Thursday, April 26, 2012

39 and Counting

A Bahá’í in New Hampshire asked that we share this inspiring story.  She wanted to encourage all of us to view each seeker and on-line declarant as a unique and wonderful soul with limitless and unknown potential. Here’s Jim’s story:
 I was so blessed that believers, still unknown to me, put Bahá’í books into the Hofstra University Library where I was working, with the faith and understanding that Bahá’u’lláh would guide seekers of truth to find those books and respond to His Message.
Of course, we didn't have Internet in those days (1970s) but one of the books did contain a contact address for the National Spiritual Assembly. I was so taken by Bahá’u’lláh's Teachings (although I did study on my own for six months before making a decision) that I wrote to the National Assembly requesting information on how to become a Baha'i.
The National Teaching Office sent me back a beautiful letter with a declaration card and told me to sign it, send it back and to consider myself a Baha'i from that point on.
I signed the card in April 1973. Local Baha'is, among them Rouhieh who met Abdu'l-Bahá, called me and invited me to the annual meeting and I met Bahá’ís for the first time. I was also elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly that night.
The rest is, as they say, history...
I just wanted to share that I am joyfully celebrating the 39th (that's right - thirty ninth) anniversary of my declaration of faith in Bahá’u’lláh.
Nothing has had a greater impact on my life than finding the Bahá’í Faith, so to whoever it was that placed those Bahá’í books in Hofstra University Library so many years ago, many, many, many thanks.  Those books led me straight to Bahá’u’lláh.
No teaching effort is ever wasted, not matter how small or seemingly insignificant.  Bahá’u’lláh knows how to use our sincere efforts in His service no matter how invisible or ineffective they may seem at the time.
Many thanks and much love to you all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Path

That the path of service upon which we are currently embarked “can be experienced and known, not only by one or two but by scores and scores” and that “ it belongs to the community” becomes increasingly apparent through stories shared by a Baha'i Seeker Response Coordinator in one region.
One by One -  Sharin was a Muslim woman who had married a Muslim man through an arranged marriage. The marriage did not work out, and she later married another Muslim man, who was less active in his faith.  When Lea, a Bahai, called Sharin to learn of her story, she shared that she had been frustrated and “tired of being stern and angry.”  She shared that she was stern with her children because that’s what she understood was her role as a Muslim mother but that she grew angry and frustrated with how it made her feel.    
She went onto the Web and searched the words “unity,” “love,” and “peace,” and for each one, the Bahá’í Faith came up. As she read more, she learned about the Faith and decided she wanted to be part of it. She started attending devotionals at the home of a St. Louis couple, and eventually declared. She shared with Lea that she removed her veil and “I felt such freedom.  For the first time, I felt like I could think for myself.”  
At a devotional gathering, she gave her 17 year old son a prayer book and encouraged him to read from it, which he did. Vern shared that “right away, the children saw in her a change and they too began to change.  They started to experience love in the household.”  How profound the impact of the Faith on this family!  
Sharin shared how she also began to picking up papers and trash and began sweeping the sidewalk outside her home. Her neighbors asked her what she was doing and she exclaimed that she was “making the neighborhood more beautiful.”  They too joined in and began to clean up the streets together.
Scores and Scores - While visiting via Skype with a Persian couple whom he met during a recent Pilgrimage, Vern learned that the couple was in the midst of celebrating Naw Ruz; they live in Australia. Vern and his Persian friend were taking an upgraded iPhone for a test drive.  
Vern began sharing some exciting news about recent seekers who had come in through the seeker response system.  Enamored by the stories, the Persian friend put him on visual Skype for the entire group of guests at this couple’s huge Naw Ruz celebration to hear. Vern shared about how the program works and some of the stories of the seekers.  
“You could see their eyes light up and the excitement build in each one of them!  How blessed I feel to share it with friends half way around the world—it’s a 13 hour difference between here and Australia!”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Youthful Impression

Baha'is from Virginia shared this story about Marla who declared online.  She recalled the first of many encounters with the Baha’i teachings coming from a Baha’i youth. 

Marla was raised in a Methodist family in Georgia but never felt content with her spiritual life.  The turning point happened in 2000 when she had finished graduate school and was working for the mayor’s office in a large city.  She was organizing a youth diversity summit.  The youth participating in the summit also mentioned that they needed to talk about diversity of religion.  Marla was working with six students from six different religions, one of whom was a 15 year-old Baha'i. When this young girl spoke about the Baha'i teachings, Marla thought to herself that this was what she believed but that she had never heard anyone articulate it before. She later asked the girl and her mother to give her more information. Marla moved to another city where she met a neighbor.  Marla told her neighbor about the Faith and the neighbor said to her that she was a Baha'i!  Marla moved again and attended a local Fair where Baha'is had a booth.  This time she was able to attend a study circle and form a lasting bond with a local Baha’i.