Australian Baha'i Sites

‘Bounties far outweigh the difficulties’: From Perthie to pioneer 

In this interview with Australian Baha’i Horizons, Renee Campbell speaks about her decision to pioneer abroad, and the community-building work currently underway in her newfound neighbourhood in central Europe. 

When Renee Campbell was a child, she would hear stories of the early Baha’i pioneers during the 10 year crusade – giving up their comforts and familiarities to travel to unknown lands to share Baha’u’llah’s message of unity with those yet to hear it. 

“Over the years, I had thought, wouldn’t it be great if my generation could pioneer,” she says. 

So, when the Universal House of Justice spoke about the urgent need for international pioneers to be deployed in regions around the world to help accelerate the work of building vibrant communities, the 31-year-old Perth resident leapt at the opportunity.  

“The quote that came to mind was ‘O My Servant! Free thyself from the fetters of this world and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more.’”1Renee says. 

The Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, said that “the work of the pioneers is the most important Baha’i task any individual can perform today … While it carries great responsibilities; and difficulties; yet its spiritual blessings are so great, they overshadow everything else.”2 

“So, I would say to anyone – grab the chance before it’s too late,” Renee says. “What a great bounty to have been born now, in the early days (of the Faith), when pioneering is possible.” 

Currently based in central Europe Renee is living in a housing estate comprised of 35 apartment blocks surrounding a large park. Describing the community as “lovely”, she says the park has various sections where people gather, a primary school, supermarket and post office, and a little hill where the children sled down during the wintertime.

The neighbourhood where Renee is serving in central Europe.

There are about 15 friends currently working to strengthen the capacity-building process in the neighbourhood, including some local to the region and others from overseas. 

“We work in small teams alongside families focusing on children, junior youth, youth and adults,” Renee says. “One team started ‘English Corners’ where friends gather to practice speaking in English and get to know their neighbours. Every now and then all the teams get together to consult, reflect and study. There is an outward focus and each person involved is seen as an active protagonist and collaborator.” 

Renee Campbell working in the park with one of the children from the local neighbourhood.

While she’s working hard to learn the language, Renee shares she is viewing her challenges as opportunities to build capacity – both in herself and those around her. When she needed to co-animate a junior youth group but was unable to speak the language, she asked a youth who spoke the native tongue to assist her, thereby accompanying another individual along their path of service. 

“I speak to her in English about the junior youth program and she takes on the role of speaking directly with the youth in their language. This has enabled me to learn skills about accompaniment and the youth has been empowered to co-animate,” Renee tells. 

“This model of communication – helping one another with translating concepts and ideas through consultation – occurs in a myriad of spaces. The result is that … so-called ‘language obstacles’ have become stepping-stones that have helped to overcome barriers and have led to love, collaboration and unity.” 

Being in a completely different environment allows you to examine and reflect on many things you previously took for granted. I have learned the skill of questioning and how linked this is to creativity. I have learned to sincerely appreciate all the contributions that people of different cultures bring to the table. I have learned how to deeply communicate … and how to support youth whose reality means they struggle to envision a bright future due to circumstances that did not cross my mind growing up.

Renee Campbell

Renee says the prospect of completely changing the trajectory of one’s life can be daunting, but the opportunity to serve in this way has been “such a privilege”. She adds that “growth comes from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone”. 

“One of the things that we learn is that the more you rely on Baha’u’llah and not worry about your expectations or achievements, the more you will be able to overcome challenges,” she says. “I realised that had I remained at home I still would have worries or concerns about life.”  

“Being in a completely different environment allows you to examine and reflect on many things you previously took for granted. I have learned the skill of questioning and how linked this is to creativity. I have learned to sincerely appreciate all the contributions that people of different cultures bring to the table. I have learned how to deeply communicate … and how to support youth whose reality means they struggle to envision a bright future due to circumstances that did not cross my mind growing up.  

“One learns how to humbly engage with things that are so different, and this develops such a deep appreciation for the learning process. 

“The bounties far outweigh the difficulties you face.” 

Footnotes

  1. Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, Persian no. 40[]
  2. Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 578[]

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Renee Campbell

With a deep interest in children’s health and education, Renee Campbell strives to harness her passions and expertise to contribute to her community through service with children and junior youth and through her work as a nurse.

Published in June, 2024, in Individual Initiatives > Interviews

Available online at: horizons.bahai.org.au/individual-initiatives/bounties-far-outweigh-the-difficulties-from-perthie-to-pioneer/

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