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.

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