March 08, 2009

service is the magnet


Each Saturday morning, in a neighborhood of south Delft, South Africa, 3 children's classes and one jr. youth class are now being held in the home of a family who is supporting the early stages of a Baha'i School. This year's classes began on February 6th with a lot of excitement in the neighborhood after a long holiday without the classes. It's been 5 weeks of trying to coordinate teachers and settle many logistical obstacles along the way. Each week feels like an investment toward the children's lives, their souls, nurturing the seed of their faith and community which is being immeasurably touched and affected by Baha'u'llah's Message of Oneness, universal brotherhood, and the upholding of a moral rectitude of conduct which is being revealed and understood very gradually. We are just now at a point where I feel a sense of sustainability exists for building momentum for the year ahead.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of this undertaking. Most of the children speak Xhosa and Afrikaans as their first language. It isn't until the age of 9 or so that a lesson can be understood well enough in English by the students to convey basic concepts, principles and words such as purity of heart, gems, nobility, character and conduct. We haven't had any Xhosa-speaking Baha'is be able to teach a class, and local help with translation is hard to come by. The logistics of ensuring that the classes are held are often full of unpredictability, unreliability, miscommunication, cancellations, and a lack of commitment. In addition, it is difficult for me to create an atmosphere of praiseworthy conduct in an environment where many students do not yet listen while I speak, wait politely for their turn, show consideration to others, respect the girls, etc. Abdu'l-Baha reminds us what we are facing along this journey:
"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 Abha 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-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 133)

By the end of February, I had spoken several times with the children's class coordinator about a lack of teachers for the classes. The cluster is aware that this is a receptive population and it has grown so fast within the past 6 months. We were planning on having 4 separate classes this year. Just when it started to become discouraging, I supplicated for assistance and the ability to arise with greater capacity to sustain the attendance of so many interested souls. A few days later a person who hasn't shown any interest in serving in this capacity came to me and said she was ready to commit as a full-time teacher for one of the classes! In addition, that same evening, a Xhosa Baha'i also said he was keen to be a much-needed teacher for the 3-5 year olds who understand very little English! It was such a sign of faith in action as I needed to keep on, keepin' on...

These past 5 weeks have been quite difficult in terms of seeing the potential for this Baha'i School remain unrealized and possibly damaged as teachers do not arise to serve, as venues and curriculum are not available when the students are ready, and chaos and confusion occur. Throughout all these challenges and sometimes feeling overwhelmed, there is nothing that prevents me from striving with all my heart, mind and time to exert effort in this direction. I continue to put my trust in God while constantly needing to practice patience and understanding, search for solutions, and then witness the divine confirmations which inevitably come as a result of perseverance, determination, long-suffering and steadfastness. I am compelled from the depths of my inner being to serve these children no matter what the tests are along the way. As long as I keep striving to selflessly serve in this capacity as the person who is getting it off the ground, the grace of Baha'u'llah continues to enable this embryonic Baha'i School to grow.

"Faith is the magnet which draws the confirmation of the Merciful One. Service is the magnet which attracts the heavenly strength."

(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v1, p. 62)

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