Monday, November 23, 2009

Native American teaching effort has preparation then immediate practice and service

Annual intensive teaching projects are an important part of the teaching landscape. They bring together enthusiastic souls, some with tons of experience in the field, and others with a desire to get their feet wet. Participants build their capacity for service, first through (often very intensive) preparation via study of the training institute course, and second through direct action in the field. Often such a project will have a special focus. The Northwest region’s Native American Institute Training (NAIT) exemplifies all the above elements, and much more. We are delighted to share excerpts of a couple of reports on the most recent NAIT, which this year was carried out in the Yakima, WA (A) cluster. Native American believers were key planners and participants in this effort. The learning and enthusiasm generated were both substantial.

First report:

Dear D,

It is with joy that I send these notes to share with the Regional Bahá’í Council on the Native American Institute Training (NAIT) this year. Our goal was to have a project that took some of the previous participants of NAIT into the field to gain more direct experience with service. We chose a housing complex in a part of the cluster that has already sustained children’s classes. This allowed us to design a project that would enhance what the friends have been doing rather than beginning a new activity that the cluster might not be able to sustain. . . .

We chose a 2-pronged approach: a day camp for the children who have been coming to the children’s classes, and visits with the parents and other residents interested in learning more about the Faith. The first day of the project, we prepared for both with a Book 3 and Book 6 refresher for the participants. The next two days, everyone put into practice the skills they gained from the refreshers in the day camp and teaching project. The final day was devoted to a group reflection.

Two individuals enrolled in the Faith: a youth and a junior youth. A Book 1 study circle was scheduled for them.

With loving greetings,


Second report:

Dear L

Please convey to the Regional Council the sincere gratitude and appreciation of all the participants in this service project. All of us felt that it was an amazing opportunity, a wonderful learning experience, and a chance of a lifetime to be able to serve our Blessed Beauty this way. We cannot thank you enough for this opportunity.

We had participants from several clusters from all over the Northwest. It was communicated to everyone coming here that they needed to be prepared to serve in any way that was needed.

It was fantastic to take the training directly to the field. It was an “IIPG”—Indian Intensive Program of Growth. It was also a culture of learning because everyone was expected to practice what they had learned the very next day.

Here are some of the points from the reflection meeting we had at the end:

Everyone feels we should definitely repeat this effort next year.

We should encourage more participation from friends in the Yakima cluster, as well as those who participated in last year’s NAIT in Brighton Creek. Everyone can have a part to play—offering service as kitchen help, being prayer partners during visits to homes, etc. It is particularly important for friends from cluster to be on teaching teams since they will be the ones doing follow up.

Having one-day refresher courses beforehand is great. Jumping right into the practice is very helpful—you feel more prepared.

Take into account schedules of residents when planning teaching activities and events (i.e., don’t clash with Pow Wows, berry-picking and fishing seasons, come during the middle of the week, etc.).

In terms of the children’s classes, there is a visible increase in the number of children who want to join children’s classes. The kids here are also growing up and can become the next batch of youth working with the kids here. It seemed to be a winning combination to have the junior youth leading the children’s classes. However, it is also important to have 1 or 2 adults helping out, as many of the children were pretty hyper and the adults can reinforce discipline.

In terms of the teaching teams at the housing complex, people were friendly and polite, and there were no antagonistic responses at all.

Make sure teaching teams show diversity—Persians, Hispanics, etc. People respond to this. In our interactions we need to emphasize that Bahá’ís appreciate and want culture in our devotions. So we should note that in the devotional gatherings there will be drumming, storytelling, etc. Singing is also a great attractor.

We have to remember that the spiritual duty of a teacher is to keep in touch with a new believer personally. There is a special bond with the teacher that should never be taken for granted.

Next year it will be helpful to have a Book 2 refresher course for the participants, since many of the people they will be visiting will already have heard something about the Faith, and so they can share the deepening themes with them.

Best regards,


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