October 07, 2008

children's classes in delft

For many months the children's classes were very, very simple. We met outside and sang a couple of songs, share a short and simple lesson, and have an activity. The older ones speak English, but it's limited to conversational English, so half the class couldn't understand anything i was saying, while the other half listened wholeheartedly and tried to capture the essence of whatever i was saying.

In addition to the language barrier, what was challenging about these early classes is that they were outside and my children did not want to attend them. The ground was sandy and rocky; we had no materials, no seats, no cover from the hot sun. The children who came were pure of heart and had no expectations. I would try to teach a class while my boys fussed and interrupted me with complaints. It was the opposite of my heart's desire for us to be serving as any kind of example.

These practical challenges, however, were nothing compared to the ongoing process of me maintaining an inner sense of determination and patience to withstand the lack of support by the community and my children. I knew it wouldn't be easy, and i knew it would take time, but it reached a point where it seemed like i was up against all odds. The rain and cold weather came. The classes had dwindled down to a handful. It was cancelled often due to a period of xenophobia, miscommunications with the host family, and bad weather. It was clear i was being tested, but it was the flame of love for those children which kept burning and kept me going.

After Siboleke offered his home to us that one day, it's been like a wildfire of support and activity. Now we have many parents aware of this being a Baha'i class; they are happy to see their children attend something that is positive and educating their hearts. We also have a place to meet, and such receptivity amongst the children and jr. youth that the momentum feels sustainable. There is a core group who attend, and then many who come and go.

When we drive up, there is much excitement amongst the children. I set up and they gather some of their friends. We are learning to greet with Allah'u'Abha (God is the Most Glorious) and they sing along to a handful of songs. We average learning a new song about every other week. They love when we sing loudly and drum, clap or do hand movements to the songs. They enjoy working in their booklets, copying down whatever it is we're working on. They also enjoy the activities, but it sure is quite a process to coordinate any activity!

What's not happening right now is the telling of stories. I realized a few months ago that when i would finish telling a story, even with a picture to illustrate the theme or action involved, no one understood what i had just read. No one could answer any of my questions. Everything we cover in the class has to be repeated over several classes, and even then, when i ask a review question, the reaction is almost as if we have never talked about it before. I am trying very carefully to give meanings for each new word, demonstrating the best i can with something practical, but i know the road is long and the goal is glorious. So i pray that through continual review and lots of creative examples, they will soon grasp the spiritual truths and plant them in their hearts.

What IS happening is MUSIC. Most of the songs are already planted firmly in their hearts. Sometimes when i arrive they are already singing some of them. Other times, we may be working on an art project and i will hear some of them singing a song. It's a beautiful reality.

If you check out the picasa web albums, you will see photos Dash was able to take 2 weeks ago. They capture an array of activity and involvement from 10am until 1pm that day. Thankfully, Dash could walk around while i am involved with the class. I feel strongly that these classes are the beginning of something significant, but i certainly leave it up to God as i continue to arise and serve Him.

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