Your True Home Isn’t a Physical Place: Prayer and Pioneering

By Margaret Niego

I have been a pioneer since I was a youth. I was working at a summer job in Alberta and a Bahá’í couple visiting from the Northwest Territories invited me to pioneer to Hay River, which was later named Nunavut. When I came back to the city 45 years later, Toronto wasn’t my home, Nunavut wasn’t my home. I started thinking: Where is my home? 

I’ve learned that your true home isn’t a physical place. Your home is where you are.

Pioneering into a different culture pinpoints the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh as the core of what needs to be understood, regardless of culture. You have to strive to read the Writings in their pure form, rather than through your particular circumstances or your lens. The main thing I’ve learned from pioneering is that there are other ways of viewing the world. You learn a whole other way of looking at the world. Your own way isn’t the only way and Bahá’u’lláh’s guidance is the only real objective truth.

After spending 45 years up North at Baker Lake, I wanted to help my mother who was at a home in Toronto with Alzheimer’s. After she went into a nursing home in 2020, I wanted to stay close but still homefront pioneer, so I moved to Fergus, which was moving towards an intensive program of growth. Because of the pandemic, however, it was impossible to visit her. My 18-year-old son was then starting school in Ottawa, so I thought it might be best to be close to him and support him with the transition. I moved to Kanata.

I was then invited to some pioneering information sessions and I was encouraged to attend to help others potentially pioneer to Fergus. 

What happened next surprised me. Someone had put together an amazing devotional program at the beginning of the meeting and it hit me: Why do I need to stay in Kanata? My son was essentially fine on his own. I thought, “I can go anywhere in the world!” 

Hearing about the urgent call to homefront pioneer, I thought the Renfrew cluster made sense. I thought, “Arnprior, being in need of pioneers to assist with the movement towards becoming an intensive program of growth, is a good place to move to. The homes in the neighbourhood where I chose to live are lovely and the demographics are interesting with working people with various levels of education and a good percentage of families with children.” I arrived last week and had the goal of meeting my neighbours in the first week. I’ve met six already.

A house surrounded by autumn leaves.
A house in autumn, surrounded by leaves (stock image)

The neighbours are really friendly and came to help when I moved in. A 10- or 11-year-old girl came to introduce herself before I even moved in. When my 10-year-old grandson came to visit, we realized that one of his buddies from hockey lives on my street! Whoever you pass by says hello.

I was on a devotional call this morning and thinking, “Now what?” You can pray and pray but if you don’t take a step, Baháʼu’lláh can’t help you with anything. The plan is to start with children’s classes, and I was at a training for Book 3 recently.  A few friends will help us learn how to have conversations with the parents. When I was living in Kanata, I went to the Overbrook neighbourhood once in Ottawa, where they have wonderful groups for children and junior youth. I walked the pavement with this young girl and delivered materials during the pandemic. I realized you have to live there, to really serve there, perhaps that’s just for me, but this really stood out. In neighbourhoods in Toronto, Ottawa, Cornwall and others, there has been a lot of learning about core activities which other communities can now draw from. Here in the Renfrew cluster, of which Arnprior is a part, there are a number of activities taking place, some began a number of years ago and some more recently:

Dawn prayers 4 times a week, a Sunday evening devotional gathering, a granny group studying The Seven Valleys, a junior youth group, a Book 13 study circle, and a new Book 1 study with friends. There is a Book 10 that will start soon and some other devotional meetings. We hope to see these activities multiply over the next year.

When you pioneer into an area that you’re not accustomed to, your capacities grow and adapt to your circumstances. Remember these early heroes and heroines, remember Marion Jack in Bulgaria, who was so cold and had so little. We’ve also recently been thinking about this quote from the newly translated prayers, about not being “shamefaced before the people” for not having shared the Message.  

“O Almighty One Who endowest a blade of straw with the might of a mountain and enablest a speck of dust to mirror forth the glory of the resplendent sun! Grant us Thy tender grace and favour, so that we may arise to serve Thy Cause and not be shamefaced before the peoples of the earth.” [1]

If you homefront pioneer, or at any other time, you can request prayers from the Universal House of Justice, consult with members of the institutions of the Faith or with trusted friends and advisors. You’re not alone in this at all. It’s part of a grand process going on in the world. The time is short too, the world conditions are telling us that we don’t have a lot of time to do what the Universal House of Justice is asking us to do. 

[1] 26 Prayers Revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Get in touch with the neighbourhood team in this story, or share your own learning with Ontario Baha’i here.

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