Betty Chong-Gerbracht of Bothell, Washington, Bahá’í children’s class coordinator for her cluster of local communities, shares how a thriving children’s class in an apartment complex began and what she has learned from the experience.
After months of [visiting] parents and children [and inviting them] to start children’s classes in their homes, and a couple of years teaching classes, I’ve learned to be open and flexible in all circumstances.
Most of all, I’ve learned the importance of accompaniment. Accompaniment works both ways. I accompany an individual in the experience and the individual accompanies me.
Through the process we learn from the experience, and through our collaboration important steps are not overlooked when we prepare to reach out.
Those steps include creating a prayerful attitude, being in a posture of humility, radiating joy in sharing the message of Baha’u’llah and being content in accepting the result of our effort.
Here is one experience of receptivity at the first door we knocked upon. It was truly amazing!
In our cluster, we have “prayer, plan and participate” gatherings [every three months]. Generally, a few of the friends gather at a home before going out to teach.
This time, two friends and I made a date to visit an area of interest. Prior to the day of our meeting, one of the friends drove around the area to see where the children lived, where she felt there might be receptivity.
On the day of our meeting, we gathered at a coffee shop. We studied passages from the Sacred Writings, consulted on past experiences and prayed deeply for assistance and acceptance. We were now ready to reach out.
We selected one apartment complex out of several. We parked the car and walked to the building. Soon we heard children’s voices. That led us to their door. We knocked and a mother answered.
We learned that the children were planning a birthday party. We introduced ourselves and entered into conversation about their party and their family.
Then, we talked about our interest in helping children and families learn how to develop spiritual qualities in the children by teaching children’s classes in their home.
We explained the elements of the class; that is, prayer, quotations, songs, stories, games and coloring. Spontaneously, we three sang “Ye are drops” to the mothers and the children.
I asked one of the children if she would like to color. Of course she would! (I have not experienced a child turn down coloring.) I handed her a coloring sheet from [a children's activity in Ruhi Institute Book 3] and crayons.
On the bottom of the sheet was a quote both in Spanish and English. As the child began to color, one mother read the Spanish quote. She warmed up to us and began to talk about the times they would be available for the class.
The rest is history. The class started the following Monday with three children. There are more children in the neighborhood we hope will be invited as well.
We already knew who would be teaching the class, so we did not have to delay the start date. The families speak Spanish and are new to the area, so we feel it is important to invite other friends who speak Spanish to assist in translation.
The teachers now have bilingual prayer books and are encouraging the parents to say a prayer at the beginning of class. As parents feel more confident, the teachers plan to encourage them to lead other elements as well.
From this experience, I learned the process could speed up when I take the steps to have a prayerful attitude and to sacrifice my own desire for a specific outcome for the outcome intended by will of God.
This is a recap of what I learned:
- To ask for accompaniment.
- To prepare, study the guidance, pray for assistance and guidance.
- To be radiant and joyful when talking to the parents and children.
- To engage in conversation toward understanding what is important to the parents.
- To have coloring sheets and crayons to demonstrate what the activities may look like.
- To show the parents a quote and, perhaps, demonstrate a song that we teach.