Koinonia Groundbreaking Ceremony — MFLB Week — 9.4.09

Koinonia Groundbreaking Ceremony — MFLB Week — 9.4.09

By: Kirk Lyman-Barner


I look at all the peacemakers and Kingdom Builders standing here today –  interns, stewards, apprentices..community members, friends, as well as people from all over the world who couldn’t be here but have had their souls touched by the vision and the works of this community.

So it is an honor and privilege and humbling to be invited to help you rebuild.  We don’t have all the money we need to finish the job.  But as Millard would say, “God does.“  “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” That about covers it.  God’s money is just in the pockets of other people and our job is to graciously extract it.  And we will.  So we are not anxious about tomorrow.

At many Habitat events and Fuller Center builds, it is common to hear homeowners dreaming about the day when they will be moved in.  They say “We can’t wait until we are cookin’ dinner and washin’ dishes.”  So today we dream about Koinonia interns and staff not only cookin’ dinner and washin’ dishes…surely they will do that. But we also dream about them pondering and praying and studying how best to set their minds on God’s Kingdom, and God’s justice. They, like us, will be collaborating on how to turn their faith into action and truly the world will be a little better place to live because of this building.

The last time I was here with a shovel in my hand it was for a very different purpose. It was Tuesday afternoon, February 3rd.  We were fielding calls literally from all over the world as people were getting word that Millard had just taken up a new service area.  My friend and pastor Allan Purtill came into the office with Tom Mac Farland, Millard’s former law partner, close behind.  He said, “Kirk and Ryan, you have nothing more important to do right now.  I just talked with Norris and he said that we could come and shovel a little bit up on Picnic Hill with the men who were digging Millard’s grave.”Background notes: Shortly after Millard Fuller passed away on February 3, 2009 a house owned by Koinonia Farm burned to the ground. Without hesitation, the boards of the local Americus-Sumter Fuller Center and our local New Horizons Habitat for Humanity affiliate each voted unanimously to help Koinonia rebuild the house in honor and celebration of Millard Fuller’s life. The following is a copy of what I shared at the groundbreaking event.

Several years ago, when I was living in West Virginia and working for Almost Heaven Habitat, I came to visit Koinonia.  As I was leaving, I asked David Castle to put me on the mailing list and I went to give him my Habitat business card and there were two stuck together.  I said, “You can have them both. “ David handed one back to me and said, “That would be wasteful.”  I was shocked that something as inexpensive as a business card could be thought of as something not to waste.

So I wrote down what I wanted to say today because I have the tendency to use two words when one might do.  And that would be wasteful.

Friends, I bring to you greetings from Linda Fuller, David Snell, Faith Fuller and all of the Fuller Center volunteers who are building, repairing and dedicating some 100 houses around the world.  It is fitting that we close out this special week with a new beginning.  I want to read a scripture verse:
“Set your mind on God’s kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well.  So do not be anxious about tomorrow.”-Matthew 6:33

Koinonia’s website tells the story:

Established in 1942, Koinonia Farm is a Christian community located in Americus, Ga. We strive to live a simple, peaceful, shared life and believe in the brother and sisterhood of all humankind. In its early existence, Koinonia’s very presence challenged racism, militarism, and materialism.Our commitment to racial equality brought bullets, bombs, and a boycott in the 1950s.

We survived and have since given birth to outstanding organizations such as Habitat for Humanity International, Fuller Center for Housing, Jubilee Partners, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, and many more.  Many more peacemakers and Kingdom Builders have been inspired by the people that have walked this soil.

I look at all the peacemakers and Kingdom Builders standing here today –  interns, stewards, apprentices..community members, friends, as well as people from all over the world who couldn’t be here but have had their souls touched by the vision and the works of this community.

So it is an honor and privilege and humbling to be invited to help you rebuild.  We don’t have all the money we need to finish the job.  But as Millard would say, “God does.“  “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” That about covers it.  God’s money is just in the pockets of other people and our job is to graciously extract it.  And we will.  So we are not anxious about tomorrow.

At many Habitat events and Fuller Center builds, it is common to hear homeowners dreaming about the day when they will be moved in.  They say “We can’t wait until we are cookin’ dinner and washin’ dishes.”  So today we dream about Koinonia interns and staff not only cookin’ dinner and washin’ dishes…surely they will do that. But we also dream about them pondering and praying and studying how best to set their minds on God’s Kingdom, and God’s justice. They, like us, will be collaborating on how to turn their faith into action and truly the world will be a little better place to live because of this building.

The last time I was here with a shovel in my hand it was for a very different purpose. It was Tuesday afternoon, February 3rd.  We were fielding calls literally from all over the world as people were getting word that Millard had just taken up a new service area.  My friend and pastor Allan Purtill came into the office with Tom Mac Farland, Millard’s former law partner, close behind.  He said, “Kirk and Ryan, you have nothing more important to do right now.  I just talked with Norris and he said that we could come and shovel a little bit up on Picnic Hill with the men who were digging Millard’s grave.”

That was a sacred experience for us. One we will never forget.   It caught me by surprise how that moment had impacted me.  I haven’t shared this with too many people, but when I got home, my work boots were still covered with red clay.  I bagged up those boots, clay and all, and as we would say in West Virginia… I put them up.  Now, normally, I wouldn’t decommission a perfectly good pair of shoes.  My wife and kids will tell you that I normally will not decommission a worn out pair of shoes.  But those boots have become sacred for me.  Bren, with your permission, I’m going to bag up a little of the dirt we turn today, label it and put it up next to those boots.  And I want to tell you why.

I got to see a video of the last sermon that Millard had preached at Silver Springs Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania which was celebrating its 275th anniversary and planning to build another Habitat house.  The last story he told in the sermon was about the first house, built for Bo and Emma Johnson here at Koinonia.  Millard died with the beginning in his heart because he knew the potential that first story still had to change hearts and because he truly believed in the biblical mandate which Clarence Jordan called “incarnational evangelism.”  He was filled with hope for humanity. So with your permission, I would like to bag up a little of this sacred ground and some hope for humanity.

Today we shovel more sacred ground, during the Millard Fuller Legacy Build Week, symbolically demonstrating that the legacy is not all that Millard and the people he motivated have accomplished, but also what we are doing now that he is gone.  He would be very, very pleased. The Koinonia Community truly represents hope for humanity.  It is a joyous, joyous day!

Read A New Day At Koinonia from The Americus Times Recorder


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