​Sunrise in the pecan grove at Koinonia Farm. Photo by Cynthia Friesen Coyle. Click on the photo to download a high resolution image.

By Cynthia Friesen Coyle
Sunday, June 12, 2016

This spring I had the opportunity to go with my family to Koinonia Farm near Plains, Georgia, for a SOOP assignment. My daughter is 8 years old and it turned out to be an ideal “first-time volunteer experience” for our family. We were warmly welcomed and felt we were all able to contribute to life on the farm.

 

 

There is a constant stream of visitors and volunteers coming through Koinonia. Many have either heard of Koinonia from a friend or family member, or have ordered pecans, fruitcake or granola from their mail-order business over the years and want to visit. Some also come for a time of retreat or to experience a time of living in community.

Each morning we all gathered in the chapel for a time of silence, refection, singing and prayer. The noon meals and evening meals (when they had them) were also followed by a time for devotions. Bathing in God’s word several times during the day was refreshing to my soul.

One day, the entire front of the chapel was filled with the light of many candles. It was spectacular and made you feel like you were coming into a holy place. We sang “Jesus remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” Tears came to my eyes as I heard Rebekah singing along. She normally doesn’t participate much at church, and would rather be reading a comic book if I let her. I have wanted her to understand that church is one place where we can go together to gather in God’s presence, to worship, to pray, to sing, and to feel God’s love through the people present. It felt like that day Rebekah caught a glimpse of that.

My husband, James, and I came there with a desire to help out as much as we could. We like to work hard and get things done. Sometimes, though, there wasn’t a lot to do.

One day after lunch, I planted a few bulbs for a woman named Carol, an intern at Koinonia. While we were working together, she offered me water and shared about her life and what brought her to Koinonia. I shared about myself, too. We ended up sitting on a porch swing under a big shade tree and talking for quite a while.

As we sat there, Sharon, one of the other interns, came by, sat down with us on the swing, and joined in the conversation. I had to think that this is what Koinonia is about. It is not so much about the work. There is always work to be done. But it is the relationships that get built along the way when you stop the hurrying, slow down, and pay attention to the people around you. I loved the way community happens there as you rub shoulders with others and help one another along the way. How often do we, in our busy lives, stop to talk to a neighbor or invite a person in for a drink of water on a hot day, or take time to notice those around us? It was a reminder to me of what matters.

I’m glad we had the opportunity to take part in the SOOP program as a family. It means a lot to me for my daughter to experience service in action and to feel like she, too, has a part to play, even as a child. I hope that these and future volunteer opportunities will help instill a life of service in her as well. SOOP was a great way for our family to step into service.

 

Rebekah Coyle helped gather eggs several times during our stay at Koinonia Farm. Photo by Cynthia Friesen Coyle.


 

 

James Coyle worked in the shop and on the grounds at Koinonia Farm. Photo by Cynthia Friesen Coyle.


 

 

Rebekah Coyle helped make the noon meal at Koinonia Farm. Photo by Cynthia Friesen Coyle.


 

 

Cynthia and Rebekah Coyle harvested turnips in the garden at Koinonia Farm. Photo by James Coyle.

 

Rebekah Coyle and Simion and Carissa Lovejoy fill a whellbarrow with mulch that will go around the blueberry bushes. Photo by Cynthia Friesen Coyle.

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Cynthia Friesen Coyle lives in Goshen, Indiana, with her husband, James, and her daughter, Rebekah. She enjoys being outdoors, and game nights with family. Cynthia is a graphic designer at Mennonite MIssion Network.

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