Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NEBY--The Movement moves the Northeast into action

The annual North East Bahá’í Youth conference (NEBY) is eagerly awaited each year and brings together hundreds of spirited and enthusiastic young people and inspires them to confident service to the Cause. If you thought NEBY couldn’t possibly be more energized than it has been in recent years, think again! This time around, NEBY’s format was refined, it was renamed “NEBY—The Movement”, and its focus on the Five Year Plan achieved laser-beam intensity.

Our Teaching Blog staff spoke with one of the attendees, who recounted their experience at NEBY:

“Every single aspect of the conference was completely focused on the Five Year Plan, and all details reflected this, from the sessions, to the devotions, to the artistic presentations. Even the talent show was oriented around the Plan! One of the talent show participants had a hilarious skit with a hand puppet squirrel asking and answering questions about junior youth group animators.

“Most of the attendees were high school and university students from all over the Northeast region. It was emceed by a ‘2-day-old’ Bahá’í. Members of all the elected and appointed institutions were working together and present, and always mingling and conversing with the youth.

“At registration, each attendee was personally welcomed by two members of the Regional Bahá’í Council, who then reiterated the purpose of the conference: to encourage everyone to become involved in some way in the Five Year Plan. . . .

“There were some plenary sessions, such as an update on the situation in Iran, and a lot of workshops that everyone could choose from. There were workshops on all 4 core activities, with titles like ‘Devotionals 101’, and workshops about services such as homefront pioneering. There was also one workshop attended by everybody about direct teaching. It covered topics like ‘What is direct teaching (i.e., it’s not just door-to-door teaching)?’ It also dissected Anna’s presentation, and analyzed each of its elements, so we all could understand it’s not just a series of pictures in a book.

“We also had sessions where participants were grouped by the clusters they lived in; at these we studied the October 20, 2008 and December 6, 2008 messages of the Universal House of Justice.

“At the conference, there was a call for volunteers to go out teaching in a neighborhood in Stamford (the city where NEBY was held). 40 people volunteered to participate! But it was realized that so many people teaching could result in so many new believers and seekers, much more than the Bahá’í community of Stamford could sustainably follow up with, given its current human resources. So some went teaching, and others went to a cemetery to pray for those friends who have already passed on to the next world. They called it a ‘home visit to the dead’!

“Another group of volunteers went and visited a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh. This special individual, (Vivian) Gail Curwin, who was the first Bahá’í ever to visit the Bahamas, also came and spoke at NEBY. She did NOT talk about her past international services. Instead, she spoke completely about the Five Year Plan, and the teaching activities in her cluster. She was able to paint the big picture for everyone. She explained that in years past, there wasn’t systematic consolidation, but now we have it, which makes growth sustainable in a way it wasn’t previously.

“There was so much sharing. Someone would ask, ‘How do you teach at a school environment where people are skeptical about religion?’ And someone else would talk about their experiences: ‘When people are talking about TV shows or movies, I break the ice by saying that I have met Rainn Wilson, and that opens the door to talk about the Faith.’

“There was almost no time to sleep! Some sessions went very late at night. There was even a midnight devotional.

“Throughout this gathering, the devotions were incredible! They were creative, they used prayers, voice, music—and the quality was phenomenal.

“The most important aspect of the conference was to inspire us all to movement into action.”

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