By Samantha Kodikara
I arrived at Koinonia Farm on February 4th on a drizzly, cloudy day. We almost missed the turn, as the signage was rather small and nondescript. However, as we pulled into the roundabout in front of the Welcome Center, it was clear we had arrived at a living, breathing farm. I was greeted almost as soon as I walked in by a tall man named Eric who, after learning my name, said simply with a smile, “We’ve been waiting for you.”
From that moment on, I felt the radical welcome that has been experienced by countless other visitors to Koinonia. I had a goodie bag full of Koinonia-made treats waiting on my bed for me and a welcome card from the director, Bren Dubay. I was taken out to eat that evening at a wonderful local Mediterranean place, a pleasant surprise in the small southwest Georgia town of Americus.
During my orientation week, I was taught all about my role as a seasonal intern on the farm, about the farm’s extensive history, and about all the members, staff and friends of the farm I might encounter. At first, the information seemed overwhelming. However, I soon found myself deeply ingrained in the way of life at Koinonia, and all the tidbits I had been taught in my first week began to fall into place.
I fell easily into the rhythm of morning chapel, work, prayer, communal lunch and nighttime relaxation. I also found myself opening up to near-strangers, be it my fellow intern, the members at Koinonia, or short-term volunteers. Something about the environment here makes it easy to share yourself with the community and to bond over the hard but rewarding work.
Near the end of my second week, I was able to see the radical hospitality of Koinonia at play in a bigger sense than I could have imagined. The farm was hosting a Friends of Koinonia retreat where former volunteers, board members, donors and any friend of the farm was invited to stay for three days and engage in meaningful discussions and view presentations about various topics. These included social justice, the Civil Rights movement in southwest Georgia and Koinonia’s role in it, migration and asylum-seeking, and more. On the day we learned about the asylum-seeking process in the United States, we participated in an interactive “migration walk” around the farm which simulated the harrowing conditions and terrible decisions that must be made by migrants seeking safety in our country. Despite being vaguely aware of how difficult the journey is, I learned much more about specific scenarios that migrants often face and the prison-like conditions they are subjected to if they turn themselves in at the border to seek asylum the “legal way.”
On the same day of the exercise, we were made aware of a local family that a couple living on the farm has a close relationship with. The family consists of a mother and her five children who fled to the U.S. from Mexico. In short, she and her children had suffered horrors not only in their home country, but also when they were living here in Georgia. She was to cook for our group at the farm that day as she had done in the past. She made traditional Mexican food, which has hearty and delicious, with a final course of sweet Arroz con Leche.
Through my short time observing her and her family, I was taken by their constant cheerful demeanor. The children played well with each other with no yelling, no arguments. Despite the language barrier, they liked to spend time with the farm inhabitants as well, playing frisbee, tag, and croquet. The oldest child helped his mother in the kitchen and appeared to be a talented cook. From the little I was told about the family, I knew that their mother held a deep faith in God and had a positive outlook on her family’s future, despite their poverty and precarious situation. I was deeply touched by all these things and was further impressed when I learned that the Koinonia couple who were friends with the family were accompanying them to Atlanta for doctor’s appointments, immigration meetings and more.
The radical hospitality practiced at Koinonia Farm extends much further than a hot meal and a roof over one’s head; the people here live this command from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” They believe in feeding people physically and spiritually. They will love you, pray with and for you, cry with you, and serve you in ways you would never have expected. The more I learn about the far-reaching ministries here at Koinonia and the lives that are touched by this special place, the more I thank God for leading me on this journey.
Samantha Kodikara served as a Student.Go intern with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Spring 2022.