Friday, February 6, 2009

Evanston-Skokie IPG, Days 1 and 2

We have been receiving a flurry of teaching stories from Evanston and Skokie, IL (A), in the midst of a new cycle of the intensive program of growth. This time around, the friends are focusing on reaching out to existing contacts and to the community of interest. They have been very busy! Here are some stories from the first two days; more will follow!

One teaching team reached out to a couple of very close friends of theirs, and visited them in their home:

A: "I had never been sure if they wanted to know more about the Baha'i Faith, because I never asked." . . .

"We shared with them all of Anna’s presentation. I would check with them periodically as I went through the points. __ would comment that a quote was beautiful. __ had lots of questions and my friends helped answer them. Afterward, I was hesitant to ask, but am so glad I asked, 'Do you believe in Baha'u'llah?' __ answered, 'I believe – my spirit and heart believe.' I invited her to become a Bahá’í, she said that she has some things to get through in her mind. As for __, he was saying that he gets it all. He said, 'I can't jump in, commit to it yet; I have to understand it.' It is great that we were able to be open with each other and now I know where they stand with the Faith.”

"I've been wanting to ask __ for a long time because I talk with her a lot about the Faith. I have told her my whole experience from my first teaching effort onward, and share with her what I have been doing. The more I do, the more I share with her.”

B: "A gave them 'Anna's presentation', and the whole thing was nicely done. This is getting me warmed up to do it now myself, after hearing C share it today—I had a chance to hear two nice presentations."

A: "The flip-book served as a guide to help me stay on task. It helped me feel comfortable. It was very refreshing to know—a load off my mind.”

C: "It is so interesting, we have an instinct that we talk ourselves out of it, especially this directness. Once we overcome this fear that they will reject us, then it is freeing. In terms of your own growth in teaching the Faith, it is a big step, isn't it?”

"Also, once you watch someone else do it, it seems easy. The other day, someone watched his teaching partner give the presentation to a seeker, and went back to his own community and shared it with someone that very week.”

"The other point here, is that someone may declare his belief but not necessarily be ready to enroll right then."

Another teaching team shares its story. The previous week, a coordinator for the teaching effort had been in contact with __, a seeker in the cluster, to make an appointment for a teaching team to meet him.

A: “Well, let me see . . . B was going to go, and I was going to accompany him. Something happened and B had to work at the time of the appointment. So I called C and asked if he could come along; and today, D was here and is like, yeah, I'm coming too.”

The seeker suggested meeting at a restaurant.

A: “At the restaurant, he looked at me and said you must be A. And I said, __. And he gave me a big hug. Getting started, I said, well, we are in a public spot so everything is up to your comfort level, we can just talk and answer questions; and I asked what he knew about the Faith. __ says, ‘Cut all corners, I want to go straight to the essence.’ I said, "Well, we have a presentation that takes about 45 minutes, maybe more." He says, ‘Let's do it!’”

“He was riveted for the whole thing. Our teaching team was great. We were a really good team. There was great energy. During the presentation, I'd turn to D and say, D will tell you about this topic … and he'd spring into it. I would ask __ along the way, "Do you have any questions?" and he said, "No I want to wait to the end."

“After we gave the presentation, he was really excited and said, ‘You'll be seeing more of me.’ Then he said, ‘I want to know more about you three gentlemen, a little about your life and how you became Bahá’í.’ Each of us shared. And eventually I invited him, in the way we were talking, to become Bahá’í. It was up-front but without pressure: ‘If you'd like to become a Bahá’í, and want to be a registered member, this is what you'd do.’ He took the enrollment card with him.”

“The Ruhi study circle sounded good to him. He told us what days he would be available. Later I sent him a text message, "How about Friday?" So I hope that he is ready to start this week. I will also ask two other seekers to join this study circle, but even if they are not available, I will start right away with him.”

One of the benefits of teaching in teams is learning from each other:

A: “Yesterday, B was telling about watching C, and then F, give Anna's presentation and feeling that she could do this; today D said also, "I'd never seen it done before," and he saw C share it, and today he saw it again. They both feel like they can do it. The ‘flip chart’ is there to help you. There is some thought that you are supposed to be good at it and be able to share Anna’s presentation without an aid. But this is a good tool that helps the teacher and the seeker.”

Another teaching team wished to expand their teaching contacts. But more importantly, they wanted to do something that would help others.

E: “Our aim was to offer something that would be helpful, and the spiritual journaling workshop we held yesterday attracted Bahá’ís as well as their friends and seekers, so it was successful for me. We have inquiries to offer it again. Our goal was to meet people who are not Bahá’ís, but the way we wanted to go about it was to be of service to them. We wanted to help mankind. When we saw what was going on in the world right now, we could see people are facing difficult issues. So the idea was to help people focus on their spiritual side, and a lot of what we presented was about being detached. This will take more effort than what our team has typically done, which was to hold a devotional meeting and pass around prayer books, or talk about some topic at a fireside. So we tried to look for things that were directly related to issues currently on people’s minds. We'll see about the upcoming events (a devotional gathering this Wednesday and a discussion gathering on Saturday on the theme, ‘How to be anchored in troubled seas’).”

Prayer, firesides, teaching, love and more in San Diego

San Diego, CA (A) has recently started another cycle of its intensive program of growth, and we have received wave after wave of exciting news. The friends are teaching, praying, working together, and reaching out with joy to their neighbors in all parts of the cluster. All I can say is, WOW!.

Let us first share an excerpt from a story about one of the teaching days in the City Heights neighborhood. The friends there had the bounty of a visit from one of the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, who accompanied them on this particular day.

We were delighted to learn that one of the members of the National Spiritual Assembly was going to visit our cluster during our expansion phase and had requested to form part of a teaching team.

The day started with a home visit to one of the first believers in the neighborhood, a lady who had joined the Faith a little over a year ago and whose profound love for Bahá’u’lláh led her to write songs for Him. As we sat around in her backyard, in between the kind conversation of loving friends we were lulled by the sweet sounds of an Afro-Caribbean ballad, a dad pleading Bahá’u’lláh to take care of his young son, to guide him and raise him in His service. . . .

We went to visit another home. The door opened and a beautiful, radiant woman peeked her head out. “Good evening”, she greeted us. We readily answered her and introduced ourselves. We told her all about the reason for our visit, “We are in your neighborhood offering to share a presentation on the Bahá’í Faith”, we said. “It is a religion which accepts and elevates all others, and it is a wonderful way to unite the world. Could we have a few minutes of your time to share this presentation with you?”. She readily agreed. “Sure, come in,” she said.

We all sat around her dinner table, and we went through the presentation slowly and lovingly. She read along with us the creative word of God in her own sweet voice. By the time we got to showing her the picture of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, she had been so touched by the quotes and the principles that we told her that we wanted to invite her to be a member of this Faith, of a community which is working to establish a new world civilization. We also said that once she feels comfortable with her knowledge of the principles, she would be a magnificent teacher herself, helping us share this wonderful message with others. She declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh! We are planning follow-up visits with her.

A key element of this latest cycle of teaching activity was the devotional/fireside gathering. One believer gives an overview of this approach:

The area teaching committees in the Southwestern region have started formally introducing devotional/firesides as an additional line of action in the intensive teaching efforts. They are learning how to promote this activity systematically and how to accompany the friends to fulfill their goals. There are many success stories coming in from various clusters.

And San Diego is definitely home to some of these success stories! A believer who recently hosted such a gathering talks about her experience.

Our cluster has one neighborhood they had been focusing all their energies on. But this cycle they decided to try a new approach in some of the other areas of our cluster. It is called the devotional fireside.

Well, part of the process is of course to invite your neighbors. Well in my neighborhood, we don't do much more than say, "Hi", "Bye", or "It looks like another day of sunshine!" You're considered a good neighbor if you don't have loud parties or too many cars parked on the street! But I approached several of my neighbors. One neighbor I had not yet met. One who said she would see how her schedule was. And so on.

Ultimately there was not a large turnout at this gathering, but it was a positive experience for everyone involved.

After prayers and readings the host asked if any one would like to learn more about the Bahá’í Faith. She mentioned Anna's conversation. __ said she would like to hear more. P and I volunteered R to give the talk because she is in Book 6 and that would be part of her practice for the course. She gave the talk and invited __ to join the Bahá’í Faith. (bold and audacious), and she agreed! It is interesting that 5 people in the prayer chain [more on this below] were also present at this gathering.

The believer who shared Anna’s presentation states:

Since all the other friends had already finished Book 6, I took on sharing the presentation as my practice. My Book 6 facilitator, P, was there to help me if I slipped. I used the one with the flip chart and sat next to my friend. I pretty much just looked at the headings and put the ideas in my own words as much as possible. When I finished I asked __ if what she had heard was something she'd believed and if she'd like to help us build the unity of mankind and she said, "Yes."

Here is a summary of another devotional/fireside that was held in another part of the cluster.

__ and I hosted a devotional gathering at our home and we thought we would share the experience with you. We passed out invitations to all 46 units in our neighborhood by going door to door and talking with our neighbors. It was fun! Everyone was pleasant and a total number of 10 people attended our devotional.

A friend reflects on their experience with this gathering, and some of the implications for future teaching efforts:

It is much easier and sustainable to follow up with our neighbors! No driving! :) Going door to door to visit our own neighbors should be done with the objective of being their "loving friends" as the House of Justice wishes for us all to be. In just one neighborhood, 10 neighbors showed up to a Bahá’í devotional. 10!

As mentioned earlier, the believers in the San Diego cluster were engaged in a non-stop “prayer chain” throughout the entire teaching effort. This is but one example of how the friends throughout the country are starting to use prayer more systematically in their teaching activities. One friend shares their thoughts:

No wonder our teaching efforts have been so extraordinarily successful! The non-stop prayers 24/7 since the beginning of the cycle 13 and a half days ago have filled our cluster with the divine fragrances—and the scattering angels of the Almighty have been very busy. The prayer chain has also connected our hearts together in a sustained, systematic way and has created a very special unity of action for these very special 16 days. The discipline of praying together so intensively has caused some to remark that it reminds them of fasting or of going on pilgrimage. Here is one sweet thought from one of our teachers in the prayer chain:

I just wanted to share with you the joy and spiritual gratification that I am experiencing through this prayer chain. I feel a closer communion with Bahá’u’lláh by getting up at 4 a.m. to pray (although at times I do feel tired, but my spirit is still uplifted). It is teaching me a discipline that I utmost needed. I also feel the power of the prayers within the group of our prayer chain. It's amazing! I love it and would like to do it again.

Another believer reflects on the implications of the prayer chain and series of firesides:

This is proof that there is receptivity in every single neighborhood in our cluster, regardless of the strata of society, and proof of the power of the prayers that are being said 24 hours around the clock keeping our hearts centered on asking for and relying on Divine Assistance and confirmations.

Finally, here are the words of a new believer, who approached the friends expressing an interest in studying Ruhi Book 3 (Teaching Children’s Classes, Grade 1) in Spanish. In this request, she also describes her experience of becoming a Bahá’í:

I so recently became a Bahá’í and recall vividly the questions I had, as well as the time that the Bahá’ís who were loving me into this global family offered to give me this process. I was able to express fears, confusion, sadness and concern and was held throughout the process in a container of compassion and gentleness. There were even times when I reflected on my own history and related it to the new concepts I was being exposed to about the Faith. . . . It was ultimately this unconditional love that enabled me to trust my heart and its path to Bahá’u’lláh! . . . It really made me long for the ability to extend to others the same quality of discovery that I was gifted with. I have some education in Spanish and I thought doing a Ruhi course would allow me to move towards offering Spanish-speaking Bahá’ís the gift of unity.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The teaching spreads to every part of the cluster

This update from Savannah, GA (A) has some exciting news: The teaching and core activities are now starting to spread to more and more parts of the cluster.—now more things happening in more areas of the cluster. The institute process is taking off, the Bahá’ís are reaching out to their friends and neighbors, new believers are being welcomed into the Faith, and existing bonds of unity are being strengthened. Finally, there is a great example of a “within-cluster” homefront pioneer. Everyone, wherever they are living, is helping Savannah move forward!

Hello friends:

The last couple of weeks have given us various opportunities to incorporate more fully the efforts of every friend in EACH location in our Savannah Area Cluster. The friends in Statesboro had a wonderful, diverse entry in the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade, supported by friends and youth from Savannah, as well as their own contacts in Statesboro. The friends there have just finished Book 4 and will be starting Book 5 next month! They want to take Book 5 so they can start a junior youth group in Statesboro with some of their friends from the parade. They have also recently begun a Book 1 with 5 or 6 participants from the wider community. . . .

In the Chatham County part of the cluster, the friends visited neighborhood where a Bahá’í family lives and invited children who live there to a new children's class. 5 neighborhood children and one set of parents along with 6 of the Bahá’í children participated. Everyone had a great time, and the children are anxious to invite their friends! As we expand our teaching beyond the area near the Bahá’í Center in Savannah, this neighborhood has been chosen by the area teaching committee as one place where a collective teaching effort will continue along with the monthly children's classes.

Last week two youth brought a 14 year old junior youth by my house because "he wanted to be one of us". After some discussion among all of us, he decided to enroll. Please say prayers for him and his family. Tonight he and one other of the young friends came by my house to hang out. We watched a little bit of the super bowl and they talked about how they wanted to catch up with the others in their youth classes starting this week.

We also have a 19 year old native Savannah youth who has started her year of service as a home front pioneer right here in Savannah. Her action adds greatly to our ability to work with the many youth and junior youth who have become believers. We are growing in size and capacity to systematically continue to grow. There is so much more to say but I will stop now.

Keep us in your prayers please



Learning from the community

Each community, each neighborhood is unique. The friends in Monterey, CA (B) have embarked on a teaching effort in their cluster and are learning from the community with whom they are working. They are identifying the human resources they need, adapting their approaches, and looking to the longer term.

The homefront pioneer to the cluster has opened many doors. His bilingual skills have allowed for greater connection with the local community.

A good long-term solution to language issues is for bilingual residents of the neighborhood to participate in the training institute courses. . . .

Scheduling of Ruhi study circles needs to be flexible to accommodate the schedules of seekers and new believers. We should not hold up and delay some people waiting for others to be available. This usually necessitates having small, one-on-one study circles.

We have learned that in the three apartment complexes in which we are working there live many people from the same locality in Mexico, and many of them are relatives to each other. These pre-existing relationships can be a foundation for us to reach out to others in this community.

Having in place a clear and specific action plan helps us to maintain focus.

Human resources at all levels

This summary list of “lessons learned” from the recent teaching efforts in Nevada North (A) raises a number of interesting points related to human resources. They are gaining experience in making effective use of human resources from other clusters, from within their cluster, and within the specific neighborhoods and apartment complexes where they have been teaching.

Having individuals from another cluster come and assist was an energizing experience for all of us. Guests from outside the cluster should be paired up with individuals from the local area. . . .

Connecting with many of the individuals who previously expressed interest when we last visited can be challenging due to economic and personal situations requiring them to work unpredictable hours.

Prayer teams provided a spiritual atmosphere for the teaching work.

It was helpful to have available people who lived in the apartment complex we were visiting who could serve as Spanish translators.

Anna’s presentation in Spanish needs to be summarized when we introduce it.

Regular reflection brings regular learning

One of the benefits of having regular cycles of consultation, action and reflection is that this pattern enables us to assess the effectiveness of our approaches and to make adjustments. Take a look at this list of insights gained from Los Angeles, CA (A) about core activities, teaching teams, and frequent and regular reflection—all coming from the friends’ experiences in the past three months.

Children’s class teachers and animators of junior youth groups should meet together both before and after they conduct these activities. They need to meet to pray and consult before starting, and then after they have finished it is beneficial to come together again to reflect on their experiences.

It is very important for children’s class teachers to develop a strong relationship with the parents of the students. These relationships are the surest foundation for the progress of the classes. . . .

Firesides and devotional gatherings can be intimate events and even “one-on-one”.

It is important to cater to people's strengths; therefore, we need to put each person where they are most effective and comfortable serving.

In every cycle, each team raises a fresh human resource from an interested parent or youth. One approach that has been effective in this regard is to invite the parents to attend the class in order to see the activities and content and approve the materials being taught.

One-on-one calls to tutors made a big difference in encouraging them to attend the tutor reflection gathering.

Having four people per teaching team is an effective way of establishing new teams each cycle, because the experienced teachers are able to accompany the new volunteers during their initial efforts.

Some people have been hesitant to get involved because they feel overwhelmed with all the needs in the community. But they are happy to participate if they can be assigned one specific task to do on a specific day.

Collective teaching teams need to meet at the end of each month. In these meetings the teaching teams, along with the children’s class teachers, can have the chance to share their experiences, successes and challenges, as well as consult and reflect on their goals. This is also the perfect time to practice their presentation skills. This meeting can happen twice per cycle (in the third month of the cycle is the cluster reflection gathering).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

He declared and arose spontaneously, eagerly and immediately to teach the Cause

Contra Costa County East, CA (A) just launched another cycle of its intensive program of growth. Here is an immensely beautiful and moving story about a seeker who declared his belief and immediately joined a teaching team to share the Message. This story is full of gems; note this profound statement about what a strong foundation the core activities can make for teaching and for raising up new believers who are immediate human resources for the processes of growth: “Because he had been able to see with his own eyes a children's class in his neighborhood and other acts of service associated with the institute courses, he immediately grasped the nature of the institute courses.”

Dear friends,

Today 8 teams, many consisting of youth, went out into different neighborhoods in Concord, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek.

One teaching team made an appointment with a seeker they had known for some time. They met him at his apartment and together drove to a coffee shop. Two members of the team sat at one table silently saying prayers while the other one sat with the seeker at a table to share Anna's presentation. He deeply connected to the concepts and ideas in the presentation, and to Bahá’u’lláh’s life and mission. He repeatedly mentioned the aim of the Bahá’í Faith and how he longed to work towards it. At the end of the presentation he read the prayer "O God, refresh and gladden my spirit..." and dedicated it to Bahá’u’lláh. The seeker was invited to join the community of the Greatest Name and he eagerly accepted. . . .

The teacher shared with him some of the vision of the institute process and the sequence of courses. Because he had been able to see with his own eyes a children's class in his neighborhood and other acts of service associated with the institute courses, he immediately grasped the nature of the courses. He expressed strong interest in studying "Reflections on the Life of the Spirit" and determined to invite his friends to start a study circle with him.

It seemed only natural then for the teacher to explain to the new believer what the team was set to do for the rest of the afternoon: go to a neighborhood to meet the people and share with them these beautiful Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. He was asked whether he would like to join the team and participate. He eagerly accepted! The expanded team got back into the car and drove to the neighborhood. They did not let anything, including engine trouble, detract them from their mission, which was to spend these precious hours diffusing the divine fragrances. The rest of the afternoon was spent by the friends (now 2 teams of 2) teaching in the neighborhood. The new believer and his teammate spoke to many families and made 6 appointments to share Anna's presentation in full! Afterwards he joined the other friends when they came together for reflection on the teaching work that took place that day and dinner. What a wonderful day it was.

Friends, these are the workings of divine assistance. What else can such a beautiful response of an individual and such help from Bahá’u’lláh be attributed to? Through all the prayers for the success of the teaching work, and through teachers arising, Bahá’u’lláh led a teaching team to someone who not only declared his Faith but also arose spontaneously, eagerly and immediately to teach the Cause. We started the day with 17 teachers and ended it with 18. Here was one who had just received the Message and understood instinctively that teaching is the natural response of the heart that loves.

You have the opportunity to witness similar beautiful experiences. Every day of the collective teaching project brings many blessings and allows us to teaching the Faith to many yearning souls.

With love

Your Area Teaching Committee

"It is all a result of the Dallas Conference!"

Attendees of all ages at the Regional Bahá’í Conferences have arisen to reach out to their neighbors and start core activities. This story is shared by a believer in the South Central region; the efforts of a few young people have reactivated a junior youth group and helped establish a new children’s class.

My son and a couple of other young adults went through our neighborhood the last two weekends, and as a result, there will now be a junior youth group and a children's class starting, with participants from many nationalities and ethnicities. I'm so happy that they have arisen to serve. The parents are very happy that we are doing this and all of them gave their phone numbers to be contacted. My son is shy, but he has stepped forward to do this service, and is being helped by the kids in the neighborhood. It is all a result of the Dallas Conference—it is new awakening!

Coming together to support a neighboring cluster

This brief report about a teaching effort in a B-stage cluster in Florida is interesting in a number of ways. It is an example of pledge made at the recent Regional Bahá’í Conferences transformed into action. It also shows how friends from several clusters can come together in unity to assist a neighboring cluster. In this example, the teaching teams followed up with individuals who had previously contacted the Bahá’ís.

I pledged to travel teach in Lee County when I attended the workshop at the conference in Atlanta. On January 10th, I went with 4 other Bahá’ís (which included a recently-declared believer) to Fort Meyers where we met with several friends from various clusters.

We were separated into small groups that each went to visit seekers in one residential area. As a result, there were 2 declarations! One of the seekers my group visited was one of the new believers.

I am so happy that I went to the conference and was able to perform this service.

In His Service,


Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Coconut Creek, Florida

Springdale is "filled with a new energy and courage"

Here is a brief report from the Springdale Area, AR cluster, where inspiration from recent Regional Bahá’í Conference and home-front pioneers have galvanized the friends there to new levels of teaching. The friends’ first direct, collective teaching effort has further energized them. Since this story was submitted, Springdale has advanced to the B-stage.

Dear Friends,

The Baha'is of the Springdale cluster in Northwest Arkansas were much inspired and energized by the Dallas conference. Springdale is a C cluster, and has only recently started warming up to doing direct teaching.

We have two wonderful homefront pioneers in our community who came and settled here from an A cluster in Texas. At the end of December, two weeks after the conference, they helped 7 friends study Ruhi Book 6 in a 4-day intensive program organized in their home. As a result, 4 of those friends completed Book 6 and at least 2 of them have now completed the sequence of courses. . . .

These same friends organized 2 Saturdays in January where the friends could go to the Bahá’í Center and practice Anna's presentation and then go out to do some direct teaching. The first day was a huge success. Never has the community gone out simultaneously in groups to do direct teaching. There were 3 groups of 3 friends each (each made up of a secretary, the prayer person, and the one who gave the presentation). Another group of 4 friends stayed at the Center and continued to work on Anna's presentation. It was a wonderful experience for everyone. The second such meeting will take place soon.

The friends also successfully hosted a Bahá’í table and activities for World Religion Day on January 20th.

The community is definitely filled with a new energy and courage since the Dallas conference. It is all very exciting.

With warm Baha'i greetings,


Prayer pledge leads to teaching

One type of pledge that thousands of friends made at the recent Regional Bahá’í Conferences was to pray daily for success in teaching at the individual and cluster levels. One believer from the South Central region shares her experience with fulfilling her prayer pledge. This is also an example of how the spirit of the conferences is leading to clusters more systematically support each other’s efforts.

The Universal House of Justice has given us a system for growth. And guess what . . . It works!

At the Regional Conference in Dallas, I pledged to pray daily for my neighboring cluster. I thought about the souls in that cluster that I have already been teaching about the Faith. Three souls in particular came to mind. . . .

I enjoy Facebook. One evening, A was on Facebook and invited me to chat. We ended up deciding that we would meet for lunch. She then invited B. On Tuesday evening, B called and asked where we were meeting and was I inviting C. So I also invited C—now all 3 of my contacts were coming. I asked if I could invite some other Bahá’í friends.

We all met at a restaurant. What a fun time we had! Everyone hit it off. The Bahá’ís did a GREAT job of explaining the study circles to them and inviting them to an upcoming Book 1 study circle on campus.

Isn't it amazing to see the House of Justice’s plan work so smoothly?

Pray for receptive souls,
Meet with receptive souls with the intention of direct teaching,
Invite them to a study circle that will be beginning soon!

Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!


P.S. I am a homefront pioneer in a neighboring cluster. Up until the Dallas Regional Conference, I had looked to the B and C clusters to support our activities. Now I realize that the Universal House of Justice wants me to support the B and C clusters.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Progress in Arizona is easy as A, B, C

Here is something you don’t see every day—but will probably see more and more of as a result of the Regional Bahá’í Conferences: An A, B and C cluster in Arizona have come together to learn from each other and help each other’s efforts. In many parts of the country, this type of cross-cluster collaboration can help all involved move forward together.

In the case of Arizona, the A-stage cluster is Phoenix, which has an established intensive program of growth. The B-stage cluster is West Valley, which has the goal of advancing to A-stage by Ridvan 2009. At the Regional Bahá’í Conference in Los Angeles, the friends in Phoenix decided to “adopt” West Valley and support its efforts to reach the A-stage. The C-stage cluster is Cochise County, a long 4-hour drive away.

Recently believers from all 3 clusters came together at the Phoenix Bahá’í Center for a follow-up gathering to the regional conference. Some friends from Cochise County had travelled to Phoenix to learn about neighborhood children’s classes. They plunged into all the activities and spent the morning in Phoenix participating in the collective teaching effort there, and then in the afternoon assisted with the neighborhood children’s classes in West Valley.

Core activities growing in Solano County

The effect of the recent Regional Bahá’í Conferences can be seen in communities across the country. One tangible way, as can be seen in this brief report from Solano County, CA (B), is a significant increase in core activities. The friends there are also planning to use their reflection meeting to help sustain their progress.

Dear Friends,

Since the conference in Los Angeles in December, the momentum has been steadily increasing in our cluster:

Already started or starting soon: 12 new regular devotional gatherings and 7 new study circles!

We'll be celebrating these and other achievements and deliberating on how to keep the momentum growing at our upcoming reflection gathering on Saturday. Hope to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Your cluster development facilitator

"So, how does a person become a Baha'i?"

We continue to receive joyful news from Scottsdale, AZ (A). This report and enclosed story shared by the area teaching committee for that cluster clearly show the effectiveness of establishing core activities and building strong bonds with the community of interest. It is also an example of how, when we simply state, “This is who we are, this is what we do, this is what we believe and WHY we do what we do.”, it is natural for others to wish to join the Cause.

Dear Friends,

Allah u Abha!

Many believers in the cluster are meeting with their contacts to share Anna’s presentation or to hold a devotional gathering. Some friends are also holding firesides and the four core activities. Together we are learning.

Please enjoy the story of this recent declaration . . .

Two believers went to visit the parents of two of the children that participate in the Bahá’í children classes to let them know more about them and how their children were doing in the classes. The parents were very grateful for all the services that the Bahá’ís are offering to the neighborhood where they just recently have moved. Their father said: "The children always come home and teach me the quotations and prayers that they learn in classes." Their mother added, "They love the class so much that they like to go two times a week."

The father left to go to work and the teaching team stayed to consult further with the mother. As the conversation continued one of the teachers asked her if she wanted to know more about the Bahá’í Faith and what motivates the teachers of the children’s classes. The mother accepted. The teachers proceeded to offer the same presentation that Anna gave to Emilia in Ruhi Book 6, engaging her in a consultation about the basic concepts of the Faith. After they discussed the laws that are introduced in the presentation, the mother asked the teacher, "So, how does a person become a Bahá’í?" The friends were not at all surprised by this question, based on her receptivity in previous conversations. So the teacher explained that the first step is to recognize that Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for this day, and second is to join the Bahá’í community to help build unity in the world. The mother quickly and joyfully accepted and signed her declaration card and registered her children. Next week she will start studying Ruhi Book 1.

Much love,

Your area teaching committee

Regional Conferences give courage

Around the country, the recent Regional Bahá’í Conferences has given the friends from all backgrounds the inspiration and courage to rise up and serve in new ways. Here is a beautiful example from East Valley, AZ (A), shared by an individual believer:

One of the amazing outcomes of this recent process has been the engagement of the friends who have recently arrived in our cluster from Iran. One particular individual was so moved by the regional conference in Los Angeles that she is now serving quite intensely in our cluster. She has been teaching children's classes, hosting devotionals, and moving through the sequence of training institute courses quite rapidly in the last few weeks. A few others are also moving along the same path as this courageous and dedicated woman.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Core activities create love at the individual and neighborhood levels

Here are two delightful news updates from Irvine, CA (A). The first is report of a recent neighborhood-level Nineteen Day Feast. The cohesive community of love and unity described in the report is a result of the transforming effect of core activities in that neighborhood.

Dear Friends,

We had our second wonderful Feast on Sunday in the home of one of the new believers in the neighborhood. 45 people attended.

In the beginning the host thanked everyone for coming to her house and later stated that how much she and her children love seeing us when we visit and how they feel so close to us, and that "My home is your home." . . .

We opened the Feast with Spanish and English prayers. I then talked about unity and shared a little about when and where the Bahá’í Faith started. Later the children were invited to come and perform; they sang three songs and it was SO GREAT, they got the audience singing as well. During consultation, a lot of the friends stated they would like to start Ruhi classes so they can learn more about the Faith. They also requested additional songs from the children.

We ended with a prayer and then got to know each other more closely as well as eat a lot of food. This was a great Feast with all the Bahá’ís in the neighborhood attending.

N and D

The second is an inspiring story of a new believer who is originally from Iran. As with many other seekers, he contacted the 1-800-22UNITE phone line and was put in touch with nearby believers, and then connected to core activities.

__ was very impressed with his Bahá’í friends in Iran and he wanted to know more about the Faith. But it was difficult to find much information or materials in a country where Bahá’ís are persecuted and are under constant threat. Aside from occasional conversations with his young Baha’i friends, __ knew little about the tremendous body of the Writings and the fascinating history of the Faith. His impression of the Faith was mainly due to the steadfast and kind posture of the Bahá’í community of Iran. So when __ came to the USA, he was determined to find the Bahá’ís. The 800-22UNITE number put him in touch with the friends in our cluster, and soon after he joined a Ruhi study circle and started attending various other activities in the area. A short while later, __ declared his faith in Bahá’u’lláh. Early in January, right before attending a Fireside, he gave the friends his declaration card with a big smile and a heart-felt “Allah’u’Abha”.

Coming together to support a new A-stage cluster

Roanoke, VA (A) has just embarked on its first intensive program of growth. In this brief report, you can see many of the elements that have proven themselves useful around the country: a vibrant reflection meeting, junior youth groups, the involvement of friends from neighboring clusters, and connecting to the pledges made at the Regional Bahá’í Conferences.

Dear Friends,

The Roanoke cluster had a great reflection gathering today. It was well attended, enthusiastic, focused, with excellent sharing and many pledges to support the Plan for this cycle. Three students from Virginia Tech announced they will be starting a junior youth group next week; about 10 to 15 junior youth are expected to attend. This is the first junior youth group in the cluster. A letter has been sent to those who pledged support at the Atlanta Conference, inviting them to join the Roanoke friends in the collective teaching effort starting next weekend.

With love,


"I have lost my fear because I know that giving a gift to others is not a scary act."

The following is a letter from an individual believer in the Scottsdale, AZ (A) cluster. It describes the transforming effect of the recent Regional Bahá’í Conference she attended. I hesitate to dilute its joy and power with lots of additional comments. It is a inspiring testimony of how the conferences have inspired the friends to action. As this believer states, “I have lost my fear because I know that giving a gift to others is not a scary act.”

I am a Baha'i from Scottsdale, Arizona. I have been a Baha'i all my life.

I'll be honest: the Institute process has been one where I've had to shift my perspective on many different things about the Faith, the most important being that of teaching the Cause.

This is where the Regional Conference literally transformed me. . . .

I've said it many times since and I'll say it again: the first feeling I got when I arrived at the conference was one of immense and intense love. Love is a feeling, but if there was ever a time and place to actually see it, it was at the Regional Conference. I felt it from the first moment in the hotel until the last session ended. I was moved to tears. I still am.

Another feeling that I got loud and clear was that of humility. I could sense the sincerity and humility of all those involved in the conference, from the emcees to the speakers to the entertainers to the volunteers. Such humility. Such love. So beautiful. So incredibly powerful.

The message that came out of those two days for me was so strong. First and foremost, individual transformation. Individuals must transform themselves in order that we may then be effective at transforming society. We are lucky enough to have been given guidance by Bahá’u’lláh: Read the writings, pray, teach . . . and lo and behold, all these things are present in the four core activities. Read the writings—Ruhi classes. Pray—devotional gatherings. Teach—children's classes. WOW! I was finally beginning to see the big picture. That was all I needed. I needed to see the big picture. To be humble. To look past myself and see how beautiful and perfect Bahá’u’lláh’s Plan is.

So I listened hard. I took notes. Eleven pages typed. I listened some more. I was moved. I was encouraged. I was gently encouraged to step it up a bit. I was loved. I was accepted. I was learning. I was unknowingly humbled with love. I felt energized. Reinvograted. I finally understood "the Plan." And now, I could see that not only is growth a possibility, but that it is inevitable.

One of the most important activities was having a cluster meeting during the conference itself. For the first time ever, I was able to walk around and see what others do in their cluster meetings. Our facilitator was wonderful. Our cluster had a glimpse of what a cluster reflection meeting can be like, feel like, and could produce. What a gift that was. I have now been to the first cluster reflection meeting since the Regional Conference and what difference that was. What a joy. What an immense joy for those of us who were there to have learned and to have then turned that learning into true action. It was by far one of the most positive, loving and productive cluster reflection meetings I have ever attended. It was a meeting that inspired me, made me feel loved, supported and encouraged me, and was truly spiritual in nature.

I finally understood how I cannot go one more day without following through with requests of the Universal House of Justice, of the National Spiritual Assembly, and of my Local Spiritual Assembly. I felt a huge sense of urgency. Not only in transforming myself as an individual, but in engaging in all four core activities. What a gift we have. What an awesome gift to be blessed with. How great is God's love for me and for all of us to have given us this gift. How great is God's understanding of our ability and our capacity. We must be responsible and demonstrate our capacity for understanding the greatness of this Day and the gift we have. We must teach. We must give the gift to others. We do not need to worry about their response. We must not get stuck on that. We HAVE to give the gift. It is our duty and responsibility to give others the opportunity to enjoy the bounties and blessings of prayer, of the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith, and of children’s classes and junior youth groups. They will choose whether or not to accept these gifts. But we cannot get in the way of ourselves. We cannot be so arrogant that we decide who should receive God's bounties and blessings.

So I made up my mind. I was going to go back home to Scottsdale. I was going to finish all the Ruhi books that I had not taken. I was immediately going to set up children's classes, and although I have been a junior youth group animator for 3 years, I was going to do something different there too.

My prayers were immediately answered. I found a dear friend who would tutor Ruhi Book 4 and Ruhi Book 6 for me and some other friends at my home. I sent an email to my friends (moms of two of my daughters’ friends). The response was amazing, immediate, receptive, loving, and supportive. So I now have a Book 3A children's class at my home for 11 children, 9 of whom are from the wider community. I also have a Book 3 children's class at my home for 7 younger children. Ironically, at the last minute I couldn't find anyone to teach the Book 3 children's class and a great friend of mine (not a Bahá’í) offered to do it. So far we have had two classes. The second class was attended by more children than the first. The parents (all from the wider community) are extremely supportive and loving, have offered to bring snacks, and even to teach the class. I have set up my first devotional of this year and know that my friends will come. I have lost my fear because I know that giving a gift to others is not a scary act. It's an act of love, kindness, and service to your fellow neighbors. As far as the junior youth group that I am a part of, well once again, God knows best. I am thrilled to be doing the revised version of Book 5, which by the way is brilliant! I cannot wait to go back to the junior youth group that I am a part of and discuss with the participants their capacity and the incredible future ahead of them in helping transform society.

Growth is no longer distant and inexplicable concept that's out there for me. I am experiencing proof of it every day in my daily life. So go out there and teach the Faith with no fear. Masses are waiting for you, thirsty to hear about how they can go about transforming themselves and ultimately, all of society.


Scottsdale, Arizona

Mother of 3 beautiful girls

Servant of the Cause and the whole of humanity

Pee Dee's IPG starts out strong

Here is a brief update from the Pee Dee, SC (A) cluster, which started its intensive program of growth soon after the Regional Bahá’í Conference in Atlanta.

Dear friends,

We wanted to share with you an update on Pee Dee, SC cluster.

Since they embarked on their intensive teaching effort, 9 individuals have declared their Faith in Bahá’u’lláh. One significant resource for this initiative is the area teaching committee secretary, who is deeply involved in teaching, coordinating, and assisting the follow-up process.



Using spreadsheets to help spread the Message

A quick highlight on a “tool in the toolbox” that the friends can use to organize their efforts: In North of Atlanta, GA (B), an Excel spreadsheet is being used to record service pledges by the believers in that cluster. The following message was sent out to the Bahá’ís:

Dear Friends,

Our cluster is on the go and we are gaining momentum. Attached, please find an Excel spreadsheet with the countdown to our Intensive Program of Growth. I have added those names to the list who have volunteered thus far. Please respond with your availability and I will add your name and send this out periodically. Even if you can serve for an hour, your help is needed!



Among the various events on the spreadsheet are several “test teaching” efforts to prepare the friends for their first intensive program of growth, as well as intensive-format institute courses for youth and adults. Already, many of the believers have signed up their names to serve.

Be ready for teaching anywhere

These two WONDERFUL stories from Prince Georges County, MD (B) will bring a big smile to your face. The first story is shared by a believer who lives in a nearby A-stage cluster and is assisting with the teaching work in Prince Georges County. This is yet another thrilling example of a pledge made at the recent Regional Bahá’í Conferences transformed into action!


I have been going teaching in Prince Georges County. There were 2 declarations yesterday, and 3 people are have expressed interest in studying Ruhi Book 1. One of the gentleman who declared mentioned that he will ask his friends to come and join us in this class. . . .

I am working on taking Book 5 so I can start a junior youth group. As a result of attending the Conference, I am also taking Book 6.

Thank you so much for all of your hard work!

Best wishes,


The next story is shared by the Regional Bahá’í Council for the Southeastern states and shows how teaching can occur in any venue if we are flexible and open to the possibilities, and that once the spark of Faith is in the hearts of a new believer, they are already teachers of the Cause and eager to share the Faith with others.

Dear Friends,

A most heartwarming teaching story occurred during the teaching effort in Prince George's County cluster this past weekend. This is a cluster that is scheduled to launch its first intensive program of growth before Ridvan 2009.

It all started at a restaurant where a group of the friends—some from neighboring clusters who had pledged in Atlanta Regional Conference to assist this cluster—had gathered to prepare for their day of teaching. A sequence of unexpected events then occurred that prevented some of them from visiting the neighborhoods as planned.

While waiting in line, one of the Baha'is was approached by a young man who engaged her in conversation. After a few brief casual remarks, he then moved to a small dinning room and started talking with another Baha'i who had just arrived. The conversation quickly turned to the Faith. Other Baha'is joined the group and a presentation of the Faith was given. The young man accepted the Faith and immediately enrolled. The teacher then took him through the first page of Ruhi Book 1. His energy and enthusiasm were such that when they were about to leave to go teaching in the neighborhood, one of the Baha'is invited him to join them. He readily accepted.

As the group was leaving the restaurant, a friend of the new believer approached. The new Baha'I immediately started telling his friend about the Faith he had just accepted. The whole group then went back into the restaurant. Anna’s presentation was shared with this new friend. He, too, accepted the Faith and enrolled. Two of the Baha'is immediately arranged to start a study circle with the new believers on Sunday. The two new believers are now excited to start sharing their new found Faith with their friends.

This was truly an opportunity to witness how direct teaching can occur just about "anywhere". It illustrates how we should keep our minds open to everyday situations where a conversation about the Faith can occur.

With loving Baha'i greetings,

Your Regional Bahá’í Council