Retired Georgia couple come full circle to open new chapter of service
Part of a group of friends ‘watering seeds,’ renewing connections, and organizing gatherings for all ages
Newly retired Jeff and Sarah Streiff have returned to the community that was their first home after marrying and are finding new ways to give back.
Alongside other Dalton, Georgia, Baha’is and visiting members of the Faith, the Streiffs are putting to use the cross-cultural skills they honed while serving at the Baha’i community center in metro Atlanta and working in China.
In so doing, notes Sarah Streiff, they are “watering seeds” of interest in the teachings of Baha’u’llah that were planted in years past by others and are sowing a few of their own.
Bolstering their labors is a very experienced younger Baha’i, Angelica Johnson, who has moved into town.
Also answering the call to aid efforts in Dalton are Joel and Roni Smith, who travel about 70 miles from Dallas, Georgia.
Joel Smith says on a recent visit they invited residents of an apartment complex to bring their kids to children’s classes in a community center, with 12 youngsters joining in as a result. Smith also spoke about the Bible in an evening talk attended by 12 people.
The Dalton Baha’i community as a whole has been energized since the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, says Streiff.
“We gathered for [the] bicentenary in a small group of four at a believer’s home,” she relates. “The believer who graciously hosted us had set a goal to finish remodeling his house by the bicentenary and wanted to host.
“It seemed an impossible task, but he wanted to give that service to Baha’u’llah and he had to do most of the work with his own hands as his workers were nowhere to be found. He is 74.”
But there they celebrated, and most of the time was spent answering a guest’s questions about Baha’u’llah. “The lady … still attends our gatherings,” says Streiff.
The Streiffs themselves are plunging into a “diversity of opportunities” that are far “out of our comfort zones,” says Sarah Streiff.
Included, she says, is a study group on The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights lawyer and scholar.
“We basically were trying to find like-minded people to address issues, as we had had so many people whose eyes glazed over when we mentioned religion,” says Streiff. “We needed a new approach, an action approach.”
A member of the study group who is a new lawyer for Georgia Legal Services in Dalton has volunteered to help with the spiritual education of children.
A youth also responded to serve the children’s class “and her family asked us for a fireside,” says Streiff.
In another outgrowth of the study group, the Streiffs are mentoring at the county Daily Reporting Center for people reentering society after being incarcerated.
It all adds up to a daily cycle for the Streiffs and collaborators of consulting, acting, reflecting and then refining their efforts, says Sarah Streiff. In short, “Lots of learning.”
As Smith sees it, “People today are looking for positive changes in their lives. These children’s classes and these fireside discussions offer hope that there are people in the world who are working to help make things better.”