Monday, January 28, 2013

Keetra's Prayer Party: the "potential is huge"

When Brad and Katy’s five-year-old daughter Keetra announced one day that she wanted to start a “prayer party,” they weren’t quite sure how to handle it. As you’ll see in the video linked below, they had never hosted a devotional gathering before.

Keetra’s father Brad even told her that she would have to make her own phone calls, with the hope (at that time) that he and Katy wouldn’t be embarrassed!

Two years later, Keetra still makes the calls, and her family continues to host the first Baha’i-inspired devotional gathering in their Arizona community.

In its 28 December 2010 letter, the Universal House of Justice writes that the Baha’i world’s “capacity to shape a pattern of life distinguished for its devotional character has risen perceptibly,” adding that:

In diverse settings, on every continent, groups of believers are uniting with others in prayer, turning their hearts in supplication to their Maker, and calling to their aid those spiritual forces upon which the efficacy of their individual and collective efforts depends.

As you’ll see in the video, one of the participants, Wendy, says that:

Everyone, I think, has a desire to be spiritual. And when I was a child, I felt as if I was questing for something. And maybe I still am, but I thinks it’s really good for the kids to have some outlet for that.

About the benefits of holding devotionals, Wendy adds:

I think the potential is huge. I think that pulling together in a spiritual manner really strengthens those bonds that we form with each other.

Here is the delightful video named “Keetra’s Prayer Party”:

Summing up what Keetra and her family have done, Wendy remarks:

Look at all of us who came together today because of Keetra. That’s an amazing thing for a kid to be able to do, for anyone to be able to do.

Friday, January 25, 2013

“I have become connected with my spiritual side”

In its Ridvan message of April 2012, the Universal House of Justice writes: “To observe the Baha'i world at work is to behold a vista bright indeed.”

Here is the heartwarming story of Angela, a woman who recently declared her belief in Baha’u’llah after researching the Baha’i Faith online. Living in the south-central region of the United States, Angela realized that she had reached a new stage in her spiritual journey when she discovered that the worldwide Baha’i community shared her own, deeply-held convictions.
In its Ridvan 2012 message, the House of Justice describes the significance of our efforts to share the message of Baha’u’llah:
In the life of the individual believer who desires, above all, to invite others into communion with the Creator and to render service to humanity can be found signs of the spiritual transformation intended for every soul by the Lord of the Age.
The House of Justice caps the same passage with a vision of the unfoldment of divine civilization:
In the spirit animating the activities of any Baha'i community… can be perceived an indication of how a society founded upon divine teachings might develop.
It is thus a wonderful confirmation of our efforts as Baha’is, both online and in person, to witness both the clarity and depth of Angela’s acceptance of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings.
Sharing her story, Angela writes that she first heard the word Baha’i from a friend who had joined the community. Roughly one year ago, while engaged in her own spiritual search, Angela once more heard about the Baha’i Faith. She writes:
When I saw the term (Baha’i) again, I began to research it and find out more about the Faith. The more I read and learned about the Faith, the more I realized that my beliefs go hand in hand with the teaching of the Baha’i Writings.
She also describes the disconnect between her personal belief in oneness and the views espoused in church:
Although I believed in God, I felt like something was seriously missing. I had gone to church many times but the thought that two thirds of the world would go to hell if they did not accept Jesus as their personal savior bothered me. I love Jesus but I also love and respect Mohammed and Buddha. I always felt like an outcast because I believed in all religions and one God.
In addition to the teachings on spiritual unity, Angela found meaning in sharing her new faith with our worldwide community:
Becoming a Baha’i and knowing that there is a community of six million people who share the same belief is very comforting to me and I couldn’t believe that there is in fact a religion that believes what I believe in. I am excited to have joined such a wonderful community and I am looking forward to studying the Baha’i Writings.
She completes her story with this affirmation:
Life is a beautiful, mysterious experience with many lessons to be learned. I feel like I have become connected with my spiritual side and I am looking forward to feeding it every day. God bless.
Angela declared her faith in Baha’u’llah online. The Baha’is in her area contacted her to confirm her enrollment and were thrilled to receive this lovely description of her spiritual search. They report that Angela hopes within the month to start Ruhi Book 1 with a study circle tutor in her community!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Junior Youth: “encouraging us all to strive for greater heights”!

A woman who coordinates a junior youth program in her home recently attended a weekend planning meeting, and went home with something unexpected—a map of her state.
At the end of the meeting during the clean-up, she writes that “the large, beautiful map” of the state “that graced one wall of our meeting room was offered to me.”
Despite friendly chuckles from fellow Baha’is at the meeting, surprised to see a rolled-up 4 foot by 6 foot map tucked under her arm, the junior youth coordinator had a plan:
My hope was that it would fit on one of the walls in my house so that I could display it and adorn it with markers of some kind to indicate where all the junior youth groups in our state are located.
Sure enough, she was thrilled “to find that it fit perfectly on one of my walls” where many young people coming to her home would be able to see the map.
In November 2012, regarding junior youth, the Universal House of Justice wrote:
The merit of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program lies, first and foremost, in its effectiveness at enhancing the power of expression and the quality of spiritual perception within its participants and in assisting them to develop the capabilities necessary for a life of meaningful service to their communities.
In addition, the House of Justice praised the power of the program “to shape character” and “bring forth the praiseworthy qualities latent in junior youth.” “By multiplying vibrant junior youth groups,” they added, communities can learn much, including “how initiating one activity can, quite naturally, lead to the emergence of others.”
In the coordinator’s home town there are currently two junior youth groups. The regular meetings are on Fridays after school, and they also have a homework group on Tuesday evenings. Over a year and a half the group has grown from five to nineteen, including several children, with 5 youth and adults supporting the group. The coordinator writes:
It has become a space in which adults, youth, junior youth and children can have meaningful interactions in the context of helping each other with homework but also socializing, sharing a meal, baking, and playing games.
On the Tuesday following the planning meeting, she was eager to see how the youth would react to the map and to seeing the locations of other junior youth groups in the state.
Several children gathered to study the map, and a discussion ensued. Why were there no junior youth groups in one half of the state? How can we have two groups in our town when the state capital has none? One junior youth noted that a certain town had a lot of groups.
And they came to a conclusion: they really needed “to grow the program all over the state.” The coordinator writes:
It was so encouraging to hear these observations and to see how the visual representation of the spread of the program across the state helped these junior youth to recognize that they are part of something bigger and that there is real value in this program beyond maintaining our own little groups.
Within this lovely story, one may see the vision of the House of Justice unfolding, how the pursuit of junior youth groups and other activities can “quite naturally, lead to the emergence of others.”
And the woman who sponsors the junior youth gathering and brought home the map sums up her experience by writing:
On the heels of our wonderfully intense meeting last weekend which focused our attention so acutely on a continental youth strategy which will manifest itself in movement of youth across our region with the aim of establishment, strengthening and intensification of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program--I wanted to share that the protagonists of this strategy certainly include the junior youth themselves who will no doubt keep encouraging us all to strive for greater heights of excellence in this regard.