This is a story of a seeker organizing a devotional gathering, inviting her friends and family, and teaching the Faith. (It’s happening more and more, isn’t it?) What makes this story especially compelling is that the seeker and her guests are all Persian. A few years ago, perhaps not many people would have considered Persians to be a receptive population. Today, the friends in many clusters are sharing many inspiring stories of the immense receptivity and interest in this population. The following report is shared by a believer from an A-stage cluster in the Southwest region, and this devotional gathering occurred near the beginning of the cluster’s expansion phase. This friend was accompanied by a believer who is serving as resource person to support the Persian Bahá’ís in their efforts to reach out to their families and Persian friends and neighbors.
One day I was given the number of a seeker who is Persian. Immediately I called up the number and talked to her. She seemed extremely happy to hear my voice and after chit chatting for a while she invited me to dinner to her home. She told me that she has invited some friends who are visiting from Iran and some relatives who live here and she would love to have me over. I told her that I have a dear Persian friend, R, who is visiting, and asked if I could bring him too. It turned out that she knew his relatives and she told me that she is looking forward to seeing us. . . .
I would like to share that amazing night with you. Amazing is not even the word.
We were a little late and I was really worried that I had kept the guests waiting, but when we arrived the table was set and while we started eating more people came. In all we were 20 people. All Persians and everyone was speaking Farsi. While everyone was busy serving dinner, R asked the host what her plans for the night were and she replied, "We have a couple dear friends who are extremely ill, I hope we can all pray for them. Will you read a Bahá’í healing prayer?" R asked if it was OK with everyone, and she replied that she believes strongly in the power of prayer and it is up to them if they would like to open their hearts or not. While we were eating the phone rang and the host picked it up then she handed the phone to R. It was her husband, who was travelling at the time. He was calling to welcome us to his home and expressed his desire to meet with us on his return.
After dinner, little by little people left the table and started sitting in the living room pulling chairs from everywhere to create a circle—a circle of unity. At that point I didn't know that half of the guests were Christians and the other half were Muslims. Our host stood behind a chair smiling, and then said, “Tonight you see two new faces among us. They are __ and R. They are my Bahá’í friends and I've asked R to read a Bahá’í healing prayer for __ and __ and __. As you all know, people call me and request prayers, and since I strongly believe in the power of prayer I would like us to use this gathering and prayer for our dear friends.” She then added, “I'm always invited to sofrehs (Muslim prayer sessions), and I always take my Bahá’í prayer book with me. Prayer is prayer from any religion, and I love the Bahá’í prayers because they are very powerful and appeal to the heart.”
Everyone was silent. I was stunned. How wonderful to hear your message being shared by those who are searching. How bravely she stood, how loudly, clearly and passionately she spoke! She went into her bedroom and brought a prayer book by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I assumed R would immediately start praying, but no. He is much wiser than me.
He took his time and very politely and lovingly thanked everyone. He expressed his happiness in being among Persians and how wonderful for them to still have their language and culture even though they are so far away from home. He spoke so lovingly and kindly about Iran and how the Bahá’ís in Chicago hold an appreciation for Persian culture conference every year. Any tension that may have been there now all disappeared. He then encouraged everyone to share their prayers.
Everyone was very quite and reverent when he choose a beautiful Farsi prayer from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “Ey Taleb Malakout”. Then the host got up and brought her own note book and read a prayer from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. R and the host then read other prayers. Suddenly one of the ladies attending said that she was inspired to pray in such a spiritual gathering. It was then that I learned that some of the guests were Christians and others were Muslims, each sitting on one side of the room. R and I were seated at either end in between them, as if we were linking the two religions.
A poem expressing appreciation for motherhood was shared by R in honor of the host’s mother. Slowly the conversation led to God and how we see Him. Most of the guests shared how they felt God in their hearts and in His creation and again we discussed the power of prayer. One gentleman said we should be content with what God decides to give us, because maybe what we wish for is not in our benefit. The conversation was gently led to the topic of the Covenant and that if God is one, then all the religions are one. This same gentleman said that a year ago, he would just stubbornly defend his beliefs, but now he is looking into other religions, even the Bahá’í Faith, because they all have something to teach you.
Another gentleman rose and walked over to the table with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prayer book, picked it up and started reading it.
We all felt very good. It was a loving gathering, and the host told everyone that there was a reason why each of us should be here tonight at this specific time and place with these specific people among us. I have never, ever experienced so much love, protection and propagation from a Persian seeker.
When we were leaving she accompanied us to the door and had a long sincere conversation with us. She said she had attended the gathering held at USC for the seven prisoners in Iran, and there she realized that prejudice is not only a threat to the Bahá’í but a threat to mankind. She said we should all talk loud and support your movement. She said that wherever she is invited to pray she tells the group, I will read you prayers from the Bahá’í religion.
I just had a glimpse of how receptive the Iranians have become. Yes, it means if they are ready to hear the healing Message of Bahá’u’lláh then WE should be available to share it.
This reminds me of a beautiful song we sing in the children classes:
Teach, teach, teach, be as I am, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Let us make the most of the Expansion Phase. We still have a whole week to intensely share our love with the world.