In appreciation of pioneers past, present — and future
From the earliest days of the growth of the Faith in Aotearoa, throughout successive global Plans, waves of pioneers have descended upon our shores. Early believers responded to ‘Abdu'l-Bahá’s exhortations in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, to move to all parts of the world to open new countries and territories. Later, to fulfil the goals of the first global Plan, the Ten Year Crusade (1953-1963), many pioneers were posted in strategic locations identified by Shoghi Effendi. Scores of pioneers were deployed during this time and those who established the Faith’s first foothold in a country or territory were honoured with the designation, Knight of Bahá’u’lláh. Early pioneers helped to form and strengthen the first Local and National Spiritual Assemblies, enabling 56 National Spiritual Assemblies to take part in the first election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963.
Through the years, the Universal House of Justice has continued encouraging the friends to arise and pioneer to locations that are of strategic priority. Currently we are in the fifth of a series of Five Year Plans, during which many friends have been deployed as homefront pioneers.
Since the Six Year Plan (1947-1953, before the Ten Year Crusade), no less than 140 international pioneers have left behind homes, families and livelihoods, and revised their plans and aspirations in an effort to ensure the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh could flourish in this nation. Some served valiantly and laid their bones to rest in Aotearoa. Today, most of these pioneers are still steadfastly holding their posts and helping strengthen local communities throughout New Zealand. In the same spirit, growing numbers have arisen during the current Plan to pioneer on the homefront.
Many individuals and families, each with unique circumstances in life, are arising to rearrange their affairs in order to help fulfil the goals of homefront pioneering. Institutions and agencies are learning to identify and encourage pioneers, as well as to assist them with orientation, deployment, and ongoing support. Not seeing themselves as an outsider, nor operating at a comfortable distance from the local population, pioneers walk alongside the local population, sharing their reality, and forging a path together.
The cycles between the bicentenaries of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh and the Birth of the Báb have been described by the Universal House of Justice as the period that would require the greatest share of the effort needed to achieve the objectives of the Five Year Plan. One of the key strategies for channeling the energies released in this period is pioneering. No doubt, many will continue to arise for this service in the Plans which follow. Through systematic and daily efforts to accompany neighbours and friends in small strategically selected locations, pioneers help strengthen programmes of growth and their work reinforces and complements other efforts.
All those who would like to learn more about this field of service, whether to pioneer to goal areas or to deputise others, are encouraged to consult with the North or South Island Regional Bahá'í Council.
Some guidance about the nature of pioneering has been compiled as a resource for your study and perusal.
To the pioneers throughout New Zealand, the National Spiritual Assembly shares the following:
Dearest friends who are serving as pioneers,
Our hearts are filled with profound gratitude and love as we contemplate the sacrifices that have been made, the victories that have been won, the friends that have been met and nurtured to arise independently, and the experience that has been generated through your collective efforts. Up ahead are horizons that summon the community to scale great heights in celebration of the bicentenary, in the plans that follow from these celebrations, and in achieving the goals of the current Plan.
May potent confirmations surround your efforts on this path.
Loving Bahá'í greetings,
National Spiritual Assembly
Featured photo: Map illustrating worldwide growth of the Bahá’í Faith as drawn by Shoghi Effendi in 1952. Source: Bahai.org (copyright © Bahá'í International Community). Photo of Dulcie Dive, source: Bahá’í Media Bank (copyright © Bahá'í International Community).