This past week I spent some time in Georgia with a spring break group from the Service-Learning Center. I went to Americus, GA with only basic information about Koinonia Farm and the history of the area, but I left with so much more.
The difference between this trip (as well as other S-L trips) and mission trips done by many church youth groups is the very prominent aspect of the service-learning relationship. It’s a reciprocal relationship. They received and we received. I not only got to work on a farm for a week (and eat a lot of pecans and chocolate), but I learned a lot about their community and the work they do every day for God’s kingdom. I feel very privileged to have come away with the things that I experienced and learned.
This past week I learned about the importance of setting aside intentional time for prayer throughout the day. The most wonderful times of the day on the farm are at 10 am and 3 pm when someone from the community would ring a bell and everyone on the farm would stop for just a few moments and pray or just be silent. This simple activity challenged me a lot. How many times a day do I stop my work even for just a few minutes in order to pray and talk to God? How often do I say that I am too busy to pray or read the Bible? I should never be too busy for God. Because of this experience I am striving to implement specific time each day to set aside for a time of prayer.
I also learned about the importance of gratitude. I know that may seem childish. Saying thank you is something that we are taught as children, but truly thanking people for what they do for you is something that can be really powerful. This past week we were able to attend Koinonia’s community potluck dinner. They have a tradition at the end of the meal to have a time for gratitude. The floor is open for anyone in the community to express gratitude to anyone else in the community for something that happened the past week. They were vulnerable and open. Through this time of expressing gratitude I was able to experience the powerful impact that this simple act has on someone’s life and attitude. The funny thing is that I personally felt the intimacy that was alive and well in the community and I didn’t even participate in the activity. I was just a bystander. Even though I was merely a bystander to the activity I was still able to experience the change of attitude that occurred after this expression of gratitude. It was truly beautiful, and I hope to implement this into my house dinner time each week as well.
Our hosts at Koinonia Farm spent a lot of time preparing for us to come. We worked hard on the projects they taught us how to do, and we worked equally hard at trying to live well inside of their community. I went into the trip not really knowing what I was going to take away from it. Fortunately I was able to learn not only about farming but community with others and with God our Father who truly deserves more of our time than we probably give. It was an amazing week of serving and learning, and I was so blessed to be a part of it.