Baltimore: Children’s classes inspire additional service
Angela Bell has been teaching Baha’i children’s classes in a Baltimore, Maryland, neighborhood for many years and recently has been accompanying new teachers as well as visiting the homes of parents and taking on other forms of service.
How her introduction to the Baha’i teachings resonated with her:
“It felt comfortable. It felt like it fit, and I needed to know more. So I learned more coming to the children’s classes and then in [a study circle] with my husband. And my grandchildren grew up in children’s classes and then junior youth groups. I really loved what I heard. I was raised a Baptist, but for some reason this felt like it was the right thing for me. I still feel that way.”
How her service has evolved:
“New people have joined the team as teachers so now I’m just in a different role most of the time. I do prayers with the kids, feed them breakfast and then a couple of teachers and I will go out and do home visits. The children I taught in children’s class grew up to be junior youth and now give their own devotional once a month. I always go because they always want me there. They brought some new kids with them who loved it so much that I was asked to pick them up on Saturdays. Most of the kids that come and see the activities get really excited and aren’t ready to leave.”
“About four months ago I joined another Baha’i, Geri Peak, on a coalition that meets with the mayor and other officials. We’re trying to make a difference in the neighborhood. We give people flyers about jobs [and take other measures to improve the neighborhood atmosphere].
“I’m also on the [local Baha’i governing council, the Spiritual Assembly], which is another way of making a difference.”
“I noticed that at a lot of activities there weren’t many men. So I started a men’s group. I had to start at home with my husband. He used to go to Baha’i Feast [at which the affairs of the community are discussed] and stopped because he didn’t know the things they were talking about. So I said, ‘You could all get together and talk about what’s going on. And we would also like to see you all help give rides or come play ball with the boys and talk to them.’ My husband agreed. So I started calling men, and the first week we had like 12 to 13. And they have been coming through. When the Assembly hosted a Mother’s Day breakfast for women in the senior citizens building where I live, I called the men and I said we need volunteers to set up. They helped serve the women. It was really, really wonderful. Now when I call and I say we are short of rides to pick up the kids they come through. I really give it to them.”
How the neighborhood has changed:
“I was raised in this area. There was a really bad drug problem and it’s kind of clearing up. When we started going into the neighborhood, I guess they thought we are down there for drugs. They tried to run up on us and see if we wanted something, and I would say, ‘No, we’re here for prayers and for the kids.’ So they notice us on the block but they don’t disrespect us. And the teachers are comfortable walking down there by themselves because everybody knows who we are.”