In modern middle-class America, the drive to acquire motivates
many people's lives. Get a better job to get a bigger house. Work
extra hours to buy a boat, a plasma television, a car nicer than the
neighbor's. One of many problems with this lifestyle is the more a
person works, the less time they have to enjoy the fruits of their
labor, and the less time they have for family and spiritual life.
At Doalnara Restoration Society in Dover, 128 people decided to
create simpler, spirit-focused lives for themselves. Katherine Choo
left behind a life as a trauma nurse in California to live as a
farmer at Doalnara.
"It's relaxing, much more
peaceful," she says. "You don't have to think about anything. I
think about my Lord."
Andy Yoo was raised a Christian but says he became a true
Christian when he moved away from the city and adopted a rural life.
"For a Christian life, living in the country is the best way,"
says Yoo, 39.
A farmer at Doalnara, Yoo has followed the Doalnara principles
since he was a 21-year-old student in Korea. He says "God" brought
him to Doalnara.
"The lifetime purpose of my mother was for me to become a true,
sincere Christian," Yoo says.
Since 1994 residents of Doalnara Restoration Society have lived
on 125 acres of land donated by a church member. Although Doalnara
has gone through some changes in name and leadership, the primary
change has been the growth and prosperity of the commune's organic
"At first, we were cultivating the land for our consumption. We
never meant for this," says Yoo, gesturing at the half-dozen
commercial greenhouses and cluster of community members packing
organic vegetables to be shipped to retailers across the country.
For residents, the hard work of farming is a spiritual practice.
"Agriculture is our choice of religious life," he says. "We
believe organic farming is the most noble thing man can do. We try
to keep ourselves from the bad influences of the heart."
Literally translated, Doalnara means "stone country." The word
refers to members having firm, unchanging hearts and consistency of
As explained on the group's Web site, http://www.doalnara.com/, the goals of the society
are environmental restoration, restoration of health and restoration
of people's way of thinking.
"We learn a lot of things from nature, from labor. We also
believe farming organically is the most noble thing humans can
engage with in this world. We are able to find a lot of hidden
treasure of heaven," Yoo says. "If God came down from heaven, if he
were to do something on this Earth, we strongly believe it would be
agriculture. There are two types of creation man can participate in.
The first is having a baby. The second is agriculture."
The families who live at Doalnara Restoration Society have their
own homes on the land. The community has a business department that
sells organic rice noodles and other products in addition to the
farm business. A church and school are central gathering places.
From sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, the residents observe
"We stop working and we gather," Yoo says. "Whether we are
together or separate, we pray, we search ourselves and we rest. The
other six days of the week, we work very hard. We don't believe in
laziness. On the Sabbath, we rest and recharge."
Some of the younger residents of the farm, such as Linda Nam and
Soon Mi Choo, returned to Korea for a couple of years to complete
bachelor's degrees in agricultural science. Choo will soon be
certifying other organic farms' compliance with USDA organic farming
"The standards are very strict with organic certification," Choo
Nam and Choo have their own greenhouse at Doalnara where they are
experimenting with new lettuces and a variety of growing techniques,
always with the goal of improving the quality and nutritional value
of the farm's produce.
"Tennessee weather is very, very whimsical," Choo says.
A hot spell or cold spell can have enormous effect on the crops,
as can the relative clay composition or sandiness of the soil.
Catherine Smith, wife of the Rev. Patrick Smith of Clarksville's
St. John's Episcopal Church, has developed a new partnership with
Doalnara to provide organic produce to local members of a Community
Supported Agriculture program. Catherine Smith is deeply impressed
by the people she has met at Doalnara.
"Really, the first time I met them, without even knowing they
were a Christian organization, I sensed their goodness and
generosity," Smith says. "It really causes you to want to get to
know them more. They live what they talk about. You sense how they
care for one another, the respect they have for the elderly in their
Smith says the people's kindness and principles are so
attractive, she doesn't want to leave Doalnara, and when she leaves,
she wants to go back.
"I've seen Christ in their actions," she says. "I've seen God in
how they treated me."