Koinonia Farm, a Christian commune started a half-century ago in rural southwest Georgia, has survived arson, bombings, and drive-by shootings in a stand against racial intolerance. Now a new foe is threatening the community: a $600,000 debt.
The 1,400-acre farm, five miles southeast of Jimmy Carter's hometown of Plains, is still a nonprofit ministry, but it is no longer a common-purse colony. Today the farm has 22 full-time and around three-dozen part-time employees.
Throughout the past 50 years, goals have remained the same: nonviolent, peaceful solutions to society's problems and empowerment of the poor, neglected, and oppressed.
The Koinonia community has had difficulty adapting to changing times, causing financial stress that led to ministry cutbacks. The youth ministry outreach program has been suspended, staff salaries have been frozen, and timber on the property is being sold to raise money. Koinonia also is trying to rejuvenate an ignored donor list.
"It's going to be a real challenge to make it," says Ted Swisher, a former executive director who lived at Koinonia from 1970 to 1983 and is now a board member. "It's important to get on a viable footing on an annual basis; then we can address the long-term debt."
"Finances are a grave concern," admits Lenny Jordan, chair of the eight-member board and 42-year-old son of founder Clarence Jordan. "As is the case with all nonprofits, giving is down."
Acting coordinator of activities Betty Jean Jones, an African American who has been at Koinonia for 13 years, is in charge while the ministry, with a $1.5 million annual budget, seeks a new executive director. Fer-Rell Malone was fired in September, Jones says, because of "an ...1
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