Teaching the Baha’i Faith has much to do with listening to people, understanding their thoughts and needs, and knowing when and how to share.
Here is the story of a man who learned about the Baha’i Faith from a guest at the Caribbean island resort where he works. After years of struggle with substance abuse, he began a spiritual search that led eventually to several Baha’is. The story involves caring and generosity, and also ways to clearly and effectively present the Baha’i Teachings.
The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, referred to direct teaching as “an open and bold assertion of the fundamental verities of the Cause,” with the goal of helping “in the eventual recognition by all mankind of the indispensability, the uniqueness and the supreme station of the Baha’i Revelation.”
To this guidance, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States adds in its February 20, 2008 letter: “The choice of method lies with the teacher, who must act with wisdom in all circumstances, according to his or her perception of the seeker’s receptivity.”
The seeker describes his past substance abuse and spiritual yearning, before learning about the Baha’i Faith:
For many years I had been searching for something to make me feel whole. I had always believed in God, but only called upon Him when I was deeply afraid or in bad trouble. (One day) I asked God for help. I told Him that I couldn't go on the way I was. That night I found myself in a hospital in the detox ward. (During therapy sessions) we often spoke of a Higher Power. I chose to call mine God. I attempted on a daily basis to get closer to God using prayer and meditation, but after six years I still felt something was missing. I needed something more.
In the course of his work on the island, he met a guest who is a Baha’i. Their friendship developed over time until she shared the Faith with him. Sensing his receptivity, the lady invited the seeker to her Latin American country for a visit. The seeker writes:
I'd never heard of it before. But every detail she revealed to me piqued my curiosity even further. I began to realize that this was what I'd been looking for all of this time. There was no aspect of the Baha’i Faith that I couldn't agree with. Some of their ideas I already believed in, others simply made perfect sense to me. She invited me to visit with her and some friends at her home. They are very spiritual people who made me feel so welcome. We had prayers every evening and I could feel my faith growing. My friend gave me some literature to study, one prayer book, and a meditation book.
After returning to his island, he was eager to meet more Baha’is. He searched an old phone book, and found a listing for the Baha’is on an island over 50 miles away. A Baha’i woman living there answered his telephone call.
I called and she was quite happy to hear from me. She was very interested in how I got her number. Apparently it wasn't in the newer phone books. She said it was more than a coincidence that I was able to get a hold of her. We talked for a bit, then she said a prayer over the phone. She also told me that there were two Bahai's on the island where I live. Since there are only about 150 people living here, I already knew them. We have started Ruhi together and I've been to their house for a Holy Day celebration.
The two Baha’is on the seeker’s home island also shared “Anna’s presentation” from Ruhi Book 6. In its February 20, 2008 letter, the U.S. National Spiritual Assembly writes:
Teachers in clusters around the world are finding “Anna’s presentation” from Book 6 of the Ruhi curriculum to be a helpful model for direct teaching. As teachers gain in experience, they learn to adapt the presentation according to individual circumstances. Yet the general content—comprehensive, clear, and forthright presentation, with a loving invitation to receptive souls to embrace the Faith—remains essentially the same.
This seeker gives a sincere account of the changes in his life after meeting Baha’is and investigating the Faith:
My life has changed so much for the better since I've found the Baha'i Faith. I no longer smoke cigarettes, or have anxiety problems that require medication. I have learned how damaging backbiting is and how important it is to avoid it at all costs. I understand the importance of daily prayer. I am no longer afraid of the future; I have some new-found life goals. My interest in helping my fellow man and especially those less fortunate than me has become a priority. I still have so much to learn, but I believe that is what life is about: always striving to learn more and become a better person.