In March 2002, I set off to offer a year of service in Victoriaville, Québec, and, in the process, created this blog to share stories. I’ve since returned many times, to spend time with the friends I made there.
C’est de moins en moins souvent que je mets à jour mon site avec du matériel franco pour mes amis du Québec, et j’en suis désolé… mais par exemple, vous allez peut-être aimer ce qui suit – il s’agit de quelques histoires reliées aux baha’is du coin de Victo:
Last but not least… sometimes we work all day at the office, rushing this way and that, and when we get home our brains are mush and we don’t have the energy to lift a finger. Likewise, sometimes we’re so run down by the anxious, frantic pace of life that we’re too tired to serve humanity or teach the world about the Baha’i Faith – and all we want to do is rest. And then we read something like this and we get back up off our butts and get real.
Martin called today while on his way to a Teaching Committee meeting, asking how my trip went. I said it went well, and the wrap-up would be posted on my blog soon in case he wanted a full story. He said he didn’t want to have to read through my long posts, and would I please give him the abridged version. It went something like: “It was good, I went to Drummondville, then Victoriaville, met lots of folks, got caught up, helped out, and oh yeah, talked to a few people about Bahá’u’lláh.” So, if you’re looking for the short version, there it is, you can stop reading now – otherwise, keep reading.
Sunday morning, after a long day of hauling shingles around in the oppressive heat on top of the roof, I woke up to more crazy Shih Tzu tongue, more stomping around, and sounds of breakfast and pleasant socialization upstairs in the kitchen. I groggily eased myself out of bed and checked the time – #@%@*&, it’s not even 8:00!!! – and ambled headlong into a nice, refreshing shower. Today there was a different crew; Laurent stayed in Warwick for the day, and Chakda (Geneviève’s brother-in-law) was preparing for his thesis defense back in Sherbrooke. Instead, we had a slew of hefty, pure-laine Québécois neighbours from down the street helping us out, along with Benoît and Aurélien, a local Baha’i father-and-son team. Aurélien recently celebrated his 19th birthday; I gave him a copy of the Adam Crossley / Nine Point Landing CD I got at Unravel the Mysteries (I hope he likes it). Anyway, I hauled away and played gofer until around noon, when it was time for me to start packing up. Before leaving Victoriaville, though, I sat in on the 19-day Feast and told everybody stories of how Baha’i activities are doing in Ottawa, as well as showing them the pictures I took. It was beautiful. Victoriaville Feasts are small, to be sure, and a little disorganized compared to Ottawa Feasts. But that’s a temporary condition. It took over sixty years for Ottawa’s Baha’i community to grow to the point it’s at today. These folks are just setting out on their journey, and there’s a long road ahead of them, filled with divine confirmations just waiting to rain down on whoever puts their trust in Bahá’u’lláh and steps out into the arena of service.
One thing I learned during this trip is that progress can be slow, but it happens. While I was in Victoriaville pioneering my time pioneering (in case you’re wondering, that’s Baha’i shorthand for “going somewhere and staying for a period of time to help advance the progress of the Baha’i Faith”), everything seemed to go so slowly and I always wondered when things would finally get moving. I didn’t realize until now that things have been moving, in God’s time. Sometimes people do their very best to make things happen their own way, to convince others that theirs is the way to go, and so on – and meanwhile, God’s plan is in motion, setting things up in the background, making things happen slowly but surely, changing hearts one by one, a little at a time. We can either help that process or hinder it, but in the end, God’s will shall be done.
Going on this trip renewed my confidence. Bahá’u’lláh writes, “The source of courage and power is the promotion of the Word of God, and steadfastness in His Love.” It gave me courage to be able to tell people about His message for humanity. Sure, I didn’t do a perfect job of it, and I could have done more of it, more frequently, with more zeal and vigour, but I did what I could. I got to encourage a lot of my Bahá’í friends who were downhearted, and bring some light and joy into their lives. I got to be a “servant of the servants”. That meant a lot to me, and it made me feel like I was really making a difference. Beyond that, it just felt good to do – it felt right, like I was fulfilling my life’s purpose. That’s a great feeling. As well, going on this trip restored much of the confidence I lost after leaving Drummondville last year in the throes of a crushing depression. I felt the difference between then and now – and all the healing that’s come since last summer. I realized, I CAN do this. I CAN live my life in accordance with Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. I felt intensely thankful.
Sahba suggested to me that I could get some Ottawa youth together for a teaching trip in the Drummondville/Victoriaville area sometime, perhaps during the summer. That could be interesting… it’s not too far from Ottawa, it’d give people a chance to practice their French, and it’d be easy to hook up (since we already have an ‘in’ with those communities already)… even better would be to have some of the Baha’i youth visit one of the native reserves out that way. There’s a pow-wow in Odanak in the first week of July… sound interesting, anyone? Let me know and we’ll hook something up… I was already planning on going down there and joining in for a day. Inshallah.
Ok, Catherine’s going crazy on me so I think I’m gonna have to go. Otherwise she might start attacking my keyboard and making me type all sorts of random letters. So, in conclusion I wish you all a good night, a pleasse aof gseok okergk, gerso[,gas’; sagl,regs,erl’,reagr4eyhagy89a 98 earha r hearjae rjejraHBRRE%HYU%$
tonight is my last night in Victoriaville; tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be catching the 5:20 bus out of here and back out to Ottawa, so that I can get back to work bright and early on Monday. I miss the Ottawa gang already, but I’m really glad I took the time to come down here and catch up with people. things have gone beautifully throughout this trip, and I’ve been able to catch up a little with lots of people – including almost the entire Bahá’í community of Victoriaville. What really amazed me is how much people opened up when I visited them, and how they were willing to share their struggles. It was a new experience for me to feel trusted like that, and it was a good feeling. I knew these people a long while back as a pioneer, but I didn’t feel that same feeling of openness back then. I wonder what the difference is now. Maybe it’s that I’m coming from the outside now, instead of being directly involved with the community. I’m no longer a pioneer to Victoriaville – the dynamic is different. I’m just a friend coming to visit, to lend an ear and some encouragement to the people I meet. Maybe people feel more comfortable speaking to someone who’s removed from the action – who’s “safe”. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve made personal progress, too – I’m more willing to open up to others now, and I feel more confident approaching people, hence the openness from others. Anyway. Food for thought.
I feel dehydrated still, even though I’ve already gone through several glasses of water and Gatorade. Today had to be the hottest day of the year so far in Victoriaville; 30 degrees C. Plus, we happened to be refinishing Craig & Geneviève’s roof today. In the morning it wasn’t too bad, but by dinnertime, the heat was blazing and making us slowly die of heat exhaustion. it was e. to make up for it, the sunrise was beautiful, and the meals were awesome. we had homemade submarine sandwiches for lunch; I bought a poutine, and took pictures – someone on buzznet wanted pictures of poutine. We finished up eating spaghetti with homemade sauce for dinner. Anyway, it was a good workout. I’ll probably have a tan (or, at worst, a burn) when I come back tomorrow.
There’s been so much stuff happening. so many people visiting. Yesterday, Julien and Angèle drove all the way from Danville (yay!) to bring my order of bakery-fresh bread (double yay!). Today was the wedding of Jean-Rock, a Baha’i from Thetford Mines, and several of the Baha’is from Victoriaville were there. Along the way back, Joshua and Tamarih (who live in Québec) stopped over. Josh treated us to his fine kiwi sense of humor and helped us wind down the roof work for the night. so many little experiences all stuffed into this week. my brain is a bit foggy right now so I’m not sure I’ll be able to string them together properly until later. so yo. The next update is gonna be a big phat wrap-up of the whole trip. look out for it.
I finally woke up when the dreaded tongue-monster scampered in and tried to lick me to death. Then, Spider-man insisted I get up and catch evildoers with him. It took a few minutes of half-asleep hiding beneath my blankets before I actually did get up. groggily, I sat up and tickled the excitable Shih Tzu with the long tongue to keep him from jumping on my face, all the while promising Alexandre I would help him catch a nice bowl of cereal until the evildoers showed up. The day today was pretty good, all in all, but it seemed even quieter than yesterday. The pace is slow for me here, and I really feel like I’m on vacation and not serving humankind or something.
After breakfast, I spent the morning at the Victoriaville Loblaws, selling raffle tickets to benefit Solidarité Nord-Sud Bois-Francs, a local development organization. Several Bahá’ís in the area are involved in their activities. Anyway, I was replacing Geneviève for the morning (headache, no sleep last night, etc). While there, I caught up with Constance, one of the local Baha’is, and Sylvie Gendron – who I lived with for much of my stay in Victoriaville. It went well. We sold 33 tickets in 3 hours. Not bad, eh? Heh. While at the Loblaws, I recognized lots of people I had worked with back when they were opening up the Loblaws in Victoriaville. That job lasted about a month, sandwiched somewhere in between the cranberries and the coffee.
Once that was done, I had lunch and decided to take a walk to downtown Victoriaville and take pictures of some of the places I knew there. That was cool. Now, downtown Victoriaville isn’t big. It’s nothing compared to downtown Ottawa. You can pretty much walk across it in less than twenty minutes. But that’s part of what makes it so cool – it’s tiny, it has character, and everybody’s friendly and glad to see you. In downtown Ottawa, say Hi to someone and you might as well be trying to convert them or rob them or something. Or both. Anyway, I digress (again). Lots of pictures. Check for some of them on the photoblog.
Afterwards, I visited some more old friends – for instance, Stéphane and Sylvie, a devoted and courageous Baha’i couple who are raising an autistic child. Ruth, an aboriginal woman and long-time friend of the Bahá’ís, who apparently declared her faith in Bahá’u’lláh just yesterday (wow!) Martin Yelle of the Centre Emmaüs, who conducted the gospel choir I sang in way back when. Stéphane gave me a copy of a spoken word CD he recently published – 9 hours’ worth of philosophical musings phrased in understandable and accessible language so everybody can catch it. Which would interest this Martin except that the latter speaks no French. Sad. Before I drove back to Gen & Craig’s, I drove up to the top of Mont Arthabaska, soaked in the view, and took some sadly inadequate pictures. I’ll be posting a panorama once I get home, though. We’ll see if it’s any good.
In the evening I spent time with Gen & Craig, and Gen’s mother who came to sleep over. She usually stays in Québec (City), but she’s actually working in a small town not far from here – Plessisville – so it makes sense for her to drive fifteen minutes more to be with family a little. In the evening, Gen put Alexandre to bed, while the rest of us drove down the street and over the bridge to play, um, golf. Actually, it was just a driving range, not a real golf course. I’ve never played golf before now, and now that I’ve tried it out, I feel safe in saying that it’s the most ridiculous game on the face of the earth. Give me some basketball for crying out loud. Not that Tiger Woods is a buffoon or anything. I’m not saying that. Lord knows I’m not saying that. Whatsoever. Really.
Anyway, I think the most that happened today was a good round of prayers, a little service to others, and some good visiting. That sounds good. Oh, and I talked with Jeremy this morning – finally, I think I’ll be forgoing my planned trip to Trois-Rivières, and staying in Victoriaville instead. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to attend Feast here on Sunday, and come back to Ottawa spiritually refreshed and ready to kick big kung fu holes in life. word. anyway.
today was quieter than yesterday, I think, but we still managed to stir up a ruckus. I’m actually in Victoriaville right now, staying with my good friends Geneviève and Craig – but let’s start from the beginning. The morning went slowly, with TV and breakfast being the main agenda items (along with shower and so on). While Nicole and I were visiting Guy yesterday, we mentioned we would be driving down to Warwick on our way down to Victoriaville, and Nicole invited Arlene (Guy’s wife) to come along. We picked her up today at about quarter past noon, a hot, sunny noonday under a gleaming blue sky. With a quick stopover at the Carrefour Jeunesse-Emploi to say hello to the staff (old friends of mine), we started on the way to Warwick. All the way down, Arlene (who arrived in Canada five months ago from Congo-Brazzaville) told us about life in the Congo, and the political situation there. Pretty shocking, to be sure. Nicole did most of the talking, while I sat in the back seat and prayed. Political conversations are always dicey and handling them in a way that well represents the Bahá’í teachings on the matter can be challenging. Hence, the prayers. Enh. We need ’em sometimes.
We got to Warwick around lunch time and stopped in at the Bahá’í coffee shop, La Brûlerie des Cantons. Jocelyne, co-owner and a devoted Bahá’í friend, took a few moments out of her busy workload to greet us warmly. She was pleasantly surprised to see me and asked all about what I was up to. In a few moments, though, she was back behind the counter, taking orders at the till from a steadily maintained queue of customers. Nicole, Arlene and I sat down for the lunch special – soup, sandwich and coffee. The conversation turned from political to spiritual (I don’t know how) and Arlene began asking about the Bahá’í Faith. She is a true seeker, and shared part of her spiritual search with us – to which Nicole, in particular, could easily relate. Apparently a family member first gave her a Bahá’í book to read in the Congo. We were both surprised when she began to tell us the story of how Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned in the “Black Pit” in total darkness, chains binding His hands and feet – and how it was revealed to Him within this prison that He was the Best-Beloved of the worlds, the Manifestation of God for this Day. We went on to discuss various Bahá’í principles, and Jocelyne joined in with us again as the lunchtime queue dried up. I guess Forrest Gump was right. You never know what you’re gonna get.
After lunch, we said our goodbyes to Jocelyne (and Andréanne, her daughter, who returned to Warwick after finishing college to help with the family business) and moseyed on over to our next stop. Not before buying some coffee to take home, though. Anyway, after a short drive east of town, the stately Appalachian mountainside receded to reveal my old digs, Victoriaville, nestled in the foothills like a deer sleeping in a thicket, with the familiar old steel-and-neon cross stuck to the top of the mountain like a stamp of ecclesiastic approval. It was beauty itself to see the town again. Every time I come back to visit, I feel refreshed. I met up with Geneviève at her home, and we went to meet up with Craig, her husband, and frolic a bit in the renowned Frères du Sacré-Coeur orchards. After a bit of a mix-up (we waited for him in the wrong place), we finally did meet up and there were bemused smiles and hugs aplenty.
Geneviève is eight months pregnant. It’s my first time hanging around a pregnant woman for any extended period of time. It’s quite interesting. It certainly raises a lot of questions and makes me aware of what people can go through during this phase of their lives. I won’t expand too much on it (you probably don’t want to know anyway, and I need to get to bed), except to say that our stuffy, impersonal, business-is-business North American society does not seem to be very friendly to the pregnant woman’s plight.
We rounded out the evening putting Alex (Gen & Craig’s son) to bed; Craig and I said some prayers together, and we looked at some of the photos I had taken that day – for example, Craig and Alex taught me how to play cricket. I never thought I would understand cricket, but having an Australian expat and his son explain it to you does help somewhat.
Right now, I’m not quite sure what my next step will be. Geneviève and Craig are having new roofing put in on Saturday, a day I had planned to spend in Trois-Rivières. It’ll be a do-it-yourself job, and they need all the strong, able-bodied people they can get to make it happen. So now I’m considering staying in Victoriaville for Saturday, but I’m wondering where Trois-Rivières fits in. I’ll have to get in touch with Jeremy, my Bahá’í contact over there, to see how he feels about the whole thing – we’ve been coordinating this visit for almost a month, and I’d hate to see it fall apart. Anyway. I guess this is one of those times when prayer is needed. And reflection. For those of you who are keeping tabs on this little series, keep reading. More will be revealed.
hey. I’m here in Victoriaville at Marcelle and Maurice Turgeon’s place (you know, the people I stayed with for a month in April 2002. I’m sleeping over since we have an intensive Ruhi book 3 weekend here in Victoriaville. two study circles are studying Ruhi book 3 tomorrow (one is faster-paced than the other). Today (saturday) the slower-paced one met and we studied together the whole day. It was a riot. We were all pretending to be kids and we were acting up so bad. …actually I think we might have gone a little too far. We were pretty tired afterwards, but it was funny.
I had a great talk with Maurice just now; he’s a really spiritual guy, in the fullest sense of the word. He has the wonderful capacity to let his intuition be his guide. We talked about a bunch of things, like old road trips to the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, teaching the Faith, dreams, and so on. Jessika was there too. We were just talking and talking — or was it listening and listening? Maurice has a lot to tell. Some of the things we talked about gave me a new insight into myself. I told him about some dreams I had had recently (including this one) and he gave some amazing interpretations of them spot on. Heheh. It’s kind of surprising to look backwards and realize how much hard work I’ve put in to hide from the truth about my life — about pain I didn’t want to deal with, feelings I wanted to run from, etc. But right now, for this moment, I think God really is in charge and I want Him to stay there because He helps me deal with that pain and face those feelings. His light shines on me like the sun and shows plainly everything about me — things I didn’t want to see, as well as some things that are pleasant surprises. Now that the initial shock is past, I’m glad to see them. Of course, I probably haven’t finished either. I’m certainly not through trying to be more honest with myself and others. “Speaking with your heart”, as Maurice put it.
Um anyway these past few days have been very intense, and very personal, and sorry but I’m not going into more detail cos you’re not me and this is not the place for such open heart surgery 😉 if you want to know then, well, it wouldn’t hurt to buy me a coffee lol.