Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Baha'i Blog Challenge - Guidance, Encouragement and Support

Being a Homefront Pioneer became a very rewarding solution to our need to satisfy Abdu’l-Baha’s call to action. Our experience during our three-month volunteer assignment in Central Alberta included numerous telephone conversations and email exchanges with various members of the Alberta Baha’i Council. Each encounter was filled with guidance, encouragement and support. Although there is no manual for homefront pioneering, consultation with local Baha’is, groups, Local Spiritual Assemblies, the Cluster Coordinator, and Institute members and the Alberta Baha’i Council helped us manage our pioneer endeavours. 
The Consultation Look
We’ve summarised our first consultation this way:
  • Make contact with the closest Baha'is in the cluster and find out from those friends what is needed in the area.
  • Identify the Cluster Coordinator.
  • Send all receipts related to our Homefront Pioneer assignment to the Alberta Baha’i Council Treasurer.
  • Participate in whatever is already underway in the Cluster.
  • Communicate with the Council through the liaison and assistant.
  • Submit bi-weekly reports that include observations, barriers, recommendations and consultation information to the Alberta Baha’i Council.
  • Enjoy yourself.

Beyond such considerations, a consultative spirit pervades the interactions of those engaged in social action, of whatever size and complexity, and the population they serve. This does not imply that formal mechanisms are necessarily in place for this purpose. It suggests, rather, that the aspirations of the people, their observations and ideas, are ever present and are consciously incorporated into plans and programmes.  (Universal House of Justice, Office of Social and Economic Development, Social Action, 26 November 2012, p. 14)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reflections - Baha'i Blog Challenge

Neighbourhood Walkabouts

During our time as Homefront Pioneers in Rimbey, Alberta, our daily morning ritual with the five dogs and two cats began with releasing the animals from their overnight sleeping cages and sending them outside to relieve themselves. Our instruction from the homeowners was to go outdoors with them to keep them somewhat corralled.

As for the felines, herding cats is a common joke among owners so we let them be and set their water and food bowls on the picnic table. The little dogs returned to the house with enthusiasm and were rewarded with breakfast.

The large German Shepard was a bit wary of us in the beginning however, we soon developed a ‘friendship’ with her.

Friendly neighbours
After the pets were settled, Frank and I would head out with the big dog for our neighbourhood walkabout. If a neighbour happened to be outside we would speak with him or her. We thought this repeated pattern would allow us to be recognised as friendly neighbours.

[homefront pioneers] would yield greater effect if, drawing on the advice of institutions, [if] they were to direct their efforts to clusters, villages, and neighbourhoods within clusters that are the focus of systematic attention.  (adapted from a letter dated 23 May 2011 written by the Universal House of Justice to the Baha’is of the World, paragraphs 1 and 4)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Reflection - Baha'i Blog

April 6, 2017, began with examining the Fire Tablet. Our study and meditation extended for a long while with the continued learning of Ruhi Book 6, Teaching the Cause.

Later, we reviewed and discussed the 8 March 2017/8 Loftiness 173 letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada.

Afterward, we reviewed and discussed “Extracts from letters written by the Universal House of Justice regarding pioneering”, from a letter dated 23 May 2011 written by the Universal House of Justice to the Baha’is of the World, paragraphs 1 and 4.

We strongly believe that time dedicated to the Writings is a stretch well spent. The events fill us with great joy, confidence and guidance.

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.  Tablets of Baha’ullah, Lawh-i-Maqsud

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Baha'i Blog Challenge - Service

Lacome, AB Hospital
On Tuesday, April 4, we took a short drive to Lacombe, Alberta, a community approximately fourteen kilometres east of our Rimbey-based homefront pioneer assignment. We had volunteered to visit shut-ins who live in the extended daycare facility at the hospital.

We spent a respectful short time with our new friend and he and Frank exchanged opinions and impressions about their having lived in Saskatchewan years ago.

Their bond was cinched when the mention of Crib, a fascinating card game, came up in the conversation. We promised that our next visit with him would include a deck of cards and a game board. He acknowledged the plan with the nod of his head.

Bird on a Wire - Pinyon Jay
Back at home base, we were tasked with filling the various bird feeders with seeds for the majority of the Finches, sugar-enhanced water for the pleasure of the Woodpeckers, and suet, that hard animal fat sometimes used for cooking – in this case, used to feed the birds.

That evening we rested contentedly.

An act, however infinitesimal, is, when viewed in the mirror of the knowledge of God, mightier than a mountain. Every drop proffered in His path is as the sea in that mirror.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 4)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Baha'i Blog Challenge

A Response to Abdu'l-Baha's Urging
A reflection of our Homefront Pioneers Experience

View from Township Road 422
On Monday, April 3, 2017, we arrived at our Homefront Pioneer destination. For three months we were housed in an isolated community thirty-five kilometres south-east of Rimbey, Alberta. We accepted an invitation to pioneer the area by the Alberta Baha'i Council.

We met several of the town’s people and introduced ourselves to them as newcomers. When one person asked, Why Rimbey? we shared that we were caring for a local couple’s home and pets. We added we were Baha’is who were hoping to learn about and participate in their community.

Later, at the dining table of the homeowners, we talked about the woman’s collection of protection idols such as her porcelain angels, voodoo dolls and gargoyles. She asked us how we felt about protection and how it was that we protected ourselves from the evils surrounding us. Frank took the opportunity to share with her that we are Baha’is and we protect ourselves with our Faith and prayers.

She asked, What is Baha’i?

Frank drew from his years of experience in the Faith and revealed to our listeners that Baha’is believe that we are now living in a new era where the most current prophet, Baha’u’llah, has provided to each of us messages that reveal the purpose of our lives in this time – to know and explore God’s spiritual virtues such as truthfulness, kindness, unity, love and justice. Our listeners came to the conclusion that if you are truthful, kind, loving and just, you are living a good life, a happy life.

Armed with the power of Thy name nothing can ever hurt me, and with Thy love in my heart all the world’s afflictions can in no wise alarm me. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 208)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Outlook, Saskatchewan - It's Outlook on the Library System

The sign at the front entrance to the public library in Outlook, says Wheatland Community Library, however, access to its Internet WIFI is restricted to the staff and students in the school in which it is housed. 

This public library in this town is private when it comes to accessing the World Wide Web.

Outlook is located approximately 94 kilometres south of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Highway 219.

Frank and I stood in front of the librarian and explained to her that I’m a writer and most of my material is stored on my hard drive and on a web cloud. Also, I must verify my facts and most I can research on the Internet. “Do you have free WIFI?”

Bar with free WIFI, Outlook, SK
“No. There is no Internet access here in this library for the public. It is for the exclusive use of the school staff and the students. You can get WIFI at the café down the street or at the bar,” the librarian said.

I felt defeated. Frank and I have been on the road for three years now, visiting as many small towns and their senior centres and libraries as possible. Even if the library has restricted days and hours, they've always had a keen sense that it is in their interest to provide free Internet access to whoever comes through their doors.

Outlook, SK, Town Office
The good news is that my explanation to the Town Office Manager, Trent, resulted in my having access to their Internet WIFI and a comfortable chair at a table in the art centre. We left a thank you card with his staff to pass along to him on our way out.

Life is good.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tugaske, Saskatchewan - It's Not a Temple

Masonic Temple/Lodge
According to Dorothy and Lynn of Tugaske, the Masonic Temple is now owned by a local artist who had the interior modified a bit from its previous life as a bank. We are standing together on the sidewalk across from the lodge in front of the Canada Post building.

“My mother used to work at that bank in the 1920s,” Dorothy says. “It’s not a temple, it’s a lodge. The Masons aren’t here anymore. They were kind of like the Kinsmen.”

Town Hall 1910
The building kitty-corner to it displays a shield inscribed with Town Hall 1910. It is also privately owned and in disrepair. Lynn reports that the new owners had made big promises but have left it rotting for years. They point out that the hotel is also vacant and the restaurant closed.

“You might also like to know that our church is abandoned now too. The roof was leaking and the repairs didn’t take, the heat was turned off and now small animals have taken it over. We meet in the community hall for services. The Pastor comes from Saskatoon every two weeks,” says Dorothy.

United Church - unused
The ladies excuse themselves saying that they’ve been standing too long and need to go home and rest.

My exploration of the town takes me across the dusty gravel street to Westbridgeford Meats Ltd. A woman is standing under the canopy. I ask if it is her business, she says yes and invites me in. The pungent odor of decaying meat fills my nostrils and makes my eyes water. She explains and that she once bred Jack Russell dogs and fed them ground meat and leftovers from her daily butchering. She now specializes as a dog food producer.

Westbridge Meats Ltd.
“We used to own the only grocery store in town with the meat rendering plant in the back. Some years ago, the whole thing burned down, we rebuilt the meat business and that’s all we do now,” she says.

The meat packing plant and the Co-op garage seem to be the only businesses holding the town in its location. Tugaske is 170 kilometers south of Saskatoon.

That same day, Frank met Dave, a guitar builder who often has international students stay in the town for seven weeks and learn how to build guitars. At the end of their stay, they return home with the guitar they have built. At the moment, one of his students is from Israel and another is from Chicago.

Later that day, we met Violet, the librarian. The library is a great resource for the locals who attend it on the three days of the week and the short hours it is open. Like many of the other towns we’ve visited this summer, the library is sometimes the only gathering place.