Everywhere I turn these days, I hear a lot of “Bahá’ís of excellent vintage” feel confused about their role in the current plan.
On the one hand, we know that the outpouring of energy released at the youth conferences held last year, has given large numbers of young people the capacity to mobilize large numbers in the field of service:
The two essential movements which continue to propel the process of growth—the steady flow of participants through the sequence of training institute courses and the movement of clusters along a continuum of development have both been immensely reinforced by the outpouring of energy released at the youth conferences held last year. The expanded capacity the Bahá’í world has acquired for mobilizing large numbers of young people in the field of service can now yield further fruit. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message 2014, paragraph 1)
On the other hand, we also know that we need everyone’s contribution:
Everyone has a share in this enterprise; the contribution of each serves to enrich the whole. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message 2014, paragraph 5)
At the recent Canadian National Convention the question was often asked “what is the role of the large contingent of deepened, steadfast, long-term Bahá’ís in light of the new plan? Many spoke of their broken hearts as a result of not knowing what they can contribute; and not knowing what they can do now, particularly since the seeds they’ve sown for so long don’t seem to be bearing fruit.
Here are some ideas which emerged. I hope you will add more in the comments below!
- The obvious ones: open your homes for gatherings; provide food and rides to the youth and junior youth
- Let go of any sense of failure – none of our efforts to plant seeds in the past have gone to naught, even if we can’t see the results just yet
- Be patient! Results will happen in God’s time, not ours! Continue to be aware and awake to new possibilities and opportunities
- Invite the youth to dinner! Get to know them so you will know where and how to help
- Cook their meals; do their errands
- Adults can find creative ways to support youth, who will support the junior youth, who will support the children
- Start an Elders Group to support each other – such a group has started in Ontario (Canada), where we get together a couple of times a year to share ideas and set goals for ourselves
- Encourage and support the youth in your area to attend one of the youth conferences planned for this summer
- Encourage our Assemblies to call on people to assist – sometimes people need to be asked to do something specific and respond better when it comes from the Institutions
The ability to deputize a youth pioneer is a gift given to us from Bahá’u’lláh as we see in the following quote:
Let those who can offer their valued services to the teaching work arise without delay; let those who cannot travel or pioneer deputize those who can go in their stead. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 353)
The National Assembly has told us that in the coming year, they want to encourage youth year of service volunteers to go into communities to set up junior youth programs. They realize that this will need to be their full time job; so contributions can be made to the deputization fund to help offset the cost of living expenses to support these youth. If we can’t find a role for ourselves in the current plan, we can discharge our duty by deputizing a youth who can!
8. Hold Firesides and Deepenings – they’re still important!:
Amongst other things is the holding of the meetings for teaching — so that blessed souls and the old ones from amongst the believers may gather together the youths of the love of God in schools of instruction and teach them all the divine proofs and irrefragable arguments, explain and elucidate the history of the Cause, and interpret also the prophecies and proofs which are recorded and are extant in the divine Books and Epistles regarding the Manifestation of the Promised One, so that the young ones may go in perfect knowledge in all these degrees. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 427)
Recently I have been traveling for three months. When I came back from my travels I was so weak I could not eat. I had lost my appetite. What was the problem? The problem was that because the House of Justice has given us the institute process that is the only thing we have to do. That is wrong. That is where the mistake is. Dear Friends, the House of Justice has never said that the core activities are the only things we have to do. There is no such thing in the writings that instead of having firesides we have study circles; that the idea of firesides is an “old stuff”, this is the “old method”. The new method is study circles. This is wrong. There is no such thing in the writings of the House of Justice. Never! (Ali Nakhjavani, The Institute Process and Core Activities )
9. Help the weaker ones to iron out their difficulties and learn to really function and live like true believers:
What the believers need is not only . . . to really study the teachings, but also to have more peace-makers circulating among them. Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Bahá’ís, are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation. It is one of the functions of the older and the more mature Bahá’ís, to help the weaker ones to iron out their difficulties and learn to really function and live like true believers! (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)
For more inspiration, I recommend the following book:
The Bright Glass of the Heart: Elder Voices on Faith. In it, author Heather Cardin provides us with an inspiring collection of personal stories of elder Bahá’ís whose commitment and service laid the foundations of the Bahá’í Faith around the world.
Can you think of ideas to add to the list? Post your comments below!