Putting Down Roots

demonstration plots
July 3, 2011, 9:50 am
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A few years ago, I rode in a minibus for 8 hours with 12 Warren Wilson students and staff and 2 Warren Wilson piglets (that’s a whole other story, though), and ended up at a little farm outside of Americus, Georgia. It’s called Koinonia Farm (the Biblical greek scolars out there will know that “koinonia” means “fellowship” or “blessed community”), and it’s a pecan farm, an intentional community, and the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity. It’s also a place that had black folks and white folks living and working together back in the 30s. Being the Deep South, this was something their neighbors weren’t totally keen on; there are great stories (again, for another time) about the farm’s response to people driving through and shooting indiscriminately at them, simply because they were desegregated, or of their (white) founder, Clarence Jordan, bringing black community members to hear him preach at a local (white) Baptist church, where they were told that the church members wouldn’t stand to have “those people” in their ranks (Clarence said, “if you can find a place in the Bible that says we can’t have black and white people together, I’ll leave,” and their preacher said, “don’t give me that Bible stuff!” Classy, eh?)

In any case, this community was what it was, and continues to be what it is, because they’re striving to be a “demonstration plot for the kingdom of God.” They’re trying to show what it looks like to be living the sort of life that God wants for everyone: a life where people are living together, helping each other out, reaching across dividing lines. It also means thing like building houses for folks in the wider community, growing a significant amount of their own food, and offering hospitality generously to anyone who needs a bit of a retreat.

As I’ve spent the last few weeks at camp, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be in an intentional community that is, in many ways, seeking to do the same thing: be a demonstration plot for the Good Life that God wants for us. For me right now, it means doing things like joyfully cleaning up after someone when she’s puked in the bathroom, and checking in on someone who I know has been having a bad day, and fixing my friend’s shorts when they’ve got a big rip in them. It also means that I can be sitting here and have someone drop off a tube of sunscreen for me (she doesn’t use it and knows I will) and offering half of the orange she’s eating. It means being certain that there’s some sort of snack to offer the food truck driver when he shows up with our food delivery every morning. It means learning how to be truly joyful, even when I’m overtired and have too many things on my to-do list and too few hours.

It means a whole lot of things, but what it comes down to is being focused, as a community, on loving each other and everyone else lavishly and abundantly, with everything we’ve got.

We’ll have our first crop of overnight campers coming in a few hours, and as I think about all of the little things I need to get done–the lists that need to be made, the meetings that need to be scheduled, the silly skits that we need to perform tonight (one of which, I’ll have you know, involves me making loud whale noises)–I keep coming back to the fact that my most important job is to be communicating to the girls who come tonight that they are loved beyond any limit they can imagine. Our goal–this summer, but also all the time–is to be a living, breathing witness to the fact that life is difficult and broken and sad and painful, but that there is love and wonder and joy to be found, and that they run deeper and stronger than the brokenness. Our job is to try to be a demonstration plot for what life can look like when people are really loving each other with the love of God.

If you ask me, it’s a pretty great job.


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