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.

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