Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's been 3 Months

Sunday, September 28

This is a bit of an anniversary for us. Three months ago, we were just wrapping up our nearly 10 year careers at Hamspon-Russell Software. Two months ago, on July 28, the moving vans arrived at our executive acreage property about 30 miles North of Calgary. This marked the end of several months of strenuous work that prepared our exit from a life-time of familiar routines. After the vans loaded up and left at the end of a very long day, it still took 2 more days of incredible effort before we could actually leave that property behind. August 28 we had just moved our 5th wheel from a campground near Waterloo Ontario to a campground near Findlay Ohio where we could rest and recover over the labour day long weekend. It also marks the beginning of our 4th week at Koinonia Farm near Americus Georgia.

So much has happened since we arrived here on Sept 3. We hoped to spend the first few days recovering from a long and unbelievably stressful trip. Unfortunately, we came during a stressful time of office moves and looming plans for a garage sale that had been designed to benefit our African American neighbors. We launched into gathering goods for the sale and setting them out in the yard. Then early on Saturday Sept. 6, the sale started. It was an amazing experience as carload after carload of neighbors and friends came from the Koinonia villages and surrounding Sumpter county. It was truly overwhelming experience to visit with these joyful people - many of them telling stories about the role that Koinonia played in their lives or the life of their family. Then on Sunday, Sept 7, we went to Maranatha Baptist church in nearby Plains Georgia and listened to President Jimmy Carter teach a Sunday School lesson on Christian Community.

The next week, Jan, Kailee and I were able to informally explore some of the work possibilities at Koinonia. Jan found a wonderful niche working in the bakery which uses pecans, fair-trade imports, and other products from Koinonia Farm to make wonderful delicacies like chocolate pecan bark, date nut loaves, organic granola, etc for the mail-order business that is the life-blood of Koinonia. Kailee really took to working in the organic garden where she shared weeding duties and pest control with a friendly group of wandering ducks. Krista started her internet-based home school program and struggled to find time for her rigorous physical fitness routine. As for me, I had lots of opportunity to practice my mechanical skills - helping to replace a starter motor on one truck, brakes and wheel bearings on another, started brake lines on a third and then found a way to start the engine of a long-dormant, gas-powered portable saw mill.

In addition to the new surroundings and environment, the weather was a real challenge for the first couple of weeks. Temperatures were frequently in the 100 degree fahrenheit range with humidity close to 100%. Nights were not much cooler, and this made sleep a big challenge.

Two weeks ago, on September 15, we formally started the intern program. For the first week we got a chance to sample the various activities and missions that are a part of Koinonia. Monday we had a tour of the various parts of the 600+ acre site, along with an introduction to the history of the farm. Tuesday morning we learned about site maintenance and for practical experience we started demolition of a small storage shack is now being converted to a new green house. Added excitement came in the form of cock roaches and in the unbelievable number of variety of spiders that had used the shed for their long-time residence. One of those displaced spiders found it’s new home on Jan’s neck - and yes - it really was THAT BIG!!!

In the afternoon, we visited the Koinonia Community Outreach Center (KCOC) which houses the home school program, pre-school, after-school programs and programs for the elderly residents of the largely African American Koinonia villages. Then we returned to Koinonia Campus to learn about the kitchen, hospitality and housekeeping operations. Wednesday morning we worked in the organic garden and learned about plans for expanding organics and permaculture programs. Wednesday afternoon we worked in the pecan orchards, mostly picking up dropped limbs and branches that have to be cleared before the harvest season starts. were introduced to the bakery and shipping operations. Thursday found us working in administration and helping with a mail-out that will go to approximately 10,000 addresses on the Koinonia mailing list. Friday morning we learned about shipping and products - the area that sustains the community so that donations can be used to assist the neighbors. Finally, to round out the week, we worked in the Koinonia bakery. For someone who likes chocolate as much as me - it was certainly the high point of the week.

Last Sunday we attended the Americus Mennonite fellowship. On Monday we received our work assignments. Jan will continue to work with her new friends in the bakery, where she enjoys listening to Gospel music - and maybe will learn to dance. In the busy product season - during pecan harvest and the Christmas shopping season - she will also spend some time in the shipping department. Kailee continues to work in the organic garden and helps with child care for two or three afternoons a week. Keith will continue to work on the maintenance team and help with the farm operation. Krista continues her studies through distance learning - but also will spend more time with the other community kids in the home school program. In addition to the business of work - and of living in community with approximately 30 wonderful neighbors - we started our intern study program on Tuesday night. This includes a detailed review of the history of Clarence and Florence Jordan and Koinonia Farm..............

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