Julie Heath and her husband lived and served the Baha’i Faith in Central Asia as pioneers for two stretches of several years each, starting in 1999.
Both times she was able to start children’s classes and junior youth groups, using capacities built through Ruhi Institute training. In one neighborhood she brought in a group of mothers to study Ruhi Book 3, Teaching Children’s Classes: Grade 1, so they could support the class their children were attending.
Both times circumstances forced the Heaths to return before they wanted to. And she felt a disorientation on coming back so abruptly to their old home in the United States: “feelings of sadness, depression, failure and just plain disconnectedness,” she writes to the Office of International Pioneering.
Her prescription for anyone else in that position: Keep up the work that Baha’is worldwide are being asked to do in this Five Year Plan, back home or wherever you are. “Using the core activities and doing what the Universal House of Justice is asking us to do will help channel those negative feelings into a positive place,” she says.
The core activities of study circles, devotional gatherings, children’s classes and junior youth groups “can be done anywhere in the whole wide world with the same effect, which is to transform humanity,” she notes.
She took her own advice both times she returned to the Bay Area of California. With skills and capacities she developed in part while pioneering half a world away, she has helped launch three children’s classes and a junior youth group.
Her motivation to accompany young people in these learning activities stems largely from a directive of Baha’u’llah: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”
Heath, a Baha’i for four decades, and her husband moved as Baha’i pioneers to Central Asia in 1999. While there, she gained considerable momentum in the Ruhi Institute study courses and the Baha’i service activities they encourage. She started a class with junior youth and found a few people with great interest in the teachings of Baha’u’llah.
On her first return in 2005 she started classes in San Jose and Sunnyvale that attracted dozens of children, many from Asian-American families not enrolled in the Faith. A few parents joined a study circle and some became Baha’is as a result.
“It was wonderful working with the neighbors and children there,” she says. The San Jose group, she added, “had an early Thanksgiving celebration. … Many of them had never eaten turkey before.”
Soon the couple sojourned for a few years in a different part of Central Asia and found a neighborhood where some were receptive to spiritual education for children. Heath offered Ruhi Book 3 training to a group of parents, and a weekly children’s class was soon organized. “It was a great success, with the parents noticing remarkable changes in their children’s behavior,” she reports.
Health issues were among conditions leading to their second return to California. Again Julie Heath channeled her distress into community building, as they moved to a Sunnyvale neighborhood where receptivity to Baha’i activity was found.
In addition to starting a junior youth group in her new neighborhood, she reactivated the earlier children’s class from 2006. “We now have 40 children in that neighborhood and we started a junior youth group” as well, she reports. Another Baha’i moved to that neighborhood as a homefront pioneer and it has become a collective project.
Heath urges any Baha’i who is inspired to travel in service to the Faith to follow the exhortation of the Universal House of Justice and become a “human resource” through training in the institute courses and experience in the core service activities. And that comes from her personal experience and inner conviction.
“I know in my heart that with the help of our beloved Master, I can go into any neighborhood in the world and start these core activities and they will be successful,” she writes.