Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Naw Ruz

The Fast has ended and Baha’is throughout the world look forward to the bounties of the New Year (Naw Ruz).  As we look to the year ahead, we reflection with gratitude upon the many teaching opportunities afforded to strengthen bonds of love and fellowship during the Fast.  A few inspirational moments came in from an Area Teaching Committee in a New Jersey cluster.
A Baha’i in the cluster invited the mother of her son’s schoolmate to a fast-breaking dinner. Although the schoolmate is already a member of the neighborhood junior youth group, the dinner gave the mothers and sons a chance to strengthen ties of friendship and share prayers. 
One youth in the cluster is a seeker and an integral member of the neighborhood teaching team. The members of the local LSA met for a fast-breaking dinner and invited the youth, who brought her mother along. The dinner conversation included a discussion about one LSA member’s experience of embracing the Faith. The youth said she was grateful for the discussion because it helped her mother better understand the importance of the Baha’i Faith in the young woman’s life.  
When a new seeker and friend showed interest in the Fast, one Baha’i extended an open invitation for the seeker to come over for dawn prayers and breakfast. The seeker, who decided to observe the Fast, has joined the family for breakfast and dawn prayers several times so far. In fact, there are two seekers/neighbors who are observing the Fast and coming over to share prayers, fellowship and food at 5:45 in the morning!  
A teaching team in the cluster is inviting parents of the junior youth and children to the “Why We Sing” program at Green Acre. At the end of last Saturday’s classes, teachers, junior youth and children helped compile the invitations, which included a sample of music on CDs and flyers describing the weekend session.  The teaching team will follow up with parents during the coming weeks and use the opportunity to engage in spiritual conversations.
And finally the Area Teaching Team’s simple invitation to the cluster: 
Any teaching stories, plans, aspirations for this Expansion Phase that you’d like to share? We'd love to hear them. Send an email to …

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Fast

Today, March 20th, marks the final day of the Fast.  For 19 days Baha’is worldwide have abstained from food or drink, from sunrise to sunset, “as a symbol of self-restraint” and to take on “characteristics of the spirit.”  In this story a Baha’i from Maine shares how the Fast presented the opportunity to connect with a receptive heart.
I was visiting a friend whom I have known only for a few months, at her house today. When she offered me a cup of tea I had to say "No, thank you".  She then asked if I would prefer a glass of water.  This time I couldn't just say “No,” without giving a reason, so I told her that I was fasting.
Based on my past experiences, I was waiting for her to connect fasting to Islam and Ramadan, but instead she looked at me, and as she still was thinking asked if I was a Baha'i.   Being so surprised, and so happy, I asked her how she came to connect and know about Baha'i fasting?
She explained that one of her best friends during college was a Baha'i, and that her friend's parents were pioneering in Macao. Later, her friend invited her to stay with her parents during her trip to China which happened to be during the Fast. Then she continued with such joy as if this was one of her best experiences saying that she also fasted, prayed and read the Writings with them at sunrise and sunset!  All I could think and say was “Ya-Baha'u'l Abha!”  What a small world! 
She expressed her experience with such joy and sincerity that it was very touching, heartwarming and inspiring. Then, she continued and said it just makes sense to have the Fast and New Year at this time of the year, during the spring when everything is new.  
She also was very happy to be invited (which I was not planning to invite in the beginning!) to our community Naw-Ruz celebration with her husband, who is the principal at a local school and to bring her entire family. 
Her experience goes back to a long time ago when she was a student. Indeed, once again this story reassured and reminded me of God's will and that as Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha have said, our job is to sow seeds with detachment and trust!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Love of Christ

Baha’is in Alabama nurtured a soul whose heart is wed to Christ in order to help him understand that he is not giving up Christ by professing his belief in Baha’u’llah.

Joseph grew up in the Bible Belt of the South and has seen much racial prejudice and religious segregation. The Christian churches are gradually becoming more open but have very far to go. He wanted to better himself by overcoming the racial prejudice and religious intolerance that he’d observed in his life. He became inspired to investigate the Faith after searching into the background of a celebrity.
I decided to look up his Wikipedia site and found his organization Soul Pancake. I then saw him in an interview discussing the fact his parents raised him in that faith (Bahai). Everything about the faith seems great, and I would love to be able to separate myself from prejudices by becoming Baha'i.
Joseph started reading the Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book of Certitude). He was very happy to hear how Baha'u'llah fit in the sequence of Manifestations, especially with regard to Christ. He believed in Baha'u'llah but had questions about how to work through any feelings of abandoning Christ, and his lifelong being taught that Christ was the only way. He wrote:
It's like all your life being told you will go to hell if you don't believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and then trying to conceal all of that in one day. I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I'm going to continue to study and if you have any suggestions about where to start that will be much appreciated.
When Baha’is talked with Joseph they discussed a few passages in the Bible, putting the concept of coming to the Father through the Son in the context of Christ’s prophecies of future revelation and Baha’u’llah’s proclamation to Pope Pious IX referring to the Father, and His coming “unto the nations in His most great majesty.” They also shared about Baha’u’llah’s teachings on the death and resurrection of Christ.

Joseph was very excited about this decision. His Baha’i contact sent him more references to explore, including links to the international site and its reference library, so he can continue reading and become more familiar with the Writings of the Faith.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

God's Work

A Bahai children’s class teacher shares about the importance of involving new believer, Sylviya, in one of the core activities. Their first encounter was in a laundry mat during a door to door campaign. After some time Sylviya shares that she believes her long journey after suffering much hardship in her native country was to discover Baha’u’llah.
Sylviya and I arrived at 4PM and our host welcomed us. We decided to relocate to a nearby apartment because some children were already there. Also (there was) a new African family, two adults and 3 children from Burundi just 3 days in the country. The mother and her children attended class along with our regular attendees. Sylviya began devotions with a prayer in her native language which was followed by the children who sang many of their prayers. We reviewed all the quotes we learned from the summer classes and hoped to begin a new quote next week. This group excels at singing to memorize their quotes from Baha’u’llah which is so imbedded in their culture. The children are extremely eager to read in English. We had key words from quotes on flash cards and with Sylviya translating, explaining the meaning of the quote with these cards. The children benefited from Sylviya’s translation. She is at the heart of these classes. After class she insisted that we do home visits and visited 3 families with invitations to parents to join us.  
Her children have been attending Feast regularly but she had only come once with her husband months ago. She now understands the importance of Feast because her English has improved greatly in 2 years. She enjoyed Feast and seeing the Bahais that she remembers from long ago. She was part of the consultation, she sang a prayer in Swahili for devotions and chatted away, non-stop in English for the social refreshment hour. When I dropped her home she whispered in my ear that she was sooooooo happy! AND ME TOO!!!

There are certain to be challenges but we will overcome them, learn from them and grow in our Faith. And not only in numbers! Nothing, nothing can compare to God’s work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Over the course of three successive epochs, the Baha’i community has succeeded in establishing a pattern of life that promotes the spiritual development of the individual and channels the collective energies of its members toward the spiritual revival of society. Aja shares how a community of Baha’is mirrored what she wanted out of life in this story of her declaration.

I moved to New Jersey and started to foster a closer relationship with my Aunt Evelyn. Evelyn introduced me to the Faith and from the beginning I noticed the lives of the Baha’is in the community mirrored what I wanted out of my life. I attended all the events that I was able to; I could not imagine giving up that part of my life that the Baha’i Faith filled. The values and principles of the Baha'i Faith just felt natural to me. I already understood all the beliefs, because they made sense to me.
One night I was speaking with a community member and she asked if I was planning on declaring. It was that night that I decided to declare, but when was the question. It was the night before my aunt's birthday and I decided that the best surprise I could give to the person that introduced me to the Faith was to declare on her birthday. She not only introduced me to the Faith, but she is the person that I most try to emulate, the person that I try to be. My Aunt Evelyn is the on the Local Spiritual Assembly and she would see my declaration come through the National Spiritual Assembly.
That night I was frantically searching for a way to declare by the next day. I could not find any way to declare online that would guarantee that my declaration would go through by the next day. At that point I almost gave up, but I was contacted by another Bahai. After hearing my story, she was so excited for me and loved the idea of surprising my aunt so much, that she made sure my declaration card was registered that night. With her help I was able to declare on my aunt’s birthday, December 21st.

Evelyn, Aja and Nat