Each week as we welcome new campers, we have the opportunity to introduce them to this remarkable place called Koinonia Farm. One of the first activities of our camp schedule is a tour of the farm. On the tour, we try to convey some of the values that have sustained the farm for almost 75 years. In particular, we emphasize the values of simplicity, sustainability, community, equality, and hospitality. It is this last value, hospitality, that has been so evident to our campers and staff since we arrived. We have been told over and over again, in many ways, how happy Koinonia community members are to have us here; we’ve been served delicious meals and have been treated to hayrides and campfires; Koinonians have participated with us in our programming and have made and effort to get to know our campers. We are grateful and honored that for this month, we are absorbed into the Koinonia community, made welcome through gracious hospitality.
We emphasize to our campers that even though Koinonia is a Christian community, a warm and equal welcome is extended here to people of all faiths and to people who do not identify with any faith. As a concrete demonstration of that welcome, the community’s tradition of reading a Christian devotional at mealtimes is put on hold while campers are here; instead, the story of a peacemaker or a prayer for peace from another faith is read. This evening at dinner, Koinonia’s director, Bren Dubay, shared this Islamic prayer:
In the Name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful: Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other, not that we may despise each other. If the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God, for the Lord is one that hears and knows all things. And the servants of God Most Gracious are those who walk on the Earth in humility, and when we address them, we say, “Peace.”
As we have received hospitality, we can in turn can offer hospitality. We have been stretched this summer to find new ways to demonstrate welcome to campers with special needs. We have adjusted some of our activities and programming to be more accessible. We have created a space for prayer for a Muslim camper. We have offered extra support to campers who are in the process of learning English. We are becoming more adept at offering genuine hospitality, and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Such hospitality is a building block of peace. When we welcome these young people from different “tribes” and “nations,” different racial/ethnic/language/religious/ability groups, we allow them to know each other, and not despise each other. We present them the option of inclining toward peace. We offer them to chance to address each other saying, “Peace.” In doing so, we create the possibility for a better world.