back from sherbrooke / de retour de sherbrooke

so I travelled down to Sherbrooke this past weekend, to visit my friends – the Baha’i youth – and to welcome back Catherine and Geneviève, who’ve been serving in Gabon for the past eight months and a half. It was a treat and a pleasure to see every one of them – I truly enjoyed myself, and felt none of the anxiety I sometimes experience when I’m in social situations. I think I must truly love these youth. I’m certainly proud of their level of energy, their great love for each other, and their willingness to bend their efforts to fulfill the Plan of God for this Day. Remember the Canadian Baha’i National Convention, where Baha’i institutions announced their intention to establish 40-odd intensive programs of growth across Canada to help meet the goals of the current Five Year Plan given to us by the Universal House of Justice? Sherbrooke’s Baha’i community is among those targeted for growth. And to know the Baha’is who live there, you know they’re ready. The love and devotion expressed in that community is awesome. I just hope I can share a part of their path.

C’était avec une grande joie que j’ai pu me rendre à Sherbrooke cette fin de semaine pour célébrer le retour au Canada de Catherine et Geneviève, deux jeunes baha’ies de l’Estrie qui sont parties au Gabon pour presque neuf mois pour enseigner la Foi baha’ie et servir l’humanité. Il y avait plein de monde là pour fêter leur retour, y compris la famille, leurs amis du cégep et de l’université, et bien sûr une gang de jeunes baha’is. Et bien sûr il y avait plein de bouffe (du barbecue, sous une averse de pluie). On a beaucoup jasé, et puis bien sûr on a pris le temps de regarder tous leurs photos du Gabon en format diaporama, avec leurs commentaires. À la fin de la soirée, on est allé voir des films on s’est loué un X-box on a enlevé les tresses à Catherine et on s’est couché tard. Le lendemain, après un bon déjeûner, du bon jasage et un fracas au Pictionary, moi, David et Karine ont repris la route pour Ottawa.

Ça me fait remémorer mes années de service au Québec de revoir Cat et Gege, de les entendre raconter leurs histoires de bonheur et de malheur. Il y a quelque chose qui se passe quand on est pionnier pour sa Foi qui provoque un changement, non, une transformation profonde, et ce pour tous et chacun sans exception. Ça m’a vraiment touché d’être ramené à réfléchir sur cette transformation en l’observant dans les autres.

Cette transformation intérieure dans nous-mêmes provoque des changements externes, bien sûr – on devient plus à l’aise avec le service parce qu’on connaît ça. On comprend mieux ceux qui souffrent, qui se sentent seuls ou désespérés, parce qu’on a vécu ça. Et, du moins je l’espère, on comprend un peu mieux ce que ça veut dire d’aimer Dieu et de s’en remettre à Lui. Tous ceux qui songent à servir en tant que pionnier, et même ceux qui se demandent s’ils auront jamais la force ou la foi ou le détachement nécessaire pour une telle affaire, faites-moi confiance – allez-y, et mettez le doute à côté. Et ceux qui ne peuvent pas? Participez dans les programmes intensifs de croissance, joignez-vous à un cercle d’étude, ou, si vous êtes animateur, offrez-en un à votre cercle d’amis qui cherchent à connaître la foi baha’ie, ses écrits et ses principes. Chacun de nous peut laisser son empreinte et contribuer au Plan Divin.

C’est tout pour l’instant, mais gardez l’oeil ouvert pour des photos de la fin de semaine sur mon site flickr!

naw-rúz muse (back again)

happy naw-rúz, all. every year at around this time, I generally take the time to muse a bit about the path that my life has taken. I like to think that a new chapter of my life began on Naw-rúz day, 2002, when I left Ottawa to begin two years of service in the Centre-du-Québec area. I’ve been thinking a lot about that service lately. Last Friday, I was invited to attend a gathering for tutors of the courses of the Ruhi Institute. The Institute Board of Ontario (or Canada, maybe?) had asked all study circle tutors and participants to go through the practice component of the first unit of Ruhi Book One—studying prayers with people around them. We gathered to share about how this practice was going, what progress we (and the participants) had made, and so on. We touched on many related topics—home visits, reaching out to people around us and doing real, one-on-one teaching. It was pretty good—inspiring and practical. I like how the Bahá’í community is becoming more and more focused and practical. The more we focus on carrying out the Five-year Plan and its goals, the better.

Anyway, I thought about my first few months in Québec, when I had just arrived from Ottawa with my rusty French and my prayer book. It was so easy to reach out to people! I was pioneering, so I knew I didn’t quite fit in and that was all right—in fact, I played off of that in order to teach. Quickeners of Mankind was constant bedside reading. It was exciting to see the divine confirmations being showered from all sides, sustained by love for Bahá’u’lláh and the Bahá’í Faith. There were lots of adventures and amazing experiences. Then, as time went on, tests came. Financial tests, emotional tests, mental tests, physical tests, spiritual tests… you name it. I had prayed for tests, and got them by the bucketful. I started to feel depressed, weighed down by the difficulties I was going through. The slower I moved, the fewer were the confirmations, and the less I seemed to be able to “quicken” those around me, until I got so depressed that it all just stopped, and the only thing left to do was to cry out for help.

It’s a few years later, and things are better. Much better, actually. There are still downs, like the one I had earlier this winter. But they’re not crippling; they don’t shut me down to the point where I can’t bounce back and start to live life again. It’s clear that some sort of recovery has taken place, allowing me to see the effects of transformation in my life… So I guess what I’ve been thinking lately is: how much longer before I really get my groove back? I mean, that uplifting, exhilirating pioneer type of vibe that comes from putting all of your trust in God, from taking one step and letting Him carry you the next ten. And you know, that’s not a question anyone else can answer for me, nor can anyone decide. It’s up to me to keep doing the work that will take me that many steps closer to Bahá’u’lláh, and enable me to serve the Cause to the utmost of my capacity.

So I guess I’ve answered my own question. When will I be able to reach out to the people around me in friendliness and fellowship, and share with them the most precious gift I have to give*? Whenever I want. As some people have pointed out to me, I already do, but don’t always realize it.

O My servants! My holy, My divinely ordained Revelation may be likened unto an ocean in whose depths are concealed innumerable pearls of great price, of surpassing luster. It is the duty of every seeker to bestir himself and strive to attain the shores of this ocean, so that he may, in proportion to the eagerness of his search and the efforts he hath exerted, partake of such benefits as have been pre-ordained in God’s irrevocable and hidden Tablets. […] This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you. Behold it is closer to you than your life-vein! Swift as the twinkling of an eye ye can, if ye but wish it, reach and partake of this imperishable favor, this God-given grace, this incorruptible gift, this most potent and unspeakably glorious bounty.

Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.326

With that, I’m off to bed. May this new year bring each one of you peace, certitude, hope, and confirmation. Even if I don’t always respond to each and every email these days, rest assured that the little notes and e-cards that pour in with greetings and naw-rúz wishes are very much appreciated.

* See Ruhi Book 6, Unit 1, Section 6.

drummondville, day 1

back at the Lachance family home for the night. The Lachances are awesome people with a storied and colourful past. Nicole and Marc (the mom & dad) became Baha’is in Granby when Denis and Jinous Allard were living there, back in the 70’s. They pioneered to Réunion island (in the Indian ocean) and afterwards to Gaspé (they helped form the first Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Gaspé, ten years after my parents pioneered there). Right now they are hanging out in Drummondville, pioneering yet again, and teaching the heck out of this place. If you follow my blog you’ll know about the many people who’ve been declaring their faith in Baha’u’llah in Drummondville recently. Anyway, I digress.

After a slow, lazy morning of catching up, we had lunch and drove on out to Odanak, a native reserve down by the mouth of the Saint-François River at the St. Lawrence Seaway. Nicole introduced me to a few of her good friends out there. One of them is Nicole O’Bomsawin, general manager of the Musée des Abénakis – a museum devoted to the culture and history of the Waban-aki Nation, as the local First Nations people are known. I also met a couple more of her friends on the reserve, including a very kind elderly couple – the husband went around showing me a whole bunch of family photos. In the middle of our visit, someone else came over to help them clean house – the webmaster of the Waban-aki Nation web site. We talked web stuff for a few minutes; that was cool as all-get-out. Odanak is like a little village, and the people are very friendly. It was refreshing to be among them. The company of aboriginal people is so precious and rewarding. Apparently Nicole and several other Baha’is often make friendly visits there, so the townspeople know them fairly well by know.

Before returning to Drummondville, we bought a dreamcatcher for another friend of Nicole’s, a Congolese guy called Guy. It was his birthday today. (surprise!) We went to bring it to him after dinner. We rounded out the evening by going to visit Natasha, another one of the pioneers in Drummondville, and her three (rowdy) sons. They were delighted, and so were we. We just sat around, enjoying each other’s company, swapping stories, looking at photos, playing rock-paper-scissors, and so on until bedtime. Natasha and company are leaving Drummondville in mid-July to join Jacky, the man of the house, in Tahiti. Jacky is originally from Tahiti, and I believe the two of them met in New Caledonia. I guess their wish to pioneer back to Tahiti finally got the better of them – and all the better. They will be missed here, that’s for sure. There’s always email, and MSN messenger. And of course, who wouldn’t be up for a month-long travel-teaching trip to Tahiti…?

Gabrielle and I just got done talking about pioneering. She works as a costumer (or tailor, or seamstress, or whatever you call it… she has a college diploma in fashion design, anyway), and she’s been thinking of leaving Drummondville sometime after this summer to go short-term pioneering somewhere – maybe Hong Kong, she mused, maybe the Caribbean. She was elected to the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Drummondville this year, but were she to leave, there’d probably be enough people left to keep going, what with the six new adult Baha’is in town. It’s exciting stuff, to be sure. So much movement and growth in this little community, stuck on the highway like a blot between Québec and Montreal, and yet shining like a lamp with the fire of the love of Baha’u’llah. Baha’is here are rising to the challenges brought forth by the Universal House of Justice, and are striving in their own ways to unify humankind, bring together the diverse races, religions and nations, and light the fire of universal love and brotherhood among their friends and neighbours. It’s a privilege for me to be here today. It took me years to get here, and, just for today, I don’t regret a moment of it.

happy weekend after naw-ruz

AKA easter, otherwise known as ‘miscellaneous chocolate holiday‘. It’s been a nice, long, well-deserved, restful weekend, full of friends, spring cleaning, sleeping in, and goofing around. highlights? hung around with old high school friends from St. Peter’s — Matt D. lives across the street from me here, and we just watched movies, ordered pizza and shawarmas, and watched friends getting smoked at cards. It was all good. We finished the evening watching a homespun snowboarding video from the “Wildcats” team – that was interesting… some of it was a little outside my usual taste in movies, but the snowboard tricks were pretty wicked. r0xx0r.

Saturday we had Misagh (aka Mees) over for dinner, to the tune of phat chicken rotini and cheesecake. We chilled, talked about our experiences pioneering and doing periods of service for the Baha’i Faith, life in Zambia, and just simply conversed the whole evening. It’s amazing how similar are the stories of people who’ve done periods of service, whether in Africa, Nunavut, or Quebec. The time one spends in service is always a time of great tests and difficulties, of frustrations and pain, but invariably it’s also sublime, spiritual, invigorating and transformative. Perhaps these blessings are something we bring with us into worlds to come?

Anyway, apparently Vafa had some sort of bad movie marathon at his place that night, but we elected not to go (having myself developed a fatal allergy to the movie Starship Troopers long ago). I’m sure it was just fantastic.

Sunday, Aref and a few other people gathered at his place to wish Aram and Natalia a happy engagement. Oh yeah, in case you didn’t know, Aram and Natalia are getting married. Welcome to the 21st century.

Today, I slept in until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, because I could. It’s Easter Monday. Jesus rose from the dead so that we could stay in bed. Holla back.

Okay, I apologize if I’ve just offended the entire Internet.

This week promises to be nice and busy. Meetings basically all week, culminating in a phat day of youth activities on Saturday. I’ll post more about Saturday’s activities later on in the week, so you can know just what’s going down. Peace.

pioneering & job-hunting

I almost feel like a kid again. I feel like some Huckleberry Finn wandering down the Mississippi in search of I know not what, hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Anyone else would surely look at me and call me insane for doing the things I’ve been doing. I could go back to Ottawa and get a cushy government job with a big fat salary in no time flat, and yet look at me, out in Drummondville, waiting, waiting, waiting for my boat to come in. Oh wait, make that train. There aren’t any boats around here, just trains. Anyway.

The good news is that I found some work — delivering pizza. Now, I know what you’re about to say about how insane that is and how I must be out of my mind — but hey, it’s money, I’m gonna try it out and see if it’s to my advantage to keep going with it. Even though I may feel like a kid, I am a big boy.

Or maybe you’re just laughing at me and saying “that crazy Dan Jones”. That’s perfectly ok. Besides, you’re laughing with me. 😉

The other good news is that I’m making some really super contacts here in Drummondville. On Wednesday I went to see someone at La Tablée Populaire, kind of like a really inexpensive restaurant that’s especially for people who are without work; they also have an internet access centre in the back. I asked the director guy whether he needed anyone to help out with the computers, maybe offer some introductory classes, and he responded with a hearty yes. There are tons of local companies that sponsor the place. It could be very interesting — and besides, it’s good to volunteer. On Thursday, I started delivering pizza, and during my break in between lunch and dinner, I moseyed over to the Centre Jeunesse Emploi, where my very cool and helpful counsellor asked me if I wanted to be part of the conseil d’administration (administrative council) of the Centre. Wow! I said yea verily. That should be quite interesting, and should allow me to increase my contacts quite a bit. And in other news, this morning I called up two places where I had taken tests (in the hopes of getting a job) and reminded them that I was alive. Next week I should start getting replies from them. Yo. Word up.

All in all, this job-hunting experience is going far better than my previous one in Victoriaville. I’m pretty sure it’s because this time around, I’m carrying around the extra one year of experience struggling to find a job.

So, in short? I’m working a part-time job, extremely temporary, but at least I’m making money; I’m making boat– er, trainloads of contacts; and I’m keeping up those contacts that I do have, which will hopefully end up soon with me having a nice, enjoyable, respectable, well-paid job.

Et c’est pas fini, ce n’est qu’un début.

job situation looking up

hello all you friends and family and good people who are interested in my simple life. Here’s an update from my side of the street. I had my first day of work in Drummondville on Thursday the 8th; it was just a short little contract, for an arpenteur-géomètre (i.e. a surveyor) who needed someone to install some network cards and get his network up and running. but it was work, and I was real happy to get it. I’ve been hanging around the Carrefour Jeunesse-Emploi since the job search club ended, and it seems to have paid off — one of the people who works there knows someone who might have another contract for me, this time to put together a database with Microsoft Access, and for 4 to 6 weeks no less. So things are definitely looking up.

On the bleah side, I was sick yesterday… some sort of stomach bug. I had to postpone my visit to Défi-Emploi Drummond to today because I was getting some serious runs and dizziness and stuff. It’s much better today. I drank lots of fluids, mom. Lemon and honey in hot water. 😉

Lots more people in Drummondville know me now than when I first came here. I think I’m doing much better than when I came to Victoriaville. I’ve got the hang of this stuff now. By the grace of God, I’ll find something interesting (at good pay).

Things are heating up for the Montreal Bahá’í Youth Conference. Only 6 more days! we’re booked at 96% capacity! Reserve your spot now, don’t be left out!