Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Had Baha’i Beliefs Before I Knew the Faith Existed

Sometimes we receive several blessings at once. A response coordinator shared this story about a youth who contacted her through an online conversation and then enrolled in the Baha’i community the same day. She then heard some wonderful news about the Baha’i community where the young woman who just declared resides.

The coordinator began the conversation by text...

Hello! I am a member of the Baha’i Faith responding to your inquiry. Do you have questions? I look forward to hearing from you.

The young woman then responded:

Yes, is it a requirement to go to a prayer circle or can I worship independently because there are no Baha`i centers near me?

The coordinator explained that worship is between an individual and God, and includes more than prayer. The youth texted back:

Can you clarify? I agree with all the central beliefs, I actually had all Baha’i beliefs even before I knew the Faith existed, but I don't understand what obligatory prayer is or if there are any special ways to worship.

The coordinator then explained obligatory prayer and community devotions:

Sure, there are obligatory prayers that a Baha’i must say once every 24 hours. There are three obligatory prayers and you can choose one of the three. We do not have congregational prayer, but we do have devotionals where people gather and pray together, people from all religions.

She then explained the wider concept of worship in the Baha’i teachings:

There are no clergy in the Baha’i Faith. Worship is not just prayer but every act you do that is conducive to the well-being of mankind and for the love of God is considered worship. Your profession, your art is a divine gift, and a form of service.

The coordinator included a link to an app for Baha’i prayers. The young woman then responded:

Thank you. I think I want to join the Faith. What should I do next?

The coordinator encouraged the youth to call her directly so that they could have a conversation about the fundamental verities of the Faith. She did and they talked for about an hour, and then joined the Baha’i community!

Not only are the youth’s parents supportive of her decision, but “out of the blue,” the coordinator received a call from a Baha’i in the very same community where the youth just declared.

The news? The Baha’is called to inform the coordinator that their community was able to form a Spiritual Assembly, the local Baha’i governing council, after several years. Though she is too young to be elected to the Assembly, she will receive the nurturing and support of a brand new one within her community!

The response coordinator wrote:

It just happened to be in the community this young lady who has just enrolled lives in! This is so typical of the Concourse on High assisting. I don't usually panic because Baha'u'llah is always there. (Sometimes I think I am just numb.)

In the book Paris Talks, ‘Abdu’l-Baha states:

In the Bahá'í Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are counted as worship. The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. (Paris Talks, p. 176)

SED: Creating community unity through the Drive-In Theatre

Irene shared this news about her community and a creative way that one volunteer stepped forward to create community unity using a Drive-In Theatre!
I'm thinking of another project getting little notice:  The [city] Drive -In Theatre.  It is an initiative of one quiet person . . . with a purpose of creating community unity within different neighborhoods . . .  [He] contacts the various neighborhood community centers and available fire stations and sets Saturday night dates with them during the summer in which he will bring video equipment and family theme movies, set up an outside screen or use the side wall of the center, advertise the film that will be showing, both in the neighborhood and online, inviting the neighbors to bring their lawn chairs, their children and come and meet their neighbors and watch free old favorite movies.  The community centers are hungry for this kind of service.  The project requires maintaining contact with local police patrols, community centers, fire station staff and local businesses, maintaining his personal equipment and developing a long and growing email contact list.  It is fun.

SED: Local activities that benefited charities and agencies like "Tail Wagging Tutors"!

Sharon from Florida shares news of activities that have been underway in her community . . . 
I was pleased and happy to complete the National Statistical Offices survey request for Social Economic Activities in [our] Cluster.   Over the past year there have been a number of projects reported to me as the Statistical Officer that exemplify this Baha'i Communities commitment to outreach.   We saw a number of one-time activities that benefited local charities and agencies like the collection of food, clothing, and sporting equipment.  There was the creation of beautiful crocheted blankets, braided bracelets and hand painted rocks for critical ill adults and children.  We have Baha’is sharing principals of love and unity in yoga classes and monthly picnics that stress the importance of friendship and community building.  We have teams of specially trained dogs and owners engaged in a weekly literacy program "Tail Wagging Tutors" at the local library that impact 20-40 children.   Each month a new virtue and song is emphasized so these children are being exposed to moral and spiritual concepts.  This project has been in place weekly for 20 months and without fail.  We have a second therapy dog team [nearby] that visit nursing homes, rehab and juvenile units to just bring a smile to those they meet.   A few of these activities were newsworthy and received newspaper coverage. 
Sharon also looks to the future and importance of information sharing . . .
All of these activities are a vital part of that spirit of Baha'u'llahs that ask us to be generous with our time and resources and to always help those in need.  It is wonderful that the Department of Statistics at the World Center is interested in our efforts.  As such I will encourage our local community to continue reporting these valuable and far reaching efforts.

Monday, May 13, 2013

SED: Youth support families in need

Bill shared the following social and economic development (SED) endeavors which arose from a local junior youth group . . .
I am a co-animator of a recently formed junior youth group. Our group has conducted a canned food drive for families in need. The cans collected were donated to a local food bank.
 The scope of service extends to the senior generation in the community
At the current time our group is working on a project to visit retirement homes and provide entertainment to the residents there.

Friday, May 10, 2013

SED: Examples of junior youth on the move!

Carla shared these endeavors with us that were born out of junior youth spiritual empowerment activities.  Each directly impact the larger community!
  • Potting plants to give to dementia patients in a nursing home
  • Using the quotes from Glimmerings of Hope for a potluck and devotional for the families of the junior youth
  • Making craft gifts for junior youths' mothers
  • Making puppy blankets for a pet rescue shelter
  • Volunteering at local 10,000 Villages by unpacking incoming crafts and helping sell items at their fund-raiser

SED: Our small community participated in a project to help the environment

Priscilla responded to our request for information about any social and economic development (SED) endeavors in her community, though her community is quite small. Here's what she shared . . .

Our community is very small.  But three years ago we decided to join hands with a local group [linked with a local] Civic Association which organizes monthly projects to help the environment. Only four of our community [members] have attended.  Activities we have participated in have been to help clear land to make a walkable forest preserve, take English ivy off trees, plant trees and bushes along the frontage of the property, and to help restore an old farmstead and the grounds around it. 

SED: We maintain a flower garden at the city park

Loretta shared this note about a sustained endeavor in her community . . .
Every year our [Bahai] community do[es] a city clean up [to] maintain a flower garden at the peace pole of the city park.

SED: Community teaching project with volunteer youth

Ken responded to the inquiry that was sent to him to report on any social and economic development (SED) endeavors in his community.  This is what he shared thus far . . .

Our granddaughter was involved last year with the community junior youth project under the direction of the [Local A]ssembly and Board members . . . It was a community teaching project with voluntee your from many communities.

SED: Helping to keep children safe

Richard responded to the national request for information about social and economic development (SED) endeavors about which he is aware.  This is what he shared . . .

[I have been involved with an endeavor for] about 34 years actually. [I have been] interacting with various government agencies vis-a-vis infrastructure, specifically road and neighborhood hazards, such as inadequate signage, conflicting signals and signs, pedestrian safety and the use of media to educate and inform the public of ways to help themselves and their children be safe.

SED: A Bahai-inspired educational endeavor CGIE!

Keyvan responded to the request for information about social and economic endeavors (SED) in his community.  He shared this with us!
"[I] do have had a non profit Baha'i inspired educational organizations called Center for Global Integrated Education (CGIE). We do have trainings and working with college interns to facilitate integrated education of children and their parents, junior youth and youth and empower the community at large through it.

You can see some of our activities on our two websites and Facebook

The mission of Center for Global Integrated Education, Inc. (CGIE) as a non-profit organization is . . . 
to develop, support, and promote integrated educational programs and materials; to foster the development of full human potential; encourage the preservation of global natural resources; and inspire the creation of unity among diverse peoples of the world.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Part 2: Precious Souls Engaged in Community Building

In the first blog about a dynamic new Baha’i couple in the Plains states, a member of the Auxiliary Board remarked: “It’s exciting that these precious souls are so engaged in the community building and learning processes.”

Another member of the Auxiliary Board met the married couple and shared: “…they are great—truly a gift from Baha'u'llah!! Their presence bodes well for establishing a sustained program of growth” in their new town, where they chose to pioneer and help found a Baha’i community.

A Baha’i friend shares how the couple continued to study the Faith online, after their original contacts in the community moved away.

Their friends moved and they didn't know where to investigate the Faith. They found the Faith on the web. They have been studying the Faith for about two months on their own. They were asking questions in their (previous) church about all the people in the world that were not Christians and why they are condemned to hell because they didn't believe in Christ. They were told that if they didn't stop asking the questions they would be asked to leave the church. So, here she is seeking out the Baha'is. I told them that if they wanted to register as Baha'is they could do that online too.

In their original online contact, the couple wrote to the Baha’i community: “We have been doing research on the Faith, and believe that this may be the right path for us and would like information on the religion, and how to possibly convert.”

In Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, we read:

Wert thou to consider this world, and realize how fleeting are the things that pertain unto it, thou wouldst choose to tread no path except the path of service to the Cause of thy Lord. None would have the power to deter thee from celebrating His praise, though all men should arise to oppose thee.” ~ Baha'u'llah