Friday, March 13, 2009

Evanston-Skokie IPG Day 3

Here is the next item from the recently completed intensive teaching effort in Evanston-Skokie, IL (A). A couple has been involved in teaching in their neighborhood in Skokie since last May. Since then they have been reaching out to people that cross their path, whether they be neighbors, co-workers, or just someone on the bus or sitting next to them on a bench outside the library. Following are some of their experiences. Particularly noteworthy are the variety of ways in which they are reaching out, there efforts to focus their free time on teaching, their growing capacity to assess the interest level and receptivity of the seeker, and how stretching a little beyond their comfort zone is building their own confidence in teaching.

What they did in the last couple of days:

A: We have a neighbor in our apartment building, a teacher at a university. She is Chinese. I have talked to her previously and had mentioned the Bahá’í Faith. She was interested, and told me that she had googled it. I invited her for a presentation. During the week she isn't available for that, but we could do it next week. So we will invite her to come over during the weekend to schedule a presentation. . . .

B: We have a friend in another cluster who has a friend living in Skokie. However, the phone number is not correct anymore, so we are going to the address and will try to leave a note.

A: We found out that two of our neighbors are not interested in a presentation, but we'd like to get together with each other to extend our network.

We are still working on meeting with a couple of co-workers; we may go to the House of Worship.

What does the Intensive Program of Growth mean to you?

A: The IPG, the collective teaching—the opportunity to have a conversation, the collective teaching and the goals, make it easy to extend any encounter into, "Hey, do you want a presentation?" It is part of our goal-setting. B and I are making sure, especially on the two weekends when the family can be together out of the 9-day period of the Expansion Phase, during the 2 to 4 PM time frame, to put some effort out there.

Knowing that everyone else is trying to teach gives the extra push, extends it beyond the regular times. We are really excited.

This couple had an appointment with their acquaintance E on Saturday to give "Anna's presentation." Afterward, they brought E to meet the other teams that had come back from their appointments.

A: When we were sharing the teaching they had done that afternoon…it was getting long. I felt sensitive. I told him, I don't want you to feel you are trapped here, but of course we can stay. He immediately said, "No, I'm interested in this, I'm engaged in this, and want to hear more." One thing I told him is that Bahá’ís around the world are teaching on this same schedule! In Uzbekistan, they are teaching right now. I am really excited to think that all over the place, people are sitting around talking about the teaching effort. That excited him too! He comes from an activist-type background. That is what encouraged him to stay, that is coming from my excitement.

Comfort zone

A: I am very comfortable with what we are doing. We liked the door-to-door teaching that we did in some of the earlier cycles, because it is challenging. But I felt more comfortable with what we are trying to do now, which is to make appointments and expanding our contacts on our own.

In a past expansion phase, I shared with a Bahá’í friend living in a neighboring cluster, when she asked about the IPG, that I liked the door-to-door visiting, because it forced me to break my comfort zone and engage individuals at their home. It is safe, because you are asking to be invited in, you are in their home—I am putting myself into that person's space; they have to make a decision as to whether they are comfortable with that. Whereas, for example on a bus, a regular area, you are both feeling uncomfortable…it takes a little bit more, when you are talking to someone there.

Becoming able to detect receptivity

A: The door-to-door teaching primed me and a lot of us, to be available when the time is right. I am more sensitive to people who might be interested.

At Green Lake Conference one time, an institution member shared with a group of youth about when he was pioneering on a Caribbean island for so many weeks, and people weren't receptive. On his last day, ready to catch his bus out of there, he thought, I can't leave empty-handed. He looked around and found that he could see who were receptive. He found some people who were willing to listen to him and he referred them to some Bahá’ís on the island and eventually there was a Bahá’í Assembly.

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