Monday, July 14, 2008

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.


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