Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The power of integrated action

Service can be spontaneous, arising from the deepest yearnings of the heart to reach out to others in our community and share the teachings of the Faith with them. When these yearnings are coordinated and focused, however, the effects of such service are multiplied and intensified. In this report from an A-stage cluster in the Central region, the friends have developed some intriguing measures to coordinate their efforts. What is particularly noteworthy is how they are approaching everything as one integrated, seamless process: training and preparation, teaching, and follow-up are being planned and carried out as interconnected parts rather than in isolation.

In order to organize and assist the teaching efforts and to better meet the needs of seekers, the community of interest and other contacts, the friends have organized the various neighborhoods in the cluster into zones. These have been formed to help coordinate teaching activities and follow-up efforts. . . .

Each member of the core team has followed up with individual friends in each zone to keep track of and encourage the follow-up work. Accompaniment was not consistent for every single zone, but data was compiled for all of them. The core team learned a lot since each zone had its own unique situation.

Based on experience so far, it was decided to organize a “preparation period” prior to the next intensive teaching effort in order to better prepare for direct teaching. In some cases, this involved starting a children’s class, developing friendships with the parents of the students, and inviting the parents to learn about the Faith. In another case, it involved helping a new Bahá’í youth to become an animator, and seeking out junior youth and their parents who would be interested in junior youth groups and/or learning about the Faith. It also included unity gatherings with seekers, allowing for informal teaching and invitations to new core activities.

After the conclusion of the intensive teaching effort, the friends in each zone were informed of seekers and members of the community of interest who required follow-up. The friends made an effort to involve the seekers in core activities as interest and circumstances allowed. About 30 friends continued teaching directly through home visits. The teams also followed up with new believers as scheduled permitted.

There were adequate resources to respond to all these needs, but for the next cycle it will be important to encourage more of the friends to arise to serve as tutors of study circles, children’s class teachers, animators of junior youth groups, and home visitors.

As part of the preparation period, we conducted training sessions in Anna’s presentation. We realized that it can be difficult to hold a single training for the whole cluster, and that holding “mini-trainings” in different neighborhoods resulted in increased participation. Ruhi Book 2 refresher courses were also held in different parts of the cluster to prepare the friends to carry out home visits.

"Does it get any better than this?"

Stories about children’s classes always lift the heart. This story from an A-stage cluster in Central region about two children’s classes that have started recently is particularly inspiring. In both cases the children themselves are inviting their friends and family members to participate. The Bahá’ís come prepared to conduct the class, check in with parents and other family members to obtain permission for the children to join, and much happiness and joy follows. And if you thought accompaniment was something that only applied to teaching or tutoring, note how an existing student of the classes accompanies his peers who are participating for the first time!

Two children’s classes have recently been started in the Kansas City cluster. In one neighborhood, the friends met several boys and asked them if they would like to participate in an activity. The boys enthusiastically accepted, so arrangements were made with their parents and a meeting place was set for the first class. The teachers of the class also invited a boy in the neighborhood who was already attending another children’s class to join in this one. He happily joined the group and brought along some of his cousins. . . .

When the teachers arrived the next day, some of the children were already waiting for them. The class began with 12 children, but 5 more joined in by the end of the class. They went through the first lesson from Ruhi Book 3. The boy who had previously participated in another class shone like a star. The other kids watched him and followed his lead. The class was a resounding success!

“Does it get any better than this?” one of the teachers exclaimed. “Bahá’u’lláh gave us the perfect day with eager students and a team to work with.”

In another neighborhood, the friends were trying to find a way to start a children’s class in an apartment complex. While walking through the complex, a sweet little girl walked up to them and introduced herself and her friends. The teachers asked if she would like to participate in a Bahá’í children’s class and she happily agreed. Shortly after that a class was started with a prayer, and continued with a song, story, game and coloring activity. As the class proceeded, the first girl the Bahá’ís had met kept inviting her friends and siblings to join her. They were all walking by to see what was happening.

After the class, the teachers asked to meet her grandmother. They said a healing prayer with her and then explained the purpose of the children’s class. The grandmother agreed for the girl to attend the class each week.

The class has since met three times to include six other children who joined. They are enjoying class and all want to invite more friends to join. Each class ends with much laughter and big hugs among the children.

Action leads to learning about follow-up

After first reaching out to friends and neighbors with the message of Bahá’u’lláh, there are numerous follow-up tasks we must carry out. We may need to reconnect with those who expressed an interest in learning more. We may need to visit newly declared believers. We may need to organize core activities such as children’s classes and study circles. The experience of the friends throughout the country is that this work must be carefully coordinated and organized to be effective. This experience has been gained through action; whenever the friends engage in teaching, they are faced with learning how to conduct effective follow-up activities. Here is a brief report from Madison, WI (A) where the friends have been reflecting on their experiences so far.

This has been mainly a learning process since this had been our very first intensive teaching effort. There were many seekers with whom to follow up, and many dedicated friends who volunteered to help.

Here are the key insights gained so far:

The follow-up process needs a lot of training, planning and effort.

Successes should be measured by the willingness of the believers to make sacrificial efforts and not just the response of the seekers.

The area teaching committee needs to be constantly involved in monitoring, guiding and encouraging the friends during this phase.

As we get ready for our next teaching effort, we are already preparing for the follow-up activities to it. A meeting of tutors has already taken place to study the deepening themes from Book 2 that will be used in home visits. Another meeting is planned to practice and role play sharing these themes. Finally, more discussion and practice will be given on how to arrange follow-up visits with seekers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A children's class begins in Reno

Perhaps you have participated in a teaching effort and found that many people you spoke to were interested in—or requested—a Bahá’í children’s class for their children. So an obvious question is, How do you now cross the bridge from “People are interested” to “It’s now begun”? What does it look like to set up and start a children’s class? Let us take a quick peek at Reno, NV (A), where the friends describe the first day of a children’s class they have started at one apartment complex.

We met at 3 pm to set up, go over who was going to do which part of the class, and to pray. At 3:50 we went around to invite to the class children of families who had previously expressed interest in it. Class was planned to start at 4 pm, but started closer to 4:30 with a group of three children and one parent of two of the children, but it soon grew to a group of ten children, plus another two that popped in periodically. . . .

It was a hot day but the class was held in the shade of a large tree.

The class opened with a prayer. The children learned a prayer by coming up with hand signs for the different parts.

A junior youth led everyone in the song “We Are Drops”.

The children began to learn a quote and the meanings of some of the words in it.

Children helped to pass out boards, clips and coloring pages, and everyone took crayons.

The Bahá’ís present modeled good manners by using “Please” and “Thank You” when asking for a different color crayon. The children quickly embraced this way of interacting.

The children’s finished coloring pages with their names on them were shown to the group and kept by the teachers to be later compiled into books of their work to take home to their parents. The children were wonderful at helping to gather up supplies so we could move on to the next activity.

The junior youth led a game. We all helped tie the children’s legs together “three-legged” style. The junior youth demonstrated how to walk together and then led the rest of the children around various obstacles.

At the end, the children were eager to help gather and put everything away.

Overall, the children were very happy to participate in the activities of memorizing the prayer and quotation, singing the song, and coloring.

Learning and Planning in Nevada North

If one had to sum up in five words or less what the friends in the Nevada North (A) cluster are doing, I would say, “Lots of learning and planning.” A common thread through the wide range of their activities is looking at clearly and consulting about what has been done so far, what results have been achieved, deciding what to do next, figuring out how to do it, and then doing it! What follows is adapted from a few articles of a recent issue of the cluster’s newsletter, which is rightly named The Reflection. Enjoy!

Here is a summary of what occurred at the cluster reflection meeting:

One of our new believers shared her personal story of why she declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh.

A sing-along raised our spirits. . . .

We studied the guidance from the Universal House of Justice and consulted on what we had learned from our previous intensive teaching effort.

We shared statistics on enrolments and core activities and home visits.

We set goals on establishing new children’s classes and engaging more of the friends in teaching activities.

Teaching packets distributed and we went out into the field.

Everyone who has participated in teaching has been excited by the experience of receptivity to the message of Bahá’u’lláh. We noticed a common theme from all the interactions: a strong interest in classes for children. Based on that need, a class was initiated in that neighborhood.

The effect of the teaching efforts has been significant. For example:

“The teams, fresh from teaching, shared some stories at the Reno Feast. . . . It was expressed that the excitement of the teaching that is going on is really felt in the community.”

Also: “The good word is getting around. A family from out of state expressed interest in participating in our next intensive teaching effort, to learn firsthand what we are doing and apply it to their *C-stage cluster.”

Contacting 1-800-22UNITE to declare

This is a brief story from the Southwestern region, in which a seeker who had investigated the Faith for several years, which included participating in the training institute process, and contacted the 1-800-22UNITE number to declare.

This is the follow-up story:

After I received the email, I left messages for her and after a span of more than two weeks, she returned my call while I was at work. We had a lovely conversation and I volunteered to visit her at her home so I could give her Anna's presentation, and tell her more of our Faith. She did not think it was necessary as she had already decided she was ready to declare her love for Bahá’u’lláh and requested to get a card so she could register. She said that she had been searching for several years and had studied the Faith for a long time. She had also taken and completed Ruhi Book 1.

Considering our busy schedules, she agreed to coming over to my house (which was on her way home) on a night when I would be facilitating a Ruhi Book 1 class at my home and would thus be available. She stopped by when we were wrapping up and was kind enough to share with the two seekers attending the class about her search and decision to become a Bahá’í. We closed with a prayer and she stated she would take the declaration card with her as she wanted to sign it with a couple of Bahá’í friends with whom she had studied the Faith. Before leaving she also mentioned that she would like to continue with Ruhi Book 2. I was delighted to learn that she had contacted National directly.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Open House" with parents strengthens children's class for Year 2

Over and over we have seen that our friends and neighbors are open to and interested in children’s classes for theirs sons and daughters. Of, course, this does not mean, however, that the process of starting a children’s class is always as quick and effortless as knocking on a neighbor’s door and announcing, “Hi, we’re from the Bahá’í community and we want to start a children’s class in the neighborhood; may your children participate?”—and the parents give you a big hug and push their kids out the door with a “God bless you, have a wonderful time!”. If you find yourself thinking, “Well, maybe that’s how it works in SOME places, but definitely not in MY neighborhood!”, then you will love this story from Beverly Hills, CA (B) and the efforts of one couple to continue their children’s class into its second year.

There are so many lessons that can be drawn from their experiences: how to meet the challenge of ensuring that the class stays true to its purpose and its content is not watered down; the necessity of being completely open with parents about the program and nature of the class; the importance of adapting one’s approach to the context of the specific community—in this case one where people have certain assumptions or skepticism about religion—while also keeping true to the original vision of the classes. In short, they reached out, they opened up, they boldly presented some new ideas, and strengthened their connections with the parents. (Note: the pamphlet they mention can be accessed at http://www.usbnc.org/dept/ntc.asp.)

Dear Friends,

I know we're all struggling with how best to apply the 5-year plan to our particular circumstances in our particular neighborhoods. When it comes down to the question of how best to communicate the beauty and spiritual power of the Bahá'í teachings to people we know--that can be a deeply personal challenge! . . .

We have been struggling with the fact that last year we had a fairly successful children's class comprised mainly of our older daughter's school friends, but in which we took the lessons from Ruhi 3 (for 5 and 6 year-olds) and slimmed them down a bit to create what was basically a virtues class. It did however incorporate memorizing some prayers in song form, and we had some short-lived success when it came to the kids committing the selected writings to heart.

This year we realized we had to do something entirely different, in that Ruhi 3A (for 7 to 9 year-olds) contains a lot more purely Bahá'í content. Also, our amazing tutor for Ruhi 3 and 3a pointed out that, ultimately, our responsibility in having a children's class was to make sure that our own daughter receives a loving and faithful Bahá'í education—that time is just too short to provide her with anything watered down or in the style of a virtues class. It dawned on us that central to any Bahá'í children’s class was helping each child discover and learn to reproduce specifically that moment in prayer, when one feels inspiration, support, guidance, love, and communion with God.

This realization of the centrality of prayer to our purpose, led to the need, in a spirit of full disclosure, to communicate to our parents who have been eager to return to the class this year, that it would have a decidedly Bahá'í religious content this year, and that a trust in God and habit of daily prayer were two of the most important things we wished to teach.

Thus, we realized we had to face head-on the challenge that we live in an affluent, intellectually-sophisticated, entertainment-oriented, and largely agnostic community, that holds religion to be a quaint vestigial organ from the past (like an appendix) or merely a vessel for carrying forward ancient traditions or a family/community loyalty. Convincing a parent that religion is both alive and of vital importance to their child and to the world is a whole different thing from simply inviting their kids to a virtues class. . . .

So we decided to have an "Open House" with the sole purpose of communicating the religious nature of the class rather than just starting in with the first lessons.

Because we were unsuccessful in finding materials that were quite what we needed, or in finding a ready-made explanation that suited our particular circumstance, we developed our own pamphlet that conveys a line of reasoning suitable to our community.

Our presentation went something like this:

First, we distributed the following beautiful quotation from George Townshend about the preciousness of this time:

While they are at your side, love these little ones to the uttermost. Forget yourself. Serve them; care for them; lavish all your tenderness on them. Value your good fortune while it is with you, and let nothing of the sweetness of their babyhood go unprized. Not for long will you keep the happiness that now lies within your reach. You will not always walk in the sunshine with a little warm, soft hand nestling in each of yours, nor hear little feet pattering beside you, and eager baby voices questioning and prattling of a thousand things with ceaseless excitement. Not always will you see that trusting face upturned to yours, feel those little arms about your neck, and those tender lips pressed upon your check, nor will you have that tiny form to kneel beside you, and murmur baby prayers into your ear.

Love them and win their love, and shower on them all the treasures of your heart. Fill up their days with happiness, and share with them their mirth and innocent delights.

Childhood is but for a day. Ere you are aware it will be gone with all its gifts forever.

George Townshend (1876–1957)

Then our talk conveyed the following points:

This is a vital time for our children in that we have no more than a few years left to cultivate and uncover their moral and spiritual nature and to develop habits of noble thought and noble behavior.

Rather than becoming people who could be easily swayed by the comments or actions of their peers on the playground, we want our children to become leaders who think for themselves and are grounded in a firm knowledge of right and wrong.

Although the virtues class we did last year was inspiring and had value, psychological research has shown that children who not only know, but also act, on moral principle have associated this with a positive emotional charge. That is, getting people beyond mere knowledge of virtuous behavior to the step of acting on that knowledge cannot be achieved through cognitive means, i.e. reasoning, or by punishments, or by material inducements; rather it occurs when a child or individual has developed a positive emotional charge and association with the virtuous behavior.

Similarly, in the medical science of helping people overcome addictions and other problematic behaviors, it has become well-established that an essential ingredient for a success is to associate self-restraint and positive behavior with trust and love for a higher power.

So, what we think our children need just as much as knowledge of virtues is to develop an inner strength and moral fortitude based on the love of God, i.e. a higher power. Also we think it is vital that they learn the universal skill of meditation/prayer/communion with God, which they can use to maintain their spiritual health, to find joy and inspiration, to regain peace when they become upset, and to find the answer when facing a difficult problem.

To this end we will ask the children to say the prayers they are memorizing together with their parents every night. And for those of you who have not yet had the experience of praying with your kids, we think you will find this is one of the most beautiful things you will ever do with them!

Then we used the pamphlet to briefly describe the specific elements of the class as listed on the page headed by “Each class will include”.

Every community is unique, of course, but for us, this formal process of inviting families to an Open House and, after some socializing, gathering parents in the living room to provide a rationale for the classes as above and going through the specific elements of each class seems to have gone over very well. I'm happy to report that the parents of last year’s participants are sending their children to the class again this year. Further, our explanation that children NEED prayer and a reliance on God has had other effects: two parents who had described themselves as “not religious” have now shown an interest in continuing a very direct and open discussion about the Bahá'í Faith.

Best Wishes,

A and J

Day of intensive learning in Tacoma

Here is a report from Tacoma, WA (A) shared by one of the believers there, where they have embarked on another intensive teaching effort.

In just a single day the believers shared the Bahá’í Faith with young and old and in between. With Black and White. With those who were followers of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Native spirituality. Many people asked for return visits. From the cornucopia of stories shared by the friends, there are numerous valuable insights that have been gained:

They have repeatedly seen the value of sharing prayers, such as prayers for healing and prayers for the departed. . . .

The friends take the opportunity to build bridges using similar connections. For example, when some friends visited a home of an Arabic family, they started speaking in Arabic, and she was touched by this and invited them into her house.

The believers make connections with parents. In one case a mother said she wasn’t interested in learning about the Faith but was happy for her teenage children to explore it for themselves. Another parent wanted information about junior youth groups and children’s classes.

When visiting a neighbor, the friends spend as much time as he or she wants—even if this means a visit of three hours!

The friends are gaining experience in identifying who can follow up with someone that they meet who is interested to hear more (i.e., a believer who lives nearby, someone who comes from a similar background or has knowledge of a particular topic the person is interested in, etc.).

The believers are learning to assess the level of interest of the people they meet.

The friends have learned that if you’re in a neighborhood where you can’t seem to find anyone who is interested in learning about the Faith, don’t be discouraged, just go and try another neighborhood.

The friends are reflecting on what approach to take in situations where someone states that they believe in Bahá’u’lláh but are not ready to sign a declaration card.

Inspiring to teach

When embarking on an intensive teaching effort, it always helps to get the friends inspired and energized. Here is a message from an area teaching committee in a cluster in the Central region to all the believers in that cluster to encourage them to be involved in the upcoming teaching effort. Note also the specific lines of action they have identified for themselves.

Our cluster’s third intensive teaching effort will begin with a Kick-Off meeting on Saturday at the Bahá’í Center. The area teaching committee is happy to announce that Counselor Alison Milston and two Auxiliary Board members will be at the meeting and participate in training and teaching activities during the day.

The emphasis of this effort is on both expanding the community of interest and on visiting seekers and newly enrolled believers in their homes. The area teaching committee is also encouraging the increase and support of the children's classes that began during our last effort. These children's classes have been very successful and have much potential for growth!

If you have not yet joined a teaching team, now is the time! Find one, two or three other Bahá’ís living near you and make plans to attend the Kick-Off meeting and to teach the Faith with renewed spirit!

Study, reflection and service

The friends in Lower Maine-New Hampshire (A) have started another cycle of intensive teaching. Here is a brief report shared by one of the participants. They prepared themselves for their service by studying the guidance from the Bahá’í Writings, and set practical goals for themselves based on their efforts and experience so far. There is now a group of new believers and seekers with which the friends are connecting and involving in core activities.

We had a successful weekend at Green Acre Bahá’í School. The friends gathered and prayed for the success of the teaching work. We studied the guidance from Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. We practiced giving Anna’s presentation to each other, and practiced what we would say when meeting someone. This was reinforced by stories of the early believers and their interactions with Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. . . .

People from other clusters (Upper Maine, New Hampshire, Jacksonville, FL) joined us. Our capacity was raised as we practiced. Our courage was bolstered as we studied the quotes on teaching. During the reflection meeting we learned about what had happened in the last cycle, we consulted on it, and then discussed what actions could be taken now. We made goals to establish more devotional gatherings, neighborhood children’s classes, junior youth groups, and study circles for new believers. The friends arose to offer pledges of service, to visit new believers and seekers, to study prayers and deepening themes with them, and to start core activities.

On Saturday afternoon, several of the friends visited an apartment complex in Portsmouth. They went to homes of people who had previously been visited by the Bahá’ís and requested re-visits, as well as other homes. At one apartment the friends found that the person who had requested a revisit had already moved away and there was a new tenant. This did not deter the junior youth who was taking the lead for this visit; he asked the new tenant if he had heard of the Bahá’í Faith and began the presentation.

On Sunday, the friends in Portland visited members of the community of interest in that city. On a revisit to a family of new believers, an additional member of the family declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh.

Now our task is to continue our deepening activities and other work. We would love to have you join us in any capacity you would like. This is how we will build a new civilization: in three month cycles, one new believer at a time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Joyful lessons from San Francisco

Here is a quartet of stories from the San Francisco-San Mateo, CA (A) cluster.  They show how simple and straightforward the teaching process is.  They show how neighborhood children’s classes form a natural foundation for sharing the Message.  And no matter how many times the children run in and out of the house, no matter how many times the phone rings, when someone is interested in the Message of Bahá’u’lláh no distraction can keep the heart away from learning about its Beloved.  And these stories show the simple joy that the Bahá’ís feel when meeting new people and making new friends.  Finally, if you ever wondered, “What do you do when you get to the end of Anna’s presentation?”, they also show the answer to that as well! 

Story 1 

The first presentation that I gave, with the support of my daughter and another teaching partner, went very well.  We shared Anna’s presentation with a young father of four, after we knocked on his door and asked if we could share a presentation with him.  His oldest son participated by reading the quotes, and he seemed very interested in the content of the presentation.  Before I knew it I had finished sharing the presentation with the visual aid, and so I asked my teaching partner, "What now?"  He suggested that I invite him to join the Baha'i Faith, so I did, and he agreed.  We then helped him fill out a card for himself and his son.  He asked when the Baha'is meet.  I said every 19 days.  A few days later, other friends returned and gave a presentation to his wife, who also joined the Baha’i community together with her daughter.  Since then, a couple of us now visit the wife every Saturday morning to complete several sections of Ruhi Book 1.  We gave the family some prayer books, and informed them about the weekly children's class. . . . 

Story 2 

The parents and family members of children who attend a Baha’i neighborhood children’s classes are usually very open to visits from Baha’i teachers.  One young man, whom we met in a previous teaching effort, is an uncle of two children who are in our children's class.  I focused on what we do in the children's class, and then the source of the content of the children's class, which very naturally leads into Anna’s Presentation.  He listened to the whole presentation, with interruptions of adults and children coming in and out, and the door slamming shut several times at the end of passages!  I asked him if he wanted to join the Baha'i community and he said yes.  He wanted to know when the Baha'is meet, so I gave him the booklet on Baha'i meetings. 

Story 3 

One of the homes that was approached during the teaching effort was the home of a family where two of the children regularly attend the Saturday afternoon children’s class.  We met a young man at the door.  He was very sweet and open to talk to.  He listened to all of Anna's presentation, through a phone call, being handed his baby nephew, and people coming in and out of the apartment.  I focused on the children and how we can all work together to help create a better future for the next generation.  At the end of the presentation, I asked him if he would like to join the Baha'i community.  We read the sentence at the bottom part of the card about accepting Bahá’u’lláh as the Messenger of God for today, and he agreed.  We shook hands and I welcomed him to the community.  Another friend was with me and was a great support through prayer. 

Story 4 

We met the father of some children in our children’s class at his home.  I asked him if he wanted to know what I was teaching his children and why.  He said yes. The quick explanation of the children's class program soon led to Anna’s presentation.  Throughout the presentation, I asked him to read the quotes.  As often happens, there were many interruptions from his family members coming in and out and the phone ringing.  We continued and completed the presentation.  I asked him if he wanted to join the Baha'i community, and he agreed.  I proceeded to explain that we need to fill out a card so that we can keep track of the Baha'is in the area.  Since I was still at his doorstep, I asked if I could come in to use his table.  He also registered his son and daughter.  I said that I would like to continue learning with him, and we said goodbye.  It was a great experience to connect with more members of our human family.  I felt the prayers that my teaching partners were saying the whole time. 

Inviting neighbors to a "spiritual party", and into the Cause

Devotional meetings are one of the core activities. They are also one of the key building blocks of a new civilization—a way of creating new patterns of community life centered around prayer and connecting with the Word of God. This report about a devotional meeting in South Carolina was shared by the Regional Bahá’í Council of the Southern States. Particularly noteworthy are the consistent and ongoing efforts by the friends to reach out to numerous contacts, in a variety of venues, to participate in the gatherings. And these take place not in isolation but connected with other efforts of individuals to teach the Faith.

In one community, a weekly devotional gathering has helped to not only attract an increasing number of seekers, but has contributed in an ongoing manner to the growth of the cluster. The hosts have compared the devotional gathering to participating in a “spiritual party”. . . .

Every Tuesday about 12-15 seekers come together in a Bahá’í home for a simple dinner, prayers, and singing. Some are neighbors who were approached by the friends. Some are local junior youth who are attracted by the loving and welcoming spirit of the home.

Still others have been met through encounters at a coffee shop located close to a university campus. These customers and seekers are mostly in the age range of 17 to 34 and are from various cultural backgrounds. In the coffee shop they often study for classes or work on their laptops. A member of the teaching team approaches the customer and a friendly conversation is initiated. The conversation naturally leads them to inviting the seekers to the devotions and to “break bread together”. The teaching teams meet weekly to plan and to focus on this receptive population.

In recent weeks, one of the participants in the devotional meetings declared his Faith in Bahá’u’lláh. Another seeker, a mother of two of the junior youth who attend the devotions, also declared. The mother was visited by the teaching team and Anna’s presentation was shared with her. At the same time it was being shared, one of her children helped with the presentation by reading the quotations. The mother observed her daughter’s excitement as she read the Creative Word and was deeply moved by this and by the Message.

These stories of personal teaching initiatives are very inspiring and encouraging. We send our deepest love and warmest regards to all the friends.

Regional Bahá’í Council of the Southern States

Monday, September 22, 2008

"We are learning together"

Teaching the Faith is an act of sharing, of sharing the Message with confidence and with humility, of sharing time together with a seeker, and of sharing thoughts. What I like so much about this story from San Francisco-San Mateo, CA (A) is the true dialogue that occurred. The teachers introduced new ideas; the listeners reflected, pondered, consulted and decided. And then! Two new believers, enthusiastic about identifying with the Faith, and of course embarking on a study circle. One phrase in this story captures it all: “We are learning together.”

During the last teaching effort, we approached an apartment and were met by a man. We introduced ourselves and explained the purpose of our visit. He asked us to return the following day. Upon our return, he welcomed us in. His cousin was also home and joined us in our discussion. . . .

We started sharing Anna's Presentation in Spanish. They listened intently, and would periodically ask questions. After the first part of the presentation, they explained that they had never actively practiced any religion and preferred to connect individually to God. We asked that if there were a path to lead to the knowledge of God, would it be worth trying to seek it out? They reflected on this question, and said they agreed that pursuing a path that could lead to God was worth the effort. They asked us to please continue the presentation.

Soon after, they asked for clarification about the name of the God we believed in. We asked, "What is the name of the God you believe in?" "God", they answered. "That's the same God we believe in too. There is only one God..." We went on to reinforce the idea of the Oneness of God and of the religions. The presentation continued on with discussion on the other Central Figures.

When we discussed the Laws brought by Baha'u'llah, we asked, "If you would like to remove the problem of death or injury caused by drunk driving and the problem of domestic violence caused by alcohol abuse on a societal level, what would be the best way to do it?". After thinking a bit, they said, "To prohibit it completely". "Exactly", we said. "Baha'u'llah has brought this message to fix societal problems. Baha'u'llah's laws are lights that can guide all of humanity towards a better world".

Towards the end of our time with these two men, we asked if they believed that Baha'u'llah was a Manifestation of God. They responded that they felt that this was probably true. We explained that if they accepted Baha'u'llah's message in their hearts then they were Baha'is. The declaration cards were handed to them, and the statement at the bottom was read aloud and explained. The two cousins consulted together for a while, and reflected on the action they were about to take. Within a couple minutes they agreed they would like to make this commitment. As they were doing this, they asked, "Are we supposed to go out and teach like you now? We feel we don't know enough!" "Of course," we responded. "We will still have many opportunities to learn together."

Since this encounter, we have visited them several times. They were very eager to share with us that they had recently received their Baha'i ID cards. "We got our Baha'i cards recently. We are Baha'is now. We carry these cards in our wallets as a protection." Their enthusiasm was infectious. At one meeting we introduced the idea of a study circle and the first book in a sequence of courses that we could use to learn together. They each eagerly took a copy of Book 1 and started looking through it. We scheduled a time to start the study circle in the next few days. We can't wait to begin with them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"A daily effort to give whatever love, nurturing and training we can muster"

You will not be surprised to learn that Savannah, GA (A) continues to grow! Here is an update from one of the friends, reflecting on the wide variety of efforts the friends there are making to nurture and welcome new believers and strengthen the bonds of community life.

Hello dear friends:

It has been a long time between emails regarding the happenings in the Savannah Area Cluster. During this last intensive teaching effort we have had 9 enrollments: 2 adults, 2 youth and 5 junior youth. Most of them have heard Anna's Presentation in some form. On another front, one of our new families had a wedding in which the Bahá’í vows were incorporated beautifully. And this is just the beginning. But follow-up activities have leaped to the front of our list. Meaningful follow-up with our new believers, of whom there have been almost 100 since last November, has become our biggest priority. We are constantly looking at new ways to accomplish this. . . .

We held a couple of summer camps using some of our long-established training methods. We are excited about the new trainings that have emerged in different neighborhoods. There is also some remote training scheduled this month with the Louis Gregory Bahá’í Institute. In addition, some of us just returned from the Tennessee Baha'i School with several of our new young friends. Two weeks before that nineteen of our young friends were part of a trip to the Mother Temple and the National Center sponsored by the Black Men's Gathering Leadership Forum. Our new young friends really enjoyed travelling and seeing other Bahá’ís and learning more about our grand history. Even with all these things going on it is becoming increasingly clear than ever that real consolidation requires an almost daily effort to give the friends whatever love, nurturing and training we can muster.

On a humorous note, I am getting “home visited” by our young friends on a very regular basis, almost every day at times. The new friends have really taken the guidance to heart. Most of the time when my doorbell rings these days it is one or two of our new friends paying me a visit . . . yes, God is good. Please keep our new believers and the rest of us in your prayers.

In His service


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Working together to multiply core activities

One of the key ways of reaching out to our neighbors and sharing the message of Baha'u'llah is through the core activities. All over the country, it is exciting to see these activities take root, sprout, flourish and grow. Here is a brief report from a friend in the Turtle Mountain, ND (C) cluster, where a committed group of believers is working together to multiply core activities and plan their efforts.

Hello everyone, I thought I would email and report the results of the activities in the Turtle Mountain area.

On August 2nd we had a meeting planning for the next three months for the Dunseith community with encouragement from the Regional Bahá’í Council and with the assistance from the Auxiliary Board member. This planning went very well and we are excited to make such a commitment to have some much Bahá’í activity in our area. We had 10 children and youth and 10 adults attend this planning meeting. . . .

The very next day we had a devotional gathering and Bahá’í children’s class, we had 7 adults and 10 youth and children attending this gathering. We have also scheduled a Ruhi study circle once a week; this has been going very well also. We have three new participants in the course, and just recently another Ruhi study circle in another town started with four new participants; this is exciting news.

The Turtle Mountain Pow Wow went very well, we had a lot of visiting Native Bahá’ís from other communities visiting us on that weekend. The sweat lodge ceremonies have been very helpful and are very important to our everyday life and our spiritual growth in the world.

Your brother in Dunseith, ND


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New patterns of growth are now second nature for Nevada South

Nevada South (A) has just finished another intensive teaching effort, and by all accounts it was wonderful in so many ways.  It was truly a time of learning, service and creating new bonds of unity and community.  You can also see that for an increasing number of the friends, the act of teaching has become something completely natural and internalized.  What follows are some of the key highlights from the fortnight-long effort as provided by the cluster’s area teaching committee and individual believers.  Enjoy!

The area teaching committee summarizes what were the main areas of focus during this effort:

Directly sharing the message with:

Friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers of new believers

Individuals who during the last teaching effort expressed an interest in learning more about the Faith

People we meet through visiting additional homes in two neighborhoods

Developing additional children’s classes and junior youth groups—Bahá’í youth are leading this initiative.

Developing strong teams to carry out follow-up activities. . . .

There were numerous inspiring stories of encounters with people visited in the neighborhoods.  Here is one:

We visited a home where a woman answered the door.  She stated that she would like to hear the presentation.  I started Anna’s presentation while standing just outside her doorway.  She seemed to be very interested and read every quote in the presentation.  As I continued, she seemed to be more and more engaged.

At the end I asked her how she felt about what she had just heard.  She started to say that it all made a lot of sense, that everything she heard sounded great.  I then asked her not to think about what she had just heard as an intellectual process and directly stated that the conversation we just had was a spiritual one and if she believed Bahá’u’lláh was the Promised One for this Day and Age.  She then looked in my eyes and stated she did.  This was met with a large hug, and she then invited us into her home.

Here is another:

We came to an apartment and a lady opened the door.  She explained she was not feeling well, and immediately we offered to say a healing prayer with her.  She was happy for that and invited us in.  She then explained that she is of Christian background.  After some conversation and prayers we offered to give Anna’s presentation.  She gladly agreed.  After the entire presentation was given, she was asked specifically if she believed that Bahá’u’lláh is the return of Christ, to which her response was affirmative.  We were all ecstatic!  One of the members of our teaching team was in tears.  We spent two more hours visiting, talking and saying prayers.

A third story shows how new believers are arising to teach:

We arrived at an apartment and were greeted by a lady who asked us to return at a later time to go through Anna’s presentation.  Just as we were leaving, a newly declared believer also walked by the apartment.  She told us that she will visit this woman since she knows her and tell her more about the Faith.  We were delighted to see how quickly our brothers and sisters are arising to teach!

In this next account, one sees the natural, seamless connection between children’s classes and teaching.

We approached a home and realized that some of the kids who are attending the weekly children’s class in that neighborhood lived there.  A man opened the door and we inquired about the whereabouts of the mother of the children.  He kindly responded that she wasn’t home.  He then waited to see what we had to say so we asked if he would like to listen to a presentation about the Bahá’í Faith.  He agreed.  As we were going through the presentation, his interest noticeably increased.  He was confirming everything he heard and absorbing every concept.  In the end, he declared his belief and embraced the Message of the Blessed Beauty.

All of the core activities—devotional meetings, study circles, children’s classes and junior youth groups—were a key foundation for the teaching effort.  Numerous study circles were started with new believers.  In addition, one of the believers in the cluster had moved into a neighborhood where teaching activities had taken place.  During this effort she opened up her home for devotional meetings, which were attended by new believers in that neighborhood.  One of the friends reports:

Although we’ve held regular devotional gatherings in the past, this is the first time that our cluster has been able to hold the gatherings almost nightly.  This level of activity has allowed many individuals to attend the devotionals who normally would not have been able to do so owing to their work schedules.

Another believer shares their insights about the structured and organic nature of this process:

Organic can also refer to the body and its organs.  Each organ has a specific purpose and task and contributes to the proper functioning of the body.  Life cannot be sustained if one of the organs fails to function.  In the same way, each of the core activities is an organ and our contribution to its growth and development is essential for the functioning of the body as a whole.

Another believer shares this insight:

Our cluster has learned that accompaniment, perseverance, systematic follow-up, and reliance on the power of divine assistance are all key elements of success.

Junior youth groups take off in Nevada South

During a recent teaching effort in the Nevada South (A) cluster, a number of junior youth groups and children’s classes were established. Throughout the country, these two activities have consistently shown themselves to be effective ways of building community. In this report from an individual believer in the cluster, you can see the enthusiasm of all the participants in these activities, and the transformation they are bringing to all involved:

Our focus today was to accompany the youth in their path of service. Children’s classes and junior youth groups were held in the neighborhoods, building on the work started by the youth initiative one week earlier. Dozens of children and junior youth attended, both Bahá’ís and from the wider community. Their inspiring stories continue to overwhelm us. Here is one: . . .

We knew today’s junior youth gathering was sure to be a great one. Our team of animators was eager to stimulate the minds and touch the hearts of the young people that we first viewed as students but are now beginning to seem more like equal participants in a process of growth. We knew things could only get better because of the steadily increasing attendance, visible enthusiasm in the children, and the hands of friendship extending past age-gaps and shared with all those involved. All of the animators became more comfortable with their role, and continued to deepen on what animation truly signifies. We are learning more every day about this “structured and organic” process.

Our students are ever-impressive in their comprehensive skills and the children are so thirsty for spiritual education. While we have experienced some challenges, through this process we have learned that animation is incredibly dependent on the adaptability of all its participants. We have been lucky to have been given these experiences to learn from and which we will always keep in mind with our future endeavors.

Connecting seekers with local communities

Increasingly, people who are interested in learning about the Bahá’í Faith are initiating contact with the friends by calling the 1-800-22UNITE number or sending a message to the national Web site. From all over the country, there are many inspiring stories. Here are a few recent stories, reported by the various Regional Specialists.

A seeker contacted 1-800-22UNITE and was directed to us. We met at a nearby coffee house. I came with a prayer partner and offered Anna’s presentation. The seeker declared at the end. She is interested in learning how to teach children’s classes, and will be participating in a Book 1 study circle with another new believer.

Another story:

We emailed back and forth, and then I met with her at a coffee house. She brought a friend who had children. I gave Anna’s presentation, and both women declared. They have also registered their children, and would like them to participate in children’s classes. They will also attend an upcoming fireside. . . .

In another report, an individual who is residing temporarily in the U.S. contacted the Bahá’ís with these words: “I have been wanting to join the Bahá’í Faith and attend Bahá’í functions.” A local contact person met with him and shares his experience:

I just spent 3 or 4 hours at his place. Very cool guy. He was absolutely ready to join our community. I gave him a prayer book and the declaration card and he signed it immediately. He can’t wait to attend Bahá’í meetings in his community.

Another story involves collaboration among the friends in two different parts of the country. A person investigating the Faith asked for a Bahá’í contact for a family member in another city who has young children, with the intent of finding a children’s class they could participate in. The Bahá’ís arranged for local believer to meet with this family. The local contact person reports:

In follow-up to your request, my husband and I are planning to have lunch with them next week. I am a tutor and we hold a regular children’s class. If they are interested, we can start a new class or introduce them to an existing class.

Four months later, the father of the family declared. The local contact shares her thoughts:

What an amazing story. You have contact with the mother in one state, through the flow of the institute process your message makes it across the country to her son and he declares. Now he is teaching everyone he knows. This Faith has no limits and no boundaries!

In another instance, an individual who had declared her Faith years ago but then lost contact with the Bahá’ís contacted 1-800-22UNITE to reconnect. A local believer met with her and her daughter and gave Anna’s presentation. At the end of the presentation, the daughter declared her belief as well.

Another couple contacted 1-800-22UNITE and were connected with a local believer who invited them to her home, where she gave Anna’s presentation. They listened intently, stating that they had known another Bahá’í in the past and had also visited the House of Worship in Wilmette, stating it was a moving experience for them. The local believer then shares the rest of the story:

After the presentation, I asked them if they believed Bahá’u’lláh was the Manifestation of God for today? She said yes I believe that He is! I told her she was already a Bahá’í. I said if she would like to join us she is most welcome. Her husband also then said, “Yes I do believe, this has touched my heart.”

The last story highlights the importance of perseverance:

Mr. ___ contacted the 1-800-22UNITE. After calling numerous times, emailing and even visiting his home trying to catch him there, we were finally able to get in touch. He had been away for several months. He was very happy that we reached out to him. We agreed to meet the following day at his home to share Anna’s presentation. It was a very moving experience, and he declared his Faith. He has since joined a Book 1 study circle and has established friendships with a number of other Bahá’ís who he now calls his “family”. He has stated repeatedly that he is very thankful that the Bahá’ís persevered and did not give up on him and that we went to his home for a heart-to-heart. To him this shows that we genuinely cared about him.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"I interacted with her as a fellow Baha'i"

Here is a beautiful piece from the Philadelphia, PA (A) cluster relating the story of an individual who contacted the 1-800-22UNITE number and was connected with the local Bahá’í community. What is so inspiring is how a believer welcomed this seeker and her investigation of the Faith in one of the truest ways possible—by involving her in service in the core activities. When the act of teaching is enkindled with such a spirit of openness, is it any wonder that new believers “hit the ground running”, so to speak?

Here is the story of __’s journey to the Bahá’í Faith. She and I had developed a special connection from the moment we met. After a month or two of being friends, I invited her to participate in a Book 1 study circle. Though outwardly she seemed to be reluctant and relatively uncomfortable, she persisted and attended every class. After completing the Book 1, she developed the confidence to demonstrate her interest in the Faith more. Soon after, she participated in a Book 4 study circle where she developed a connection with the lives of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. At the same time, she and I began weekly devotional gatherings at her home on campus. Over time, she took ownership of these gatherings, which began to strengthen her faith and confirm her belief in Baha'u'llah. . . .

For the first time, I asked my friend if she would like to join the Bahá’í community. She very kindly expressed that she could not. She continued to host the devotional gathering. On another occasion, I asked her again, and again she kindly refused. Despite her outward declines, my heart was telling me that she had already accepted Bahá’u’lláh. I interacted with her as a fellow Bahá’í. My sister and I invited her to help us host the next Holy Day celebration (Ridvan), and she happily accepted. When the celebration finally arrived, she and I were both very excited yet nervous. She was the host for the celebration, and she did beautifully. To my surprise, on that day, she declared her faith in Bahá’u’lláh. It was the very last thought I had in my mind that day, but it was her first. That evening she expressed to me how special Ridvan was to her. Learning about the Garden of Ridvan in Book 4 ignited the flame in her heart. She said that a little while prior, she decided that she wished to declare on that very special day.

This dear soul continues to serve the Cause of God. She is participating in a Book 2 study circle and is working on becoming trained as a Junior Youth Animator for our community. The progress she has made in such a short period of time is astounding to me. It is truly a testimony to the transformative power of the core activities, in particular the institute process. Because she had been such an active participant in the community from the very beginning, it has only been natural for her to assume a sense of responsibility for the progress of the Faith and to arise to even greater heights of service. She is the epitome of service.

Loving regards,


Friday, September 12, 2008

Can't get enough of the Ruhi materials

This brief report from the Baltimore, MD (A) cluster shows some of the ways in which the various Ruhi materials have been used with people interested in learning more about the Faith. The friends involved gained insights about the needs and interests of their contacts.

This spring there was an intensive teaching effort in my neighborhood. One person expressed interest and so, my wife and I have returned to her home and met with her and her husband. We are doing our best to utilize all the Ruhi materials. First we started with Anna’s Presentation. Then, I offered to give presentations about the livers of the Twin Manifestations, using the materials from Ruhi Book 4. After that, we shared the deepening themes from Ruhi Book 2, usually one or two themes per visit. When we arrived at the deepening theme about the life of Bahá’u’lláh, I asked them if they felt they wanted to skip this section, since they had already studied similar content twice before. The reply was an emphatic “NO!” What had seemed very repetitious for me was in fact very welcome for them. Repeated study of Bahá’u’lláh’s life helps internalize the lessons therein.

We are now holding a Book 1 study circle with this couple and another family. One of the participants isn’t able to attend every session because of work, but studies the course book every morning to help orient himself spiritually for the day ahead.



Book 2 = empowerment

This story from a C-stage cluster in Texas is wonderful for many reasons. Not only is it another example of a seeker declaring after contacting the Baha'is through 1-800-22UNITE, it also shows how the training institute process empowers new believers to teach and carry out deepenings on their own. And here’s something new—“home visits” to study the deepening themes from Ruhi Book 2 over the phone!

T came to the 1-800-22UNITE number last summer, wanting to declare. In the autumn he and I had 6 phone call session deepenings using the Book 2 materials. He studied both Book 1 and Book 2 online since he doesn’t live near any Bahá’ís. I occasionally checked in with him during the winter and spring.

Another individual, M, then wrote to the national Web site in June. They also lived in the same area where there are not Bahá’ís nearby. So I called my one contact: T. I emailed him Anna’s presentation and asked if he would be willing to set up a meeting with her. They got in contact, met at a bakery, and went through the presentation together. T was really nervous, but had a great experience. The presentation was done on his laptop, so when M had other questions, they could look together for the answers on the various Bahá’í sites. She gave T her contact information, and shortly after, she attended a gathering at the nearest Bahá’í center. At that time, she then signed the card, sent it in and called T over the phone. They continue to be in email contact. T is now sharing the deepening themes from Ruhi Book 2 with M, just as he had received them earlier. Truly this is the institute process at work!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Coming together in a spirit of fellowship

Bahá’u’lláh commands His followers to “Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship”. An individual from a C-stage cluster in Florida has put this teaching into practice, and it has led to an opportunity to share the Faith with others and build new friendships. Add prayer, the use of the arts, and the ever-useful Ruhi Book 1, and you have a most joyful and fruitful occasion. You can really feel the spirit of unity and openness that permeated the interactions among the members of various Faiths, a spirit not of competition but of sharing.


One of my neighbors invited me to go with her to visit her church, so I went. She is a member of the local "Unity" church. I was intrigued by the name, of course!

Wow! Such openness! I'd say 95 percent of what the pastor said came straight from Gleanings. I was impressed. (Stunned, really.)

I did not meet the pastor that morning, but I did give the church my email. And a few weeks later I was invited to the church's first-ever "Prayer Retreat." And so I resolved to take part. I was inspired to put together a 9-minute (just turned out that long!) music program, similar to the kind I prepare for my home devotionals. I offered it to the pastor and suggested I go to the church to meet him so he could listen to it.

"Come on over," he said. . . .

The initial meeting went GREAT. We talked for more than an hour, talking about the retreat, my musical program, about unity. Then we started comparing notes about our Faith(s). "You sure you're not a Bahá’í?" I teased him. "You sure you're not 'Unity'?" he responded. It was wonderful, and refreshing.

The pastor decided to make use of the music, and indeed asked me to make a presentation about the Faith and our perspective on prayer. I told him, "I think I could put something together. . . .” So I went home and pulled out my Ruhi Book 1 and made some notes.

Three friends attended the retreat with me, which lasted four hours. The pastor introduced me and again teased me (in front of the group this time), telling everyone that he was probably a Bahá’í. I made my presentation, which was received very well. The group asked several questions about the Faith.

I was the first of several speakers, and it was great all the other speakers found themselves confirming points of agreement among us. The Presbyterian minister opened her remarks saying, "I must be a Bahá’í, too!"

I had come to the retreat with 17 small prayer books (the gold "gift" version with the little bluebird on the front) and distributed them on the tables there. By the end of the retreat all but three were gone. I had placed mailing address labels in the front cover of each. One couple expressed interest in attending the devotional meeting I host in my home. Another church member has now called me three times, and I met with him at a restaurant where we talked for 90 minutes. He asked for more reading material, which I gave to him. He's checked us out on the Web, too.

It's all because of the emphasis on prayer. Those little prayer books are POTENT! (I need to get more!) And two different pastors sorta endorsed us!

Nothing like this has EVER happened before! I can't help but believe it's because we're putting into practice the Five Year Plan as best we can: 1) There is the use of the arts (the music was my introduction to everything that followed). 2) There is the existence of my weekly devotionals, immediately available to anyone that expressed interest. 3) As a Ruhi tutor, there was my familiarity with the prayer section in Book 1. 4) There was the unity and support of the other believers who accompanied me to the retreat. 5) And there was our total reliance on the Sacred Word. (Whew!)

Events could not have played out better. There are several other prospects for collaboration with this church. Please keep us in your prayers.


Still scared, still teaching

When we first venture forth to teach the Faith to others, it can seem like a daunting prospect. And this is precisely why this story from an individual in Boston, MA (A) is particularly touching. The fears expressed with humor and frankness are surely shared by many of us—and yet this is not the end of the story. Instead it is about feeling the fear, and yet acting anyway, of the power of prayer, of reliance on God, on the unity created by collective effort, and the transformation that results from service.

I don't know how this all happened. And yet, I do. Really, what choice do we have? Once you recognize Bahá’u’lláh you are committed to a path on self destruction, the lower self, of course.

I can't say I had a passion for teaching or even a desire to have a passion for teaching. Mostly, I have a desire to be obedient to God's Will. . . .

So when we became an "A" cluster, I was there. When we started our first intensive program of growth, I was there. When my family's neighborhood was identified as a receptive community, I was there. And when they selected our home as the meeting place for our teaching effort, I was there . . . looking for every and any excuse possible to flee. I was feeling sick. I was feeling exhausted. I'm sure I was needed elsewhere. Anywhere frankly. I settled on the notion that I could cook for everybody. I would keep the home fires burning as others ventured out into the neighborhood. But alas I was given a street to visit and a buddy to go with. I couldn't jump ship but maybe God would strike me dead. I was hoping.

In the days before I would wake up in the morning thinking of plausible excuses to not be in my own home on Saturday.

With fear in my heart and total reliance on God the dreaded day began. People would be in my house, eating my food for the sole purpose of spreading the Word of God to my neighbors.

Like a mantra I kept thinking, I can't do this. And I was right. I couldn't. But it turned out I could do this. I could put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

Soon the happy Bahá’ís arrived. We reviewed our tasks. Acknowledged our assigned buddies. And then we prayed. Oh boy did we pray. These were the most ardent felt, sincere prayers I had ever been a part of. Love, submission, obedience was bending us into conformity with His Will.

My community really loves to pray but these prayers, these sweet sincere prayers spoken, chanted and sung went on and on. I hoped they would never end. After days of fear, I finally felt safe. But the prayers did end. And off we went.

I had a plan, I had a buddy and I had God. My feet kept moving up and down staircases, and onto porches. And at the end of they day we returned to our safe haven with stories of joy. Whether we encountered an empty home, a rejection, a listening ear, a hospitable coffee, or a person who declared their belief, everything was a joy and a success. We owned each others stories and experiences. We were one.

That was two teaching efforts ago. That was a lifetime ago, when I was dead and Bahá’u’lláh raised me up and I was able to share His message.

Much love and still scared but committed,


Monday, September 8, 2008

Learning how to directly share the message

Bahá’ís try to share their Faith with others through a wide variety of activities. When Bahá’ís speak about “direct teaching”, they are not referring to a specific type of activity. Instead, it simply means telling people clearly and directly that Bahá’u’lláh has come with a new message for humanity, and this can be carried out in almost any place that our daily life brings us. Teaching could involve knocking on a neighbor’s door and asking if they are interested to learn more about the Faith. Or it could involve a deep and intimate conversation with a person sitting next to us on a bus, train, or airplane. Everywhere the friends are learning about how to share the message of the Faith in a variety of venues. This report from Boston, MA (A) highlights some of experience that has recently been gained in their latest teaching effort.

Dearest friends,

Much love from the Boston Area Teaching Committee to each and every one of you!

We wanted to give you an update as to the progress of activities in your Cluster.

We finished a wonderful teaching effort in the community in which 10 people declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh. In addition to visiting neighborhoods, friends focused on personal efforts to share in a direct manner the message of Bahá’u’lláh. There are a number of examples, including holding devotionals followed by a talk on the fundamental verities of the Faith, praying for the success of the teaching efforts, and sitting in a cafe with Anna's Presentation (after having fervently prayed for blessings), and offering the presentation to whoever sat beside them. All these, and many more, are wonderful examples of service in our cluster.

The friends are visiting the new declarants on a regular basis, have started Book 1 study circles and children classes, as well as junior youth groups. Yesterday, one of the families that declared attended the Green Acre picnic and had the opportunity to meet their fellow Bahá’ís from around the Northeast!

With much love

The Boston Cluster Area Teaching Committee