Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community located near Comer, in Madison County, has hosted more than 2,500 international refugees since its establishment in 1979. The community sponsors a program that teaches refugees the language and life skills they will need to make a successful transition from the war-torn conditions of their home countries to the United States. Jubilee Partners draws its name from the biblical concept of the year of jubilee, a period occurring every half century that is marked by releasing prisoners, canceling debts, and redistributing resources. The community focuses on peace activism and refugee resettlement as the way to implement its vision of justice and mercy.
Jubilee Partners, unaffiliated with any denomination, began as an outgrowth of Koinonia Partners (formerly Koinonia Farm). Koinonia bought 260 acres near Comer and commissioned six of its members to establish a new intentional Christian community there. Mary Ruth and Ed Weir, Karen and Ryan Karis, and Carolyn and Don Mosley had been instrumental in developing solar-power techniques at Koinonia and had intended to apply these techniques to house rehabilitations and new construction in the Comer area. The couples moved with their children to the new site and camped out while they built facilities. Just as they were beginning to establish themselves, news reports of thousands of people fleeing Southeast Asia inspired the families to abandon their original plans and, instead, create a program for these refugees. The first refugees arrived at Jubilee in the fall of 1980, and continuing world crises have supplied a steady stream ever since.
In addition to the work with refugees, members of Jubilee also participate in numerous peace activities, including protest demonstrations and peace delegations to such areas as Central America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Some members have served prison terms because of their civil disobedience, but the community remains committed to its witness for peace.
Jubilee's work has received attention from the national news media, including a 2001 feature on the television news program 60 Minutes that followed a group of Sudanese refugees from their last weeks in a Kenyan refugee camp through their first weeks in the United States after arriving at Jubilee.
Jubilee Partners is a nonprofit organization dependent entirely on donations. It hosts a volunteer program for people interested in helping with the community's work but not in joining as members. It also hosts groups to work on the projects in Comer and sponsors mission trips to foreign countries. Its main focus, however, remains hosting refugees in resettlement programs.