Thursday, March 19, 2009

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.

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