants a home and a community.

With over sixty million people worldwide displaced by violence, how to treat refugees has become one of the great moral issues of our time. Yes, the Bible calls us to welcome the stranger. But what can even the best-intentioned person do in the face of unprecedented mass migration? Jubilee Partners, a community dedicated for decades to welcoming suffering people who have been displaced by war and other disasters, demonstrates that a Christian community can give support in ways an individual citizen never could.

Jubilee Partners grew out of Koinonia Farm, the Georgia community founded by Clarence Jordan and others in 1942 with a commitment to racial reconciliation and sustainable agriculture. In 1979, three years after helping to launch the house-building organization Habitat for Humanity, Koinonia’s members set out to establish a new community. They chose 260 beautiful but undeveloped acres in northeast Georgia.

During their first months there, Jubilee Partners’ six founding members listened to news reports about thousands of Vietnamese boat people seeking refuge in America. Living in tents themselves, with no hot showers, they resonated with the boat people’s plight, and decided to respond.

On a recent visit to Plough’s editorial offices, Don Mosley, one of those founding members, reflected on how much has changed – and how much hasn’t – in the thirty-seven years since. “In the beginning, people were scared of us. The local newspaper did a headline story – an exposé, the editor called it – on this commune moving into the area. The reporter who came out and did the story went back and said, ‘There’s nothing there to expose. These are really nice people who want to help people!’” Today local relations couldn’t be better, Mosley says.

Jubilee community enjoys a picnic.
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A Melting Pot

Even before the first Vietnamese arrived, a refugee agency asked Jubilee Partners to take in migrants from Cuba. Since then, the community has hosted about four thousand refugees from more than three dozen countries, teaching English and basic skills for life in the United States, and helping with paperwork. The refugees live a short distance from the community center, offering them the space they need. Sipping coffee on his porch, Don Mosley loves to watch the cultural and language barriers fall away as children from Burma, the Congo, Central America, and the United States play soccer together.

To respond to the crush of migrants fleeing wars in Central America in the 1980s, Jubilee Partners bought a bus and for eight years shuttled back and forth to South Texas, where they interviewed arrivals and selected strong candidates for asylum. Though the United States, as a signatory to the United Nations’ 1967 refugee protocol, agrees to grant asylum to people fleeing persecution, most Central Americans are denied refugee status on the pretext that they are migrating primarily for economic reasons. “We brought thirteen hundred Salvadorans and Guatemalans and a few Hondurans through Jubilee,” Mosley recalls. “The United States rejected them, but we managed to get them legally through the United States, and the Canadians accepted them.”

About a quarter of the refugees who have passed through Jubilee Partners are Muslim. They are invited to attend the community’s Christian prayer services, but are also offered transportation to the nearest mosque. Many Muslim refugees, such as those from Bosnia, fled persecution from Christians. “We don’t hear that side of it very much in this country,” Mosley says. “In one case, a man came to us with scars all over his chest, crosses. He said a man stood there and carved those crosses on his chest with a knife and said, ‘I’m converting you to a Christian.’” At Jubilee Partners, these victims see a different face of Christianity, and healing begins. One Muslim man told Mosley and his wife, Carolyn, “I feel that I have actually seen Jesus here.”

After a Cuban refugee died of a heart attack at Jubilee Partners, the community started a cemetery. Later, community members began to visit people on Georgia’s death row, something they continue to do frequently. They offer these prisoners burial in that same little cemetery, should they end up being executed. So far, at least six such individuals have been buried there. Don Mosley says, “I’ll be very honored if someday my remains are out there among all those death row folks and Congolese and Burmese and whomever.”

A thumbnail image of Don Mosley answering Plough interview questions.

Watch Don Mosley’s interview with Plough

Jubilee community enjoys a picnic

Beyond Borders

As they listened to refugees’ stories, Jubilee Partners decided that helping new arrivals was not enough; they had to do something about the root causes. In the years since, Don Mosley has led dozens of delegations of journalists and church leaders into war zones to better understand what causes people to flee their homes. This has often led to relief efforts, education programs, and other attempts to address these problems.

Working to change perceptions back home in the United States has proved even more challenging. Mosley says, “I think we’re much too concerned about protecting our money or our advantages. Boundaries are necessary to some degree here and there, but if the emphasis were more on how can we address what’s causing those beautiful kids to be driven away from home and many of them killed in the process as they try to come up through Mexico for instance, or to Greece from Turkey, we could do a lot to diminish the problem and the numbers of people. They would rather stay home if they could. They’re not fleeing because they want to be American. That’s a distortion. They’re fleeing because they’re being driven out by violence and danger.”

Meanwhile, Back in Georgia

The richest part of being at Jubilee Partners, Mosley says, is getting to know not only the refugees but the many people, young and old, who come to volunteer from around the United States and around the world – “getting to know these people well, hearing their spiritual backgrounds, their family struggles, falling in love with more and more people.”

Still, Mosley is quick to admit to challenges. The community struggles to maintain continuity with a high turnover of refugees and volunteers, and the work can be taxing. “It’s a small community, and at times we’re practically outnumbered by just the refugees themselves. In addition to that, we have anywhere from a thousand to two thousand visitors a year. There are about twenty adults, referred to as ‘resident partners,’ who live at Jubilee year-round. We could easily work too hard. We have to pace ourselves.”

In addition, Mosley’s peacemaking and fundraising efforts mean he is often traveling. How does a man in his late seventies manage these various roles? “When I’m home, I try to walk three or four miles a day,” he says. “I attend the prayer time almost every morning and make room for worship time and quiet time. I try to mix those kinds of healing, cele­brating, appreciating-God’s-world-around-us activities with the more routine and even difficult things that have to be done. I take my turn on dishes and cooking and all the rest just like everyone else. And somehow it all flows together. We’ve got enough people who are ready to play a good game of soccer or, if it’s cold outside, Scrabble or something. There’s laughter, there’s music, there are guitars, a cello, and a piano. It’s a rich life. I wouldn’t trade it for five hundred thousand dollars a year. Forget it. I had that option as a young guy, and I’m glad I chose this instead.”

Asked if he had a message for the young people who will hopefully carry on the work he has started, Mosley says, “By all means, try out a life of community in one form or another, a life of serving, whether it’s in the Peace Corps or any other type of volunteer agency, international or local. Go out and find out how rich that kind of life is. Don’t let yourself get channeled into ‘I’m going to make a lot of money as soon as I can get the right credentials, and buy a house out in an isolated suburb.’ That’s a miserable way to live compared to living together, one way or another.”


To learn more about Jubilee Partners and Don Mosley’s international peacemaking work, read his book Faith beyond Borders: Doing Justice in a Dangerous World (Abingdon, 2010).

Photographs courtesy of Jubilee Partners.

Contributed By Sam Hine Sam Hine

Sam Hine is an editor of Plough Quarterly. He lives with his wife and five children in upstate New York.

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