On a recent trip to Cambodia (ok, not so recent), my wife and I were blessed to be able to attend a national training session for institute coordinators at the Baha’i centre in Battambang. The training was specifically for coordinators from those areas that counted more than 20 active junior youth groups. Battambang, for those who don’t know, is one of those places in the world where there’s been a lot of growth in the Baha’i community. In the mid-2000’s, it was known as “the ‘A’ cluster of all ‘A’ clusters”, because thousands of people had embraced the Faith of Baha’u’llah thanks to the dedicated efforts of the friends at that time. In some places around Battambang, entire neighbourhoods are designated “Baha’i Communities” because most of their inhabitants have accepted the Baha’i Faith. The explosive growth they experienced has slowed somewhat, of course, as the community’s focus shifted to embrace both expansion and consolidation as concurrent processes.
Anyway, while we were at the training, we watched a play about “Accompaniment” presented by some of the participants. The photos are mine, and the script included below is written by my good friend Prema Krish, of Battambang. The original play was performed in the Khmer language, of course, but this translation should be pretty accurate. I’ll let it speak for itself, but suffice to say, it provides an inspiring example of how we can approach families about establishing children’s classes, and the difference that accompaniment can make in helping people gain the confidence to arise to serve.
Part 1/5. Completed Ruhi Book 3.
G: Oh, i just finished my Ruhi at the Battambang Baha’i centre during the recent intensive institute training. I want to start a children’s class but i don’t know what i should do first.
B: Well, to start a children’s class, we first need to find children…hmmm…how shall we gather the children from our village?
G: Do you think the village leader might be able to help?
B: Maybe. Let’s go and find out together!
Part 2/5. Visiting the Village Leader.
G/B: Good afternoon, Mr. Village Leader (VL)
VL: Ah, good afternoon!
G: You look deep in thought. What is the matter?
VL: I’m just looking at the activities around our village. For the past few months, i’ve noticed that there’s been a lot of children’s classes and junior youth groups carried out by the Baha’is in our village. It’s alarming because i see our youth are so motivated to serve the community these days!
B: Mr. VL, we have here G, who just completed Book 3 in the Ruhi sequence of courses and she would also like to start a children’s class. We came to you to find out if you can suggest any families in this village whom we might approach to start one.
VL: Another one! Oh, very good, G. I’m happy for you that you completed the course. Sure, i’ll be happy to help. Let’s see…there’s the A family whose children i think are not participating in children’s classes yet. I see them loitering by the road during the evenings when others are in children’s classes.
G: The A family? Err, i don’t know if they’ll be impressed if i approach them directly. They’re always so busy..
VL: Don’t worry! Mr A is my good friend! Let me talk to him.
Part 3/5. The A Family.
Mr. A: Where are the kids? I hardly get to see them these days.
Mrs. A: I have no idea where they are. They leave the house early in the morning and i don’t know where they go or what they do…it’s concerning.
Mr. A: What do you mean you don’t know where they are?
Mrs. A: You know kids…they go out and play with other children. I’m sure they’re not too far away.
Mr. A: We need to watch out for them. There are many dangers all around us.
Mrs. A: I know what you mean. I heard there was a snatch thief in the neighbouring village who robbed an elderly lady in broad daylight! The nerve of these people! But having said that, I’m having trouble with the kids. They just won’t listen to me these days! All they want to do is play.
Part 4/5. The Visit to Family A.
VL: Hey, Mr. A! How have you been doing recently?
Mr. A: Good afternoon, Mr VL. What a pleasant surprise. Please come in.
Mrs. A: Please have a seat, Mr. VL.
Mr. A: What’s going on around our village these days?
VL: I was just going through the monthly reports and i’ve noticed a lot of classes for children and junior youth going on. I don’t know if you know G, she’s one of the youth who just finished a course…err..
G: Ruhi Book 3, sir.
VL: Ah, yes, Ruhi Book 3! And now, she wants to start another children’s class! That’ll be the 6th in our village!
Mrs. A: What is a children’s class?
B: Allow me, sir. Mr. and Mrs. A, the course G just completed is to empower her to start a class with about 10 children between the ages of 6 to 11. The classes teach children a short quotation and they learn to understand it through stories, songs, games and coloring activities and they will be able to remember this quotation well. The quotations are like “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth” or “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself” which focuses on developing spiritual capabilities.
Mr. A: Hmmn, Mrs A and i were just discussing our concern for the children and the need to bring them up well.
The A kids, Aa and Ab, walk in with the neighbour, C…
Part 5/5. A Children’s Class is Formed.
Mrs A: Ah, there you are! We were just talking about you. Mr VL is here to visit, come and join us.
Aa/Ab: Good evening, Mr. VL.
Mr. A: Kids, big brother B has just been sharing with us about starting a children’s class. I think both of you should attend it.
Mrs. A: Where and when will this class be?
G: Err, i haven’t thought about it yet. You’re the first family we’re visiting…
Mr. A: Ah, good! Let’s have it here, at our house. Both Aa and Ab can join. Oh, maybe even C wants to join?
Mrs. A: C, why don’t you ask your parents about it tonight. Wouldn’t you want to learn together with Aa and Ab?
Ab: Mom, who will teaching us?
Mrs. A: Big sister G here will be teaching you.
Aa, Ab and C look at big sister G and they all smile at the same time 😀