Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Direct Flight Equals Direct Teaching

This story from a member of our National Spiritual Assembly is a shining example of how direct teaching can happen in even the most unexpected situations and the power of an effective team (however divinely coincidental) in nurturing and confirming a receptive soul. In addition the touching account, the new believer’s own words will certainly be a source of inspiration and and reflection. Enjoy!

Attendance at this year’s SED conference on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly brought a special bounty. When I boarded the plane and had settled into my seat, a woman came on board who looked exhausted – and very focused on getting into her seat next to me. She was tired beyond niceties and distractedly handed me her coffee, a second glass, her purse, while looking for overhead stowage space. She settled into her seat and fell asleep almost immediately. Nearing Orlando, as the engine sounds changed and the plane began its gradual descent, she woke up and pulled out her book. I had my laptop open, and was scrolling slowly through the SED program, familiarizing myself with this year’s schedule when she leaned over and without any preliminary, began to recommend the book she was reading. “Love, Eat, Pray” was the book, and she was enthusiastic about its spiritual focus. Quickly we began to speak of spiritual things, she mentioned that she had just established a non-profit in L.A. for service to the homeless, and then asked me why I was going to Orlando. When she discovered I was going to the Bahá’í SED conference she asked about the program, I shared my laptop screen with the descriptions of the talks and workshops, and as we landed she asked if anybody could attend the conference, saying that no one knew she was in Orlando. As we talked together heading for baggage claim her questions alternated between the conference and the Bahá’í Faith – by the time we reached our luggage she was seriously considering attending the conference. I mentioned that she would find herself among hundreds of kindred spirits if she came, and in the next moment we were joined by Eric Dozier and JB Eckl at baggage claim. Our reunion enveloped her, and she made the decision to call the hotel, register for a room and to attend the conference!

Her attraction to the Faith was nearly instantaneous. The next day, after some much needed sleep, she registered as a conference attendee and during my opening talk, with her sitting in the front row, I told the story of meeting her. After the evening’s program we lingered and talked until 3:00 AM. Her eyes grew wider and more luminous with each question answered, and early in the conversation she wanted to know how to become a Bahá’í. I gave her a card, telling her that she could register when she knew in her heart that Bahá’u'lláh was the Messenger of God for this day. At that point she had not seen a Bahá’í book, had only heard some wonderful Bahá’í music and my talk, which focused on how the grand “SED project” of the unfoldment of the Faith was picking up momentum with the core activities. Having her in the audience kept Bahá’í jargon out of my talk (and made it better!)

In the next day and a half her joy and wonder grew with each encounter with one after another like-minded Bahá’í. You can imagine how a woman of deep spirituality, with a desire to serve humanity, who had never really found a niche – and, like many, had not imagined that there were others like her - must have felt amongst 600 friends who were all focused on spiritual development. Saturday evening she slipped into the seat next to me for the musical evening, and whispered, “I have my card ready…” As she handed it to me, I handed her the prayer book I had inscribed earlier. Her acceptance of Bahá’u'lláh’s message was full-hearted and grateful and her face was aglow, her joy palpable. I quietly alerted the MC, and at the close of the evening, Jack Lenz called me up to make a final announcement. I grabbed her hand and led her up on stage to greet the friends who had known that she was amongst them from the first evening. With tears in her eyes she expressed her gratitude in finding Bahá’u'lláh and his followers, how honored she felt to be amongst us – and her wonder that the Faith had existed without her knowing it for all these years. Hearts swelled as people stood and applauded the sincere expression of gratitude to the Blessed Beauty. In just these few days she had met and bonded and networked with dozens of Bahá’ís, and knew a new family. Andrew Johnson was at the conference and only lives about 10 minutes from her and will follow up with her, and Red Grammar, who, though he lives farther away, couldn’t resist also taking her under his wing. She looks forward to attending the Nelson’s fireside in a month when she returns to her home in Burbank, and to beginning her book 1 study. Her bag now has her first copies of The Hidden Words, Gleanings, the Iqan, God Speaks Again, her prayer book and Ruhí book 1 (she didn’t want to wait!) There are also CD’s of Red Grammar’s children’s songs for her grandchildren whom she is surprising with this visit for Christmas, CD’s of some of the musicians she heard and loved, and her checkbook has also been lightened with her first contribution to the fund – to the temple in Chile!

This experience brought home to me how our conferences, especially this one, are a potent portal to attract those hearts which have been prepared by Him. This friend was ready – and in three days her experience at the SED conference with hundreds of loving Bahá’ís who’s love for humanity was evident in their actions catapulted her into a sense of confirmation which amplified the few hours of information to which she had been exposed. In those few days her teachers included Counselor Debbie Kirten, Brett Gamboa, Patty and Tom Kubala, Mehr Mansouri, Layli Miller, and Red Grammar to name a few. She ate with people who she felt she’d known all her life yet had only met moments before. She held the Writings of Bahá’u'lláh in her hand for the first time, heard His words sung, chanted and spoken on the lips of hundreds of devoted followers, prayed with ardent youth, rose to her feet with the crowd singing along with Red Grammar, “We are one Family” holding hands, and wept with joy.

What tongue can voice my thanks!

Warm greetings,


From: []
Sent: Friday, December 28, 2007 10:46 PM
To: Erica Toussaint
Subject: RE: all my contact info

Hi there sister,

Alláh-u-Abhá and so is meeting you. I can not say how powerful this information is to me and the journey has been do delightful so far. It is as though a re-construction of my life has been completed and I am enjoying the benefits.

I am listening to the tapes that I bought and learning more about making the readings a central part in every aspect of our lives and how we need to grow steadily in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. I really love it all. The Hidden Words, (God asks of us) and The Prayer Book, (We ask of God). I can only pray that I become addicted and dedicate my behaviors and thoughts in alignment of these teachings. It has been so profound for me and I still am so amazed at how blessed I am to have been introduced to my new family and to awaken to the nourishment I have always craved.

I have been really busy with the children. I thought I would finally get rest… maybe next year (Ha). I am just grateful to participate in their lives and have played and sung Red’s songs with them and in the car when we are driving. I speak about my new found glory to my family and friends and every one is happy for me saying that it is perfect for me. There is an acknowledgment that it is not for them. It is so sad to me that they are not interested, but it is what it is and hopefully one day they will realize the preciousness of what I discovered in the Bahá’í Faith.

We need to speak one day and I hope to find out if I could get a tape of the talk that you gave. I would love to preserve this memory and to actually have your spirit and inspiration on hand would be so wondrous for me. This was life changing for me and our friendship and sisterhood will never be severed, not now nor never. I am grateful beyond words. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Finally home,

[Airplane Buddy]

1 comment:

Ron S. said...

Erica, thank you for taking the time to share this story. It is such an encouragement for seizing opportunities.

What are the chances of the two of you being assigned adjacent seats? This has got to be a confirmation that Divine Intervention is playing out all the time if we but allow for it.

Love to you & "Airplane Buddy"
Ron Somerhalder