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(US – FL & MA, February)

Some key insights regarding the establishment of children’s classes that were shared at reflection meetings in Pensacola (“Emerald Coast”) and Boston (A-stage) clusters, respectively.

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From a report in the Emerald Coast cluster’s newsletter:

The friends [were encouraged] to describe the core activities consistent with the language used by the Universal House of Justice about their purpose and nature:

How to describe the core activities

Memorize:

We are building a spiritual community and we need you! The Bahá’í Faith is a world religion whose purpose is to unite all races and peoples into One Universal Cause, One Common Faith.

For inviting families to children’s classes:

Aware of the aspirations of the children of the world and their need for spiritual education, we’re working to involve more and more children in children’s classes to serve as centers of attraction for them and to strengthen the roots of Faith in society.


From the reflection meeting

A “demonstration children’s class”, was performed where all the participants could watch an actual class being conducted. Each portion of a children’s class (prayer & memorization, song, story, coloring, and game) was presented by one or more of the friends in a class setting. It included

  • the initial gathering
  • setting the children down (with need of reverence)
  • sharing of prayers
  • how to help the children memorize short quotes and prayers
  • the process of teaching patience and sharing when passing out colors
  • instilling the theme for that day with the picture to color
  • the game (always a hit)

The performance by the teachers made it seem easy for the viewers to follow their example.

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Report from the Boston cluster’s reflection meeting:

What we’ve learned

  • Many classes are facing burnout from having only one teacher. In addition to new classes we need support for the existing ones
  • We may need to visit people who have gone through Book 3 previously and are not active and try to engage them in our classes that are already set up
  • Having prospective teachers at established sites helps them to learn how to conduct a class and also lends more support to the existing class
  • It may help existing classes to also look in the neighborhoods for prospective co-teachers (providing opportunity to teach as well)
  • Try as much as possible to interact with parents to build vision…. this may take multiple visits so do not be discouraged
  • Potential ways to start a class:
  1. Start small in a neighborhood and allow the kids to bring their friends
  2. Try to conduct classes in an open space because kids will be curious/interested in finding out
  3. Initiate with Baha’i children. If you can capture their interest then they will be more apt to reach out to their friends/neighbors and bring seekers
  • When starting new classes a lot of emphasis has to be put in finding teachers that don’t have to travel far to get to the site (reduces burnout)
  • Understanding how to have control over kids also reduces burnout

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Leading a song during a children’s class, Jenjarom, Malaysia.

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Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children, young plants of the Abhá Paradise, so that these children, fostered by grace in the way of salvation, growing like pearls of divine bounty in the shell of education, will one day bejewel the crown of abiding glory.

It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All-Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections Sec. 106

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Classes for the spiritual education of children and junior youth serve to strengthen the roots of the Faith in the local population… Whatever the nature of the cluster, it is imperative to pay close attention to children and junior youth everywhere. Concern for the moral and spiritual education of young people is asserting itself forcefully on the consciousness of humanity, and no attempt at community building can afford to ignore it.

– The Universal House of Justice, 27 December 2005

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(From reports, adapted from the teaching blog http://teaching.bahai.us/2010/02/newsletter-coordination-describing-core.html, and from an email circular received from the Boston Area Teaching Committee.) (Image is copyright Bahá’í World Centre – view here.)

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(US, MA, 10 September)

In Ruhi book 1 we read, “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues.” Which virtues is this believer drawing on in striving to serve the Cause?

When we first venture forth to teach the Faith to others, it can seem like a daunting prospect. And this is precisely why this story from an individual in Boston (A-stage cluster) is particularly touching. The fears expressed with humor and frankness are surely shared by many of us—and yet this is not the end of the story. Instead it is about feeling the fear, and yet acting anyway, of the power of prayer, of reliance on God, on the unity created by collective effort, and the transformation that results from service.

I don’t know how this all happened. And yet, I do. Really, what choice do we have? Once you recognize Bahá’u’lláh you are committed to a path of self destruction, the lower self, of course.

I can’t say I had a passion for teaching or even a desire to have a passion for teaching. Mostly, I have a desire to be obedient to God’s Will. . . .

So when we became an “A” cluster, I was there. When we started our first intensive program of growth, I was there. When my family’s neighborhood was identified as a receptive community, I was there. And when they selected our home as the meeting place for our teaching effort, I was there . . . looking for every and any excuse possible to flee. I was feeling sick. I was feeling exhausted. I’m sure I was needed elsewhere. Anywhere frankly. I settled on the notion that I could cook for everybody. I would keep the home fires burning as others ventured out into the neighborhood. But alas I was given a street to visit and a buddy to go with. I couldn’t jump ship but maybe God would strike me dead. I was hoping.

In the days before I would wake up in the morning thinking of plausible excuses to not be in my own home on Saturday.

With fear in my heart and total reliance on God the dreaded day began. People would be in my house, eating my food for the sole purpose of spreading the Word of God to my neighbors.

Like a mantra I kept thinking, I can’t do this. And I was right. I couldn’t. But it turned out I could do this. I could put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

Soon the happy Bahá’ís arrived. We reviewed our tasks. Acknowledged our assigned buddies. And then we prayed. Oh boy did we pray. These were the most ardent felt, sincere prayers I had ever been a part of. Love, submission, obedience was bending us into conformity with His Will.

My community really loves to pray but these prayers, these sweet sincere prayers spoken, chanted and sung went on and on. I hoped they would never end. After days of fear, I finally felt safe. But the prayers did end. And off we went.

I had a plan, I had a buddy and I had God. My feet kept moving up and down staircases, and onto porches. And at the end of they day we returned to our safe haven with stories of joy. Whether we encountered an empty home, a rejection, a listening ear, a hospitable coffee, or a person who declared their belief, everything was a joy and a success. We owned each others stories and experiences. We were one.

That was two teaching efforts ago. That was a lifetime ago, when I was dead and Bahá’u’lláh raised me up and I was able to share His message.

Much love and still scared but committed,

P

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Walkway in the courtyard of the Mansion of Mazra‘ih

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Look ye not upon the present, fix your gaze upon the times to come. In the beginning, how small is the seed, yet in the end it is a mighty tree. Look ye not upon the seed, look ye upon the tree, and its blossoms, and its leaves and its fruits. Consider the days of Christ, when none but a small band followed Him; then observe what a mighty tree that seed became, behold ye its fruitage. And now shall come to pass even greater things than these, for this is the summons of the Lord of Hosts, this is the trumpet-call of the living Lord, this is the anthem of world peace, this is the standard of righteousness and trust and understanding raised up among all the variegated peoples of the globe; this is the splendour of the Sun of Truth, this is the holiness of the spirit of God Himself.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, SWAB, p. 82

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(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog, http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/09/when-we-first-venture-forth-to-teach.html ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

Invitation to prayer, service to community, children as teachers, the effects of prayer, lessons learned

(US, MA, April)

The following is an exciting and discerning report from the first cycle of this”A” stage cluster in the northeast:

Over the last three weekends, 25 friends in the South Middlesex cluster have valiantly and joyfully arisen to share the news of Baha’u’llah throughout the cluster. Through personal teaching, home visits and door to door teaching, these friends have introduced hundreds of people in this cluster to the Faith of Baha’u’llah in the last two weeks. 145 souls have accepted the invitation to investigate the Faith and have asked for teachers to come back and visit with them to share with them more about these Glad Tidings. One eighty-two year “young” luminous soul, who we met this past weekend, became the first during this IPG to accept the message of Baha’u’llah and declare herself as His handmaiden.

* One team went out in their neighborhood in Marlborough. They found a Brazilian lady across the street from their home who invited them inside. Initially, the team invited them to prayers at their home, but finding the friend to be very receptive and interested in learning more, pulled out Anna’s presentation and began offering it. Not blinking at the sight of “a flipchart being pulled out of nowhere”, she listened with an open heart to the presentation. At page 22, her friend arrived–she had apparently been scheduled to leave for another meeting. She repeatedly begged the teaching team to remember where they were in the presentation so they could learn more… The team promised to return the next day.

* A third team went to the home of a seeker whose children are in children’s classes in Lexington. This family took them throughout the neighborhood and introduced them to all of their neighbors. The Bahá’í “Peacemaker kids-group” decided to return to the neighborhood to help some of the older residents and one disabled woman with their yards as a service. The spirit of love and community that was created was unimaginable–and people naturally began to ask more about the Faith. Three teachers returned to share Anna’s presentation with the original seekers and were met with an incredible receptivity

* We had a children’s cluster meeting at the same time as our adult cluster meeting and the children created their own personal teaching plans for who they would like to teach. A five year old decided that he was going to share the Faith with his babysitter. Well, the next week his father learned that their nanny was in fact interested in learning more and decided to invite her to a fireside in Lexington the following weekend. She came and was incredibly attracted to the Faith. She has decided to investigate the Faith further and is coming to her first study circle tonight!

 

Lessons learned:  

 

* the power of prayer – this has turned out to be the most important teaching tool we have. There are countless stories of teams that were struggling about where to go, prayed, and then immediately found the receptive soul. This is first and foremost a spiritual process. One team was not meeting success and decided to pray in the stairwell. As they were finishing, a young man approached the mailboxes in front of them wearing a big “19” on their shirt. His name was Israel and after listening to Anna’s presentation, he has become one of the seekers who is interested in learning more.

* we cannot find receptive souls if we do not prepare ourselves for the possibility and arise to teach them. The number of people we have taught in the last two weeks is far greater than the number we have taught in probably the last several years combined. During these teaching days, more and more people have arisen in this path. The unity and love they have created in their relationships is truly palpable. By the end of this expansion phase, one in six people in this cluster had taken part in this process, most people multiple times.

* we have learned that in certain neighborhoods, door to door teaching is a very effective way to share the Faith in our cluster. In Framingham, we learned that one-in-four to one-in-six people who answered their doors, depending on the neighborhood, were interested in hearing more about the Faith and readily gave their contact information–and the rest were in general incredibly polite, and often wished us well. In neighborhoods where the friends had formed some bonds of friendship already, the reception was of course far friendlier.

* we learned the great value of starting with Anna’s presentation and sticking to it, whether it is during home visits or in the door to door setting. We have built enormous capacity in this cluster to do this and have learned in the field that this is one of the most effective ways to quickly develop a truly spiritual conversation and to share the fundamental verities of the Faith. We are finding that we have a much better sense very quickly whether someone is truly interested in learning more.

* we learned the importance of inviting people to accept the Faith. Our task is to offer the Faith as if it were a “jewel to a king.” This means we have to offer it completely (and not just say, “I’ll bring the jewel back for you to see next time!”). This past weekend, we found a Catholic woman, Rose, and her mother, Viola, who received Anna’s presentation with great interest. The mother kept nodding and reading the sacred word with great wonder. At the end of the presentation, they prayed and were invited to consider in their hearts whether this was the Spirit of Truth and whether they would like to join the Baha’i Faith. Rose immediately said she would need to investigate further, but Viola, after looking at her askance a couple of times, said well, I would like to fill out one of those cards and become a Baha’i.” She then turned to her daughter and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to take one of these cards and at least hold on to it?” We assured her that it was OK for her daughter to take her time to investigate and that we would return to share more about the Faith with both of them. They both gladly accepted this invitation.

It is between each soul and Baha’u’llah when they will accept the Faith. Our job is merely to offer the invitation to the Divine Garden.

 

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The Baha'i House of Worship in Sydney, Australia.

The Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney, Australia.

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O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of God in this Day…. You are the lowly, of whom God has thus spoken in His Book: “And We desire to show favour to those who were brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make them Our heirs.” You have been called to this station; you will attain to it, only if you arise to trample beneath your feet every earthly desire, and endeavour to become those “honoured servants of His who speak not till He hath spoken, and who do His bidding”.… Heed not your weaknesses and frailty; fix your gaze upon the invincible power of the Lord, your God, the Almighty…. Arise in His name, put your trust wholly in Him, and be assured of ultimate victory.

The Báb, quoted in Century of Light, p. 53

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(Report from the the expansion phase of So. Middlesex County (MA) cluster, taken from a report from expansion phases in the northeast distributed by the Regional Baha’i Council of the Northeastern States by e-mail 19 May 2008 ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

A taste of the ‘sweetness of teaching’ at a permanent school

(US, MA, 1 May)

One woman, Faye, determined to ground herself spiritually after the joyous news of her first pregnancy. She looked at the course offerings at Green Acre Bahá’í School, and was excited to discover a course on “Teaching is the Greatest Gift.”

Faye was impressed with the patience and finesse of the presenter, Bruce, as she watched him allow everyone to voice their concerns and then led them back to the answers found in the presentation materials.

At the weekend’s outset, she and fellow classmates reconnected with their love of Bahá’u’lláh by reflecting together on their personal “first moments,” when they recognized Him.

Building on this rekindled love, and as each day passed, the group found their devotions growing in length and intensity as they turned to the Concourse for inspiration.

With their new understanding, the group turned to action.

Studying from Ruhi Book 6, Teaching the Cause, she found herself thinking, “Anna’s Presentation! How could I be so behind? Why hadn’t I already done Book 6?!”

Her excitement continued to build as she and her fellow classmates found a model of direct teaching they felt comfortable using and then completed personal action pledges.

Faye’s story did not end with her good-byes at Green Acre. As she reported to the Office of Education and Schools, she returned home, “inspired” and with “a renewed spirit, one full of kinetic energy ready to serve.”

“Despite the exhaustion from days full of study and late nights talking quietly with my new Bahá’í friends,” she wrote, “the moment I arrived home I hopped onto my computer and started to take action on the commitments I had made.

“By the time I was done, I had invited someone to start a teaching team, set in motion a fireside, contacted a friend for a home visit, and started planting seeds for children’s classes!”

(The American Bahá’í, By: Office of Education and Schools)

http://www.usbnc.org/tab/news/templates/layout1.aspx?articleid=2950&zoneid=4

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