Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fanning the flame of Faith with Ruhi 1

Across the country, the friends are learning the value of involving new believers in the study of the training institute courses. And further, they are learning more about how to engage new Bahá’ís in study circles. What makes this report about Knoxville, TN (A) so exciting is not just the results they have achieved, but the practical insights they have gained about how to start study of Ruhi Book 1 in a way that fans the new flame of Faith and removes barriers. And the fruit of such learning is effective follow-up to teaching efforts.

Beloved friends,

More and more we are learning from the dedicated friends who serve at the cluster level about ways to lovingly and effectively share the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, and to follow up with the wonderful new believers that declare.

The Knoxville Area cluster experienced a breakthrough in enrollments and in learning about consolidation, especially as it relates to involving the new believers immediately in Book 1.

In their last (eleventh) cycle, they experienced the enrollments of 21 adults and youth. Of these new believers, 17 are involved in Book 1 or have completed it and gone onto Book 2 . . . .

We wanted to share with you what the friends there have learned about how to involve new believers in Book 1. We are ever grateful to the cluster agencies serving the Knoxville cluster for their tremendous dedication and humble attitude towards learning.

With loving regards,


Basically, we learned that the best way to introduce study of Ruhi Book 1 is uncomplicated and informally. Instead of trying to make it into a formal commitment and schedule one particular day per week to work with a new believer on it, we just start Ruhi Book 1 with them as soon as they declare—i.e., when their spark of Faith is lit. For example, when someone has declared after or during Anna's Presentation, we continue the discussion as follows:

After welcoming them into the Bahá’í family, the teacher can say something like, “If you liked reading the Bahá’í quotes and the Words of God in the presentation we just finished, I really think you will enjoy this book!"

They then show them Ruhi Book 1, and continue: "It is called Reflections on the life of the Spirit, and it is a collection of Bahá’í scriptures and the Word of God for this Day. Here, let's take a look at this passage together."

They then read out loud the first quotation in the first section (“The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct.”).

Then they can explain, "So, these are all short yet powerful quotes about deepening our understanding of the Bahá’í Faith and helping us live a good life and build unity, just as we talked about before. They all have a question after them, which usually comes from the quote."

They can then answer the first one or two questions together.

When the teacher asks, "Do you like that? Isn't that beautiful?", the friends’ experience has been that the answer is always a resounding “YES!”

And when the teacher asks, "Would you like to finish up the page together?", again the friends’ experience has been that the answer is always a resounding “YES!”

After finishing the first section together, most of the time the new believers will start commenting on how much they like the quotations and the book, and that they want to continue studying it soon. In fact, they often ask us to come back and study more of it with them before we even have a chance to offer to do so. They are so moved by the Words of God on that first page that they really want to know more and keep learning about it!

Our understanding is that the reason the new believers declared in the first place is because their hearts and souls were moved by the excerpts from the Word of God used in Anna’s presentation. So to continue to read with them additional Bahá’í quotations from Ruhi Book 1 is like pouring fuel on the fire of Faith they have just ignited! Not to mention, the idea of building world unity that is introduced in Anna's presentation goes right along with the main ideas of Ruhi Book 1, especially the first section.

We also think this approach works well, because asking people when they have time to commit to a study group or study session can often be intimidating. Also, many people usually have very busy lives and often don't know when they are free next week.

So at that point, we let them know we would like to come back sometime in the next 2 days (we have learned it is very important to follow up within 2 days) and find a time that works for them on that day. Then the original teacher returns with a community member who has completed the relevant institute courses, and who wants to help out by studying Book 1 with new believers. At this follow up visit, we read the "To the Collaborators" section and then continue on with Book 1 at whatever point we left off on the day they declared.

If the community member and the new believer establish a good connection, then the community member can make a commitment to visiting them whenever they request. And the original teacher can still go visit them too: In fact, one important key to success with involving new Bahá’ís in Book 1 is to not assign just one person to be the sole tutor of the Book 1 study with the new believer. Instead, anyone who visits their apartment complex or neighborhood can just visit as many homes as possible on that day (of course working with the neighborhood coordinator so that no one is left behind) The new believers have stated that they like this approach, because then they get to meet different Bahá’ís, rather than the same person all the time. Also, this enables them to finish Book 1 faster, because they can be visited several times a week, rather than just once a week (which would be the case if they had only a single tutor).

P.S. We would like to add that some of these newly-declared friends are now arising to serve the cluster. Three of the Bahá’ís who are now in Book 2 have also hosted devotionals. A few have helped with neighborhood children’s classes and have assisted in giving Anna’s presentation to interested seekers in the neighborhood!

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