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Thanksgiving Letter from Sheila Garrett

11/23/2011 :

 Dear F/friends - Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I am feeling nostalgic for the cold.  Sorry, I promise I will appreciate the warmth as I think of you all in the snowy north land.

 The past two weeks have been filled with worship, work and activism.  Being at Koinonia has been the fulfillment of a long-held dream.  If you've ever thought to visit there, consider this time of year as they can use lots of extra hands from end of October through till Christmas.  I worked in the bakery, making granola, packing pecans and date-nut bread, baking pecan pies and, hardest of all, making dark chocolate pecan bark!  I truly met my match in facing my chocolate addiction.  The chocolate pecan bark is delicious and it was everywhere.  They left packets of it in the house  where I slept, a little welcome gift, and for our morning coffee break there were big bags of both milk and dark bark.  I even started eating the milk chocolate to keep from getting sick of the dark stuff.

 Meals were similar to Meeting School fare, home raised meat and veggies plus whole grains or pasta and lots of great home-made deserts.  I helped cook one meal and helped with clean-up often.  I also worked in the pecan orchards, picking up sticks in front of the harvester, and worked both in the sorting room where we picked shells out of piles of pecans on a conveyor belt and with the nuts when they first arrived at the plant, even climbed into the hopper to push them down for the folks sorting out sticks and bark.  That was my most adventurous job!

 Worship is held in the chapel every morning as well as on Sunday and other times.  I attended often.  There were also devotions at every meal, including reading of a Psalm.  They decided to read all of them, including the really yucky ones to be reminded that the Bible can be challenging as well as comforting.  Lots of food for thought and conversation.  

 I had wonderful times with folks of all ages.  One new f/Friend is Elli Castle, a long-time Quaker who lived at Koinonia for ten years in the mid eighties to nineties.  She is herself an octagarian.  Her husband, now deceased, was David Castle, who was pastor at First Friends in Richmond, IN, and resident of Koinonia.  There's a great group of interns here as well as community members and workers who live nearby and lots of visitors.

 At the end of my stay I was involved in two majors direct actions, one at Stewart Detention Center in Lumkin, GA, one of the biggest detention facilities in the US, and SOA Watch (School of the Americas, aka School of Assasins) at Fort Benning where countless Central and South American dictators and soldiers have been trained in terrorist tactics.  Both of these actions involved voluntary acts of civil disobedience, trespassing.  Before I left New England, I promised my new house mates I would not get arrested so they wouldn't have to deal with the consequences.  It was a good idea.  I confess I was tempted in both cases, but remembering this time back in 1980, getting arrested at The Women's Pentagon Action, brought me to my senses.  I won't say I won't ever do it again, but probably not.  

 I traveled to SOA Watch with a group of Earlham College students who were camping at Koinonia.  It was great to be with them.  I sure do have an affinity for teens.  They are awesome!  I hope to see them when I go to ESR in Jan.  I will be taking a two week class on Quaker Public Ministry with Steve Angell.

 I left Georgia with another college group who stayed at Koinonia, these were from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.  They gave me a ride to Gainsville where I have stayed three days and am meeting my nephew, a student at Florida Univ., to drive to Boca Raton for Thanksgiving with my sister and family.

 I plan to be back up north around Dec. 15, possibly for caroling at Weare Meeting but I don't know.  I do give thanks for all the friends I have from Maine all the way to southern Florida.  Blessings to all,  Sheila