November 23, 2008

Music for the soul

Classes in Delft yesterday ended with Xhosa dancing and singing. It was a moment of soul-stirring joy and praise of God!

The acapella singing, drumming, and dancing lifted our souls upward along that ladder of nearness to God. These moments are eternal and blissful. The children are soooooooo beautiful and the energy is full of spirit!
"Bahá'u'lláh once compared the coloured people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white. In this black pupil you see the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the Spirit shines forth."
~Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 67
I feel like my heart has waited its whole life to live in Africa.

November 20, 2008

Planning the end of year celebration for children's classes

I am realizing that planning for an event is something that needs to be described to others because people wonder afterwards, "How did you put this together?!", and it seems simple to me but difficult to them. I realize, also, that these moments are historic and may be looked upon as setting the stage for entry by troops. So many developments occur from week to week that if I don't write down some of it from time to time, we will forget many precious details that come only with the embryonic growth of something before it is born.

This idea came to me over a month ago when reading the Kenyan Baha'i book for children's class -- it suggests having an end of year celebration. It felt necessary to demonstrate to the parents and neighborhood at least a taste of what the children and junior youth have been taught and what they are learning in the classes, even though for months we were barely able to call ourselves a class. I went to the mothers who are involved in Delft and asked them what they thought -- they thought it was a great idea! From there I started writing down ideas for a simple program. At this time, the CGC informed me that Delft will be a focus of the upcoming IPG; it was at this point that i wrote up a detailed report of what is currently happening there and a few things I would need for the celebration -- like a representative of the Assembly to welcome everyone in Xhosa and Afrikaans in addition to English.

The program consists of opening prayers and songs, acting out a story, reciting the holy words, singing and dancing, receiving a certificate and gift, closing songs and serving refreshments. Games will naturally occur afterwards (soccer, dodge ball, relay races and net ball). This process requires review of the lessons, having our last month of classes be to review and practice the songs and holy words, and practicing acting out the story. I also need to create an order to the songs so that they are grouped in a way that flows when sung. It was important to choose a song that just the 3-5 year olds will sing, and something special that the jr. youth will present, in addition to the 6-10 year olds because they make up the bulk of the students and program.

In terms of the paperwork involved, last week I started creating a certificate that will be copied onto parchment paper and handed to the student with their name written on it. The certificate has two quotes from the Baha'i Writings about children being the future of a community and full of spiritual potential within them. I decided to make the invitations by hand -- this felt more personal and unique for each family who will receive one. They mention the children growing into PEACE blossoms, PEACE being the acronym for Practicing Excellence of character And Conduct that is Exemplary.

Constant consultation with the one mama, Nangamso, who helps on a weekly basis has been essential to the development of this process. I had made a list of ideas for food, but after consulting with her, it became clear that some of them were impractical. It was Nangamso who came up with the idea for the Xhosa children to perform their traditional dances and songs in addition to what they are learning in class. After she showed me their songs and dancing, I felt full of excitement because it is a sign that the community of interest is taking ownership of the celebration rather than me just imposing an idea on them! I showed up yesterday as a surprise to go through the roll of names and associate them with faces so the certificates are well-prepared to offer, and Nangamso had a big group of children in the container practicing their songs and dances!

The idea of a gift was suggested in the Kenyan Baha'i book for children's classes. It is supposed to be a simple gift, even a piece of fruit. After accumulating enough photos of the children over the past 2 months, it entered my heart that they would each LOVE to have a photo of themselves. If it is determined to fit within the Assembly's budget, I will put all the photos on a flashdrive and take it to a shop where they can be printed out. The photo will then be given to each child along with the certificate.

November 18, 2008

Sweet souls at Baha'i gatherings


Last weekend update: i had planned to take 7 children from Delft in my car to feast, and they were going to sleep over but there was an illness in the family so we decided to take them home after feast and pick them up the next day to take them to the Birth of Baha'u'llah celebration. i had to ask a friend (who we knew from san francisco, who now lives 1 block away coincidentally!) if she could watch our children from 9am until 2pm (at which time she would have brought them to our sector feast). my car would have to be empty to fit all 7 children from class. i leave in the morning to go to children's classes, thinking of how we are going to be ready for this end of year celebration in 3 weeks. we have a very interesting experience that morning with trying to organize the kids to practice for it -- very chaotic and crazy but lovely and sweet at the same time. imagine 45-50 kids/jr. youth around with tons of outside distractions, wranglings, and a language barrier. :-) the latest development is that they want to add some of their traditional dancing and singing into the program which is so exciting because they are taking ownership of this celebration, feeling proud to show all the parents and neighbors what they can do. the saddest moment, though, was when i packed the car and the rest of the children wanted to come as well. they didn't understand my explanations for bringing the 7 children, whose moms i know well, and who have attended classes without missing any, etc. one 10 year old started crying. i felt so torn. it was so tough to leave them behind. [it was even worse the next day for the holy day pick-up because another car came as well and we tightly fit 17 children but soooooo many were disappointed and seriously tested by this act. i will have to repeat myself until there is true understanding, and plan well enough for Naw Ruz so that many more cars of Baha'is can be prepared to come and bring them all - but next year it will be based on attendance AND good conduct]

when they came to feast they were in such a state of curiousity and delight. we were a bit early so we sat down with my drum and started singing the songs we knew. when i thought we were finished they would suggest another, and another...it was so sweet because the friends walked into the Feast with the sounds of singing and drumming which we never have beforehand -- it set the tone in a beautiful way, as if everyone's hearts were opened and prepared for the spiritual feast. they had a great class with one of the Baha'is and left with a most positive impression of our meeting. the next day i drove out there again to pick up 7, but ended up with 9 in my little car -- the other car had only a backseat available and smushed 9! people in it, including one adult. we arrived at a rented school gymnasium and the children behaved sooooo well during a long program of quiet sitting.

when it was their turn to sing (this was a last minute decision so they were not prepared to be in front of a huge group of people) they walked up on stage and managed to remember enough of the words of 5 songs we've practiced -- and everyone loved it! their favorite part of the celebration were the sweets offered at refreshments and the candy in the pinata. what a bounty to have been able to bring them on this special occasion.

November 05, 2008

Barak Obama

I live about 8,000 miles away from America right now but if I could describe the vibe and express the spirit here in words, it would be something like a whirlwind of stirring people's innermost being up to a state of great joy, hope and pride. Even the children at school today were excitedly telling me how happy they were that Obama won! People of color have for too long suffered under the weights of injustice and oppression throughout the ages...Obama's win, in a country where 'liberty and justice for all' is sung with pride, certainly and undoubtedly symbolizes a pendulum swing toward healing and harmony in the world.

Baha'u'llah speaks of the importance of knowing the exigencies of the Day in which we live, focusing on what the needs are to best achieve or work towards the ever-advancing civilization we are striving to build. We know unity is the foundation of all that will be prosperous and fruitful for the world of humanity, and Obama is like a refreshing balm to all the hurt and pain that has come in the past from disunity in the world. Perhaps being the first black president in America is just what the world needs to propel itself toward greater levels of hope as we face ever-increasing challenges to world peace.