Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Intensive teaching targeted on . . . an entire town?!

What happens when an A-cluster focuses its expansion phase on an entire town? The Baha’is in Benton County, OR (A) found out. Over the past 9 days, about 40 dedicated souls (30 of whom reside in the cluster) knocked on just about every door in Philomath (population 4530), offering to share the message of the Faith. Teams were well-prepared in every way – trained to offer Anna’s Presentation, unified in their goal of finding receptive souls and teaching them, carrying bilingual prayer books, and wearing Gore-Tex. Yes, we had rain, snow, sleet, and hail (as well as a few sunny moments) but just like those who deliver the mail, we forged ahead to deliver the Word. And when our last day rolled around, we knew to stop a little early on account of the Super Bowl -- though we know the Faith is “So Much Better than TV” (our unofficial slogan). So we spent that afternoon talking about consolidation.

A few stories from the week…

One team met a woman with 2 school age children who was immediately receptive and invited the team in to her warm and dry home, offering them tea. For the next hour and a half the team shared the entirety of Anna’s presentation and she was invited to join the community. That evening she brought her children to the devotional gathering and said that it was the most spiritual gathering she had ever attended. She plans to attend more devotional gatherings.

A follow up visit was made to a Spanish-speaking man, his wife and daughter. Over the course of an hour, one team member taught him the Faith using the first few sections of Anna’s Presentation, while the other member spoke with his family. The man came to the evening devotional – a bilingual meeting, filled with spirit and beauty, as well as a direct presentation of the Faith with an invitation to join the community. He came with the prayer book the team gave him, and recited a prayer from it. His five year old daughter has 2 friends in the same apartments who attend one of our neighborhood children’s classes, and who also both came to that evening program. We will invite the daughter to the children’s class.

And some learning from the week…

When teaching door-to-door, that moment when the door opens is crucial. What worked here was to introduce the team by name, identify ourselves as part of the Bahá’í community, and be immediately clear and direct about the purpose of the visit: to share that the Bahá’í Faith is a world religion whose aim is to unite all the peoples of the world into one universal cause and one common faith, and this is a Faith for the needs of today. This let the people know whether they really wanted to know more – or not. Giving just a little more in that first sentence avoided the overly hasty visit, gave the person time to consider the choice of hearing more, and allowed a few moments for a personal connection to be made with that soul.

Although we had no declarations, we experienced in action the words of the International Teaching Centre: “…when the believers taste the sweetness of the teaching experience, it sustains their enthusiasm.” One teacher was a relatively new Bahá’í and university freshman, who was initially able to commit the weekends and part of the weekdays – but the direct, collective door-to-door teaching was so uplifting that more than once by the time we finished our morning devotions, she changed her plans in order to stay for the whole day. And she wasn’t the only one.

Everyone can help with teaching. We had teams made up of all ages – children, junior youth, youth, and adults. The college and high school youth were at the forefront – happy, glowing, beaming, and warming everyone up like hot chocolate – ready to teach the Cause, and many unwilling to miss a single day.

In all we reached 780 people, and about 15% had some level of interest. The teams found the people very polite, and many expressed admiration at our devotion and willingness to brave the weather in order to spread such a positive message.

There will be lots to do in the next 3 months as we “consolidate interest,” by following up with over 70 people who wanted to know more. We will start a Book 1 study circle with some new seekers before the end of the month, and we expect more new friends at neighborhood devotional gatherings and children’s classes.

The Area Teaching Committee

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