Friday, February 22, 2013

Assisting Seekers of Truth – An “Amazing Experience,” Part 1

Last year, a self-described “outgoing” woman volunteered to follow-up in her Baha'i community with a seeker that was referred to her in her community. She describes the invitation to respond to a seeker who asked to learn more about the Faith as “ amazing experience.”

In its 2010 Ridvan message, having enumerated the main developments in the global Baha'i community, the Universal House of Justice describes “yet another advance at the level of culture,” a change with “far-reaching” implications: the importance of accompanying souls on their journey. The Supreme Institution writes about the merits of “accompaniment”:

It signals the significant strengthening of a culture in which learning is the mode of operation, a mode that fosters the informed participation of more and more people in a united effort to apply Bahá’u’lláh's teachings to the construction of a divine civilization, which the Guardian states is the primary mission of the Faith

The Baha'i reached out to the seeker, also a woman, and invited her to her home. Along with her husband, together they began a conversation like Anna (in Ruhi Book 6), sharing fundamental verities of the Baha'i Faith. After one session of looking together at the content in the “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit” (Ruhi Book 1), this Baha'i writes: “she declared.”

They met again, and this time the newly-declared Baha'i confided with her and her husband that she had a tragic, personal loss several years prior, and how the Bahai Writings provided her with comfort during a difficult time.

Later, after she had declared, she shared with us that after seven years of feeling no comfort, she felt so assisted by the Baha'i Writings and felt she was reading the Word of God. She said that in that moment she had made her decision to become a Baha'i,  it seemed as if the Concourse on High was guiding us to put what she needed into her hands.

The Baha'i writes that, “we presented her with two Writings from Abdu'l-Baha” regarding consolation.

Through accompaniment together, the journey continued for this new believer, as she later attended her first unity Feast with the Bahia community, and her own husband joined her. The Baha'i teacher shared the joy she observed about these new friends...

They were both radiant at the end and she commented that she would have a sore face tomorrow from all the smiling. They were overwhelmed with the love and the diversity of the friends.

The Universal House of Justice assures the Bahais of the transformative effect that the quality of relationships have among friends, and our communities:

In relationships among the friends, then, this development in culture finds expression in the quality of their interactions. Learning as a mode of operation requires that all assume a posture of humility, a condition in which one becomes forgetful of self, placing complete trust in God...
Through this Bahai, we can begin to see the quality of this interaction on her service to another...

I am an outgoing person and I cannot imagine a more exciting and rewarding service than assisting those who are seeking the Truth.

To be continued: Part 2 of Assisting Seekers of Truth

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Junior Youth: A Community Transforming the World

In cluster after cluster around the country, the friends are learning more about the merits of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program, and its influence on the community and the household.

The Universal House of Justice in its November 14, 2012 message writes:

The merit of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program lies, first and foremost, in its effectiveness at enhancing the power of expression and the quality of spiritual perception within its participants and in assisting them to develop the capabilities necessary for a life of meaningful service to their communities. Repeated accounts from officials, parents, and young people themselves testify to the power of the program to shape character and bring forth the praiseworthy qualities latent in junior youth.

Recently, a mother with three children registered her belief in the Baha'i Faith on line at, along with her children. She first heard about the Baha'i Faith when she was 10 years old from her sister who has now been a Baha'i for over 30 years.

Raised as a Roman Catholic, she eventually converted to Islam, and appreciated the Faith as a way of life and the restatement of spiritual laws brought by Muhammad.

She lived overseas while practicing Islam. However, she felt that she lacked a spirit of unity and community and looked up the Baha'is when she moved back stateside to the West Coast.

The regional seeker response coordinator in touch with this family of receptive souls shares:
One child participates in a junior youth group, and another child is attending the area toddler class. The mother is [also] already well connected to her local Baha'i community—attending a devotional gathering and participating in a Ruhi Book 1 study which she hosts in her home. As she has learned about Baha'u'llah, and His Teachings on progressive Revelation, she said ‘it all made perfect sense’ and she sees that she's been taking steps towards becoming a Baha'i all her life. She is so grateful that she and her children are now part of a community that is working to transform the world!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Enduring Results: “Everything made sense”

In its 28 December 2010 letter, the Universal House of Justice exhorts the Baha’is worldwide to:

hold fast to the conviction that a direct presentation of the Faith, when carried out at a sufficient level of depth and reinforced by a sound approach to consolidation, can bring enduring results.

A married couple living the western United States recently entered the Baha’i community along with their children. Both hail from different countries in Europe, and both benefited from a direct presentation of the Faith, along with official follow-up, which had wonderful and enduring results.

As you’ll see, the wife became attracted through online research, and the husband's interactions with his wife and the Baha’i responding to their inquiry helped him embrace the Faith.

Despite living in the U.S. since the 90s, the wife regularly watches television from her native country in Europe. Last year she saw on report on woman and an Iranian Baha’i who married. She was particularly impressed by what the groom said about the Baha’i principle of gender equality.

So impressed, in fact, that she started researching the Baha’i Faith online. The Baha’is who followed up on her inquiries reported her as saying that “what she found out was exactly what she's always believed.”

The response coordinator shared that she:

spent the entire day researching the Faith and knew all about the covenant, administrative order, and Baha'i laws, (e.g. prayer. and abstaining from alcohol). She really found out a lot and everything made sense to her. She mentioned the Twin Manifestations and that the Faith started in 1844. She was looking into the history of the Faith as well as the Teachings.

By the end of the same month, the wife declared her faith online and registered her children as well. In addition to her husband's interest and later enrollment, the wife's mother also registered online her interest in learning more about the Baha’i Faith.

In the same letter of December 28th, the House of Justice asks the Baha’is to “strain every nerve” to ensure that the system we are working so hard to build “does not close in on itself but progressively expands to embrace more and more people.” In light of this married couple's sincere and open attraction to the Baha’i Teachings, the next sentence that the House of Justice pens is quite poignant:

Let them not lose sight of the remarkable receptivity they found—nay, the sense of eager expectation that awaited them—as they gained confidence in their ability to interact with people of all walks of life and converse with them about the Person of Bahá’u’lláh and His Revelation.

The response coordinator did have the opportunity to speak with the husband about “the Person of Bahá’u’lláh and His Revelation,” in the form of Anna’s Presentation, from Ruhi Book 6. The coordinator noted that he agreed with everything, affirmed the Baha’i laws that they discussed, and spoke about obligatory prayer.

The husband shared that as he grew up he became more uncomfortable with his upbringing in church, and had always believed in the unity of religion and of humankind. After his wife's enrollment, he began to read several Baha’i books and speak with her about joining the Faith. After contact with the regional coordinator, they decided to confirm his enrollment!

The oneness of humankind was also key in the wife's acceptance of the Faith, as the coordinator learned. Her prior marriage was with an African American man, with whom she had several children. The elimination of prejudice, the coordinator related, is something that she has always believed in.

After his enrollment in the community, the husband shared:

My wife and kids just became members and I have decided to join the Baha'i Faith as well. Thank you very much for all the work!

And, indeed, our work entails creating a community large enough to answer the needs of society and accepting more new members like this family. The Universal House of Justice writes:

let them not forget the lessons of the past which left no doubt that a relatively small band of active supporters of the Cause, no matter how resourceful, no matter how consecrated, cannot attend to the needs of communities comprising hundreds, much less thousands, of men, women and children.