Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.
Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a teacher, writer, and pastor who wrote over 40 books on Christian spirituality. Born in Nijkerk, Holland, Nouwen was raised in a Dutch Catholic home. He showed interest in the priesthood at the early age of 6 years old. As a child, he was educated by Jesuits, but did not follow in their footsteps. He went to seminary in the Netherlands: ﬁrst in Apeldoorn for one year and then in Rijsenburg/Driebergen for six years. He was ordained for the diocese of Utrecht in 1957. After his ordination, Nouwen continued his education in psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen from 1957-1963. During this time, he also worked as a chaplain in the mines, the military, and on Holland-America line with immigrants.
The spiritual life is not before, after, or beyond our everyday existence. No, the spiritual life is lived in the midst of the pains and joys of the here and now.
In 1964, Nouwen moved to the United States to study and work at the Menniger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. He wanted to combine the new study of psychology with the study of theology and hoped to bring his work at Menniger back to the Netherlands. While studying in Kansas, Nouwen became involved with the Civil Rights Movement. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery. After his time at Menniger, he became a professor at the University of Notre Dame in 1966. In 1968, Nouwen returned to the Netherlands to earn his doctorate in psychology. From 1971-1981, he taught at Yale Divinity School. During this time he also spent several months at the Trappist Abbey of Genesee. In the early 1980s, he spent six months living and working among the poor in Peru. Following this, Nouwen returned to the United States to teach at Harvard from 1983-1985. This teaching position also allowed him to travel around speaking about his experiences in Latin America. He resigned from Harvard in 1985.
No one person can fulﬁll all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love.
Nouwen was able to spend a year in the original L’Arche community in Trosly, France. Then in 1986, Nouwen became a pastor at L’Arche Daybreak, a community located near Toronto, Canada. While in this community, Nouwen continued to write, teach, and travel around speaking. Some of his best known books are The Wounded Healer, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart. In his writing and teaching, he focused on the importance of solitude, community, and compassion as ways to be in relationship with God. He used his training in psychology and wrote for both ministers and lay people. Nouwen died suddenly from a heart attack in 1996. His written works of Christian spirituality and his lived example provide comfort and guidance to those who read his words.
I believe you can look at solitude, community, and ministry as three disciplines by which we create space for God. If we create space in which God can act and speak, something surprising will happen. You and I are called to these disciplines if we want to be disciples.