by Emily Quinn Smyth

I came to A Rocha after studying for a Master of Science. I was stressed and just didn’t feel my heart in it. My arrival at A Rocha set me on a new path. I discovered my calling, my people and my home.

That’s not to say that leaving my home in Australia was easy. I grew up in a family that didn’t hold any particular faith. Yet, here I was signing up for three months living with people in an intentional Christian community- What was I doing??? My worries and doubts immediately dissipated when I felt A Rocha’s comfort wrap around me.

A Rocha cares for you on a very holistic level. You are nourished in mind, body, heart, faith and enveloped in a community of love, acceptance and sharing. A clear sign of the belonging I felt is that in only my second week at A Rocha I decided I needed to stay another term. In a journal entry from my first day here at A Rocha I wrote, “If first impressions are anything to go by this place exudes welcoming. Today has me filled with hope: of new beginnings, of learning and of self-discovery.”

I loved every minute of my time at A Rocha. When I think of A Rocha my heart feels full. I loved building lifelong friendships, sharing delicious food around the table, worship and teaching times, being challenged to think in ways I haven’t before. I loved working with the amazing Environmental Education team, watching the delight on kid’s faces when they pat a chicken. I loved hanging out with other interns, going for long walks together in the forest and spontaneously breaking out into song. I loved experiencing the ups and downs of life and community living with my A Rocha family.

The incredible power of community and faith was particularly evident to me towards the end of my second term, when I found out some devastating news about a family member’s cancer diagnosis. After receiving the news and bursting into tears I literally was enveloped in big group hug with my intern family who held me up, cried with me and shared my pain. The rawness, vulnerability and love that was shared in that moment is something I will never, ever forget. My A Rocha family was incredibly supportive and provided exactly what was needed, whether that was a hug, a cup of tea, a listening ear or a prayer.

The impact of my time here at A Rocha has been immense. I value place a whole lot more, both in the physical and spiritual sense. I am experiencing increased mindfulness and joy. I feel a sense of purpose.

Up on our wall of the kitchen at the intern home is a quote about community:  “community is like a garden. It requires cultivation, love and persistence.” A Rocha is a garden of diversity, of people flocking from all over the world, of immense, plentiful, beautiful richness.