Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Accompaniment works both ways…

Betty, Children’s Class Coordinator

In her own words, Betty shares what she has learned, first hand, about the importance of prayer and accompaniment in building capacity within the community.

After months of inviting parents and children to begin children’s classes in their homes, and a couple of years teaching classes myself, I’ve learned to be open and flexible in all circumstances.  Most of all, I’ve learned the importance of accompaniment.  Accompaniment works both ways.  I accompany an individual(s) in the experience and the individual(s) accompanies me.  Through the process, we learn from the experience, and, through our collaboration, important steps are not overlooked when we prepare to reach out.  Those steps are:  creating a prayerful attitude, being in a posture of humility, radiating joy in share the message of Baha’u’llah and being content in accepting the result of our effort.   Here is one experience of receptivity at the first door we knocked upon.  It was truly amazing!

In our cluster, we have ‘prayer, plan and participate’ gatherings during the expansion cycle.  Generally, a few of the friends gather at a home before going out to teach.   This time, 2 friends and I made a date to visit an area of interest.  Prior to the day of our meeting, one of the friends drove around the area to see where the children lived, where she felt there might be receptivity.  On the day of our meeting, we gathered at a coffee shop.  We studied passages from the Sacred Writings, consulted on past experiences and prayed deeply for assistance and acceptance.  We were now ready to reach out.

We selected one apartment complex out of several.  It was interesting that we should select this one.  We parked the car and walked to the building.  Soon we heard children’s voices.  That led us to their door.  We knocked and a mother answered.  We learned that the children were planning (a) birthday party.  We introduced ourselves and entered into conversation about their party and their family.  Then, we talked about our interest in helping children and families learn how to develop spiritual qualities in the children by teaching children classes in their home.  We explained the elements of the class, that is, prayer, quotations, songs, stories, games and coloring.  Then, we three, spontaneously, sang ‘Ye are drops’ to the mothers and the children.  I asked one of the children if she would like to color.  Of course she would! (I have not experienced a child turning down coloring).  I handed her a coloring sheet from Ruhi Book 3, Grade 1 and crayons.  On the bottom of the sheet, was a quote both in Spanish and English.  As the child began to color, one mother read the Spanish quote. She warmed up to us and began to talk about the times they would be available for the class.  The rest is history.  The class started the following Monday with 3 children.  The parents babysit other children who will be attending. There are more children in the neighborhood, whom, we hope, will be invited as well.  We already knew who would be teaching the class so we did not have to delay the start date.  The families speak Spanish and are new to the area, so we feel it is important to invite other friends who speak Spanish to assist in translation.  The teachers now have bilingual prayer books and are encouraging the parents to say a prayer at the beginning of class.  As parents feel more confident, the teachers plan to encourage them to lead other elements as well.

From this experience, I learned the process could speed up when I take the steps to have a prayerful attitude and to sacrifice my own desire for a specific outcome for the outcome intended by will of God.

Perseverance in outward orientation…

This past February an online seeker inquiry was received by one of the communities in Virginia.  A local Baha'i who was asked to follow up with seeker sent a few emails, but did not receive a response.  The Bahia did not give up and since the seeker provider her home address she was sent a note by mail.  It was at this point that she received a response to find out her email never reached the seeker!  The seeker was then visited by the local Baha'is and was invited to several community activities, including a fireside, a devotional gathering and a book-one study circle.  The inquiring seeker attended all of these and was lovingly nurtured by the Bahai community.  It was at a Holy Day event that she made her declaration and signed her registration card.  It is astonishing to know that through perseverance of one person, the loving support of the community, and not giving up too quickly on those we have not yet met that she is now a Baha'i.  And to make the news of this story even more exciting, her husband has also been investigating the Faith too!