It’s a good cluster reflection gathering when attendees are able to discover the reality of a situation, identify solutions and resources, and agree on a plan of action.
That’s what Baha’is in the New Hampshire cluster of Baha’i communities did when they consulted about the needs of junior youths in the city of Manchester.
Discussion revealed that a number of Tanzanian refugees from Burundi were ready to make the transition to a junior youth group.
These kids have participated the past seven years in children’s classes, says teacher Lael Cruikshank, and are eager to serve their community — especially in meeting its need for English language and reading skills.
Over the years, Baha’is have made a strong connection with the children’s families through such activities as offering assistance with job applications and finding health care; support for school activities; swim outings and cookouts; and celebrations of births and birthdays.
“When we integrate the core activities in our lives the Faith comes alive,” notes Cruikshank. “It is important to not think of these activities, these services, as something with an ending, something finished. But rather as a way of life, balanced and thriving, never ending. Commitment is front and center.”
So that’s one strand of the story. The other: A new junior youth group in a close-by neighborhood has struggled to get off the ground.
The group began meeting in a park. It’s a natural gathering place, notes Area Teaching Committee secretary Susan Felker-Martin, but is not central to the neighborhood, making outreach to participants’ families more difficult.
“Plus it was outdoors in New Hampshire, and there’s always an end to that unless you build an igloo,” observes Felker-Martin.
Where to go from there? Consultation turned to an examination of available trained resources.
“There wasn’t a perfect solution,” says Felker-Martin, “because there aren’t the resources trained to do the whole city of Manchester or even to do both of the neighborhoods.”
Complicating the situation is that less collective teaching is being done at present, she says.
Those involved in the consultation were encouraged to learn a young man has offered to work with the junior youth, but recognized he must become trained before animating a group himself.
Likewise, they found a lot of potential among the Tanzanians who have made their way through children’s classes. Those emerging leaders, too, must be nurtured long-term.
Little by little, then, a path ahead began to be mapped, says Felker-Martin.
For now a single junior youth group would serve the junior youths of the two neighborhoods.
Potential animators would be accompanied as they became trained and gained experience.
And, learning from the Tanzanian neighborhood, a strong effort to reach the families of participants would be undertaken.
“My hope is that we challenge ourselves with establishing this junior youth group as we challenged ourselves seven years ago with a neighborhood children’s class,” says Cruikshank.
“Plan, set the goal, take action and we will see them grow and multiply.”