Prayer, preparation and courage fuel growth in Indiana communities
By Lindsey Lugsch-Tehle
For four months before moving, Paith MacQueen Gruszynski prayed to find a house in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where her family could connect with neighbors who were ready to build community. During a brief visit to the area, she and her husband, Daniel Gruszynski, found a house in a developing and diverse neighborhood just outside of Fort Wayne, in Huntertown, Indiana. “While we were touring the house we sat down with the realtor to offer prayers that the space would be ours,” says MacQueen Gruszynski. They were grateful to move in soon after.
With two young girls — Zinnia, 3, and Radia, 7 — MacQueen Gruszynski needed in-home childcare, and in her ad she specified she was looking to hire someone willing to help them create a “prayerful home.”
Kyra Potts responded. They formed a quick connection and spoke frankly about their personal lives during their first phone call. “Paith said that she would pray for me every day,” says Potts. “I just felt God throughout it all.”
Potts began working with the Gruszynski family, and Zinnia and Radia bonded with her immediately. “She’s helpful; she’s kind. She plays with me and helps me clean my room,” says Radia.
“Kyra and I began to build a true friendship rooted in our mutual love for God and our desire to build community,” says MacQueen Gruszynski. “We quickly became a team. It was clear to both of us that her coming to us was a result of those four months of prayers. Our friendship is full of love; how could we not extend that love to others?” she says.
Potts says, “We have the power to uplift each other and we do it as second nature because we love each other in the best of times and the worst.”
Spurred on by a message of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing council of the Baha’i Faith, MacQueen Gruszynski and Potts–and inspired by the assurance of Baha’u’llah that the “source of courage and power is the promotion of the Word of God, and steadfastness in His Love”–engaged in conversations and initiated activities with people in the Copper Creek neighborhood, where the Gruszynski family lives, and the Maplecrest neighborhood in Fort Wayne, where Potts has many connections.
After 12 days of intense outreach, 27 people of all ages were participating in the community-building process–including children’s moral education classes, junior youth groups for middle schoolers and study circles for youth and adults.
Two people also declared their belief in Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Potts being one of them. “I learned about Baha’u’llah and was instantly assured; I felt brave to face challenges,” she says.
During this time, Potts moved in with the Gruszynskis as their live-in nanny, which further cemented her role in the lives of Zinnia and Radia, who also participated in her Baha’i children’s class. Zinnia says, “Kyra’s my big sister. I like having her living here!”
The move also afforded MacQueen Gruszynski and Potts an opportunity to closely work together to build community. Having lived in places like Los Angeles, California; Portland, Oregon; and Westminster, Colorado, MacQueen Gruszynski can draw on insights gleaned along her journey. “And with Kyra’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the community, we talked constantly about how we saw individuals fitting into the community-building process,” she says.
Reflecting on how this process continues to unfold, MacQueen Gruszynski says she sees herself as “a spirit pioneering on earth for the purpose of fulfilling God’s plan for my soul–to work for the betterment of mankind through sharing His teachings.”
Part of that work, she says, is to help people become bolder about accepting spiritual blessings. She says the work of reaching out and organizing so many gatherings is “unsustainable without community-wide accompaniment.”
After studying the guidance of the Universal House of Justice–which emphasizes a “vision of personal and collective transformation occurring simultaneously, founded on study of the Word of God and an appreciation of each person’s capacity”–MacQueen Gruszynski and Potts hosted a session for Baha’is in Fort Wayne exploring how to initiate meaningful conversations. Since then, a few people have joined an intensive study of Arising to Serve, the second book in a sequence of study courses, and new children’s classes and study circles have been formed.
MacQueen Gruszynski says progress, like what is being experienced in her community, comes down to mindset and prayer. “I believe in my bones that the Concourse on high sends souls to me for a purpose, and I am here to discover what that purpose is. Every time I leave my house, I do so with an open heart and mind.”
MacQueen Gruszynski stays prepared by memorizing short quotations from the Baha’i Writings that “have helped me and are applicable to a number of life’s quandaries.” Receptive people always enthusiastically ask questions when she shares the Writings and how they have impacted her own life, she says.
She also actively prays to meet people who are ready to hear what she has to share about Baha’u’llah’s message. “I feel so fearless when I am in front of people because I just assume that they have been sent to me.”
Potts agrees. “Teaching has brought me courage, humility, and a desire to continually check in with myself about the sincerity of my prayers.”
MacQueen Gruszynski says, “it is at the intersection of urgent and sincere prayer and consistent teaching that one develops courage and humility, ‘for all activity begins with a simple strand of love.’”
Excerpt from a letter to the Baha’is of the United States from the Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2015:
“Where a programme of growth has been established in a previously unopened cluster, we see how the initial stirrings of activity arise out of the love for Bahá’u’lláh held in the heart of a committed believer. Notwithstanding the orders of complexity that must eventually be accommodated as a community grows in size, all activity begins with this simple strand of love. It is the vital thread from which is woven a pattern of patient and concentrated effort, cycle after cycle, to introduce children, youth, and adults to spiritual ideas; to foster a feeling for worship through gatherings for prayer and devotion; to stimulate conversations that illuminate understanding; to start ever-growing numbers on a lifetime of study of the Creative Word and its translation into deeds; to develop, along with others, capacity for service; and to accompany one another in the exercise of what has been learned. Beloved friends, loved ones of the Abhá Beauty: We pray for you in earnest on every occasion we present ourselves at His Holy Threshold, that your love for Him may give you the strength to consecrate your lives to His Cause.”