Monday, September 28, 2009

Connecting contacts to core activities

These brief vignettes from the New London, CT (B) cluster show the high interest in core activities. The friends are inviting their contacts to core activities and quickly following up on requests.

G has an interesting teaching story! After the children’s class on last Sunday; he picked up his friend and brought him over to watch the video The Promise of World Peace and to ask questions about the Faith. His friend is a young single father like him. So G invited him to attend the next children's class which is this Sunday. Let's keep them in prayers.

In another town in the cluster:

Yesterday, one of our former neighbors saw us outside and came over to say hello. She told us that she remembered our invitation to come to prayers, but that she had moved away and was unable to come. However she has been saying prayers with the devotionals in mind, and asked at what time the gatherings are so that she can say the prayers "with" us in spirit.

Also, yesterday I received a phone call from a man who Bahá’í quote on He is very interested in exposing his son to all religions, and wants to know if there are children's classes in the area. I have called him twice and left a message for him with the information. I will keep following up and try to speak with him personally.

A few things we've learned from our children's class

Here is a brief report from a children’s class in Northeast Massachusetts (A). They are literally engaged in on-the-ground learning (in a neighborhood park), and have compiled a delightful list of simple, practical, suggestions to ensure a successful class (I especially love #3). This is a wonderful example of the friends embarking on a path of service and starting a learning process from the outset.

A few things we learned:

1) Bring a blanket and spread it out on the grass. Two teachers were able to stay at the blanket, while another teacher went on a route to a variety of known addresses, collecting kids whose parents had given permission to participate.

2) Using a difficult situation as a lesson. When one student skinned her knee, all the others helped to comfort her and ensure that the scrape was cleaned and covered. They demonstrated unity.

3) Set a clear goal: in this case, we set a goal of getting through Lesson 1. If you make an effort toward that goal, Bahá’u’lláh and the Concourse on High will assist you.

4) Flexibility: we ended up moving the story to the end. Fewer kids heard the story, but the kids who were there were able to focus on it.

5) To vary the games, use what you have on hand. Each house in the neighborhood has a stoop with 3 steps. When we played Giants, we had each team hop up to the top of the stairs while tied together.

Long Island picks up the pace with creativity

Imagine you’ve been on a long airplane flight (let’s say 11 hours in the air so far). That jet plane was launched quite some time back and is well on its way to its destination. You might expect to just continue cruising in the middle of the air. But let’s say the pilot decides to pick up speed. He or she revs up the engines, and now you are flying through the air even faster! That’s what’s happened recently in Long Island, NY (A). Their IPG has been through a number of cycles, so this time around, they decided to focus on ways in which they could increase the intensity of their efforts during the expansion phase. Emerging from their consultations (and actions) was a wide range of intriguing approaches to both core activities and direct teaching.

One of the things that the area teaching committee asked the friends to do during the eleventh cycle of the Long Island IPG was to intensify the level of activity associated with the expansion phase. Many of the friends took that to heart, as evidenced by a particular community that reported a significantly higher level of activity during the expansion phase. Among those activities were the following:

One person found a way to talk about the Faith via "mini firesides" with five or more colleagues at work. . . .

Another person found many teaching opportunities associated with the funeral of a Bahá’í friend.

Someone had a telephone "fireside" with a doctor whose relative is from Haifa and had visited both Haifa and to the House of Worship in Wilmette.

Someone went on “walking firesides" at work where she talked with a friend about the Faith.

The community held a devotional, and one of the seekers who attended plans to begin a Book 1 study circle soon.

Another believer decided to take Book 5 in order to prepare to be an animator, and plans to begin a junior youth group.

Efforts actively continued to stay in touch with and set up events for seekers who had come to the community via the Seeker Response System.

Finally, an intriguing context for starting a devotional at work: One of the believers has been having a daily devotional with one of his co-workers who is Christian. It seems that both of them did not want to get involved in the daily setting of backbiting and gossip that occurs in most workplaces, so rather than hanging out during breaks with the rest of the workers, each one kept to himself. Once they realized they were in similar circumstances, this naturally led to a decision to hang out together during breaks. Since both are spiritually oriented, this led to many discussions on spiritual matters and finally a decision to pray together. This believer brings the Bahá’í prayers and writings, and his colleague brings his own set of materials. Many interesting discussions have taken place on a regular basis, and a strong friendship has been built. This daily devotional has been going on for several months.

With loving greetings,

Area Teaching Committee of the Baha'is of Long Island

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Consultation, flexibility, sensitivity, patience makes an effective teaching team

This third installment of teaching stories from Sequim, WA (B) shows the patience, sensitivity and flexibility of the teaching teams. In many cases, someone who may initially seem hesitant warms up after the teachers are able to learn more about their interests and find common ground.


Focus: Going house-to-house in a neighborhood

Results: Possible follow-up visits to introduce the Faith or say prayers

Core Activities: Devotions

The team visited the home of one woman. At first she was very suspicious and just listened politely. Then they mentioned how the Bahá’í’s believe that there is only one God. At this, she seemed to come alive. She shared that she had come to this conclusion some time ago; but that she thought that she was the only one who felt this way. From this point onward, the contact began to pay much closer attention. She took some materials and said that she would do some more investigating online. . . .

Another person who was visited seemed even more reserved. But she became very interested in the equality of men and women and in how all religions are really one. She said that she was interested in attending a Bahá’í event and in having someone come and visit her again.


Focus: Apartment complex and home of a Bahá’í who was ill.

Results: Shared “Gift of Prayers”

As the team was preparing to enter an apartment complex, they encountered a lady who was sitting outside. The team stayed outside to visit with her. A lengthy conversation developed about her reliance on God and her activities in her church. She said that she knew a Bahá’í in California, and was happy to receive a Bahá’í prayer book.

The team returned to the car to pray and consult about what to do next. They decided to visit a local Bahá’í who had been ill. She was so happy to be visited!

Inviting both strangers and friends to core activities

Here is the second installment of wonderful stories from the recent collective, direct neighborhood teaching effort in Sequim, WA (B). The teaching teams connected with their existing community of interest, invited people they met to join new core activities, shared prayers, and encountered a number of people who plan on investigating the Faith online.

By the way, this is the 500th story to be posted to the teaching blog! A warm, enthusiastic and huge THANK YOU to all of our readers and contributors whose participation is vital to the blog’s success!


Focus: Coffee shop and one apartment unit, member of community of interest attending G’s study circle.

Results: One solid contact, one person will investigate on internet.

Core Activities: Opening to begin a Book 2 study circle. . . .

The team first visited an apartment complex. At one home a young man opened the door. As introductions were being made the team immediately noticed a lady reclining inside the apartment on a couch and they offered to say a healing prayer for her. After entering the apartment, the woman remarked that one of the Baha’is looked very familiar. Suddenly, she realized that she had known him from earlier in her life! This led to a presentation about the core activities and how they are used to help make a better society. She loved the healing prayer. Since she told them that she was an “internet person”, she was left a card with the websites listed on it and she seemed anxious to do some independent investigating.

This team next went to a local coffee shop for a prearranged visit with a contact who has been attending a Book 1 study circle. She is a colleague from one of the team member’s work place. She shared the verses from Book 1 that she loved the most. During this visit the subject shared was the Covenant. During the discussion the contact used many of her favorite quotes from Book 1. Later, she asked what comes after Book 1. She was told . . . Book 2! Both team members concurred that she truly seemed hooked on the Faith.

REFLECTION of team members: On the way to the apartments, the team discussed how hard they found door-to-door teaching to be. However, when they remembered the moving story of the martyr, Sulayman Khan, that was shared at the gathering that morning, it removed all of their trepidation. The feeling was that if Sulayman could go through everything that he did, door-to-door teaching was nothing in comparison!


Focus: Visiting houses in a neighborhood

Summary: One complete presentation, One healing prayer

Core Activities: Opening for a Book 1 study circle; possibilities for a junior youth program

PRELUDE: This team initially they headed for an apartment complex, but found signs that said “No Soliciting”. After consultation and prayers, they unanimously agreed to teach in another neighborhood.

The team met a woman who was obviously very sick and pale. She said that she had just gotten out of the hospital and was still fighting off the last bout of an illness. The team gave introductions and asked if she would like them to come back later when she was feeling better. She said, “Oh, yes—please!” One team member offered to say a healing prayer. The team then left after relaying that they hoped she would get better soon.

Another woman shared about her own personal spiritual path. The teaching team explained that Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings outline both a very personal spiritual path and provide an outward-oriented message to unite us all and bring peace to the world. She took some materials and expressed interest in going online to investigate more.

On another street a large number of junior youth had gathered. They were into listening to music on headphones and skateboarding; but they initiated an approach to the teaching team and seemed genuine and very interested and well-mannered. A mother of one of the youths took some information and invited the team to come back another time.

The team then went across the street where they were immediately invited to come in and give the presentation to a man who had recently lost his wife. About midway through the presentation he started asking many questions about life after death. Book 1 was mentioned as a way to find out about the life of the spirit, how to pray, and more about Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings about life after death. Before leaving the team offered to say a prayer for the departed; he read it himself out of the Bahá’í prayer book which was left behind with him.

REFLECTIONS: It is very important to get over your fear of going door-to-door.

Feel the fear and teach anyway!

There’s a saying that the definition of courage is not the absence of fear; courage is feeling the fear and doing the right thing anyway. And that truth is perfectly illustrated by some of the amazing stories in this report from Sequim, WA (B), where the friends (6 teaching teams in all) have just finished a collective, direct teaching effort in a diversity of neighborhoods. As you will see, the organized approach fully involving the local friends set in place a firm foundation for multiplying core activities (see how the teaching team reports explicitly note potential core activities among their results). This first installment of stories highlights the high receptivity that the teams encountered. (Pop quiz: What’s the proper way to pronounce “Sequim”? Residents of “Warshington state” are of course disqualified from responding.)


Six teaching teams carried out direct teaching by visiting both apartment complexes and homes. The result was 8 solid contacts and opportunities to either establish core activities or to add souls to the ones already existing. Overall, it was an exhilarating day where all who participated learned that receptivity is beyond our assumptions! . . .


We met at 9:30AM at home of a home-front pioneer and started with prayers, which were followed by a story of one of the martyrs to inspire everyone. Then we studied the first paragraph of the Ridvan 2008 message of the Universal House of Justice to remind ourselves of the reason behind our core activities. Lastly we broke into pairs and practiced with each other how to introduce each of the core activities as well as our opening statement when greeting someone.

“My name is ___ and this is my friend ___, we are Bahá’ís and would like to share with you some of the activities Bahá’ís engage in to build more spiritual communities. Bahá’u’lláh tells us to “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in” and “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

In the afternoon we went to our assigned neighborhoods for a couple of hours and then returned to our host’s home to share and reflect.

(Most teams consisted of two members, one male and one female. At least one team member was a local Bahá’í, who could make follow-up visits to receptive contacts.)


Focus: A large, older apartment complex.

Results: Two solid contacts: one complete presentation, one invite back.

Core Activities: Opening for devotionals in contact’s home; opening for contact to attend Book 1 study circle; possibility for Children’s Classes.

This team went to many apartments with initially discouraging results. Many people were not home; others, although courteous, were not interested. However, after visiting perhaps 50 units they came to a receptive soul!

A woman invited the team right in to her home. The Bahá’ís gave a brief general statement on the Faith and then shared an overview presentation. As it progressed, the lady kept saying, “Yes, yes!” and “I’ve always believed that!” The presentation got to the point about how human diversity makes humanity beautiful, just like multi-colored flowers in a garden. She interrupted to inform them that she had even given a talk at her church on the very same subject! The full presentation was shared.

The seeker asked the Bahá’ís to explain how Bahá’u’lláh’s claim to be the Promised One could be valid when Jesus had said that there was no way to the Father except through Him. The teacher explained that this could be understood as similar to a student in school: For a student in the 5th grade, the 5th grade teacher’s way is the only way, and that’s how things have to be done. However, when the student advances to the 6th grade, the student is ready for more knowledge and then the 6th grade teacher’s way becomes the only way. She was very pleased with this explanation and said that it made perfect sense and cleared that up for her. Then the prayer, “O God refresh and gladden my spirit” was read and she started crying. A prayer book was left with her. She took a declaration card and agreed to a regular prayer session in her home. She was told about study circles and “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit”; she said she would like to attend a study circle. She was told that a local Bahá’í would return and visit her.

This team also encountered another woman who said that she was interested. Children’s classes were mentioned and she seemed even more interested. She asked them to come again another time. She would invite her mother to be present.

REFLECTIONS of one team member: She was initially uncomfortable about direct teaching in neighborhoods and just went along to observe. She realized that she needs to practice giving the presentation on the Faith, but she also saw that she could have answered all of the questions that were asked and so she felt good about that. Her conclusion was that you just have to be brave enough to go and have someone you have confidence in to go with you. This Bahá'í said that as the team was speaking with the very receptive lady they met, she was so happy that she begin to share answers herself, overcoming her shyness.


Focus: A new apartment complex.

Results: One solid contact: one complete presentation, one follow-up visit to be made.

Core Activities: Opening for contact to attend Book 1 study circle

A woman in answered the door at the very first home the team visited. The woman identified herself and listened intently to the entire presentation. She asked questions about Christ being the only “way”. The presenter was careful to draw parallels between the Faith and Christianity and she responded extremely well to this, often pointing them out herself. She had her Bible handy and looked up many pertinent passages. All the core activities were discussed and she seemed very interested in each of them. The team obtained her phone and email information to arrange a return visit. She said that she had talked to other religions, but that their explanations had never made any sense to her, and then pointed to one of the Baha’i teachers and said: “what you say makes perfect sense”.

As of 8:54 I am a Baha'i

One of the most inspiring things to observe these days is how the local friends will mobilize to welcome a new believer into the Bahá’í community. In this case, a youth had declared their belief online, so the Seeker Response system regional specialist informed the Local Spiritual Assembly. What follows is an email chain between the LSA secretary and the new believer. The story of his spiritual search and his expression of belief are truly beautiful. Also wonderful is how the local friends reached out to him, lovingly, respectfully, sensitively and warmly; listened to and responded to his needs, and got him connected!

Part 1: Local Spiritual Assembly secretary to new believer

Dear __,


I was happy to hear from S that we have a new Bahá’í in our community. I wanted to personally welcome you, sorry it’s by email, I didn’t get your phone number from her.

We would be very happy to meet you. I understand you are a youth, so please let me know if you would also want us to meet with your parents and introduce ourselves. My husband and I would be very glad to do so. . . .

I am not sure how your schedule is right now, so I want to let you know of a few activities we’re having during the next few days in case you are interested in participating.

1. The youth will have a Game Night this Saturday, around 7 pm I think. Let me know if you want to go and if you need a ride.

2. Every Monday we have a devotional gathering at our home. We live about 15 minutes from you. It’s an inter-Faith devotional, meaning anyone and everyone is welcome to come.

3. The next Friday evening is a cluster reflection meeting (“cluster” is where members from across the metro area get together). It will be attended by 30+ people and you would get to meet a lot of the friends.

I hope that this isn’t too much information for you now. We are happy to meet you soon. Let me know if it’s ok to put you on the email list that I send to all members of the local community so that you can get the updates when activities such as the 19 Day Feast and other things occur.

Feel free to call me on my cell or email me back!

Warmest Bahá’í Greetings,


Part 2: New believer to LSA secretary

I am very happy that I have been enlightened by God in becoming a Bahá’í. I was wondering if it is possible to interact with the youth via email or social page first so I can accommodate and become familiar with them.

Anyway I’m glad to have connected and I hope to hear from you soon. My phone number is __.

God Bless You.

Part 3: LSA secretary to new believer

Hello __.

Thanks for your phone number. I will tell the youth you want to correspond with them. I’ll send your email to all the youth so you can chit-chat first by email.

My son and his wife live very close to you. I’ll definitely give them your email. I will also call you in the evening.

Looking forward to meeting you.


Part 4: New believer to LSA secretary

Hi! I hope all is well with you. J Can’t wait to meet with you guys.

Here’s my testimony:

In the Name of God, The All Loving, The All Compassionate

Everyday of my life since I can remember, which is since 2 ½ years old, I remember having an intimacy with God. And ever since I can remember I felt a void in my life, like something was missing. And even with that void I still loved and sought God. I sought God in art, I sought God in people’s acts of kindness towards me, I sought God within myself. My early life was extremely difficult. All this I remember clearly, and very clearly I remember everything my mother taught me about God. I attended church regularly, and it was there I began to walk with God. I lived as a Christian, and it was hard since I had beliefs that the congregation was against. I believed that all religions were from God in some form or another. Then I began to dabble in Islam. Still, something was missing.

A teacher at my school was a Bahá’í. Everyone else thought she was this annoyingly happy person, who found something great in everything. She never frowned. And she gave her all in teaching. I felt a deep presence of God in her. And one day we heard she went to Israel for two weeks for a pilgrimage. When she came back she told us of her faith, the beliefs, where it was founded, everything. At that moment I literally felt like I had awoken from a deep sleep!

One day the school had a party, everyone was enjoying themselves, except me. I was off sulking somewhere, very melancholy. My teacher approached me and asked me what was wrong. I poured out my heart. I asked her what was it that made her so happy. And she began to tell her story. And for the next three years I began to delve into the Bahá’í teachings. And as of 8:54 pm, I can testify that today I feel no more pain, no more bitterness, no more hate. I no longer have anger towards those that hurt me. And I feel a peace that no words can illustrate the beauty of it!

Part 5: Seeker Response system regional specialist’s comments

I had the wonderful pleasure of talking over the phone with this incredible Bahá’í, who is so deepened, it is unbelievable. He is amazing, and his emails with the LSA secretary conveys his very high spirits. All of the online registrants in the last few days have been in their late teens or 20 or 21. Love to all of you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The friends are ready when a receptive soul walks through the door

This story comes from an A-stage cluster in the Northwest region. The author states it is a story less about teaching and more about the receptivity to the Faith that is now everywhere. Well, yes, it’s a wonderful reminder of that, but there’s also more. When this receptive soul reached out to the Bahá’ís, they were able to quickly organize themselves, connect him to the local friends, AND the various cluster entities worked together to provide a study circle for him as well. And it is that capacity, that dedicated response to receptive individuals, that results in growth.

Truth be told, this is more of a “receptivity” story than a “teaching” story, as you will see:

A man recently walked into a local Bahá’í center, brimming with questions. Though he'd never met a Bahá’í, he'd done a little research, learned about study circles, and upon finding a Bahá’í at the center, asked which study circles were starting up. His name and contact information were passed to the cluster's institute coordinator, who put out a call for tutors. Very soon he was put in contact with a tutor ready to meet this dear soul, share Bahá’u’lláh’s Message, and start a study circle. . . .

During the initial phone conversation, the Bahá’í asked the seeker to share a little about his interest in the Faith, and to explain, if willing, some of his spiritual journey. The seeker responded that he'd found an online religion quiz that suggested he was overwhelmingly Bahá’í in his outlook! As he'd never even heard of the Faith before, he was quite curious—enough to not only write the Bahá’ís asking for some materials, but also to find a local Bahá’í center and drive the 40 minutes to get there on his day off work. Everything he had read about the Faith, he told the tutor, was something he'd already believed, and he just had to know more.

Several days later the tutor and his wife met with the seeker at a local coffee shop. Two hours of uplifting conversation passed in the blink of an eye, and as the Bahá’í couple were about to hand the seeker a declaration card and explain how one joins the Faith, the seeker offered: "So I was also sent a card along with those materials I received the other day. It said that in order to become a Bahá’í I needed to recognize that Bahá’u’lláh is who He says He is. I really do believe that, so I signed it and sent it in! When I look into my heart, I consider myself a Bahá’í. I believe in Bahá’u’lláh and have always believed what the Faith teaches." The couple warmly welcomed him into the Faith, made an appointment to share an overview of the fundamental verities of the Faith, and contacted his cluster's area teaching committee to help start a local study circle. The amazed couple spent their drive home praising Bahá’u’lláh and wondering at the receptivity all around us.

What joy is greater?

What are some of the elements of an intensive teaching effort? Sharing the Message directly. Creating new core activities and inviting people to participate. Visiting homes of new believers. Teaching teams working together in an organized way. Yes, all of these are elements, and they are all there in this report of last weekend’s expansion phase in Nevada South (A), and quite coherently too (e.g. organizing study circles for the parents while their kids are participating in the children’s class). But the main element in this IPG really seems to be sheer, boundless joy. The questions at the end of this report are truly moving, and are a beautiful reminder of how the teaching work ultimately is about empowering children, youth, adults—and communities.


For all of us, the experience visiting neighborhoods to deliver the healing message of Bahá’u’lláh and to start core activities has exceeded our expectations.

Here are some highlights of what happened the first weekend of the teaching effort in this seventh cycle of your cluster's intensive program of growth. The teams’ orientation was held on Friday, where excited teachers attended with zeal and enthusiasm. On Saturday, we have all gathered at the Bahá’í center and prayed for the blessings of God to reach our endeavors. . . .

Teaching teams visited various neighborhoods to start the four core activities and to continue with the consolidation efforts. A group of humble and loving friends were singing, chanting and praying together in one neighborhood; other teams shared deepening themes with new believers in another neighborhood.

Some wonderful encounters happened on Sunday. A father from brought his son and two of his nephews to receive a spiritual education at the children’s class; another lady also brought her two sons. Another lady came with her 5 year-old son. These parents gathered with us and said prayers and meditated. Then we broke into two groups to begin a study circle, one in English and the other in Spanish. The response of these parents to the material was very positive and the discussion fruitful and exciting. The children's class had 13 angels, who had fun and learned about the spiritual virtues.

A milestone in one neighborhood was witnessed by the friends: an individual who received a home visit on one day arose the very next day to join a team to help others understand the fundamental verities of the Faith. Say: Ya-Bahá'ul'Abhá!

Dedicated friends are standing by to help and embrace anyone who comes to join a team or help in any other way at the Bahá’í center. They are available to help the friends overcome their hesitation and accompany them with joy in service.

The small commitment of time and energy is insignificant in comparison to the bounties bestowed upon us by the Almighty. What blessing is greater than seeing the look of wonder and joy on the faces of those who are receptive to the healing Message of Bahá’u’lláh? What joy is greater than witnessing a child or junior youth empowered to change not only themselves, but the world? What delight is greater than accompanying a friend in Ruhi Book 1 and knowing that they too have begun to walk a path of service?

See you at the Baha'i center this coming weekend!

With loving Bahá’í greetings,

Your area teaching committee

It is amazing to understand the logic of the presentation

It’s happening everywhere: The friends learn of a seeker who lives near them, and they jump into action to respond to their interest. We share this electronic conversation between the Seeker Response system regional specialist and a Local Spiritual Assembly secretary in an A-stage cluster in the Central region. It is a wonderful example of diligent follow-up. It also shows how the regional specialist supported and accompanied the LSA secretary in this process. Most exciting, however, is how the local Bahá’í prepared herself for the home visit. In one of the emails, an indirect reference is made to the letter dated April 26, 2009 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice (you can access it on It reminds us that sharing a direct presentation about the Faith, having a conversation like Anna does with Emilia in Ruhi Book 6 is not just rattling off a series of points (okay, we’ve ALL done that at least once). Instead, we need to have a clear understanding of the logic underlying the presentation. So, that’s exactly what this believer took to heart: she went back to Ruhi Book 6 and further internalized the concepts and the logic, and look what happened. . . .

Part 1: Seeker Response system regional specialist to Local Spiritual Assembly secretary

Dear V,

I was pleased that M asked you to follow up on the seeker in your cluster. Have you been able to reach her? She has been left a phone message that someone local will be calling her, so I hope that has happened. . . .

It would be very useful if you could ask her last name. The National Center would like to send an introductory packet.

Thank you so much,


Part 2: LSA secretary to regional specialist

Dear E,

Thank you so much for this information! I called her and left a message yesterday. Today she called me back, and we arranged to meet together this weekend. I will remember to ask her last name then.

I am planning to share Anna’s presentation with her, if appropriate and desired. Any other suggestions you might have?

With loving greetings,


Part 3: Regional specialist to LSA secretary

Many thanks, V. I will be eager to hear how it goes this weekend. You might see if she would be interested in joining a study circle.

I have attached handouts from the seeker response workshop at the Green Lake Conference last month that may be useful to you. Feel free to share them with M and any others.

Loving greetings,


Part 4: LSA secretary’s report

Hi E, M and D,

These were such great handouts, E! And I wanted all of you to know the results of the meeting with this seeker.

Some of what I’ve read lately talks about how well “Anna’s presentation” works when one understands the logic behind what is being presented. So I went back to Ruhi Book 6 to see how it was explored there, with that point in mind. I also read the handouts you had sent.

The combination of that preparation (and it IS amazing to more fully understand the logic of the presentation!) and a VERY receptive soul gave me the most exciting, amazing gift of being involved in on of those conversations with someone who is all but ready to declare! She’s amazing! We had an in-depth conversation as appropriate to her questions, with a couple of invitations in different ways to become a Bahá’í. She had already received the packet of information you sent, so she was familiar with the registration card. There was nothing she was not interested in.

She very much wants to start Book 1. There is another young Bahá’í living in her town who is also interested in Book 1, so at least the two of them will be able to start. She also said she’d put out an invitation to the members of the online world religions class she is taking to see if anyone else would like to join the study circle. Her mother may also be interested.

Anything further you’d like to know or that should be done? I’ll see about another visit between now and when the study circle starts if it is going to be more than a few days before it begins.

With love,


"I didn't find the Faith, the Faith found me"

We have been delighted to share a growing number of stories about people who reach out to the Bahá’í community through the 800-22-UNITE phone line or the public Web site. Sometimes people will research the Faith extensively on their own before contacting the Bahá’ís, and, since this option was made available in April, a growing number are declaring their belief online. This is a story of one new believer’s journey. It illustrates the receptivity that is everywhere around us. And of course, once an individual reaches out to the Bahá’í community, the local friends rise up to respond in whatever manner they are needed.

I didn't really find the Bahá’í Faith. The Faith found me. My journey started when one of my family members was in the hospital because they was very ill and the doctors couldn't tell us what was wrong. They kept running tests and giving us different answers, but all I could see was that a loved one was in so much pain. . . .

I used to talk to my friend about it, and all she could tell me to do was to pray, and that God would help me and my family through. Instead I did the opposite. I blamed God for the illness. I was beginning to lose my faith in God. Then, when my family member passed away, I stopped praying to God.

Around the end of the school year everything started spiraling down. I was failing classes and left choir, and I was even questioning my faith in God. So I began talking to my friend about it. She was a huge believer in the Almighty God, and she would preach to me about how He helped her. So then I began talking to someone else who told me, “It doesn't matter how you praise God as long as you praise Him."

So then I began reading about different religions and matching what I believe with different religions around the world, and the Bahá’í Faith was just the right fit. The Faith contained what I wanted out of a religion and a lot more. So then I began to study the religion and things began to fall into place. I passed my classes and got a job. I believe that God’s purpose on this wild journey was to prepare me for another family member’s death. This death was even harder to deal with, but I handled it better. Instead of blaming God for the illness, I thanked God for taking them out of their pain. Bahá’u’lláh’s scriptures are what gave me the strength I needed. And that's I how I found the Bahá’í Faith.

"Our hope is that the children's classes will continue for many years into the future"

This story from Contra Costa County East, CA (A) is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. In many clusters throughout the country, the friends are reporting that children’s classes become more sustainable when the teachers connect with the parents of the students. It sounds good in abstract, but what does it look like in reality. Read on! What is so precious about this experience? First, the teachers have a clear, long-term vision for the classes. Second, the teachers share with the families the vision of how these classes are a foundation for transforming their community. Third, the families are themselves empowered to begin actively supporting the classes. Fourth, the community is then identifying additional human resources from within their ranks to expand the range and influence of the classes. This is what the Five Year Plan is all about. This is a glimpse into the future.

For over three months, our team had been teaching children’s classes in a Concord neighborhood. The class was going strong, and we were looking for a way to reach out to the parents. One day, a perfect opportunity revealed itself. After class on that hot Saturday afternoon, a mother approached us. We had a friendly relationship with her because she had participated in the class before with her two sons. She asked, “How much longer will these classes continue?” . . .

We happily responded, “Our hope is that they will continue for many years into the future!” This brought a smile. We continued to explain our vision for the class—that through the moral and spiritual education of children, an opportunity could be provided for the friends in her community to transform their neighborhood. She liked the idea a great deal and together we decided to have a parent-teacher meeting the following Thursday evening so that we could present this vision to the other parents.

When Thursday night approached, 8 parents were seated in folding chairs under the same tent that their children visit weekly for their classes. The meeting began with a prayer which was followed by a brief introduction to the fundamental verities of the Bahá’í Faith. We explained to the parents that our belief in Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings regarding the education of children was the propelling force behind our motivation to teach the class. We also clarified that we were not there to indoctrinate our beliefs on their children. The parents listened intently as we shared our vision for the class. One teacher pointed to a little girl who had accompanied her mother to the meeting. “My dream is that 10 years from now I can return to this neighborhood and see __ teaching this class,” the teacher lovingly commented. The child responded with a shy giggle.

By the end of the meeting all the parents were eager to offer their help. One group of mothers coordinated to bring snacks and drinks to the class. Another parent suggested that the class be held more than once a week so that their children would have more time to learn these valuable virtues. Together the parents agreed that they would help us find youth in the neighborhood who could receive the teacher training and offer the classes on different days of the week. All in all, the experience was a great success! It was beautiful to see the parents offering their ideas and contributing to the spiritual well-being of their children as well as the betterment of their community.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Connecting with a receptive population

With joy we share this report from Kentuckiana (A), which has now had over 20 new believers in last 2 months. The Bahá’ís are connecting ever more intimately with a receptive population, new believers are rising up to teach everyone they know, and each home visit brings a fresh and wonderful surprise. Teaching is truly bringing the world together! Some photos of the new believers are now posted on the slideshow.

Dearest Friends,

Recently I was in Kentuckiana, and had the great pleasure of meeting __, who originally comes from Burma and recently became a Bahá’í as a result of a neighborhood teaching effort. He has subsequently taught the Faith to 12 others in a month. I asked B, who has been taking the lead for the teaching and consolidation activities with this group of wonderful friends to share their story with us. . . .

With warmest love and excitement,


The first time that I met __, I was on a teaching team with J. __ opened his door with a smile on his face and was courteous and hospitable and invited us into his apartment. There was already a small crowd of people in his apartment; some of them gave their seats to us.

I started sharing a presentation about the Faith. Two of the people present were missionaries who were not happy that we were there and kept trying to start an argument. I emphasized that the Bahá’í Faith is all about love and unity. __ asked us to continue, so I continued to the end of the presentation.

At the end, __ asked if he could “buy the book”. So we gave him some prayers and a pamphlet and promised to bring other books later.

The next day, I visited him again, this time with my husband. __ and another friend were there and welcomed us in and brought water for us.

We had brought a book for them. After some socializing, I asked them if they wanted to go over the presentation again since there were many interruptions yesterday when I shared it the first time. They agreed. So I shared Anna’s conversation from beginning to the end, at which point they both declared their faith in Bahá’u’lláh.

I have been visiting this place ever since to share deepening themes with __. Each time I take some different Bahá’í friends. And most of the times I go there I see some new faces. In fact, __ invites his friends over to meet us and hear a presentation about the Faith. So I change the deepening to sharing Anna’s conversation, and each time, __ helps me and translates it for his friends. He now has his own set of materials to share Anna’s conversation and has done this about 5 or 6 times with me.

We also invited __ and some other Bahá’ís to our home. He came will all his Bahá’í friends plus some other people too. Our plan was to have a unity feast with some prayers, some Hidden Words in Burmese and some music from Burma. I asked __ if his friends have come to meet us and to hear about the Bahá’í Faith. He said yes. I asked if he wants us to share Anna’s conversation with them. He said yes.

What can I say? Bahá’u’lláh has showered us with His blessings and has sent us more bounties. Bahá’u’lláh has knocked at my door again. Should I open the door or should I miss the opportunity? So I did it again. I shared the presentation. 2 adults declared their belief. There were 2 children there (their father is a Bahá’í) and I gave __ 2 child registration cards and explained they would need to get their parents’ permission to register.

There are 13 new Bahá’ís as a result of working with __. 10 are adults and 3 are children. __ is eager to meet everybody and wants to learn how to organize a Feast and other activities in his neighborhood.

Here also is a story of a home visit involving many of these new believers. One of the deepening themes from Ruhi Book 2 was shared.

Yesterday, 5 of us went to S’s place. There were 5 other new believers there.

S is moving to another state where his family is. I had a gift for him, a framed picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. We started our meeting with some prayers. __ is always eager to say not just one buy many prayers all in a row.

We shared the deepening theme on the topic of the Bahá’í Fund. __ was translating paragraph by paragraph. We then closed the discussion with some prayers.

We had some good refreshments and good socializing. G took some pictures of all of us all together, and I will send one to S so that his parents can see some of the Bahá’ís. We also got his new address so we can inform the Local Spiritual Assembly there to contact him.

We said goodbye and left, but all of them followed us, as is their custom of showing courtesy, all the way to where our cars were parked.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Institute process and children's classes empower and unify in Scottsdale

If it’s coming from Scottsdale, AZ (A), I know I’m going to smile. Wait till you see these two brief reports! First, as you may have seen in recent stories from all over the country, the friends are finding a certain approach to children’s classes very effective in which they engage the parents’ involvement by inviting them to go through the training (i.e., Ruhi Book 3) to become children’s class teachers themselves. The first is a particularly inspiring example of this process:

After a successful weekend, the teaching teams returned to start their Bahá’í children’s class and to accompany a few parents so that they are able to assist with the classes. As the teachers started gathering up the children, one teaching team, which included a seeker, visited the home of one of the parents and started to study Ruhi Book 3 in Spanish with her. She actively participated in the discussions. The group studied for 30 minutes, including some initial concepts from the Writings of the Faith regarding the spiritual education of children, as well as the lesson plan for that day’s children’s class. . . .

We had two children’s classes today: one using the lessons from Book 3 for the younger children and the other using the lessons from Book 3A for the older ones. The above-mentioned mother was immediately involved in serving the children by assisting with the class. Her daughter has also expressed an interest in helping with the class. These are some great examples of wonderful souls we are discovering who love to serve others and understand the importance of spiritual education for their children.

Next, we see the experience of some teaching teams, also with a focus on children’s classes. See the power of the institute process to give a new believer confidence to reach out to her neighbors! What is especially moving is not just her courage, but also how enthusiastically she offers all the elements of community life (i.e. the core activities) as a way to bring people together.

Today two teaching teams made their plans to visit new arrivals to an apartment complex in which we have ongoing activities and invite their children to attend the children’s classes there. The teaching teams included one of the recently declared Bahá’ís, who is the grandmother of some of the children that attend the children’s class. She is currently in a Ruhi Book 2 study circle and wanted to work on her practices for this course (i.e. sharing the deepening themes).

The teams recited a few prayers before setting out. The new believer mentioned to her team member that she was very nervous since she had never done anything like this before. So when they arrived at the first home, this team member assumed that he was going to do all the talking. However, to his surprise, she did all the talking! She conversed so wonderfully and with courage. She started building a relationship with her neighbor and she invited her two grandchildren to the children’s class. She also told her about the 19 Day Feast and how we come together and pray and listen to one another, consult and reflect about the well being of their community and their children. She also invited her to study together in an atmosphere that is informative, loving, and illuminating. All this time the other team member was praying and staying quiet. After they said goodbye, they both reflected on how wonderfully she did, and she couldn't believe that she felt so nervous, but when she opened her mouth to speak everything just flowed wonderfully.

The other team had also success inviting more children to the class. Altogether 6 children were invited, with some being old enough (i.e., junior youth age) to help as teacher’s assistants.

Everyone can find a part to play

How do you increase community participation in an intensive program of growth or other teaching effort? The answer of Nevada South (A) is simply: love and encouragement! In this cluster’s most recent newsletter is the following, beautiful article. It shows (through a diverse range of practical, concrete examples) that there are so many ways we can assist with a teaching effort, that there is literally “something for everyone”. It really echoes the guidance of the Universal House of Justice’s December 6, 2008 message, where it stated: “May all find a part to play. May all appreciate the contributions of others.”

How can you help with the IPG?

There are many ways to serve in the teaching and consolidation efforts. There are many avenues of service that must go hand in hand for the IPG to be a success. The cluster reflection meeting is a great place to find what role you would like to play. Here are some ways you can help:

Offering to say prayers at home for the success of the teaching effort. . . .

Helping serve the friends with preparation of the meals.

Cleaning the Bahá’í Center.

Organizing the devotions during the teaching effort.

Offering to take notes of the teaching stories that are shared at the end of the day of teaching.

Offering to provide some program for the children while teachers are in the neighborhoods.

Offering to serve as a committed weekly children’s class teacher for the new Bahá’ís and neighborhood children.

Offering to make home visits to a new believer and share the deepening themes from Ruhi Book 2 and share prayers.

Offering to tutor a study circle in the home of a new believer.

Serving as a “silent prayer partner” for someone that wishes to share Anna’s conversation in the field.

Being a general bringer of good will and upliftment for the teachers as they return from the teaching effort.

Reaching out and reaching back

People reach out, and we reach back—it’s that simple. An individual interested in learning more about the Faith may first contact the Bahá’ís by calling the 800-22-UNITE phone line or through the public Web site The friends respond. He or she is connected with the local Bahá’í community. They become involved in the core activities. And often, they then declare their Faith. Here is a brief report from Oroville-Chico, CA (B) that neatly shows all of these ingredients. Someone reached out, and the friends reached back!

Dear all,

__ contacted the public Web site

A home visit was conducted a couple of weeks later. One of the friends reported: . . .

We talked about the Faith. He will be meeting again with the friends, and his daughter will be starting a children’s class.

The cluster institute coordinator informed us a few weeks later that __ had declared. The following comments were sent:

We shared a conversation like Anna with __. He said it really set the Faith in order in his mind. He has read the Kitab-i-Iqan and has started to teach his mom who lives in Mexico. He has joined a study circle of Ruhi Book 1 with us, and we have almost finished the course. Last session we started talking about teaching the Faith, which then led to the topic of becoming a Bahá’í. He asked for a registration card and filled it out!

It's so thrilling to be a Bahá’í.

Bringing everyone together and opening the circle wider

In nature there are all sorts of cycles. It’s not surprising that the growth of the Faith is the same way; it is very much an organic process. Think of the multiplication of core activities. You reach out to your neighbors and friends in order to start a new children’s class or devotional meeting. And then, over time, the core activity leads to opportunities to more closely reach out to your neighbors and friends. And it continues on and on, the first steps towards a new pattern of community life. Here is a story from the San-Francisco-San Mateo, CA (A) cluster, recounting a joyful event in this organic process. After having started a number of core activities in a receptive neighborhood, friendships have formed. So the Bahá’ís organized a barbecue (see the photos on the slideshow!) to bring together the community of interest so far. This resulted in making many new connections and, you guessed it, additional core activities. The other wonderful thing about this report is the loving and welcoming manner in which the area teaching committee encourages all the friends to contribute to the teaching work in whatever way they feel comfortable.

Dearest Friends:

Here is a short description of a wonderful teaching event that took place in our cluster last weekend.

For several months now, a group of Bahá’í teachers have been busy conducting children's classes, hosting study circles, and making home visits in the neighborhood surrounding the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in San Mateo. As a result of these efforts the Faith has been shared with many, and new friendships have been formed with the children who regularly attend children's classes, their parents, junior youth, youth and adults around the neighborhood. . . .

In an effort to bring the community together, a group of teachers planned a community wide barbeque and picnic at the King Center. In the weeks prior to the picnic, the teachers and students visited friends of the children to invite them to join their classes and a planned junior youth group. At the same time, the parents of the children and other contacts in the neighborhood were invited to the picnic.

On the morning of the picnic, the teachers were not quite sure how many people would end up coming. However, by the time the event was over, more than 60 people had come to participate in the festivities. There were 20 parents, adults, and youth from the community, 20 children and junior youth, as well as 20 Bahá’ís from the surrounding communities.

During the afternoon, everyone ate great barbeque prepared by the mother and father who host the children's classes on a weekly basis. The children played games and enjoyed each others company. Newly contacted junior youth and young adults accepted invitations to be involved in junior youth activities. The Faith was shared with individuals and families throughout the day, and as a result, several people will join new or existing study circles.

All in all, the day was a wonderful success and set the stage for greater victories in the future.

If you are interested in making home visits, tutoring study circles, sharing prayers, or being involved in service in this community please contact the area teaching committee.

Also, please don't hesitate to contact the area teaching committee to discuss other ways of being involved in cluster teaching efforts. Activities such as attending firesides, study circles, devotional gatherings, working with children or junior youth, or making home visits and sharing prayers are available to all.

We look forward to seeing you soon and joining you in the field of service in whatever way is most comfortable for you.

With the utmost love and admiration,

Your area teaching committee

"I truly feel like I am a part of something"

Practically every day, people continue to declare their belief in Bahá’u’lláh online. The seeker response system regional specialists, working together with the friends and the cluster and local levels, lovingly respond to these new believers and start them on their journey. Here is the story of one of the most recent online registrants, living in a B-stage cluster in the South Central region. In this case, the regional specialist worked with the Local Spiritual Assembly to follow up with this individual.

Dear L


This weekend I believe a left a voicemail regarding this lovely young lady.

Please let the Local Spiritual Assembly member who handles eMembership know that __ is probably waiting in the “pending” queue there. She is ready to be processed completely, as she has already been “affirmed” which is something the Regional Council has me do when folks register as Bahá’ís online. . . .

If there are any questions about this dear new believer, please don't hesitate to call.

The regional specialist later reports:

Dear friends,

You will appreciate hearing from this dear soul, who shares her story below.

She also mentioned that L, who is on the Local Assembly, contacted her. She was very happy about talking with her.

Here is her story:

To answer your questions, since declaring as a Bahá’í I have felt different, in a way that I didn't think I would, and it was instantaneous. I feel as though I belong somewhere and have something I can associate myself with. This is a big thing for me because growing up I never quite felt as though I fit in or belonged with certain groups of people. The only place I felt I belonged was with my family. But now, for the first time in my life I truly feel like I am a part of something, and that I belong to something important. Thank you for all of your help and taking the time to speak with me, I truly appreciate it.

Momentum building in Milwaukee

Momentum is building in Milwaukee, WI (B) where the friends have multiplied core activities and expanded the community of interest. Here is a rundown of the numbers:

There are now 5 regularly held Devotional Meetings in the cluster.

2 new believers enrolled in this cycle.

31 seekers are involved in core activities this cycle.

25 believers are participating in teaching activities this cycle.

3 Study Circles are in place, with 11 attendees.

9 homes have received Home Visits.

2 Children’s Classes are in place.

Series of firesides for direct teaching

Here is an interesting approach to using firesides for direct teaching being used in Grand Rapids, MI (A). The cluster has organized a series of firesides over the course of a month, each of which covers a portion of the concepts conveyed in Anna’s conversation. Here is an excerpt of the announcement:

For this cycle, the cluster planning committee has decided to try a series of firesides to cover many aspects of Anna’s conversation for direct teaching. The goal is for everyone to invite at least one seeker to these firesides.

Week 1: Manifestations of God / Who is Bahá’u’lláh?

Week 2: Covenant Between God and Mankind

Week 3: Purpose of God’s Laws for Humanity

Week 4: Future of Humanity / Education of Children

Making waves with permanent teaching teams

East San Diego County, CA (A) has begun another cycle of its intensive program of growth. One thing that struck me as I read the reports from their cluster newsletter (we are seeing more of these popping up around the country) is that once you have the human resources, you can really start making waves! They have in place several strong teaching teams, communities throughout the cluster are actively participating, and they literally got showered with additional help from a summer youth teaching project. Here is a summary of the first couple of weeks:

The third cycle for our cluster began with a cluster reflection gathering. Every community was represented, and 6 permanent teaching teams were formed to ensure continuing activity throughout the cluster after the two-week expansion phase. . . .

A neighborhood was selected to be the focus of teaching activities. Teams included Bahá’ís from every East County community as well as supporters from the San Diego cluster. We also had the bounty of being blessed with the presence of some 48 outstanding youth from all over southern California, who were participating in a summer youth teaching project.

We now have a total of about 70 receptive contacts made during the expansion phase. During this cycle we had one seeker participating in the prayer chain and another went out teaching with us one evening.

A very interesting part of the newsletter is the following description of a teaching team, something that has emerged from the friends’ experiences on the ground:

During the last cluster reflection meeting, the concept of “permanent” teaching teams was introduced. A teaching team is a group of friends who meet regularly to support each other in their teaching efforts.

A teaching team can have 4 to 8 members. It’s entirely up to the teams to decide on numbers.

Team members come together to deepen, pray, eat, consult on teaching, share insights, reflect, plan, engage in firesides and core activities.

Teams are encouraged to have at least one tutor and one children’s class teacher so that the core activities can be supported and sustained in the community.

There are already 6 teaching teams formed across the cluster. The goal is to have at least 10 teams with an average of 5 members during this cycle.

Starting a teaching team

To start a team in your area, talk to your friends in your community. The most effective teams are those composed of people who are close friends, family members or close neighbors. If you have a smaller team, please consider reaching out and inviting someone who lives nearby to join you. If you have a larger team with several tutors, you may want to set a goal to split and form two smaller teams. Select a team member to communicate with the area teaching committee regarding your activities, successes, problems and learning so we can share amongst all the teams and with the Regional Bahá’í Council.

Friday, September 18, 2009

We are all bound together all over the earth in one common Cause

When people reach out to the Bahá’í community through the public Web site or calling the 800-22-UNITE phone line, the friends at the national, regional and local levels work together to follow up on their interest and connect them to Bahá’ís near them. Sometimes this happens very rapidly. Other times, the process takes a little longer. Sometimes the seeker moves. In this case the seeker was in the military and was sent halfway across the world. But at the beginning and end of his journey, the friends were there to respond to his needs, nurture his interest, and lovingly invite and welcome him in. Here is a beautiful story shared by one of the Seeker Response system regional specialists. It is a story of love and the unity of mankind.

Beloved Friends, there is A NEW DECLARATION!

This is the best moment and I can’t wait to share. I have been praying for this man for many months, and N and I both have shared information with him when he first called the 800-22-UNITE phone line over 2 years ago. I sent him many items and used books and we shared the teachings online. . . .

Before he left for Afghanistan, he had a large group of friends come visit him, and he shared the Faith with them. I had contacted the local Bahá’ís who were going to invite him to dinner, but he was shipped out very quickly and left before this could happen.

We have had no contact since I sent him the materials. That was almost 2 years ago. I sent him a note just on a hunch that maybe he would receive it. He called and left a message last night that he is back in the States after 18 months. I called him this afternoon to welcome him home and thank him for his call.

What a joyful reunion. He told me that he had ordered the Kitab-i-Iqan and that he had just received the book, “The Bahá’í Faith, the Emerging Global Religion”, and that he still had his prayer book. He had also ordered a card with a prayer of the Báb for protection.

As I listened, I said, “__, you are a Bahá’í!” He said, “Yes, I think I am.” I said, “Let’s go over the basics and see?” We spent another 20 minutes. He knows so much. I explained about the Covenant. We talked about the principles, the beauty of Islam, everything.

At that moment he declared that he was a Bahá’í. I was so excited and happy. This has been over 2 years and this was THE MOMENT. I told him that since he did not have good computer access that I would fill out the online registration form for him.

It will be difficult for him to leave the base as he does not have a car. I told him that A and I are partners in this teaching work and that we will help find a solution.

I cannot tell you how happy he was and I am. He loves the people of the village in Afghanistan where he worked. When he became ill, he said even though the people are very poor, they would bring him food and tea.

Dear Friends, is this not exciting? How we are all bound together all over the earth in one common Cause.

Loving regards,