Karthik Nemmani won the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, correctly spelling the word “koinonia” to win the title and take home $40,000. Nemmani, a 14-year-old from Texas, defeated a field of more than 515 spellers, aged 8 to 15, hailing from across the United States and eight other countries.

Koinonia is a winning spelling word with Georgia connections

Koinonia, the winning word in this year’s National Spelling Bee, has an important connection to Georgia and Habitat for Humanity.

Fourteen-year-old Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee by being able to correctly spell koinonia.

Koinonia is a noun that means Christian fellowship.

The word is also the name of Koinonia Farm, a community farm situated just outside of Americus in southwest Georgia. It was at Koinonia that the idea for Habitat for Humanity home-building organization first germinated in the mid-1970s.

According to the Koinonia Farm web site, it  was founded in 1942 by Clarence Jordan and others as a “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.” Jordan, a minister, was known for his re-telling of New Testament stories and lessons. His “Cotton Patch” sermons were popularized in an off-Broadway play, “Cotton Patch Gospel.” The play, a musical created by Atlanta actor Tom Key and playwright Russell Treyz,  had music and lyrics  by Harry Chapin.

Habitat's most famous volunteer, former President Jimmy Carter, waves as he walks to a construction site with his wife, Rosalynn, and Millard Fuller, Habitat for Humanity International founder, in this 1997 photo taken in Kentucky. The Carters, also from the Americus area, often joined Fuller at project sites around the world.
Photo: Associated Press

Habitat’ for Humanity’s administrative headquarters are now located in Atlanta, but the nonprofit home-building group’s international headquarters remain in Americus, not far from Plains, the hometown of former President Jimmy Carter. The former president is arguably Habitat’s most famous volunteer. He and his wife Rosalynn have led annual work projects for the home-building organization since 1984.

The headquarters includes Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center. The six-acre village gives visitors an opportunity to learn more about the organization’s work and view life-size Habitat houses from countries around the world.

Koinonia is also the title of a song used in many Christian churches (and probably quite a few Vacation Bible Schools). Here’s one version.

-Compiled by Brian O’Shea

RELATED: Growing up at Koinonia (Christianity Today)

RELATED: Learn about Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity

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