“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthews 25: 34-40 (portions)
Lately I have been reminded of Clarence Jordan and his unusually wide range of abilities and interests. A highly educated man with a Ph.D. in Greek, he also had an agricultural degree. Using his exceptional intelligence and his finely honed education, he made the decision to spend much of his life serving the poor.
Koinonia was the name of the farm he founded in Americus, Georgia, a farm that through the ’50s and ’60s served as a community for poor whites and poor blacks. It was a tragic time in this deep south region, for he was met with fierce resistance. It is embarrassing, but honest, to note that much of the fight came from churches in the area. Segregation was firmly entrenched in that southern culture and would not be easily torn away.
For fourteen years, the citizens of Americus, Georgia tried to stop Clarence. They boycotted his efforts in every imaginable way, resorting even to the slashing of workers’ tires. It was anything but godly. It was mean and ugly. With no hesitation and with little restraint the townspeople kept up a steady barrage of fierce resistance.
The dreaded Ku Klux Klan came in l954, armed with guns and with torches. They blasted the home of Clarence with bullets, and set fire to every other building on Koinonia Farm. In fear for their lives, all the resident families fled, except one black family which resolutely refused to leave.
During that dreadful night of attack as Clarence defended his work, he was stunned to recognize some of the voices as belonging to people associated with churches in town. It is reported that among the Klansmen that night was the local newspaper reporter.
The long night was over; the place lay in ruins, burned structures yet smoldering over the scorched land when the reporter came to view the remains. He found Clarence in the field. In his hand was a hoe; nearby were seeds.
“Sorry about your loss,” he said. “I’m here to do a story on the closing of your farm.”
Silent, ignoring the hypocritical man, Clarence kept hoeing. He kept planting.
The reporter prodded, quizzed and cajoled. Without a word, never acknowledging the intrusion of the reporter, Clarence continued to work.
Sneering now, and lifting his voice, the reporter threw his final taunt: “Fourteen years, isn’t it, now? You’ve put fourteen years into building this farm, this place named Koinonia.” Extending his hand, he disdainfully indicated the fuming, smoldering land.
Finally Clarence stopped. Standing tall at his hoe, he turned toward the reporter. It is said he had blue eyes of such intensity they seemed to penetrate those on whose his gaze was fixed.
The volume of his words barely exceeded that of a whisper, but the force of his message was that of a machine gun volley. “About as successful as the cross.” He paused, then said again, “About as successful as the cross.”
“You don’t understand this at all, Sir,” he continued. We’re here to be faithful. We’re here to serve God by serving others. Whether successful or not, we will continue to be faithful.
“We’re staying. Good day.”
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