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’).”

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