October 16, 2011

decision to make a change

a week ago a group of jr. youth met in our home to form a jr. youth group.  there were 8 of them.  2 had to leave early but the rest wanted to stay and talk.  we consulted and changed the day of the week to fridays from 4-6pm because sundays were not the best day for everyone.  since it was changed to a friday afternoon, i could no longer offer the 8-10 year olds a children's class at that time (the other days of the week are full, 3 of which are set aside to tutor them in reading).

so friday i organized our home and set up materials to use for demonstrations; i chose some games to play as icebreakers and asked our boys to go upstairs before 4pm so our home would be ready for the group to begin downstairs in our living room.  4pm turned quickly into 4:30 before i started to wonder if they were all going to be late and only have an hour here before our family would need to ask them to leave at 6pm.  by 5pm a group of the boys that come for tutoring had come by to see if they could play with dyami and domani.  i invited them to play soccer on the grass but told them they would have to leave once the jr. youth came -- as i was still hopeful they would be coming.

by 5:30 dashiel arrived home and no one had come.  after sitting on the bench talking with the kids on our front patio for about 15 minutes, it was time to say goodbye, come inside (avoiding the inevitable mosquito bites that occur that time of day) and prepare dinner.  we invited the kids to come by on saturday to play soccer with us after lunch..

this was the moment of putting those spiritual powers into practice -- being detached, understanding and ready to persevere.  i didn't feel sad or upset.  i felt calm and curious.  i know all of these jr. youth well enough now (most of them since july) to know that they are genuinely interested in joining this group.  i kept wondering why they didn't come as i prepared dinner.  while we were eating the guard knocked at the door announcing that one of them was at the gate.  we declined letting whoever it was inside at that time.  we had begun 'family friday' and thought it best to wait before finding out who it was.  i was sure this was just a moment to let pass and let time reveal what forces are at work in this process of trying to bring many young souls together for a great undertaking.

saturday morning our family was just hanging out so we called out our window to gideon, the 9 year old who is our closest little friend, inviting him over to play with dyami and domani inside while dashiel was writing and ayana was working on a school project with a friend.  gideon came over to play and soon there was another knock at the door.  it was emil, one of the jr. youth who didn't show on friday.  i sat outside on the bench with him and asked him why he didn't come on friday.  he was the one that came after 6pm on friday. he explained how he stayed at school playing games.  it was such a pure-hearted answer, not complicated or dishonest.  he said that he still wants us to form a group and asked if he could finish reading the book that he started during the week (when i was tutoring the younger kids).  he came inside to read a story about the chinese king who tests the purity and honesty of the children's hearts.  [our home has become a little library.  sometimes we lend one out, but for the most part we keep them here.  it's really unfair and unfortunate how deprived the typical african child is of basic story books.  ghana is much worse off than south africa.  it's the upper class who send their children to good, private schools to have an opportunity to advance onto university.  the masses attend public school which are incredibly inadequate.. apparently they have deteriorated drastically over the past 10 years or so as this new generation of wealthy ghanaians have begun to send their children to international schools..]

saturday afternoons are a time of neighborhood children's classes and jr. youth groups at the local Baha'i's home.  i had planned on bringing all of our new friends who were interested in attending for their first time.  before it started, i was hanging out on the grassy field across the dirt road from the Baha'i's home while the kids played soccer.  in addition to emil, evelyn had now come to join us for the neighborhood classes -- she explained that she had to cook that afternoon.  she is still interested as well.. 

saturday was my first time seeing how the classes are held nearby.  i came to observe how the local Baha'is have been conducting classes for 40-60 children and jr. youth for 8 years now.  up to that point i had only 1 official children's class with the kids who live around us.  i haven't been sure when to schedule it for 3 reasons:  saturdays aren't good because one of the children goes to church all day; sunday mornings some of them come to the local Devotions at one of the Baha'is home; and now friday afternoons are scheduled for the jr. youth group.  in addition, the Assembly has asked me to support a teacher for a new children's class that is supposed to begin in the near future -- when it is set, i will most likely need to merge my class into that one and no longer have it in our home because it will be in a neighborhood that's been identified as receptive to having a children's class.

all of these factors lead me to this morning's decision.  i have been supporting the local Devotions each sunday morning.  after the prayers and singing, the adults deepen and the children go to the 'Baha'i children's class'.  for more than a month the kids we know well now have also been coming with us.  as long as i've been coming, there has never been a teacher for this class -- i was compelled to serve as a teacher for this small group of children of varying ages.  the entire experience has been very difficult.  i do it out of my love for Baha'u'llah and for the children whose souls are always in need of spiritual training and instruction..

but today it entered my heart that i'd like to have Devotions in our home and then offer a small children's class to the 3 who come regularly with us, as well as for dyami and domani.  i consulted with dash about it and he loved the idea.  our family has a very child-centered and musical focus when it comes to Devotions, and we have missed that energy that we experienced in South Africa.  this idea came as a result of attending yesterday's classes in the neighborhood.  i witnessed a lot of bad behavior and a lack of order.  it was missing the spiritual atmosphere.  i struggled with having any negative thoughts and feelings as i'm very conscious about being humble, patient, understanding, etc.  but ever since i moved here i have felt unable to arise as an individual and be used to serve the Cause of Baha'u'llah in a way that will channel my energy and capacity.  i have committed myself to other people's activities and supported them where they needed assistance.  in that way i felt stuck, like the foreigner who is out of place, who doesn't fit the mold, who is uncomfortable in many ways, and who can't seem to receive the support i need to move forward with any suggestions or changes that i feel are necessary to greater progress.

so i set up our home for Devotions.  i asked the children if they would like to go to the local Devotions or stay at our home.  when they arrived, they brought 2 jr. youth, one of whom was emil.  there were now 5 of them!  it was immediately a sign that the more i hang in there (instead of getting down that nothing worked on friday for ex.), the more i realize how essential it is to be patient at all times and under all conditions.  all of them wanted to stay.  we shared a most spirited Devotions with them, with drumming, singing and even a little marching around the room. :)  2 of the children offered Baha'i prayers from memory.  it was sweet and perfect.  they were reverent and joyful.  it was a great beginning to experiencing a Devotions that our children cherish and never want to miss.  we realize that if our children love it, then others will love it.  this is what we experienced in south africa from so many of the kids in delft.  Devotions was truly uplifting and a ladder for the soul to ascend nearer to God.

what was most special and significant about the decision to hold the activities in our home today is that the class set the stage for a high standard of conduct, for putting into practice the manners and attitude necessary to gain all that is possible from the Message of Baha'u'llah.  the participation of all of them was surprisingly fully engaged and animated, thoughtful and with effort to learn.  midway through, while playing the virtues bingo game, the jr. youth girl i saw yesterday came with a friend to join the class!  we explained the spirit of what a Baha'i class is about and now they are part of the beauty of it as well.  by the end of class, everyone was happy to clean up before closing with learning how to sing, 'So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.' Baha'u'llah

i finally felt content, grateful to serve Baha'u'llah to my fullest ability, to connect soul to soul with everyone in the class, and feel confirmed in the process.  i will need to explain to the local friends why i will no longer be supporting sunday morning Devotions.  it will not be easy for me because i am loyal to supporting and very devoted to community building.  yet i realize for myself that individual initiative creates an opportunity to spread that sense of community building and release the spirit of servitude in a way that perhaps could not be done by merely assisting something that already exists.  i stretched my spiritual wings today and felt like they were upheld by the breezes of confirmation. :)

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