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.
John Perkins (1930- ) is a civil rights activist, Christian pastor, and community developer. He was born in New Hebron, Mississippi to a sharecropping family on a cotton plantation. While he was still an infant, his mother died of malnutrition. His father left him when he was still a small child and his grandparents and extended family raised him. Perkins stopped going to school after the 3rd grade. His older brother Clyde left home to serve in World War II and returned a changed man. In 1947, Clyde was shot and killed by a police ofﬁcer. Shortly after this, Perkins moved out to California. He was drafted into the Army in 1951 and served in Japan until 1953.
In 1951, he married Vera Mae Buckley. They would go on to have eight children. One of his sons, Spencer, convinced Perkins to begin attending church and in 1957, he converted to Christianity. He worked as a minister in California and became a well-known speaker and pastor there.
In 1960, the Perkins family moved back to Mississippi and settled in Medenhall. Perkins became involved with the growing Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. He fought for voting rights in 1965, spoke in schools about integration, and enrolled his son Spencer in an all-white school in Simpson county in 1967 to push for integration in schools. In 1969, he led an economic boycott on the white-owned stores in Medenhall. On February 7, 1970, he was arrested after a group of protesting students were arrested. While in jail, he was brutally beaten. He continues to suffer medical complications from this beating more than forty years later.
This Jesus knew what I had suffered. … Because He had experience it all Himself. … But when He looked at that mob that had lynched Him, He didn’t hate them. He loved them. He forgave them. … It’s a profound, mysterious truth—Jesus’ concept of love overpowering hate. I may not see its victory in my lifetime. But I know it’s true. I know it’s true, because it happened to me. … God made it true in me. He washed my hatred away and replaced it with a love for the white man in rural Mississippi.
Perkins started many ministries to help the local community. In Medenhall, he and his wife opened a day care center, youth center, adult education center, thrift store, and other ministries for their neighbors. In 1971, they moved to Jackson and in 1972 they began Voices of Calvary ministry. Perkins’ vision of Christian ministry included relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation. He explained this philosophy in his 1976 book A Quiet Revolution. Perkins also wrote other books such as Let Justice Roll Down and With Justice For All. In 1982, he moved back to California and founded the Harambee Christian Family and the John Perkins Foundation. In 1989, he helped found the Christian Community Development Association, which aimed to ﬁnd solutions to urban community needs. In 2004, he and Seattle Paciﬁc University began the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development. He continues to work for reconciliation and community development and travels around speaking about his experiences and social justice.
Go to the people. Live among them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have.
But of the best leaders, When their task is accomplished,
When their work is done…
The people will remark: “We have done it ourselves.”
-Proverb used by John Perkins