Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Learning to reach out to everyone

The friends in Newark, NJ (B) are teaching up a storm! They are enthusiastically reaching out to all their contacts and striving to build connections so as to open up more opportunities to share the Message. Here is a collection of brief stories highlighting these efforts.

In the first, a friend shares with their contact the presentations they have learned from their participation in the Ruhi courses:

A friend and I made a home visit to one of my doctors, and we shared Anna’s presentation. Yesterday she told me she wants to participate in our community activities "unofficially". I plan to share the presentations on the life of The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh in the next few days; she is also coming with me to a devotional gathering. . . .

The next story shows the importance of reaching out to our neighbors and not assuming from the outset that they will not be interested:

One couple realized that none of the seekers they had invited to their monthly devotional were able to come. So, on the spur of the moment, they went to their next-door neighbors and invited them, explaining that they would be praying for religious freedom in Iran. While both neighbors showed interest, only one neighbor came. But he turned out to be a very receptive soul. He was moved by the prayers and music and showed a keen interest in the situation concerning Bahá’ís in Iran and in the Bahá’í Faith itself. The couple recognized the irony: They had known this neighbor for 15 years and had talked with him on many topics, but not Faith because they didn’t think he would be interested! In reality, all they had to do was to “unloose thy tongue.”

Here is an account of another devotional gathering:

Our community held our first public devotional to pray for Religious Freedom in Iran. There were guitars and drums and prayers chanted, recited and sung in various languages and many religions. It was beautiful and poignant, and served several purposes: raising awareness about the plight of the Bahá’ís in Iran and providing the several friends, neighbors and acquaintances who attended a chance to experience the uniqueness and diversity of the Bahá’í community. The process of reaching out to invite contacts to the gathering has opened some doors for future relationship-building and personal teaching. (About 65 people attended, including 16 friends from the wider community, including a reporter from our town paper.)

Later that day my family had dinner at our home with the parents of one of my daughter’s best friends. The conversation led to questions about the Bahá’í Faith and a 40-minute, genuine discussion about the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and spirituality in general. One bit of learning: I really need to memorize more of Anna's presentation! But I think there will opportunities for that soon.

Here is a report of a devotional gathering in Spanish; you can see how the core activities help build bonds of unity and community-building:

My family hosted a Spanish language devotional with three Bahá’ís and three seekers. We all offered prayers for healing and consolation. A wide discussion about Faith in general followed, where the precepts of the Bahá’í Faith were covered as well as talking about how, through Faith, we can begin breaking down the barriers of cultural assumption that tend to divide people from different countries. It was a beautiful, hopeful and hope-filled discussion.

This last story shows how the 1-800-22UNITE phone line connects searching hearts to the Bahá’í community, and is also a reminder to never assume who will or will not be interested!

A believer hosted a "Spirituality and Mental Health Day" at her work and invited a Bahá’í psychologist to give a presentation. After the talk, a mini devotional was held using many quotes from the Hidden Words. At least four people asked for copies of those quotes. Two weeks later the teacher received an email about a woman in her cluster who had contacted the 1-800-22-UNITE phone line. She was surprised to find that the person named in the email was her coworker! This believer had spoken of the Faith to many people at her work but never thought to speak to this particular person. It was a lesson to truly be “unrestrained as the wind” when sharing the message of Bahá’u’lláh. The seeker is planning to study "Reflections on the Life of the Spirit" along with their spouse.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Exhausted and energized at the same time

Grand Junction, CO (B) is moving forward and full of energy and activity. The friends have been engaged in direct teaching, reaching out and involving new contacts in core activities (planned in such a way to support each other), using celebrations of World Religion Day and Ayyam-i-Ha as opportunities to share the Message, and reflecting on their experiences to identify receptive populations. All I can say is, WOW!

We had our first direct teaching effort yesterday morning, the Ayyam-i-Ha Party last night and devotions, children's classes and a junior youth group this morning It's been very busy—whew—and uplifting all at the same time.

For a small number of people teaching for a few hours yesterday, we feel pretty exhausted and energized all at the same time! Is that possible? 13 people were serving on 4 teaching teams, and that includes our little children. . . .

We met 14 people who wanted some information about the Faith and of those, about 6 homes requested some sort of follow-up, wanted to be involved in core activities, or asked to listen to Anna’s presentation.

The best part: one of the people visited yesterday came to devotions today with her children. A presentation on the Faith was shared with her while the kids were in the children's class, and she declared and registered all of her children! Yá-Bahá’u’l-Abhá! She will be starting Ruhi Book 1 next week, which will be held at the same time as the children’s class.

We also had 58 people attend the Ayyam-i-Ha celebration, of whom 16 were from the Community of Interest. Usually we have only about 40 at these events. That's an increase of almost 20! One of those was an individual we met during the direct teaching effort.

A college student that we had first encountered during World Religion Day and who was interested in learning more also came last night and brought a friend. They both had fun and thanked me over and over. We have 3 other members of the community of interest involved in Ruhi Book 1.

It seems that the highest receptivity has been encountered in apartment complexes and among young people and young families. The ground is definitely fertile. Please dear friends, continue your prayers and reach out to your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers and give them this most Precious Gift.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,


Building blocks of a new civilization

The institute process and core activities lay the foundations for a new community life and are the embryo of a new civilization. This process is occurring in every corner of the globe. A recent inspiring example of this comes from The Dalles-Wasco and Hood River Counties, OR (C). The friends have a strong outward-looking orientation here. They are reaching out to their neighbors and have established flourishing children’s classes and a junior youth group. And in the same way they have welcomed new believers into their community.

Believers residing in this cluster have recently made huge strides in developing their Institute Process. They have made a real connection to those neighborhoods where children's classes are strong and which include mostly children from the wider community. One of the classes has been running for two years now and the home has become a focal point of neighborhood activity. The teachers of these classes are developing strong relationships with the families.

A junior youth group has recently started and which is an outgrowth of another neighborhood children's class. The animators were able to start a group with 13 junior youth from the wider society.

Several new believers have been welcomed into a loving community life. The new believers are involved in the sequence of courses and are visited regularly for the purpose of deepening.

Learning by doing in Denver

Denver, CO recently advanced to the A-stage. One of the believers gives a snapshot of the cluster’s progress. You can see how the friends are steadily building their capacity, and this is happening through two things: involvement in the training institute courses, and hands-on, on-the-ground experience in teaching.

This cluster is moving to a new level of operation through the institute process and active teaching.

Its recent devotional campaign and intensive Ruhi courses awakened the power of prayer and individual initiative. In one study circle, 3 participants enrolled in the Faith. A Book 6 refresher provided the opportunity to present the Faith to others. In a mini-teaching effort covering a two-weekend span, the friends gave presentations to their friends and acquaintances and also contacted residents of about 100 homes. 11 teaching teams have formed with 14 presentations shared. This occasion provided hands-on experience to the participants and a practical demonstration of what is possible. The atmosphere in the cluster has been taken to a new level of enthusiasm.

No matter the venue, teaching teams reach out

The friends in Westminster, CO (A) have recently launched an intensive program of growth. Their initial experiences are inspiring. One intriguing point from this brief report is that their teaching teams are leaving no stone unturned and using a variety of approaches. Some are visiting homes in neighborhoods, while others are systematically reaching out to their community of interest. In all cases, the teaching teams are finding ways to meet people and share the Faith.

This cluster advanced to the B-stage, and then quickly to the A-stage, with a high degree of ownership, enthusiasm, and an outward-looking orientation.

The cluster held a door-to-door teaching project during the B-stage to boost its community of interest. After advancing to the A-stage, the believers also decided to incorporate reaching out to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers during the expansion phase of its newly-launched intensive program of growth. The friends began with a Book 1 refresher course. They formed 8 teaching teams with a calendar full of activities to which seekers could be brought. Teams visited homes went door-to-door in two areas and made appointments among their friends and associates to give presentations on the Faith. . . .

At one presentation to a couple, the listeners so loved the prayer that was offered during the presentation that they decided they would use it together in their morning devotions. They then critiqued the presentation, noting improvements that could be made in delivery.

Another team visited a lady who was at first hesitant because she had been ill. But she invited the friends in. When the team shared a healing prayer with her, she showed the utmost reverence. After the prayer, she seemed very relieved, exchanged contact information, and asked the team to come back and see her. The team can't wait to make its follow-up visit.

Learning and advancing

Here is a brief report from Lakewood, CO (B). It shows how, once a few dedicated souls rise up and experiment with teaching, that things start moving forward. They have carried out both teaching in neighborhoods and sharing the Message with their close contacts. They have also stayed flexible, focusing on areas where they are encountering the highest level of interest.

This cluster recently advanced to the B-stage with a relatively small Bahá’í population. It had taken on its first experimental teaching effort at the end of its time as a C-stage cluster. A few teaching teams were formed and visited an apartment complex where a local Bahá’í resides, with the intent of setting up a junior youth group. They did not encounter a lot of interest, so they switched course to a nearby complex. There was greater receptivity there and enthusiasm for teaching grew. Over the course of the weekend, the teams were able to give 4 presentations on the Faith. Over the next weekend, a follow-up meeting was held at the library, and 17 friends and family members and coworkers of Bahá’ís came out for the gathering! At the table where literature and interest cards were displayed, a signup sheet was added for a study circle on "Reflections on the Life of the Spirit." A few people signed up.

The power of optimism

One of the main goals of the recently concluded series of Regional Bahá’í Conferences was to instill optimism and confidence in the friends. The transforming power of this optimism is loud and clear in this report from Boulder, CO (A). The friends who could attend shared their enthusiasm with those who could not, and a fire of excitement was enkindled. An “Aha!” moment has occurred and the friends are now seeing that success is not just possible over there but right here at home as well. And they are acting on this “Aha”!

Boulder displays enthusiasm, love and unity, and dedication to the institute process.

Friends from this cluster traveled to the Northwest Regional Bahá’í Conference in Portland and came back home on fire. A celebratory meeting was held with short talks by friends who had attended the event and who were engaged in the core activities. The cluster was energized by this meeting because the friends began to realize what was possible right in their own area, not just in some far-away cluster. . . .

Suddenly, the reflection meetings grew to standing room only at the Lafayette Bahá’í Center in Boulder County. People began to increasingly volunteer to do things, and they started bringing their friends. The community of interest surged to 41. There were 28 people who completed the sequence recently in this cluster, with many tutors ready and willing to arise to meet any need. The community has transformed and taken on an increasingly outward-looking orientation.

A local children's class now hosts 14 children, 13 of whom are from the wider society. This is due to a recently arrived Nepalese Bahá’í family that dedicated itself to talking with as many neighbors as possible and getting the classes running. The devotional gathering at the Lafayette Center was re-started and now has seekers coming, including the parents of children in the classes. The friends are talking to people and are very excited about the prospects for accelerated growth. Soon a teaching project in an apartment complex will begin. The Area Teaching Committee is very optimistic, especially since the friends arranged themselves into 8 teaching teams at the recent reflection meeting.

Attitude of learning brings progress in Fort Collins

Fort Collins, CO (A) has recently embarked on an intensive program of growth. The following report is full of activities: believers advancing through the institute process, devotional gatherings, firesides, children’s classes, teaching teams, and lots of joy! What is interesting is how the friends are exemplifying a learning attitude: They reflect on their experiences, stay flexible, experiment, and as a result become even more effective. Go Fort Collins!

Engagement in the institute process within this cluster has turned the Northern Colorado Baha'i Center (just south of Fort Collins in Loveland) into a hub of activity. 4 declarations of faith were made within the past month in this newly advanced A-stage cluster, and an additional declaration took place at a fireside during the recent intensive teaching effort. . . .

Over the first weekend, 8 teaching teams formed, and commitments were made for devotional gatherings, firesides and children's classes. The friends also planned to set up junior youth groups and to expand the community of interest. With 8 teams participating, it was possible to visit 500 homes over the first weekend. It was estimated that about 15 percent of the people the teams met were interested in talking to the Bahá’ís. The friends were excited to embrace a new believer who is the grandmother of children participating in the neighborhood class and who is now herself participating in Book 1.

The friends consulted on their experience over the first weekend and wondered if there might be other parts of the cluster with even greater receptivity. So they turned their attention to one neighborhood where one of the friends resided. Two teams went to this area, and were able, within a short time, to speak with 12 people. Out of these 12 people, 9 were very open to hearing about the Faith! The teaching team’s willingness to experiment and to be flexible with their plans was rewarded with success: 9 out of 12 people interested!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A small united group works wonders in Miami Beach-Coral Gables

The effects of the Regional Bahá’í Conferences continue to resonate. You can totally feel the joy in this report shared by one of the friends in the Miami-Dade, FL (A) cluster. This story involves two localities in the cluster, each with a handful of dedicated believers. Inspired by the Atlanta conference, the friends focused their efforts on two main areas: establishing a junior youth group, and reaching out to their community of interest. The rest is as the report says, “Very Cool News”.

Very Cool News. . .

Dear Friends,

At the Atlanta Conference, a small cadre of Miami Beach and Coral Gables Baha’is got together. The members of these two sister communities vowed to make increased efforts to accelerate the processes of the 5-year plan in the coming months.

The first step taken was the holding of a joint Feast within 48 hours of the friends’ return from Atlanta. That was quickly followed by the establishment of an intensive Book 5 study circle populated with a dozen friends from both communities including one seeker who herself has an 11-year old son and who wanted to understand the process before involving him in a junior youth group. In addition, an exceptional young man of fifteen who, together with his mother, have been investigating the Faith avidly, was invited to attend an entire day of the Book 5 course. As a result, he committed to inviting his friends to join a junior youth group. By the end of the course, a large set of animators will have been raised up for the cluster! . . .

Last week, several of the attendees of the Book 5 course reached out to their friends and neighbors, who were anxious for their children to begin the junior youth process. Thus began Miami Beach’s FIRST EVER JUNIOR YOUTH GROUP! Seven junior youth committed to join the group. The most exciting aspect is that they are all children of seekers encountered via the Book 5 intensive, as well as the friends’ own recent teaching activities!

In Coral Gables, last week, a core of believers vowed to begin nightly activities for the duration of the expansion phase of the cluster’s current IPG cycle. Activities were planned to rotate nightly between devotionals, study circles and firesides. Neighbors were invited to attend any of the nightly activities; the friends have also been teaching on one of the local college campuses. One professor was so interested in what he heard that he passed along a list of teaching services offered by the Bahá’ís to several other faculty members by email. One of these has already called the Bahá’ís and expressed an interest in sharing information about the Faith with his students.

While the friends who participated in the initial direct teaching endeavor Coral Gables felt the receptivity to the Faith was not very warm, they were astounded to discover that two of the contacts made during that effort quickly appeared at one of the firesides. One of those seekers was so inspired that he returned to the very next fireside, and then expressed how “inspired and motivated” he felt and vowed to continue his investigation in a study circle. The friends have been galvanized by those nightly meetings which will continue over the next week and which have gained momentum and energy night after night! In addition, a new Book 1 was started in the Coral Gables community with a number of new seekers and the energy coming from that process is described as formidable!

At the Feast one of the new believers shared a teaching story. This friend, inspired by his attendance at the Atlanta conference, had recently made an inventory list of, get this, one hundred and twenty contacts! He vowed to systematically call on each of these contacts to offer them an opportunity to learn about the Faith in either a fireside or by individual visit. This new believer was quite disheartened at first since he had made some thirteen contacts from the list only to be rejected in every case. He did not give up, however. Having completed the animator training, the new believer studied his list and identified a small number of contacts who had junior youth aged children. His first two calls to those identified yielded great receptivity and both contacts agreed to have their junior youth join his group. One of them was anxious to hear more about the Faith and the new believer made an appointment to visit her this very morning! Needless to say, that new believer is on fire and the feelings of doubt generated by the initial rash of rejections are only now a vague memory.

Please pray for the continued success of the Coral Gables and Miami Beach friends who have been ignited by the Atlanta conference and the results already generated by their collective resolve to arise with new focus and commitment.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tangible coherent progress

This report from Alameda County South (Fremont), CA (A) is a wonderful example of a cluster steadily progressing. Three months after the Regional Bahá’í Conference, its inspiring effects are now tangibly reflected: More believers are arising to teach and start core activities, the cluster launched an intensive program of growth, and all the friends’ various efforts are supporting each other in a coherent way.

One of the friends notes that the Regional Bahá’í Conference in Los Angeles “created tremendous energy in the believers”. For example: . . .

Some arose afterwards to offer devotional meetings in their neighborhoods and at their workplaces, which has boosted the number of devotional gatherings in the cluster.

Some started study circles.

Some worked to sustain a jeopardized children’s class by finding a new location for it.

Attendance at the last reflection meeting increased.

During the expansion phase, friends from neighboring clusters lent their support, so together we had 11 teaching teams during the first weekend and 7 teams the second weekend. Friends from our cluster are now carrying out home visits and sharing deepening themes with a family of new believers.

Also noteworthy are the insights being gained about core activities. In particular, experience is showing that they all support each other:

One of the key elements for the success of the children’s classes has been the steadfastness and consistency of the teachers of these classes. Further, the children who attend these classes are themselves the most effective means of inviting other children to the classes.

Children’s classes can be a bridge to study circles: A teaching team met a youth who expressed interest in teaching a children’s class, and they have started a study circle with her.

Institute courses help start devotional meetings: As a result of a Book 1 refresher course, a family has now started in their home a devotional gathering followed by a fireside.

Devotional meetings open doors for teaching: As a teaching team visited homes in one neighborhood to invite people to a devotional meeting held there, it provided opportunities to present the Faith directly.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"I don't know why nobody asked me before"

Reach out and invite. That’s the main lesson from this inspiring story from the Central region. It involves a believer who shared Anna’s presentation with a co-worker, who then declared his belief in Bahá’u’lláh, and is welcomed into the Faith by his teacher. The important point is that this is someone who had already studied the Faith for years and had many conversations with Bahá’ís during that time. What made this presentation different? The teacher actually invited the seeker to join the Faith, and so he declared. Also noteworthy is that Anna’s presentation is much more than the material printed on a flipbook—it is a heart-to-heart conversation.

__ was ready . . . his story is a very interesting one. By the time we were looking at the third page of the Anna's presentation flip book, my friend indicated, "I've read this presentation before,” and noted that he had seen a copy of it at our workplace and read through the whole thing. “But this is so much better because we can elaborate and go deeper into the questions I have." . . .

Over the years he has known several Bahá’ís and periodically have many conversations about the Faith with them, as well as reading Bahá’í books. He knows a lot, including about the Five Year Plan.

As we continued the presentation, he would said that he'd like to teach the children of the world everything that he has heard. I answered, "Yes, you are already a Bahá’í, and you can do that."

In Spanish, the wording of some statements in Anna’s presentation is even more direct than it is in English, such as: "I would be overjoyed if you were to become Bahá’í today" and "If you agree with everything then you are already a Bahá’í".

My friend asked, "Why did you walk down that hallway and ask me to come to your house? __ was standing next to me."

I answered, "I swear on the grave of my father, I don't have a clue why I asked you." It wasn't planned! I had come out into the hallway and we saw each other and exchanged greetings. Then I had looked him in the eye and said, "Why don't you come to my house this weekend at noon and I'll give you a presentation", to which he agreed immediately.

I explained about the registration card. He asked if he had to sign it. I said, "If it is important for you to sign it, you sign it; if it is important for you not to sign it, then don't sign it". We used the new form, which you tear off and the new believer keeps the top part that has the Short Obligatory Prayer on it.

__ told me, "I don't know why nobody ever asked me before to join." Because he had met Bahá’ís many times over the years. He obviously knew about the registration card; someone had at some point in the past told him about it, but along the lines of, "When Bahá’ís are ready to become Bahá’í, this is what they do." That is a very indirect statement compared to inviting some to join the Faith: "Well, since you agree with everything you have heard, then you are already Baha'i and here is the card for you to fill out."

Friday, March 20, 2009

"I want a religion where I am motivated to act out of love"

This is a story of a recent declaration in the Triangle, NC (A) cluster. Although brief, it speaks volumes about the qualities we should have in our hearts and the purity of the relationships we should cultivate when teaching the Faith. And it shows that once a soul has recognized Bahá’u’lláh, nothing can hold them back.

Dear friends,

We had another declaration (and child enrollment) on Wednesday night! A group of friends had visited one family earlier that they had first met during the expansion phase. We went this time to share Anna’s presentation with them. . . .

During the presentation this individual also shared a story. She had been reading a prayer book that the Bahá’ís had given to her son previously. Her friend who was visiting asked her, "What are you reading?", to which she responded, "They're prayers that my friends gave to me. They're Bahá’ís." Her friend said, "What? Why are you reading that? You shouldn't have even let them come into your home! You don't know who they are!"

This individual then replied, "They're my friends, just like you're my friend. I let them inside my home just like I let you inside my home. Remember the time you mentioned that you were scared to go to church because you hadn't attended in a while? You were afraid your pastor would be upset with you! That's not the type of religion I want. I want to have a religion where I am motivated to act out of love."

And on Wednesday, after the latest visit, she emphatically declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh, enrolled her son, and expressed her excitement about her new Faith. She was asked multiple times whether she believed in Bahá’u’lláh, and she said "Of course, what do you think?"

Enjoy the last day of the Fast!

Much love,


Evanston-Skokie IPG Day 6

The friends in Evanston-Skokie, IL (A) decided that, during this cycle of their IPG, they would focus on their community of interest and directly share the Faith with their friends and colleagues. This focused effort has led to wonderful, joyful, inspiring encounters. This beautiful story shows a contact reaching out, and the friends reaching back. It involves a devotional gathering, a home visit to directly present the fundamental verities of the Faith, and connecting a new believer with the institute process in a framework of service.

Tonight, we have a new Bahá'í, A, who is N’s friend. Whenever N had a chance, he would bring up spiritual topics with her and directly teach the Bahá'í Faith. A month ago, the N and his wife invited A to their home for lunch; on that occasion, which became a fireside, A told of her spiritual search. She asked for help to hold a prayer gathering on the one-year anniversary of her father's passing. The Bahá'ís she met at the lunch came to her home for this devotional gathering and met her roommate C, who asked questions about the Faith. So as this next cycle approached, N made an appointment with A for a teaching team to visit her home. . . .

This evening, three friends visited A and C to share the fundamental verities of the Bahá'í Faith.

J, who was meeting A and C for the first time today, had a chance to become acquainted with them over dinner. After eating, C began to ask questions about the Bahá'í holy places in Israel, and H told of Bahá'u'lláh's exiles and imprisonment. Then the group moved to the living room, and J opened a flip-book of Anna's presentation, which she used as a guide, but she conveyed the essential message from her heart. H and E were praying silently and observed the spiritual bond being created between J, A and C.

At the end, J invited both ladies to join the Faith. A said, "Yes, I believe in Bahá'u'lláh." E accepted her enrollment and answered her question about what that entailed. C accepted what was presented was very positive, but was not ready to enroll. She asked to hear more about how H, J and E had become Bahá'í during the next visit. J gave a brief overview of the sequence of courses. She emphasized that each course leads to a path of service that we can each undertake to help build a better world. The group discussed when to meet next, and agreed to share with each other their spiritual journeys and to take a look at the first book in English and C’s mother tongue. Everyone was happy to have been together this evening and looked forward to the next visit.

Afterwards, J reflected on the teaching visit:

Having the support of my teaching team – it was beautiful. It helped that I had lived in C’s country before and feel a special connection with its people. It made me feel happy, like I was pioneering again, but here at home. It was a blessing to have it here.

And about giving Anna's presentation:

I think, the more you practice anything, the more comfortable you feel. I want to read from the booklet even less than I have done. But I like having the visuals; they are helpful.

Looking forward:

I'm excited about having available a version of Reflections on the Life of the Spirit in C’s language. Basically, it is valuable for them to connect with Holy Writings in their own language. I really felt, though C was not ready to register as a Bahá'í, that she was connecting with Bahá'u'lláh. They are both on a spiritual journey, a searching journey and they are coming closer to Bahá'u'lláh.

I have an excited, peaceful feeling, if that is possible – transforming society one heart at a time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Evanston-Skokie IPG Day 5

Each day of the IPG in Evanston-Skokie, IL (A) brings learning and joy. Here are two very interesting stories about learning how to teach. First is an account of a believer who wanted to practice sharing Anna’s presentation. So she made a very intriguing choice for a coach:

Our friend made it clear he has no intention of becoming a Bahá’í. But he was willing to come over to hear about the Faith so we could practice our presentation and because he's just curious to know more. We made it clear that if he felt uncomfortable or at all pressured, we would end it. We met for almost 3 hours. . . .

I used a cue card with an outline of Anna's presentation to avoid reading the flip book verbatim and to improvise if things got overwhelming for him. __ interjected some points too. I initially wove in only one or two short quotes from the writings. Our friend respectfully listened and had lots of good questions. When it was over, I shared a quote that fit in with one of his comments and __ asked him to read one from the flip chart.

He gave us both feedback to help us with future presentations. First he suggested I weave more Bahá’í quotes into the presentation so people have a clear understanding of what it's all about. He suggested we use the flip chart in combination with the note card so people can look at the pictures but the words are still from the heart. He also thinks people want to know what brought us to the Faith and how it has impacted our lives—challenges, victories, etc. He thinks this may be a good way to start things off.

He's very interested in attending more Bahá’í activities including the dinner discussion event at our house, devotional gatherings at another believer’s home, and another devotional gathering at another home.

The next story is all about nurturing a new believer to become confident to teach:

Tonight I had a Ruhi session with a new believer. We did a few sections in Ruhi 1; we talked in general. I was so excited: She wants to teach! I had been explaining the sequence of courses and how they help build our capacity. I talked about each book and the service it helps you learn how to perform. She expressed the desire to teach but said that she didn't know how. I told her that the sincerity of her heart and the fire of love for Bahá’u’lláh in her heart are all that are needed to teach! I encouraged her to come to the collective teaching activity, and also to tomorrow's event, so she'd be able to feel the spirit of teaching.

Stepping forward, reaching out, and unexpected surprises

Here is a wonderful quartet of teaching stories from the First Coast (Jacksonville), FL cluster. Since these stories were sent, the First Coast cluster has advanced to the A-stage!

The first story is a reminder to always have enough registration cards on hand to be prepared for declarations at any time.

E and B went into the teaching field “full of prayer”. They had already visited several apartments where no one was home. Then they arrived at one place where they met a family. They explained that they were Bahá’ís and that they were offering free children’s classes. They were then invited in.

“We’d like to tell you who we are,” E began. He then shared Anna’s presentation up to the life of Bahá’u’lláh. The teachers asked to pray with the family. Using the prayer cards from the teaching kits, everyone prayed together. . . .

“Does anyone want to be a part of the Bahá’í Faith?” E asked. Two of the family members said yes. They had only one registration card so they called another Bahá’í to bring it! The friends’ hearts were filled with the mysterious workings of that visit. They marveled that they never expected to get declarations and never thought they would need one registration card, much less two! So they advise the friends to always carry more than one card with them!

The second shows the high interest in children’s classes, and the power of focused effort.

Another team was having another adventure. At one home, one of the teachers had just finished training in Anna’s presentation. Because she understood that their goal for the day was to register children for children’s classes, she thought they were only supposed share the very beginning of Anna’s presentation. So that’s what she did each time. However, at every home that she was the presenter, the families were thrilled and registered their children for classes. 8 children and junior youth signed up! This teacher said that the parents were all open and invited them to return with much warmth!

"It was so simple and we sparked their interest!" she notes. So teachers will continue to visit these homes in the near future.

In this next account, a believer overcomes their fears and takes the first step to directly share the Faith with their neighbors.

Today, I was walking in my own neighborhood and stopped to talk to the couple next door as they were both outside. I petted their dogs and ended up talking about, you guessed it, religion and spirituality. Before I knew it, I was talking about the life and suffering of Bahá’u’lláh, then about how the Word of God changes people. My neighbors mostly listened. One of them made it clear that they did not believe in ‘organized religion’. But they both listened anyway. And we all agreed that religion should not be an excuse to be unkind or go to war.

This was exhilarating to me! Not because I did a really good job. I didn’t! I was stammering a little and unsure of myself, but I opened my mouth and spoke. It felt so good, because I have spent so much of my Bahá’i life beating around the bush. Now, at least some of the time, I am doing what the Universal House of Justice recommends: direct teaching about the Eternal Covenant and the life and suffering of Bahá’u’lláh!

In this last story, the friends build connections and unity through prayer, and through a direct presentation of the Faith.

B and E noticed a man speaking with an African accent, and they were invited into his home. It turned out that the family was from the very same country where B had lived some years ago. She had an immediate connection in particular with one of the family members.

The teachers gave coloring sheets to the children who were at home and B started sharing Anna’s presentation. One of the members seemed very happy and contented with the teachings. Every time B paused to see how she felt, the woman would say, “Go on!” She seemed especially touched by the sufferings of Bahá’u’lláh. After sharing most of the presentation B asked her if she would like to join the Faith and improve the world and the woman said, “Yes!”

Edward asked if they could come back the next day and say some prayers and she agreed, saying she wanted to invite her family and friends. When they went back, the family and friends were not able to come. But the intimacy of that time allowed the new believer to share some of her own personal history and brought them closer together.

Later, E, G and I went to her home, as we had promised the preceding weekend, for prayers and study of the Word of God.

When we arrived other family members were also at home and invited us in. We introduced ourselves and told her very briefly about Bahá’i Faith. During two rounds of prayers, __ prayed in her native tongue; and her daughter prayed for the unity of mankind “because we are all children on one God.”

After prayers we began Ruhi book 1, just by reading the scriptural passages and encouraging discussion of them. This continued with enthusiastic participation through the first few sections.

Before we closed with prayer, E asked another family member if she would like to join us, as together we work toward the unity of mankind. She was quite affirmative and smilingly completed a registration card!

We have scheduled this devotional hour for every Saturday evening around 5:30 p.m., and __ is so appreciative that we come and pray with her.

P.S. A couple of things I have noticed: First, it is good to always have crayons and coloring sheets handy. Second, if we are going to talk about uniting the people of the world, I believe we need to show that diversity in our teaching and follow up teams as much as possible.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Learning by doing in Greenville-Spartanburg

Here is a report from the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (A) cluster, which has recently launched its intensive program of growth. The friends are thrilled at seeing receptivity and enrolments that they haven’t experienced before. What is particularly interesting is how they carefully analyze their results: When were people at home? Who has been declaring? How can we be more effective next time. Also noteworthy is an important tool to assist with follow-up efforts: the “Sorry we missed you!” card to leave at homes of people who had requested to be visited but were not there when you came by.

The area teaching committee and cluster institute coordinator had a debrief last week and here are some of the insights.

We went out direct teaching in one neighborhood Saturdays and Sundays. We found more people home on Saturdays than on Sundays, and all of our 9 declarations from our direct teaching in came on Saturdays. Our 2 other declarations came from our community of interest. One at the Sunday class at the Baha'i center and one on a weekday evening while the seeker was visiting the teacher at the hospital. . . .

We are thinking for the next expansion phase to spend more time direct teaching on Saturdays and schedule follow ups on Sundays.

The "sorry we missed you" cards work! While debriefing after our teaching Sunday, my phone rang with a caller from the neighborhood we were in. We had gone by her house on a revisit and she was not home so we left the card with her son. It's nice when they call you!

As of last week 4 of the 11 new believers are in study circles. We are continuing our follow-up efforts in the neighborhood and hopefully will engage more of the new declarants. Several of the friends who were part of the original teaching team have committed to follow up with these new believers.

Many people in our cluster as well as folks from other clusters that have come to help all have shared their amazement at what has just happened. Many of the friends just cannot believe it and I'm serious I've received several more calls this week from Asheville, Charlotte and Spartanburg all sharing how "they just can't believe it".

Thank you!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"She already knew everything."

This is a beautiful story shared by the South Central region. It is an inspiring example of a searching soul investigating and finding answers in the Faith. One important point it highlights is that many who contact the Bahá’ís over the Web or on the toll-free phone line (1-800-22UNITE) will study the Faith on their own and decide to declare before ever meeting a Bahá’í.

You just never know when you talk with someone, what their story will be.

__ is a new believer who says that the Bahá'í Faith is 100% of what she believes—even more! For half her life she has been searching, reading, studying, attending lectures on many subjects, including world religions. She really likes to know things. Until finding the Faith, she said that she had not really connected with anything. In church, as a child, she would ask questions on her heart, and others found them difficult. The answer was usually, "Because that's just the way it is" or "That's what's in the Bible”. . . .

In the summer of 2008, she decided to join a social networking internet site. She came across the “Bahá’í” group and decided to join. A few months later she began to research the Faith on the Web. She read everything on the www.bahai.org and www.bahai.us sites. She was stunned to find that there was a religion that had everything she believed, but she had never met any Bahá'ís. She wondered, "Where have you been my whole life?" So she requested through the Web site that literature and information to be sent to her. She also checked out several books at the library and purchased others—all of this before ever meeting any Bahá’ís.

There was a new staff who recently started on at her place of work, and the two hit it off with each other right away. __ learned that this new colleague was friends with a Bahá’í. __ could not believe it. “What did you say? You know a Bahá’í?” So through her co-worker she got the number of this Bahá’í.

When __ received the materials she had requested from the Web site, she read through all of it. After that she detached the registration card, signed it, and sent it to the Office of Bahá’í Information with a lovely note: "Thank you for helping me make sense of the world. I never understood why religions didn't make sense to me. Now it has all come together. There are other people who believe as I do!” She then contacted a Bahá'í-owned business through the internet (it sells prayer beads) and talked with a Bahá'í for the first time. They had a wonderful conversation, and __ was grateful to finally speak with another believer.

Tonight she and I went through fundamental principles of the Faith using Anna's Presentation over the phone to complete the confirmation process. (I explained that this is part of the process when a person is in an isolated locality and has never met with a Bahá’í about their declaration.) She already knew everything. She also knew about Feast and the Calendar and repeating the Greatest Name. She is fasting and looking forward to Naw Rúz and asked how she could contribute to the Fund.

It was such a bounty to meet this new, deepened Bahá'í. She feels blessed, and so do I; and I believe the whole community is blessed as well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Evanston-Skokie IPG Day 4

The believers in Evanston-Skokie, IL (A) reached out in all ways to all their friends, colleagues and neighbors. In this report on Day 4 of their intensive teaching effort, a university student talks about a study circle began by some of the believers and their friends. They are studying Ruhi Book 4, “The Twin Manifestations”. The tutor explains the progress so far:

We had our third session today. We've had lots of interested people, new ones coming each time. The study circle is being held in the friends’ dorms.

It is working well, and we are giving participants a better understanding of what the Faith is about. We talk of both principles and history. In each meeting, we cover one section from Unit 1, “The Greatness of this Day” and then study from Unit 2 on the life of the Báb. The Bahá’ís’ friends are really intersted. I am building my skills at prompting discussion. For example, I connect the history to what they know. Today, we covered the Báb's address and highlighted that this is about the Covenant. We shared with each other what we think it means. It gets them thinking about what the Báb is saying. For casual participants, I want to give them an idea of what the Faith is all about. For the serious seekers, the Ruhi Books will give what they need. . . .

He also shares his thoughts on tutoring his first study circle:

It is fun, easy and not much to prepare. I had taken Book 4 previously; it was a good group! I am committed to finishing this study circle. We will need a couple of semi-intensives to finish up the book. They need to advance through the sequence. But, we are trying to create a study circle that they can invite friends to. __ and I tried to do Book 4 previously with the Bahá’í Campus Association; we got through the second unit but were unable to finish. Every session, I explain we have the Ruhi Institute so we can have a study circle; we can discuss, and there is practice so we can learn to do something useful.

Today, a reporter for an on-line publication participated in the study circle and asked lots of questions about the Faith. He was happy with the answers. He video-taped part of the study circle and interviewed us. I gave my own version of Anna's presentation to the video camera.

The students, they are all incredible.

Kansas City arises with courage to fulfill pledges

The effects of the Regional Bahá’í Conferences continue to resonate throughout the country. Here are three truly amazing and truly delightful stories from Kansas City, MO (A) from believers who have arisen to fulfill their pledges. These stories speak for themselves. Go KC!

The first is an inspiring story of a believer overcoming all doubts and obstacles to arise with confidence and courage:

__ listened at the Conference to the messages from Counselor Mora and Counselor Walker through a headset translating it into her mother tongue. The call to arise was clear to her, and her heart began to glow. When members of her cluster gathered together in a breakout group, she watched her community unhesitatingly pledge services to the Cause. Her heart's desire has been for so long to offer children's classes for those in her neighborhood. For so long she had considered her barriers: her accent, a lack of a partner, no meeting places, etc. Reminded of words of Counselor Walker that "now is the time to stand up for Bahá’u’lláh", and as she gazed upon the faces of a sea of dedicated servants any hesitation turned into utmost determination. She wrote her pledge down: one new children's class. . . .

Upon her return home, with the writings of Bahá’u’lláh on her lips, she began knocking on doors, extending the invitation for children's classes to families across her neighborhood. From its very start the average number of children attending her weekly neighborhood classes was 12, making it the best-attended children's class in the entire cluster. She prepares all materials and refreshments herself. She often goes to a few homes to remind the children of the class. Now, the walls of her room are adorned with the memorization quotes the children have been working on and her sister, observing the need of another teacher has also stepped into the field of service.

Children’s classes can also kindle the hearts of new believers, as this next wonderful story shows.

After the conference in Chicago __ developed a strong desire to visit a new believer who had enrolled into the Faith during Kansas City's initial intensive teaching effort but with whom the friends had not since been in touch. Together with her husband they went to that home for a visit and were welcomed in. Although the individual was friendly, he did not initially appear interested in any activities. __, looking at his young children, used the power of her intuition and courage and said, "We will be here tomorrow for children's classes for your son." To their surprise, the man enthusiastically embraced the idea. Since then __ has gone every week to teach children's classes to this man’s young children and other friends nearby. This has not come without challenges. But week after week she comes by to pick them up, waits as they get ready and happily go to class. The average number of students that attend is 8.

This last very inspiring account is shared by a youth who has arisen to help a nearby B-stage cluster in the region advance by helping to form junior youth groups.

After attending the Regional Bahá’í Conference in Chicago, Illinois, I gained a great amount of insight. I saw many Bahá’ís and their accomplishments and found out that our surrounding cluster was in need of a junior youth group animator training. As soon as Kansas City found out about this need, our time to arise and serve had come, once again. Plans were made for KC Bahá’ís to travel to Wichita, Kansas two weekends in a row and hold an animator training, in order to pursue junior youth groups in the near future. The animator training went unsurprisingly amazing. Seven youth attended this training, which means we now have seven more animators in our neighboring cluster. We went through two units of Ruhi Book 5 the first weekend, and the third unit the next weekend. The Bahá’í youth were so excited and had so much enthusiasm. To our surprise they were ready to go and start up new junior youth classes as soon as the training was complete. Two new resulting junior youth groups in Wichita have began this week. All of this is a result of arising to the call of the Universal House of Justice at this critical hour.

Friends in Northeast fulfill pledges with joy

The friends in the Northeast region have been truly galvanized by the recent Regional Bahá’í Conference in Stamford. Both the believers who attended that event and those that were unable to do so have intensified their efforts in a spirit of joy and excitement.

For example, a believer in the Syracuse, NY (B) cluster reports:

At our last Nineteen Day Feast we had a very lively discussion on the topic of pledge fulfillment. Everyone is making progress on their pledges and there was a beautiful exchange of offers for areas where anyone was struggling to fulfill their pledges. I’m unsure what an A-stage cluster looks like, but this spirit is new to us. Surely we are approaching our goal. It’s got to be the best consultation I’ve experienced at Feast. . . .

And in New Haven, CT (*C), a friend reports progress on pledges:

3 people finished an intensive Book 3 and are starting a new children’s class.

A new Book 2 study circle is starting.

The students at the university are starting a new children’s class and a junior youth group.

Teaching is continuing.

Seekers are fulfilling the pledges they have made!

A friend from Rochester, NY (A) reports:

The friends have already begun to fulfill their pledges to help our sister cluster, Syracuse. AT least 4 of the friends have been actively involved. One has been tutoring a Book 6 study circle.

We would like to thank the International Teaching Center and our Regional Bahá’í Council for modeling a cluster reflection meeting at the Stamford conference. We used this model to structure our own cluster reflection meeting. We encouraged the friends to focus on the guidance and to channel the stories of celebration to show what has been learned.

Finally, many individual have arisen to serve as a homefront pioneer or travel teacher to a nearby cluster or to a receptive neighborhood within their cluster. The institutions and individual believers have been assisting them in various ways, including temporary financial support, opening their homes to host pioneers, or simply praying for their success in searching for apartments in an identified receptive neighborhood! The Northeast is truly on fire.

Evanston-Skokie IPG Day 3

Here is the next item from the recently completed intensive teaching effort in Evanston-Skokie, IL (A). A couple has been involved in teaching in their neighborhood in Skokie since last May. Since then they have been reaching out to people that cross their path, whether they be neighbors, co-workers, or just someone on the bus or sitting next to them on a bench outside the library. Following are some of their experiences. Particularly noteworthy are the variety of ways in which they are reaching out, there efforts to focus their free time on teaching, their growing capacity to assess the interest level and receptivity of the seeker, and how stretching a little beyond their comfort zone is building their own confidence in teaching.

What they did in the last couple of days:

A: We have a neighbor in our apartment building, a teacher at a university. She is Chinese. I have talked to her previously and had mentioned the Bahá’í Faith. She was interested, and told me that she had googled it. I invited her for a presentation. During the week she isn't available for that, but we could do it next week. So we will invite her to come over during the weekend to schedule a presentation. . . .

B: We have a friend in another cluster who has a friend living in Skokie. However, the phone number is not correct anymore, so we are going to the address and will try to leave a note.

A: We found out that two of our neighbors are not interested in a presentation, but we'd like to get together with each other to extend our network.

We are still working on meeting with a couple of co-workers; we may go to the House of Worship.

What does the Intensive Program of Growth mean to you?

A: The IPG, the collective teaching—the opportunity to have a conversation, the collective teaching and the goals, make it easy to extend any encounter into, "Hey, do you want a presentation?" It is part of our goal-setting. B and I are making sure, especially on the two weekends when the family can be together out of the 9-day period of the Expansion Phase, during the 2 to 4 PM time frame, to put some effort out there.

Knowing that everyone else is trying to teach gives the extra push, extends it beyond the regular times. We are really excited.

This couple had an appointment with their acquaintance E on Saturday to give "Anna's presentation." Afterward, they brought E to meet the other teams that had come back from their appointments.

A: When we were sharing the teaching they had done that afternoon…it was getting long. I felt sensitive. I told him, I don't want you to feel you are trapped here, but of course we can stay. He immediately said, "No, I'm interested in this, I'm engaged in this, and want to hear more." One thing I told him is that Bahá’ís around the world are teaching on this same schedule! In Uzbekistan, they are teaching right now. I am really excited to think that all over the place, people are sitting around talking about the teaching effort. That excited him too! He comes from an activist-type background. That is what encouraged him to stay, that is coming from my excitement.

Comfort zone

A: I am very comfortable with what we are doing. We liked the door-to-door teaching that we did in some of the earlier cycles, because it is challenging. But I felt more comfortable with what we are trying to do now, which is to make appointments and expanding our contacts on our own.

In a past expansion phase, I shared with a Bahá’í friend living in a neighboring cluster, when she asked about the IPG, that I liked the door-to-door visiting, because it forced me to break my comfort zone and engage individuals at their home. It is safe, because you are asking to be invited in, you are in their home—I am putting myself into that person's space; they have to make a decision as to whether they are comfortable with that. Whereas, for example on a bus, a regular area, you are both feeling uncomfortable…it takes a little bit more, when you are talking to someone there.

Becoming able to detect receptivity

A: The door-to-door teaching primed me and a lot of us, to be available when the time is right. I am more sensitive to people who might be interested.

At Green Lake Conference one time, an institution member shared with a group of youth about when he was pioneering on a Caribbean island for so many weeks, and people weren't receptive. On his last day, ready to catch his bus out of there, he thought, I can't leave empty-handed. He looked around and found that he could see who were receptive. He found some people who were willing to listen to him and he referred them to some Bahá’ís on the island and eventually there was a Bahá’í Assembly.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"It is my duty to tell everyone and not decide who is or is not ready"

Last month we saw an inspiring story shared by an individual believer from Scottsdale, AZ (A) about how the Regional Bahá’í Conference she attended transformed and encouraged her, and the children’s classes she started with her friends and neighbors. Here is an update on the classes, as well as some reflections on sharing the Faith directly in a spirit of openness and detachment without any agenda—or assumptions. Once again, you can see the high interest in children’s classes.

One of the many promises I made to myself after the Regional Bahá’í Conference in Los Angeles was that I WAS going to start a children's class for my younger children ages 10 and 7. I promised myself that I would send an e-mail to my friends, the mothers of the 10 year old girls my older daughter is friends with. So in the new year, when school had started again, I did just that.

I had learned about the new Ruhi Book 3A and needed to see it right away as I was told it was made for older kids. So __ was kind enough to meet with me one on one and go over the first lesson with me. Though I probably need to meet with her more and go over more lessons with her, I went ahead and sent my e-mail to my friends hoping for the best, but really expecting the worst. . . .

At first I was a little surprised that all but one accepted to bring their children to come to the Book 3A class Friday's after school. Yes, one mom was very honest with me and said that this was not for her and her daughter, but we are still great friends. I said no problem. My friends know that my friendship with them is not dependent on whether or not they are receptive to my Faith. And I did have 10 other moms who said YES after all!

So began my Book 3A class for my 10 year old daughter and her friends. It just so happens that a lot of the 10 year old friends of my older daughter also have sisters the same age as my younger daughter. I mentioned to one of the moms, who is one of my close friends, how great it would be to have another class with the younger ones, but unfortunately I didn't know if I could find a teacher in time for Friday's class. To my surprise she offered to teach the class if I felt that she could do a good job. I said yes right away and so that is how our Book 3 children's class began. It is held at the same time as the Book 3A.

All of this was great. To add to my good fortune, a wonderful Bahá’í neighbor and friend and an expert in Book 3 (because she's done it so many times) offered to accompany my friend in her efforts with the Book 3 class and provide the materials. So far we have had three classes.

To further my good fortune, other moms had heard about this class through their kids in school and took the initiative to write or call me about whether it would be ok for their children to come as well. I was stunned. I couldn't believe that I was being approached instead of me approaching others.

So our classes grew larger.

In the classes we tried to memorize the quotes from the Writing. Things go slowly, but the children are trying hard and learning, and they love to say the quotes. There are amazing stories. This class is showing me the purity, strong spiritual connection with God, and capacity of the children.

I feel very humbled by what I have seen. I have decided to never ever judge the capacity of anyone as it related to the Bahá’í Faith. It is my duty to tell EVERYONE about it, not to decide who should hear about it and who is not ready. This is not to say that I haven't had my share of e-mails telling me that "this is not for me at this time," or "I'm sorry, but I can't come to your devotional." In fact, I just had a devotional last week that no one came to or RSVPed. So I prayed by myself. I was not the least bit upset, hurt, or dismayed. I'm having another devotional tomorrow and another one next week. I am offering a gift. If no one can accept it for the time being, then I will partake of it myself. I'm not sad, ashamed, or hopeless. I am overjoyed at having overcome one of my biggest barriers in teaching the Faith, that barrier being myself.

With love,


Scottsdale, AZ

Rainn Wilson, Oprah, Soul Pancake, a space to talk about God

News flash: Actor Rainn Wilson recently was a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s radio show “Soul Series”. The following report was shared by one of the national Seeker Response system regional specialists. A link to both the interview, and the Web site started by Rainn Wilson that was the main topic of his conversation with Oprah Winfrey, are included.

The interview is remarkable for a number of reasons. Rainn Wilson weaves into his conversation numerous Bahá’í teachings, in a natural and comfortable way—which is of course one of his main points. People, particularly young people, are yearning to talk about God, religion, life’s big questions, etc., in a space that is neither dogmatic nor superficial. One of the goals of his new “Soul Pancake” site is to provide that space to explore such topics. This is a wonderful example of an individual initiative, using the internet, reaching out in a spirit of openness, and starting meaningful conversations (remember Counsellor Juan Francisco Mora’s comments about meaningful conversations at the Regional Bahá’í Conference in Chicago!).

I’ll decline the spatula repeatedly referred to in the interview; give me my plate and fork!

Oprah just spoke with Rainn Wilson from The Office on her 'Soul Series' about the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, spirituality, God, religion in such a beautiful, profound way. Oprah actually asks, "What is the Bahá’í Faith." I highly recommend going to the link and listening to it. Hope we all can take something from it.


Rainn just launched a radical new website that he hopes to be a social network in the same way Facebook is, but with a deeper, spiritual twist:


Just thought you might want to know that we had our first declaration prompted by it 20 minutes after it ran. I’m expecting many hits to the public Web site and lots of interest as a result of this interview.

Each journey is different, Seeker Response reaches out

More and more people contact the national Seeker Response system, either through calling the 1-800-22UNITE phone line or through the national Web site http://www.bahai.us or through other means. Each of these individuals comes from a different backgrounds. Some have known about the Faith for a long time, some have not. Some may have studied it on their own, others may have not. Different things spark interest for each heart—hearing something on TV, wanting to know about local activities and events, searching for a Faith with teachings that matches their beliefs and ideals. Once they reach out, the believers at the regional and local levels responde to their inquiry. They call them on the phone, they arrange for nearby believers to visit them, they connect them with the friends. Each journey is different, each story is delightful. Here are a few. . . .

The first is about a seeker in an A-stage cluster who contacted Bahá’ís through the public Web site. One of the friends reports:

I just visited __ and he declared, as well as registered his daughter. We are planning to get her involved in a children’s class near his home, as well as meet every week to study the Book 2 deepening themes together and eventually start a study circle. He is also planning to attend the weekly devotions at the Bahá’í center and the next Feast and Holy Day.

This next story is about a seeker in C-stage cluster. When she contacted the Seeker Response system, she had already studied the Faith a lot. She lives in an isolated locality, so believers from nearby communities have worked together to reach out. The regional specialist notes:

She has read quite a bit, both general information and several authoritative texts. She was very proud to tell me that she has learned the short Obligatory prayer, and is saying the Greatest Name 95 times each day. She has also been in regular contact with the Friends in __ (which is very close to where she lives). __ has been accompanying her on her journey of investigation. She has been attending activities in a number of nearby communities.

Another seeker in a C-stage cluster sent an inquiry, and the local believers made a home visit to her.

One shared Anna's presentation, one prayed, and one played with the child who was present. At the end, when asked if she wanted to join the Faith, she burst into tears saying, "Yes". She already had a declaration card filled out! She invited the friends to come again next week to talk to more of her family who are also interested. The Regional Specialist sent a loving note to welcome her. She responded: “Thank you, I am whole and praise be to God for the blessing!”

This seeker in an A-cluster contacted the Web site:

I learned of Bahá’í through searching the internet for a religion that reflects my core beliefs in one God. As I read the writings of the Bahá’í Faith I felt as if I could have written it myself for these teachings have been deeply entrenched in my heart and life for years. I would like to know if there are Bahá’ís in my area. Thank you.