The friends in Newark, NJ (A, yes that’s right, they advanced from *C to A in just a few short months) have been teaching up a storm! They have been reaching out to their contacts with both sensitivity and courage, as well as to those individuals who have reached out to the Bahá’ís via the public Web sites or the 1-800-22-UNITE phone line. One of the friends notes:
“The Newark Area cluster has rallied around the seeker reports sent to them through the national Seeker Response system. The description below is just half of the effort – the local effort. The Regional Specialist had also been trying to reach her for months, unsuccessfully. Since this seeker had originally asked for local contacts, and since we had been unable to reach her by phone or email, it was appropriate to send a teaching team to pay a courtesy visit and inquire politely if her questions had been answered and if she would like additional information. Here is what happened next.”
A woman contacted the Baha'is on the public Web site www.bahai.org in June 2008. She specifically requested that the Bahá’í community be gentle and patient with her search. Several emails were sent and phone calls made (but the phone number had been disconnected). Out of respect for her request, the friends did not want to be pushy and waited for a response to the emails. During a recent teaching effort one teaching team decided to visit her home. The teaching team was invited into the apartment, where they met the seeker who was surprised to see the Bahá’ís (it had been almost 10 months since she visited the Web site). The teaching team didn't stay long, but offered a gift of some Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. A few hours later, the seeker called one of the Bahá’ís thanking them for their brief visit and expressing interest in meeting up for coffee to discuss more about the Faith!” . . .
A key aspect of the cluster’s progress has been the establishment of core activities. Here is a brief story of how a pledge for devotional meetings has been transformed into reality:
As part of a pledge to start a devotional gathering at my home, we were able to hold our first meeting today. The biggest blessing was that one of the participants, a seeker, asked at the end of the gathering about when we would be starting Book 1.
God willing I will be able to host this on a monthly basis, assuming the support from my family members.
And here is a story about the beginning of a new study circle:
Recently some Bahá’ís and friends met for lunch. The discussion was mainly focused on Christian themes. Afterwards, one of the seekers was asked what she thought about the discussion and she spoke about what had attracted her to the Faith and where she was currently at. She ended with the statement that she definitely wanted to continue to study it. So I told her about study circles and "Reflections on the Life of the Spirit". She said she would like to observe a study circle and we made arrangements for the following week. The following week the seeker came, and we decided to start with the first unit of the book, “Understanding the Bahá’í Writings”, which we completed in 2 hours. The seeker found it interesting and enjoyable. She was hesitant about making a long term commitment, but when it was explained that we would be finished in 3 weeks, she readily agreed to continue.
Finally, here is an inspiring story about a new declaration. Like the preceding story, it shows how many seekers have an initial point of attraction, and the friends are learning how to follow up from that point of attraction.
A neighbor of a Bahá’í was invited to a fireside at that believer’s apartment. She was instantly attracted to the spirit of love and unity. The next day, she attended a Book 1 study circle. While waiting for everyone to arrive and get settled, she was asked what she knew about the Faith. She answered, "Not a lot, but I want to know. I really like the idea of the unity of all races." We happened to have on had the booklet of pictures and quotes from Anna’s presentation. Of course we don't need anything to teach other than desire, effort and Divine Assistance. The booklet just makes it much easier. The seeker read the quotes aloud with great interest. Halfway through, when asked, she repeatedly affirmed that she did believe that Bahá’u’lláh was the Manifestation of God for this time. When told that that meant she was a Bahá’í, she smiled and said "Really?" Luckily the owner of the home also had available the new, beautiful registration cards. She eagerly filled one out and reviewed the short obligatory prayer.