year-end celebration

After seeing how well a “graduation” ceremony went for our local junior youth group, we decided it would be fun to have a similar event for our children’s class. Some time in August, we paid home visits to the kids and their families to introduce the idea of having a community celebration—something that would involve not only the families of the children in the class, but neighbours and friends as well. The kids would present some of the things they had studied during the past school year, and there could be refreshments and games too. Everyone agreed it would be a great idea, so we found a good date in early September, booked space at a nearby park, and forged ahead with our plans. As a first activity, we asked the children to create invitations to pass to their friends and family, which they did with gusto.

paper puppetsIn our teaching team, we decided on a few activities that might make for a good presentation. We settled on a couple of good songs: “The Human Race Is One” by Gina and Russ Garcia (available from the Ruhi Institute), and “This Little Light of Mine“. We also decided to make a puppet show out of one of the activities we had done during the year—specifically, the sketch about the village harvest from our lesson on justice and fairness (Ruhi Book 3, Grade 2, Set 4, Lesson 11). For the whole month of August, we practiced these with the children. Practicing the songs was simple enough, since they were already familiar with both of them. As for the puppets, we decided to go with paper stick puppets to keep things simple. We printed out a whole bunch of characters for the children to colour—a schoolteacher, villagers doing different things like harvesting vegetables or repairing the rooftop, the sun and clouds, etc. They had a lot of fun with this. After all the colouring was done, we put sticks on everything and voilà—puppets! In our spare time away from class, we had developed a script based on the sketch; when we put everything together, the puppet show began to take shape. Everyone really got into it; they each had their favourite puppets and enjoyed huddling behind our makeshift stage waiting for their cues.

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the fruits of our labours

pickin' berriesThis was one busy week for us, in a lot of ways. I mentioned before that Quynh and I are preparing for our first child to be born this fall, and that’s been taking up an increasing amount of our time: check-ups with the midwife, getting major projects finished up at work, preparing for baby showers, attending pre-natal classes, and so on. In the interest of shoring up our efforts to serve, we’re also preparing to move into an apartment that’s closer to the neighbourhood where our children’s class takes place. All of this has to be done soon, since the baby is due in October—so the stress level is starting to rise. Apart from personal preparations, though, I wanted to paint a little picture of what went on during this busy, yet joyful weekend—a picture bright with the colour of confirmations.

We received a text message just before lunch on Friday, inviting us to an “arts night” presented by a group of junior youth who had been attending a weeklong camp. “Please try ur best to come and support them,” the message read, “They are going to be sharing their reflections on what they learnt this week! It’s going to be great!” Although I felt exhausted from a long, stressful week, something told me that the best way to improve my frame of mind would be to enjoy the company of youth and junior youth. Thank goodness for that inner voice! After discussing with the rest of our teaching team, we all decided to attend together. We arrived just in time to take our seats and to enjoy a little chit-chat. A few of the junior youth we met in another neighbourhood were there, and we happily caught up with each other. They weren’t part of the camp, but were showing up to encourage one of their friends who was. The camp consisted of several groups studying two different books called Spirit of Faith and Power of the Holy Spirit, both of which cover Bahá’í principles and history in a fair bit of depth. Each group made several different presentations, singing songs, showing artwork, performing skits and dramatic readings. What was really special and heartwarming, though, was seeing several young people who were once a part of our children’s class taking centre stage, eloquently reading poems about the true nature of love, explaining the principle of progressive revelation, and more. Seeing how they had progressed from the moment we first met them, six years ago, until now reminded us how our time together was just a part of a continuing process of education that will eventually span their whole lives.

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ice skating

rideau canal skateway 11Several members of our teaching team just spent part of the afternoon on the ice at Ottawa’s Dow’s Lake, where many people, both locals and visitors from far and near, spend the winter months skating around on the world’s longest skating rink. no skates for us, though—we were accompanying two families from our Chinatown children’s classes who had never been out on the ice before. boots for all, and at least one young child snoozing comfortably in a stroller. the kids were full of energy, and dashed up and down the frozen surface of the lake at least twice, hooting and hollering, falling over and getting back up again, bumping into each other and flourishing into big hold-on-for-dear-life hugs. despite the chaos of little feet scrambling around on the ice, we managed to reinforce some of the lessons from the children’s class, such as showing kindness by helping our siblings and friends up when they fall. one of the children, a six-year-old girl, was asking lots of questions about all the big buildings she saw around us, which i attempted to answer, explaining the long words in their names. Perhaps thinking of other big complicated words, she asked me, “What about that ‘Thou art’… you know?” “You mean, ‘Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful’?” I replied, citing the prayer we had been memorizing together. “Yeah, that one. How does it go again?” she advanced. I repeated the prayer for her (making sure to be reverent and respectful), and she repeated it afterwards. We talked about what “mighty” and “powerful” meant, and discussed what it means that God is Almighty and All-powerful.  Really nice. I felt like it was a great bonding experience between us and the families; sort of like friends getting to know each other better. We walked them home feeling lots of joy at being together, knowing that we would meet again soon for another class.