Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Subscribe" to receive blog updates

Occasionally we receive requests from individuals who ask to “subscribe” to the teaching blog. This is an open site, so anyone who is interested in viewing it can access it without any type of “sign-up” procedure. However, we have added a new service to the blog that will enable people to receive email notification any time there is a new story or comment posted to the blog. If you would like receive this update service, simply click on the two links at the new section entitled “Subscribe to” at the upper right corner of this site. We hope this addition facilitates the sharing of learning and teaching experiences.

"We invited them and they almost jumped off the couch"

The Black Men’s Gathering is an organization of Bahá’í men of African descent who come together on a regular basis in chapters throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada and the Caribbean to share their experiences and to strengthen their commitment to the Bahá’í Faith. Recently a forum was held for individuals who lead chapters of this gathering. One of the activities at this event was an in-depth study of and consultation on the use of Anna’s presentation, which helped the participants gain confidence in using the presentation in their teaching activities. Here is a brief report from one individual at the Black Men’s Gathering Leadership Forum about what happened with Anna’s presentation after returning to his home in Greenville, SC (B). This experience also shows the power of directly and lovingly inviting someone to embrace the Faith.

Dearest ___,

I just wanted to share our results with Anna's presentation here in Greenville since returning from the gathering. Dad and I have shared it with 3 seekers and we have 3 new Bahá’ís! We picked who we thought was the most receptive in our community of interest and invited two of them to the center on Saturday evening and told them we wanted to share something with them. We got through the section on the Báb and then had some refreshments and then invited them to become Bahá’ís!!! They immediately and excitedly almost jumped off the couch with Yes! Yes! Yes! and shared with us how special they felt to be invited to become Bahá’ís in such a way. On Sunday evening we met with third person we had thought of and shared Anna's presentation again breaking at the same spot for refreshments, inviting them to become a Bahá’í and with the same results!

These new Bahá’ís were seekers in our Saturday morning African drum class and have recently been attending our Sunday Devotionals and adult class. We have another Anna's presentation scheduled for tomorrow at 7:30 pm

I really felt the workshop on Anna’s presentation at the Leadership Forum was Great! I feel so much more comfortable using it now.

Will keep you posted on our progress,

Much Love to you,


Monday, July 28, 2008

Update on direct teaching in Spokane

Here is an update about the direct teaching effort in Spokane, WA (*C), which involved a coordinated effort of teaching teams, friends carrying out support activities, and a drumming session in the park! The teaching teams found numerous people interested in learning more about the Faith and requesting additional visits, and have learned many insights from their experience. Here are some additional comments from one of the friends:

What is direct teaching? One purposefully presents the Baha’i Faith in a systematic way to family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, or in a door-to-door teaching campaign.

Before going out to do this door-to-door teaching, we reviewed the Ridvan 2008 message from the beloved Universal House of Justice as well as quotations on the power of “Utterance,” and said MANY prayers. Dear members of the Auxiliary Board, the Northwest Regional Baha’i Council, and the Spiritual Assembly of Spokane supported us!

What did we learn?

· Try to ascertain what the person’s needs are and then address those. Maybe they need to empty themselves first. Choose parts of the presentation that seem needed.

· Don’t be afraid.

· The person who makes eye contact with the seeker should do the presentation, while the other team member prays.

· Have at least one female on the team. A team of two guys could seem threatening to women who answer the door.

· Age diversity is good in a team.

· A follow-up fireside can be focused on something from “Anna’s Presentation”.

· When the door opens, what do you say? Basically give the introduction to Anna’s Presentation. “We are Baha’is, followers of Baha’u’llah, members of the Baha’i Faith, a new religion whose purpose is to unite all the people of the world in one common purpose, one universal Faith.”

· Don’t make a big deal of saying your name. Say your name and shake hands.

· Give CONCEPTS not facts. These are most important.

· For home visits give the “Gift of Prayers”, or other printed prayers.

As for follow-up:

· The friends in Spokane have spent the week following up on requests from all of these seekers.

· A Junior Youth Group is being held at the Library every Tuesday.

· More drumming in the park is happening on weekends.

Please pray for this teaching work!

Another direct teaching effort will be held in Spokane August 22-24th. Please join us and learn with us about this wondrous effort!

With Loving Greetings,


Encouraging the friends in service

Within the Five Year Plan, teaching flourishes in an atmosphere of encouragement. That is what makes this message from the area teaching committee of Lower Maine / New Hampshire (A) so exciting You can see how an area teaching committee offers both encouragement and updates to the friends. One interesting point is that the area teaching committee has identified the acts of service associated with the Ruhi courses are identified as a way to build the capacity of the believers and an effective means to carry out the consolidation work.

The "building process" to which [we] are consecrated is "the one hope of a stricken society.

Message of the Universal House of Justice, dated December 27, 2005

Dearly loved coworkers in the field,

The area teaching committee (ATC) is endeavoring to keep everyone abreast of the activities and developments of the Expansion Phase of the 7th cycle of growth for the Lower ME/NH Cluster. Praise Bahá'u'lláh, 5 new Bahá'ís have been found in the Portsmouth and the Portland areas during the first 9 days of the expansion phase!

We're so very grateful to all of the friends who have arisen to engage in direct teaching activities and to visit the new believers to help strengthen their newly kindled Faith. The collaborative support of the Local Spiritual Assemblies and the prayers offered by many of the believers in the cluster have and will continue to sustain these meritorious efforts.

A very special thanks to the Green Acre Youth Service Corps volunteers who, on their only day off last week, sacrificed recreation and rest to participate in an active refresher course. They then went out to the field and found newly waiting souls to teach using Anna's presentation.

The ATC is hopeful that tutors of study circles will offer to accompany the participants to arise and offer their acts of service using the methods and approaches from the sequence of Ruhi courses, as they are bringing about the most rewarding results! The consolidation phase is an excellent opportunity to do the practices from the Book 1, studying prayers with believers, and from Book 2, presenting the deepening themes.

As for the last few days of the expansion phase, we are encouraged to reach out to our friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates, the person we’ve just met at the bookstore, etc. We can try to do what we can to present the fundamental verities of the Faith to them in a manner that is both forthcoming and inviting.

The area teaching committee is ready to accompany you in considering and arranging home visits to friends of the Faith that you know. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance to you.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,

Your area teaching committee

A study circle takes root

Throughout the country, the friends are finding that the core activities play a key role in the consolidation process for new believers. Here is a report from Manchester, NH (A), which describes a study circle that was started with some newly-enrolled Hispanic Bahá’ís. As with teaching, prayer, focus, and an attitude of learning are all helping the friends make progress.

We introduced the study circle idea by reviewing the idea that Baha'u'llah had come to help us learn how to build a new civilization, and that all over the world people are taking these spiritual institute courses to develop the capacities to serve their fellow human beings. We mentioned that this first course was designed to help participants learn the skills to study and learn prayers with their friends and neighbors, and to offer prayer gatherings to the wider community. When asked if they'd like to participate in this course, they both agreed.

We started with the unity prayer that we had begun studying the previous week, and all recited the first couple of lines through "great purpose" so we could all memorize that much, and reviewed that the reason Baha'u'llah had come was to unite our hearts and help us to be as one human family.

The questions and answers took longer than they might have in English, but generated animated discussions.

In the course of the study, another friend we'd not met entered and sat in on the study circle, we offered him a book and he joined right in the discussion. After a few minutes we offered to interrupt the session to give a short introduction to the Baha'i Faith, which he agreed to - the first part of "Anna's presentation" through the first quote, which he said he responded positively. Then all agreed that they'd prefer to carry on with the study circle for now, rather than go more into an overview of the Faith. For the first time, I was clear in my mind that this is the consolidation phase, and we can do more expansion later.

Soon a seeker showed up who also lives in the house. We hadn't seen him for several weeks, but he had previously expressed a strong interest in the Teachings. He joined the study circle and the discussions and the questions.

There was animated discussion and deepened understanding of the teachings. We only got through the first two sections, but we are most grateful that the study circle is finally underway.

It seemed as though Baha'u'llah brought them all there. Scheduling beforehand times to meet don’t always work in the way we would expect them to, but somehow, it seems Baha'u'llah "sent out a search party" and brought them all in. This is just another example of our utter need for the confirmations of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you for all your prayers and support of these initial efforts to learn how to teach directly and join in learning about how to consolidate.

Warmest love,

Your cluster institute coordinator

Increased capacity = continued sacrifice without burnout

Here is an exciting and intriguing report from San Diego, CA (A), which has recently launched another cycle of its intensive program of growth. During the latest expansion phase, the cluster was visited by friends from several different clusters. Some were from C-stage clusters, others were from places that have already experienced large-scale growth. All found an inspiring and exciting learning experience in a receptive neighborhood in the cluster.

A friend involved in this effort has noted: “It was a beautiful and close collaboration between the cluster agencies and two of the Local Spiritual Assemblies in the cluster which made this huge accomplishment possible. It was a massive amount of work and full of new learning. Indeed the capacity of the team in San Diego is being increased continuously.” Here is the report from a member of the area teaching committee. You can see the sacrificial effort to sustain core activities, the connections building among the Bahá’ís as a result of the core activities, and the optimism for the future.

We took the friends to one neighborhood and introduced some of them to the new Bahá’ís or to see the children’s classes and then described to them the characteristics that make it a receptive neighborhood.

One visitor was invited to come here to record all the songs from Ruhi Books 3 and 3A in Spanish. Exhausting as it was, it rallied the children and junior youth and established a village center of activity. This effort became the service project for our junior youth group and the different children and junior youth from all our families started to meet each other and connect. So in a way, this was the embryonic beginnings of how our families will come to know each others as Bahá’ís. It also helped activate one of the Spanish speaking youth who has started helping out with children’s classes and junior youth as a result.

The first day at the reflection gathering, teams formed and then three believers were responsible for three teams each, mentoring and coordinating them. This was the only way we could think of to accompany so many people.

In addition to coordinating the teaching teams during the expansion phase, we still have our core activities in this neighborhood—Ruhi study circles, children’s classes and junior youth groups—that we feel are very important for us to maintain and continue doing with the new Bahá’í families. It took so much determination and repeated visits to establish these activities that, now that they have begun to take hold, it is a crucial time for us to strengthen them. We are weaving in youth and others to assist us, and all in all, it is going really well.

Each expansion phase at the beginning feels like we just gave birth and the mother is exhausted but blissful because of sacrifice. However, the teaching work and being systematic is what will ensure that we continue to sacrifice but not burn out because our capacity increases and more and more people are being empowered to serve.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anna's presentation in Persian now available

On the “Resources” section of this site (right margin, down the page), a new link has been posted. This provides a link to Anna’s presentation in Persian, as well as other resources in several languages.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"They were all brilliant stars"

Another gem from Loudoun County, VA (A). With prayer, a groups of teachers try to start a children’s class and one forms almost spontaneously! The openness of the families and the enthusiasm of the students are truly delightful.

While the door to door teaching was going on, 2 adults, 4 youth, and 2 children gathered at a small park on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. They set up picnic blankets in the shade under a tree and asked Baha'u'llah to send some children. Immediately, three boys approached the teachers and were invited to attend the children's class. It turns out the mother of one of the boys had declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh a couple months ago! They were very excited, so two Baha'i youth accompanied them to their homes, explained what the children's classes were, and the parents and care-givers happily agreed to sign permission slips.

A few moments later, the teachers noticed some children in the front yard of a near-by home. Two Baha'i youth approached the mother, showed them the invitation to the children's classes in Spanish, and received permission for her three children to join the class. Ten minutes later, the woman's sister brought her two daughters to the class as well. So, within 15 minutes, there was a class of 8 children, all eagerly sitting on the picnic blankets ready for the class.

The teachers used the lessons from Ruhi Book 3 and taught the children a prayer, some songs, and a quotation by Baha'u'llah about unity. They ended the lessons with cooperative games and coloring. Two mothers stood nearby and enjoyed listening to the lesson and encouraging their children to participate. One mother rushed to her home in the middle of the lesson and came back with a pitcher of juice and some cups so all the children could have something to drink.

On Saturday, the children were asked to memorize the quotation by the next day. Sure enough, on Sunday, 5 children were completely prepared to share the quotation they had ALL memorized. All 8 children who attended on Saturday came rushing back to the class the next day, ready for more, and all the children were invited to attend future classes as well. The children ranged in ages from 4 years old to 10 years old, and they were all brilliant stars!

Round 2 starts off strong in Loudoun County

Here is a report from the area teaching committee for Loudoun County, VA (A), where the expansion phase of the second cycle of its intensive program of growth has recently started. The friends are working together in unity; there are lots of different tasks, and everyone is playing a part.

Whensoever holy souls, drawing on the powers of heaven, shall arise with such qualities of the spirit, and march in unison, rank on rank, every one of those souls will be even as one thousand, and the surging waves of that mighty ocean will be even as the battalions of the Concourse on high.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 260)

Reflection Gathering

Our second cycle of our intensive program of growth kicked off with a reflection gathering on Friday, July 18 at the NOVA Bahá’í Center. Beloved friends from Herndon, Reston, Loudoun and Leesburg gathered together to share prayers, hear about the plans for the teaching campaign, and consult on topics such as teaching, consolidation, and children's classes. It was an inspiring evening and quite a few friends, including adults and youth, volunteered to help out with the teaching efforts for the upcoming weekends. Also, four youth decided to sign up for the upcoming Ruhi Book 3 class to learn how to teach children's classes.

Teaching Efforts

On Saturday and Sunday, 15 adults, 3 youth, 1 junior youth and 1 child were formed into teams to go to two communities in the cluster. They spent time praying for the teaching efforts, training on how to present the Faith using Anna's Presentation, and going over logistics of which homes they would be visiting. Several friends volunteered their homes as a "base" for teaching, and also prepared food for the teachers. Also, several Baha'is came to participate in the morning prayers, and then decided to join in the teaching efforts for the whole day. Despite the intense heat, these devoted souls went door to door and taught the Faith to dozens of waiting souls. While this was taking place, wonderful support was given by many friends in the form of babysitting, making lunch, offering hospitality in their homes, and saying prayers.

Success Stories

1. Two Baha'i teachers knocked on an apartment door at the Fields Apartments. A woman was on the phone with a friend and called through the door, "Who is it?" The two teachers said, "We’re with the Bahá’í Faith." The woman excitedly said to her friend, "I have to get off the phone. The Baha'i Faith is here, and I've been trying to find out about this for a long time!" She let the teachers inside and they sat down and shared with her the entire presentation about the Faith. She was very excited and they set up an appointment the following day for continued discussion. As it turns out, this woman and another friend had contacted the Bahá’ís a year and a half ago for information, and had received an email about local activities, but had not followed it up further at that time. Now, a year and a half later, while randomly knocking on doors, this dear woman was in the very first building that the Baha'i teachers approached! She expressed her feelings that this was all "divinely inspired" and wanted to know "what the next steps were" since she's eager to study more. On Sunday evening, a Ruhi Tutor contacted her, and they arranged for a Ruhi Book 1 study circle to start in her home the following weekend.

2. Another two Baha'i teachers teamed up and began knocking on doors to present the Faith. After about 20 doors and no answer, they decided to stop and ask for help from the Concourse on High. They specifically called on Mírzá Mihdí (the Purest Branch) and asked for help. The very next door they knocked on was opened immediately by a gentleman, who gladly invited them in and asked them to be seated. He was receptive to learning about the Faith and a very friendly connection was made with this gentleman!

Upcoming Needs

Over the next two weekends, the intensive teaching will continue, followed by consolidation for several months (deepening, Ruhi Book 1, children's classes, devotional gatherings, etc.). We need the following assistance:

Spanish-speaking Baha'is


Meals to be prepared for the teachers

Homes to be made available for the teachers to gather before they go out teaching

Ruhi tutors available to teach a Book 1

Children's class teachers to continue the class that has started on a weekly basis

To offer your assistance in any way, please contact your ATC Secretary.


Over 60 enrolments over the past year

An exciting update from the Pee Dee (B) cluster in South Carolina, which has seen more than 60 men, women, youth and children enter the Faith in the past year. One recent declaration was a youth who enrolled after studying Anna’s presentation with a teacher that was visiting a family member of his who had declared earlier in the year. One of the believers states:

“Between now and Ridvan 2009, our task is to steadily intensify our efforts, raising up scores of new believers and training a significant portion of them to help us shoulder this wonderful work. We have only to keep on the path that the Universal House of Justice has set out for us, and the divine confirmations will continue to shower down like abundant rain.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Raising up teachers, planning for clusters, and the power of collaboration

This article is a report of an event held last month at Green Acre Bahá’í School entitled “Teaching: the Greatest Gift”. Its goal was to raise up more teachers of the Cause in the Northeast region. What is especially noteworthy is the level of planning, preparation, and collaboration among several institutions and clusters to create an event that would enable as many of the friends as possible to build their capacity to teach and to become actively involved in the teaching activities in their clusters. As you can see from the report, it was a time of inspiration, of learning, of building confidence, and getting direct experience in the field. Moreover, not only did this gathering empower scores of individuals to teach, it also involved coordinated planning for clusters in that area.

A very innovative experiment was held at one of the national schools, Green Acre, to raise the capacity of teachers of the Cause and contribute to winning cluster goals. It involved an enthusiastic collaboration among national, regional and local institutions and agencies representing four clusters, supported by the Auxiliary Boards and resource people identified by the Continental Counselors.

Preparation and planning was crucial. For example, the expansion phases in nearby clusters were scheduled to be in synch with this seminar. Green Acre offered scholarships for the event in order to allow any person who wanted to teach to be able to afford to attend. In many ways, the Green Acre environment and facilities themselves became a force for mobilizing individuals and focusing the power of the spirit.

Overall, 70 participants from 8 clusters attended this milestone event.

The learning framework

The course description: The challenges facing the human race have never been clearer—and the call to arise to teach the Cause has never been more urgent. Clearly, this is the day to arise! But, how do you really teach and which methods are most effective? What is the “framework for action” of the Five Year Plan? How do teaching teams work, what is “collective teaching” and what is “Anna’s Presentation”? In this lively, hands-on weekend, participants brought these questions and delved into the Writings, recent letters from the World Centre, and real-world examples from around the country to explore the critical role each can play as a teacher of the Cause. The participants were able to leave with a plan of action and the information needed to “advance the process of entry by troops” in their own clusters back home.

Goal: To help raise the capacity of teachers of the Cause through:

Intense prayer.

Study of key excerpts from Book 6: the spiritual nature of teaching, qualities of a teacher, creating a personal teaching plan, and participating in collective teaching project.

Orientation to the framework for action of the Five Year Plan.

Stories of Bahá’u’lláh.

Examples from around the country.

Direct teaching using Anna’s Presentation with community of interest and in a scouted receptive neighborhood in the Lower Maine/New Hampshire cluster.

Debrief on teaching and praying experiences to advance learning.

Personal teaching pledges to nurture personal and collective efforts in each cluster.

“Something more ambitious than before”

The Regional Bahá’í Council had been searching for a way to give those who participated this time the opportunity to have practical experience in the field. After attending the Dallas Teaching Seminar, participating in collective teaching projects in the New York City cluster and teaching activities in several other clusters, the presenter felt ready to attempt something more ambitious than before.

From the first phone calls with members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Eliot, Maine and members of the Lower Maine/NH core team to explore collaboration, it was clear that the excitement and enthusiasm for teaching was rising in the cluster and that by working together, the teaching weekend could become a galvanizing moment for the clusters surrounding Green Acre. A remarkable level of consultation and collaboration emerged that guided the program forward to meet multiple goals, including enabling as many of the local friends to participate as possible, raising the capacity of the teachers of the Cause through practical experience, and meeting Green Acre’s needs. The loving and highly collaborative spirit among the individuals and institutions created a spiritual experience. Collaboration included:

Guidance from the National Spiritual Assembly.

Working closely with the Auxiliary Board member and the secretary of the Area Teaching Committee about the direct teaching component, and consulting with them about how to use the course to boost the coming expansion phase in the Lower Maine/New Hampshire cluster and raise capacity of teachers in the Upper Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont clusters. These individuals met with the Local Spiritual Assembly of Eliot and made presentations at Feasts in two communities to share the vision of the process and invite participation.

Consultation with the National Office of Education and Schools and with Green Acre on how best to collaborate with the cluster entities and create a successful program. Green Acre graciously offered scholarships and discounts to participants from the four above-mentioned clusters.

Collaborated with the Regional Bahá’í Council and Auxiliary Board member to invite participation from the four clusters.

Consulted with the secretary of a Local Spiritual Assembly to help inform that Assembly’s consultation on direct teaching, as well as to draw on its experience.

Highlights of the weekend included:

A sense of spirituality, excitement and mission seemed to permeate this program. Participants were unified in their desire to understand the framework for action and how to teach effectively. A passion for teaching emerged and replaced the anxiety some participants felt about teaching and the role they can arise to play in the Plan.

More than 70 people participated in various portions of the weekend.

8 clusters were represented: Central Jersey; New York City; Westchester County, NY; Boston Area, MA; Vermont; New Hampshire; Lower Maine/New Hampshire; Upper Maine.

1 study circle of more than 10 people from the Westchester cluster participated—a first for Green Acre.

More than 32 people participated in the direct teaching in the field.

More than 12 people stayed behind and said the Tablet of Ahmad for the duration of the teaching work in the field. They had an intense prayer experience and were deeply touched.

There were 2 enrollments and numerous invitations for return visits.

One team brought a new believer and other seekers back to Green Acre for the evening program. They stayed through all parts of the program, including a presentation on Baha'u'llah and a debrief by the teaching and praying teams. They loved the presentation about Baha'u'llah and loved being included for the teaching stories.

8 youth, including weekend participants and Green Acre volunteers, asked for more information about teaching and a special late-night session was arranged for them. An animated discussion of teaching included their stories, how to work the framework of the Plan and more. These youth are excited about teaching and are committed to following up with the new Baha'is. Some have started going door-to-door in Eliot and were excited to share about it.

Goals and personal teaching plans were formed

Of the 70 participants in the course at various points in the weekend, more than 40 remained Sunday morning for the session on personal goals and collective action. Participants studied a section of Book 6 and then created personal teaching plans in the context of their cluster’s plans.

Here are some examples of the numerous pledges made by participants:

Start weekly devotional.

Host at least one direct fireside this month.

Carry out home visits.

Carry out 10 consolidation visits.

Finish Book 7.

Learn and practice Anna’s presentation.

Share Anna’s presentation with neighbors and friends.

Share Anna’s presentation with 10 people.

Participate in teaching projects.

Pray daily for teaching.

Widen circle of friends.

Consult with neighborhood team about starting a junior youth group.


“What a wonderful, empowering weekend! I loved the stories of Baha'u'llah—the one about Ruh'u'llah looking into people's eyes has done something special for me, it has me looking more deeply into people's eyes. The reminder that the greater challenge will be the consolidation helps me realize how determined and systematic we must be to learn how to consolidate effectively. Being shown how to keep on with the presentation and not get derailed before giving the gift in the most effective way possible—This is all so good. Thank you so very much.”

“It was a great weekend of teaching and being with the friends. The thing that I took away was the remark that Mr. Furutan read the Plan of the Universal House of Justice every morning—it made me realize I need to be more diligent in reading the Guidance. Thank you! I also left with renewed energy and insight to pursue the teaching work. Thank you and I look forward to teaching with you again and again.”

“I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful weekend at Green Acre! I know those of us who attended were able to draw a great deal of learning and inspiration from the session and collective teaching activity; and it is my hope that it will inspire the friends to arise and play a greater part in the Five Year Plan and the teaching efforts.”

“Thank you for an excellent weekend at Green Acre and this fantastic learning opportunity. We were able to take home a 'substantial' amount of learning, and our study circle is more than ever ready to proceed forward.”

“The weekend at Green Acre brought alive to me the task at hand. It is very easy to understand something intellectually, even well enough to pass it on to others, as to what it is we are/should be doing more of. The gift of the weekend is coming together with assembled Faith and courage together, and actually doing it! The name of the weekend suits the outcome for me. "Teaching: the Greatest Gift" I can't imagine being able to knock on a stranger’s door without help in this way, ever. Re-reading the Guidance beforehand about what we are doing, and why we are doing it, all gave me new and fresh and a stronger understanding, and willingness to act. Responding to our Guidance, and moving immediately into this very important a task! I prayed and was given the courage to actually share the presentation. Thank-you again for this wonderful opportunity, it was the first time at a learning weekend that I was helped to be able to act on my learning immediately! "Let deeds not words be your adorning." Hope to be able to come again in the fall, with a friend.”

“The weekend at Green Acre was amazing! Everyone is on fire!. I am amazed at how inspired everyone became in just a few days! We are working on getting through books 2 and 3. Thank you for all the information and energy you brought to the weekend! I am so glad it was so successful! We are working on having a similar weekend up here to get people trained up on Anna's Presentation and then do the door-to-door teaching as a group.”

“Allah'u'Abha! Just a short note to say "thank you" for the excellent program and all your effort. It was very productive. It was especially wonderful that we could put our learning immediately into the field of action through direct teaching! I could also benefit by becoming more familiar, and feel more confident with direct teaching using Anna's presentation. I hope that we will have more such programs in the near future and that more and more friends will be benefiting from it.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

"They are there, just waiting for us."

A brief report from a friend in Spokane, WA (*C), in which 25 of the believers participated in a direct teaching effort. Stepping out into the field in a spirit of unity, supported by prayers, the receptivity they encountered is giving them confidence to continue. And you are never too young to give Anna’s presentation . . .

Dear Friends,

We just had our first experience in Spokane, Washington, with direct teaching! We spent the day with 25 Baha'is, with 16 teachers in 7 teams going out in the field and another 9 support people preparing food and saying prayers in the park.

Of the 99 homes where people were home and answered the door, 23 want "the next step" and are interested in another visit or presentation, or want to join a study circle, or want to attend a fireside or devotions. That means that one fourth of the people visited are interested in the Faith enough to want to hear more. Our Auxiliary Board member confirms that this means it is very receptive population. There was also a 7-year old who shared Anna’s presentation with another child at the park.

It was wonderful to share the Writings and be with these dear friends. Tomorrow we go back to do follow-ups. A wondrous day! Can you imagine if one fourth of the people in this country want to hear more about the Faith? WOW! They are there, just waiting for us.

With Love,


Friday, July 18, 2008

Resource persons accompany teachers to victory

Progress is made through learning, through the generation and sharing of knowledge. In the context of the Five Year Plan, clusters in which there has been a high level of enrolments can share their experiences with other clusters to help them advance. One approach that has been particularly successful is for a resource person from a cluster that has seen recent significant growth to accompany the friends in other clusters in a direct teaching effort. Last month at Bosch Bahá’í School in California, one such resource person came from Arizona to lead a session for the friends to share insights and help build their capacity to teach the Faith. 52 people attended this event. A staff from the school reports:

The session demonstrated the remarkable power of developing an “outward-looking orientation.” The resource person led the participants in a training of Anna’s presentation, as well as a special workshop for those Friends who could convey the presentation in Spanish. In a true testament to learning through action, the resource person then led the participants on a direct-teaching campaign throughout Santa Cruz County. The results were greater than anyone could have imagined, particularly among some Hispanic communities, in which 12 people declared during this one afternoon of teaching.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Do I like knocking on doors?"

Not all door-to-door teaching is easy or smooth. Some share that their initial experience may indeed be disappointing. But this account from a believer in Tarrant County, TX (A) shows the value of perseverance. She shares a clear explanation of what teaching is: “Somehow we have to meet people and come to the point where we can explain our Faith succinctly.” She also candidly expresses her feelings about her door-to-door experience.

At the beginning of the last expansion period here in Tarrant County, Texas, we trudged out in the hot sun and hid under the shade of a tiny little tree for a few prayers before we tried to teach. Texas can be hot, even in spring. We didn't pray long. A wide street ran right next to us and the apartment building rose up just the other side of the little tree where we huddled. It's scary, knocking on doors. But most of my friends already know I'm a Baha'i, and I want to teach, so I showed up for the event.

The first two people we talked to were not interested, and the second rejection was particularly cold. We were both shaken and saddened, but headed up the stairs to other apartments.

My friend always made the introductions, in her marvelous, sweet, humble manner. Then we saw an open door. Inside stood a lovely lady who looked at us quizzically. I finally tumbled out some words about religion and we had a presentation, etc. She said no thank you and we fumbled away, still trembling.

More stairs, more no thank yous, a lot of no answers. At the bottom of the last staircase I said, "I want to go back and see that one apartment." My angel teammate said, "All right, but only that one apartment. Then come right down."

The door was still open. I said, "Look, I'm sorry, I don't usually run around knocking on peoples' doors telling them about a new religion, but I really believe in this. It's the most important thing in my life and I want to share it."

The woman looked at me with that same quizzical look. But this time she said, "All right, come in." We sat there and I went through the first part of Anna's presentation, with the flip book that has great photographs. I went through it pretty fast, in my own words. When we finished the part about Baha'u'llah I said "How do you feel about this?"

Then she told me how she felt. She said after we left she'd gone outside looking for us twice. She said she had sat on that same couch where we were many times for many hours begging God to show her the truth. She said she had once worked for a couple in Dallas who were Baha'is and always remembered the things she had heard about the Faith. When I showed her a declaration card, she filled it out and said she was deeply interested to learn more.

A few days later my mom and I and had tea with our new contact at my teaching partner's home, who only lives a few blocks away. It wasn't long before my teaching partner's consistent attention and deepening attracted our seeker all the way to the point of commitment. Now she is a Baha'i.

Do I like knocking on doors? Not much. Was it worth it? Yes. Somehow, we have to meet people and come to the point where we can explain our Faith succinctly. I don't know how I will meet the next person, but I do know one thing: There are different ways of teaching, but every way needs to eventually include a brief and to-the-point explanation of the Baha'i Faith or we are not really giving the person the full picture. I like Anna's presentation for that. A close friend and I are going to try to give it to people who have been coming to their firesides for a long time. The Faith is so huge, so vast, so intricate in its facets. Seekers may think they have to understand and completely accept a million things they aren't even sure they fully understand. With Anna’s presentation, so simple and clear, to me it seems to show them that what they need to understand and believe in order to be a Baha'i is not so vast after all, and that they have entered a door and can begin to find their new lives inside this marvelous tabernacle.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Systematic focus on the community of interest

An amazing report from Jackson County, OR (A). The friends there have analyzed the results of their last expansion phase, and chosen to focus their efforts in line with the learning gained from their experiences so far. Thus, they are directing their energies to their community of interest. They are carefully and systematically planning the activities of their teaching teams, building on their available human resources.

Here is a short report regarding our cluster's teaching efforts. We have just started our second expansion phase.

One of our main insights from the first cycle was that our 6 adult enrollments and 2 children came from our community of interest. Although we had carried out some door to door teaching the most receptive population in this regard was the Hispanic community; these teaching efforts resulted in a neighborhood children's class populated by Hispanic children.

In this second cycle the explicit priority of the expansion phase is to expand the community of interest focusing on direct and collective teaching by forming teaching teams.

In preparation the three Local Spiritual Assemblies in the cluster were visited by the Area Teaching Committee sharing the vision of the next cycle. The Assemblies were asked to assist in the formation of teaching teams by sharing the vision with their communities and encouraging the friends to participate in teaching teams. Each Assembly member also has committed to join a teaching team with other members of the community. All members of the core team were also asked to form teaching teams with members of their communities.

This recent cluster reflection gathering consisted primarily of the teams reporting on their formation, goals and strategies.

One of our teaching teams is a prayer team where the members are called upon by the teaching teams to pray for them as they go on home visits, give firesides, and devotional gatherings.

The effect has been to include ever increasing numbers of the friends in the teaching work in the context of direct and collective teaching. The teaching teams are bonding and gaining confidence and enthusiasm in this process. The core team is convinced that this systematic approach of developing the capacity of the human resources will bring about sustainable growth in proportion to our ability to consolidate our gains. Furthermore, greater numbers of the believers are engaging in the training institute process and core activities. This approach is sustainable and widens the circle of the number of human resources by incorporating in a natural way the elements of the Bahá’í community.

Some of the basic assignments of the teaching teams are as follows:

· Pray together and beseech Divine assistance.

· Consult, act, and reflect together, maintaining an attitude of learning while focused on the priority of expanding our community of interest.

· Identify each team member’s friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who could become the pool of seekers and contacts.

· Devise plans to establish a relationship with as many of the seekers and contacts as possible through home visits and spiritual conversations in other settings conducive to sharing, such as over dinner.

· Build on the relationships thereby established by inviting the seekers and contacts to core activities.

· Seek opportunities to directly present the fundamental verities of the Faith to our community of interest by using the “Getting to Know the Bahá’í Faith” presentation (i.e., Anna’s presentation), and then invite them to become Bahá’ís.

· Plan how to intensify the team’s activities during the next cluster expansion phase.

· Assist each team member to refine their own personal teaching plan.

· Assist each team member to internalize the concepts and be able to share “Getting to Know the Bahá’í Faith”.

· Set measurable goals, such as number of devotional meetings, home visits and firesides.

· Designate a contact person to track and report learning and progress to the Area Teaching Committee through its secretary.

Warmest Bahá’í regards,


Monday, July 14, 2008

Practice + Anna's Presentation = Confidence, Pennsylvania

A report from the Northeast region, where friends from several clusters recently came together to strengthen their teaching skills. They immediately put their new training into practice in the field. The friends are also gaining more experience in planning at the cluster level.

There were many participants, about 27 through 30 throughout the weekend, some of whom were new believers (even one seeker!). There were 5 clusters represented at the seminar: Harrisburg/Lancaster, Philadelphia, Philadelphia NW, Philadelphia SW, and Central Jersey. Everyone participated in the teaching on Saturday afternoon, along with a few of the believers from Lancaster and Philadelphia.

During the Anna's presentation practice Saturday AM, a believer practiced presenting it to a seeker who, at the end, declared. This was the first time this individual had given Anna’s presentation so that was a terrific boost for their confidence.

One of the highlights was when the cluster institute coordinator modeled giving Anna’s presentation to a participant. We all learned so much from her tender rendition of Anna's presentation, very beautiful and very informative.

Then, during the afternoon the friends gave Anna’s presentation to members of the community of interest in Lancaster and Philadelphia, as well as engaging in door-to-door teaching in both clusters. There was 1 declaration in Lancaster and 2 in Philadelphia.

All the participants seemed to benefit greatly from the practice of reviewing the cluster resources through the cluster growth profiles and creating goals for the next cycle in their clusters. It was a wonderful exercise.

Much love,

Teaching seminar co-facilitator

"A love for the new people they met"

When is training a joy? When it is a teacher training in Rochester, NY (A). At a recent training event here, the friends gained confidence, in presenting the message of Bahá’u’lláh. It is inspiring to see how the participants put their direct teaching skills into practice in a variety of venues. Above all, you can see from their experience that teaching is a spiritual process, done out of love for humanity.

Dear Friends in the Rochester Cluster,

What a weekend we had! We learned so much in the field of action.

Saturday morning there was training on direct teaching using a visual aide to give Anna's presentation. Teams were formed of the diverse friends (different races, sexes, and ages). These teams practiced with each other. Then after prayers and calling on souls of the Concourse on High, we headed out to a neighborhood in Rochester. There were 7 teams of 2 or 3 who went to specific streets to learn to talk about the Faith to people they didn't know. Each team met people who were interested to listen to presentation. 2 people declared. Many wanted someone to visit them again.

5 other teams had set up appointments with friends and neighbors. All shared the complete presentation and found a very favorable response.

Saturday evening all the teams gathered together to share their experiences of the day. There was no talk of numbers. There was only talk about learning and the beautiful souls they met. Each team learned many things about presenting the Faith and praying for the partner who was presenting. But what each team shared over and over again was a love for the new people they met. Each new person touched their heart, and the friends wanted to tell everyone about these wonderful souls they had met. They were souls who had touched the friends who had the bounty of presenting the Faith to them.

The participants of the training weekend would like to give a huge thank you to all of the Local Spiritual Assemblies for providing food for the weekend. It was such a gift.

The participants would also like to thank everyone for their prayers. What we were learning and sharing was spiritual. Everyone's prayers before the weekend and during the weekend (especially Saturday afternoon) helped to unlock the keys of heaven in these new souls’ hearts and our own.

Dear friends, the last 3 cycles our cluster has had 2 declarations each cycle. This cycle we have had 18 so far! Our community is growing. Our learning in action is just beginning.

Please continue your prayers. Continue your teaching.

"The more we do. The more we learn."

With warmest Baha'i love,

The Rochester Cluster Agencies

One of the co-facilitators of the seminar shared the following thoughts:

This weekend was a true spiritual highlight for me in this Plan! The spirit of these friends and the joy of the work were extraordinary. We had members of core teams from Rochester, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and one person from the Finger Lakes area for a total of about 18 participants. Each session was remarkable for both the learning that seemed to be taking place and the charged spirit of excitement and enthusiasm that seemed to permeate everything. Wow. In addition to the 2 declarations, teams met at least 6 other people who recognized Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for this day but wanted a follow up visit to learn a bit more. There was a great representation by the youth and this really made things fun. It seemed to me that we had a major advance in the understanding of the Plan overall and the planning of collective teaching projects in particular. There is of course much work that needs to be done but the friends in these clusters are so wonderful and ready to serve. We are truly blessed to be able to participate in this Plan at this time.

Practice + Anna's presentation = Confidence, Montana

All over the country, people are coming together to participate in trainings to enhance their teaching skills. Here is a report from the summer school in Montana. One thing that is most striking is how even a small amount of preparation and training can give a teacher so much confidence and enthusiasm.

Despite increased gas prices, this year's Montana Summer School had the most participants in a number of years. People came from Arizona, Washington, Michigan, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana. The focus of this year's program was the Institute Process, with the adults studying Ruhi Books 1, 3, 3A, and 6, and the youth focusing on Book 5. The junior youth learned about growth and studied the December 27,2005 letter from the Universal House of Justice and the September 30, 2007 letter from the International Teaching Center. They learned about intensive programs of growth, reflection gatherings, and putting into action the teaching plans they developed with their Area Teaching Committee.

The Book 6 "Refresher" class was expanded to include reviewing the recent guidance from the Universal House of Justice and the National Spiritual Assembly. There was also a presentation shared by a junior youth for some of the adults.

Throughout the Book 6 class, the facilitator stressed the importance of memorizing the first paragraph of Anna’s presentation. By having the material memorized, it allows one to focus on being a clear channel through which the love of God can flow instead of trying to figure out what to say. Two days into the class, one of the summer school participants shared her experience. A resident of the area where the summer school was held asked her what “church group” was meeting there. She confidently replied with the first sentence from Anna’s presentation. The resident then replied, "That makes sense." The believer was aglow with the success of teaching. Before the refresher, she had expressed her reluctance to teach because she never knew what to say when someone asked "What's the Bahá’í Faith?" And now she was astonished at how easy it was. She also became confident that engaging this person later would be easy, and went on to invite the resident to dinner and some of the activities.

The class had an opportunity to see the effectiveness of the Book 6 Presentation. During a morning break, the facilitator, went to the kitchen to request a pump pot of coffee. She complimented the cook, on the wonderful the food this year. The cook replied, "Thank you. I so enjoy cooking for your group. You are so appreciative. You are also so radiant. I can't believe how loving, and supportive you all are of each other. What group is this?". The facilitator. replied "The Baha'i Faith, which is a world religion." The cook then said, "That's really interesting. I would like to know more." So the believer then asked the cook. if she would be interested in hearing a presentation that was being learned by the class that she was facilitating. The next day, the cook and another camp staff member listened to Anna’s presentation. During the presentation, members of the class were praying. At the end of the presentation, when the facilitator asked if they would be interested in receiving information on how to become a Baha'i, the cook said yes and declared her belief on the spot. Thank goodness Ms. D had a declaration card nearby!

This new believer had never heard of the Baha'i Faith before the Summer School started. Fortunately, there are Baha'is who live nearby that she met and they will be following up with the deepening themes from Book 2.


Confidence again and again in Tacoma

A cornucopia of teaching stories from Tacoma, WA (A) where each delightful new experience has brought new insights to the friends and increased confidence.

1. A team of Baha'i teachers talked to a man who was working in his yard. This man came right up to them and offered to cut roses for them from his abundant rose bushes. The alert Baha'is said "You know, the human race is like a rose garden..." and moved right into the presentation! The gardener was in agreement with everything and asked for the teachers to return.

2. They also met a family who was just about to leave their home for a funeral at their church. One team member shared that her own son had passed away recently, and this lead to a lengthy and heartfelt conversation with the mother of this home, during which most of the teaching presentation was shared and she read the quotations aloud. Our teachers will visit her again.

3. Another team of Baha'i teachers met a man who was just returning home from work and was very tired. When asked, he said he did not want to hear the presentation. One of the teachers said that if people do not want to hear the presentation, we like to know that right away so that we don't bother them. This seemed to really "wake him up" and he began to ask questions about the Faith. In the end, they had a short but positive conversation. Learning: Our emphasis on courtesy can be an effective teaching tool.

4. This team also followed up on a visit to a man who shares a house with several other people. He had previously said that none of the other people in the house would be interested in hearing about the Faith. When the teachers arrive, he was not home, but a woman who was also living there was very receptive! She said our teachers should return to give the full presentation, and that she would be sure that the original seeker was there to hear it! Learning: Remain optimistic about people's level of receptivity!

5. Two Baha'i teachers were invited into a home to see a Vietnamese Buddhist alter. To the surprise of the woman whose home it was, the Baha'is responded enthusiastically. She requested Vietnamese language literature. We will provide it, as well as arranging for a Vietnamese Bahá’í in our cluster to visit her. Learning: Be ready for anything!

6. A teaching team of one experienced Baha'i teacher, one new Baha'i of only two weeks, and a soon-to-be 6th grader presented the Faith to a 16 year-old girl. She sat on her front porch and paid rapt attention as they proceeded through the teaching presentation. Her mother brought each teacher a glass of ice water, much appreciated in the 90-degree weather. This act of kindness was also a sign that the mother was comfortable with having the Baha'is teach her daughter. The teaching team was moved to hear the young seeker read aloud the last passage in the flip book, and then to witness her declaration. The team asks that she will receive a visit soon from other Baha'i youth. An insight from this experience was that the presence of a child on this diverse teaching team was a positive factor in the receptivity of this family.

7. An experienced Baha'i teacher formed a team with a young man who is a new Baha'i, but has considerable experience with meeting the public directly. He proved to be a courageous and capable teacher. They met a man who listened attentively to the first part of the teaching presentation, but expressed the conviction that racial prejudice could not be overcome. Based on his own painful experience, he felt that it was not possible for people to change. Our intrepid teachers took this not as a rejection, but as an opening. They continued the presentation, and when asked if he could believe that God could send a new Messenger to humanity, he replied that yes, he could believe it was possible. The Baha'is left with an invitation to return, and a feeling that they had made a good connection with a sincere soul who is thirsting for justice and unity.

The next day, a follow-up visit was made, this time accompanied by another new Baha'i who had declared just two weeks earlier, as she came from a similar background of this seeker. This time, when the seeker spoke pessimistically about the intractable nature of racism, the teacher reported that the new Baha'i boldly "challenged him in a way that I could not." At the end of this visit, they arranged to return later that week to begin a Ruhi Book 1 study circle in the seeker's home.

Learning: New Baha'is make great teachers, and we are blessed to be able to draw from on our diverse community to find a teacher who can connect with a certain seeker's experience and needs.

8. An adult man and a 6th-grade boy went to a home that had been visited twice before during previous intensive phases. On those occasions, the Baha'is had been very impressed with the children they met, but had not yet talked to a parent. This time the teachers met the mother. She listened to the entire teaching presentation, and invited our teachers to return soon for another visit.

9. One Baha'i has a friend with whom she has had some prior conversations about belief and faith. The friend came to visit and was bursting with questions about the Baha'i Faith. He was very eager to engage in deep conversations on spiritual topics. As the Baha'i was listening to him sharing his own beliefs, she started having a conversation with herself in her head: "Maybe he would be interested in hearing a presentation on the Faith." " No, he's totally into his own religion." "Yes, but he's interested in the Faith, so he might want to hear a coherent introduction that takes him through the basics." "No I couldn't ask him that." "If you don't ask him you'll never know if he wants to hear it or not. Just ask and let him decide." After that internal dialogue, she asked her friend if he would be interested in hearing a presentation on the Baha'i Faith. He said he would, and even shared that he's been defending the Baha'is to other people, telling them what good people Baha'is are.

10. One Baha'i recently gave the teaching presentation to two friends, both of whom are her clients. She scheduled the presentation for Monday afternoon and then with every other client that day told them, "I have such a busy day today! I'm going to give a presentation on the Baha'i Faith this afternoon." Then she would see if anyone else was interested in hearing the presentation. This led to some deep discussions.

One client who is also a friend of another Baha'i family said, "Well, I am a seeker and I would be interested in hearing the presentation." They listened attentively throughout the presentation.

11. One lady had a friend who just passed away, so a Baha'i told her she should come that very night to devotions and then a study group about life after death. At the Ruhi Book 1 study circle, she asked, "So who is this Bahá’u’lláh we keep reading about?" She was given a brief description of Bahá’u’lláh and then told that she could hear a presentation at another time that distills the basics about the Bahá’í Faith. She scheduled a time right then to hear the presentation and she said she would love to come back again to the study circle.