This absolutely delightful story of a junior youth group comes from San Francisco-San Mateo, CA (A). In between all the various meals there are many crucial lessons. I was particularly struck by how genuinely the animators cared and connected with the junior youth in their group—and did so 24-7. The bonds of friendship developed naturally with the family, and this came about from the attitude of pure and detached service on the part of the animators. Look also at how the sharing of the Faith occurred naturally, woven into the conversation, as well as the vision of who we are and what we are trying to do.
I wanted to share this story about a reverse home visit with the parents of junior youth and how it came about:
A junior youth group has been meeting in this neighborhood for 6 weeks now. Through conversations with the junior youth, it became evident that all of them were wanting help with their math classes. One of the animators volunteered to help each of them with their math homework so he set up appointments with three of them. . . .
One afternoon he came to the home of one of the junior youth. They studied for about an hour and a half, and then the mother offered him dinner, though she hadn't prepared it yet. The animator profusely thanked her but, indicating that he had to go, said that there would be other opportunities. One hour later, the junior youth showed up at the animator's home with a delicious plate of food. The animator was scheduled to meet with him again the following day in the morning. Once again, he was greeted with more food, this time for breakfast. Another hour or so of tutoring took place along with some really nice conversation with the mother about their lives. At this time, moved by the instant friendship that had developed, the animator invited the mother and her family over for dinner the following evening. She agreed.
The next evening, the mother showed up beautifully dressed with her all her children. Both animators of the group and 2 other Bahá’í friends also attended. Over dinner the mother and her 3 children shared stories about their lives from Mexico and here in the United States. After dinner, we then divided into groups: One animator sat with the mother in the living room, the other animator worked with the junior youth on the computer, another one of the friends read a story to one of the younger children, and the last friend did the dishes.
The animator then shared some quotations from Walking the Straight Path with the mother and the first quotation in Unit 2 of Book 5. She was very open to all of the concepts of the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program and fully agreed with the methodology for spiritual empowerment. She encouraged the animator to make a presentation at the local middle school and a nearby community center to invite more junior youth to participate.
At this point, the animator mentioned he and other Bahá’ís do this service because they really want to see the junior youth develop spiritual and material excellence and for their talents and capacities to be brought out and enhanced. The mother had never heard of the Bahá’í Faith so she asked, inquisitively, what it was. The animator shared the very beginning of Anna's conversation in Spanish. The conversation continued and the mother asked if she could read through the whole booklet. She did so for about 15 minutes and then asked the animator to make a copy of 3 sheets from the presentation so that she could post them in her home for her family to see: The Eternal Covenant of God, the quote of “When a though of war comes oppose it by a stronger thought of peace”, and the “Refresh and gladden my spirit” prayer.
The night ended with the animator coming over to their home for another half hour to make sure that all the math homework was complete and ready to be turned in the next day. The mother and her family felt immensely grateful.
Reflections: The genuine interest in seeing junior youth succeed in their material education led to increased opportunities for the animator to build a relationship of trust and friendship with the parents of the junior youth. Visiting with the parents of junior youth to further explain the nature of the program helps to create really solid supporters for the group and its vision. A dinner where friends from the neighborhood can be casually invited opens the door for increased bonds of love and friendship, a necessary element for teaching the Faith and for a soul to continue on its path towards Bahá’u’lláh.