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.

Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Mvezo, Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. He received the “Christian name” Nelson at primary school around the age of 12. He received schooling at Clarkebury Boarding Institute, Healdtown, and University College of Fort Hare. He also studied law at the University of Witwatersrand In 1941, he ran away to Johannesburg to avoid an arranged marriage. There, he completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of South Africa in 1943.

In 1944, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in order to help form the ANC Youth League. By 1949, the ANC began using the Youth League’s tactics of civil disobedience and boycotts to fight against the racial discrimination and system of apartheid. In 1952, Mandela became the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign, which was a civil disobedience campaign that targeted six particular unjust laws. In 1952, Mandela and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first Black law firm, Mandela and Tambo.

A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.

Mandela was arrested on December 5, 1955. The Treason Trial began in 1956 and did not end until 1961 when Mandela and 28 others were acquitted. Later in 1961, Mandela decided non-violent resistance was not enough to overthrow the apartheid. He led the guerilla fighting arm of the ANC called Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). In January 1962, Mandela secretly left South Africa and traveled to England and around Africa garnering support for his cause. Shortly after his return, on August 5 1962, he was arrested and sent to prison. After two years of trial, Mandela and ten others were sentenced to life imprisonment on June 12, 1964.

For the next 27 years, Mandela was in prison. He spent most of his time on Robben Island, but was also kept in Pretoria, Pollsmoor in Cape Town and finally at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. Mandela rejected offers to go free during his imprisonment because he refused to compromise his beliefs. On February 11, 1990, Mandela was released from prison.

To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

He quickly joined discussions to end apartheid. In 1991, he became the ANC president and in 1993, Mandela and President FW de Klerk won a joint Nobel Peace Prize. On April 27, 1994, South Africa had its first democratic elections and Mandela voted for the first time in his life. He was inaugurated South Africa’s first black president in 1994 at the age of 77. Throughout his presidency, he worked to bring reconciliation to his divided country. He continued to dismantle the legacy of apartheid, bring Black people into leadership positions, and work on the failing economy. In 1996, Mandela signed the new constitution into law. In 1999, Mandela stepped down after one term as president. He continued to be active in South African life until his retirement in 2004. Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.