Monday, September 30, 2013

“I am a Christian, I am a Buddhist, and I am a Hindu. I’m all of those things because I am a Baha’i”

Casey registered her declaration online and is now enrolled. In her own words, she shared her story about how she found the Bahai Faith and what it has meant to her.  She is in her mid-20s.
I had been raised Catholic, but I wasn’t sure if that was where I fit in. I was (and still am) very open minded. I read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Jane English and Gia-Fu Feng), Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade, and The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto. I should note here, that I do not like reading very much. I studied religious buildings, modern and ancient. I lived in Italy for several months and saw many houses of worship; St. Peters, Pantheon, and countless other Catholic Churches. I even went to see the Pope speak at the Vatican. Between the ages of 16 and 23 I tried to get the most information I possibly could about different religions.
I met an amazing married couple while playing intramural volleyball in college. They were so nice and sweet and I just felt like I wanted to get to know them. So how do you get to know people in the 21st century? I sent them Facebook friend requests.
Under the “About me” section I saw a link to I thought to myself, “What is this religion? I have never heard of it before!” As I read through the main principles I just kept nodding my head and asking, “Did someone read my mind and create a religion just for me?” Of course I messaged them inquiring about the Faith telling them I was interested in learning more about it.
After making these new Baha’i friends, I started going to devotionals with them and I ordered books about the history of the Faith and basic principles. I read Thief in the Night and Half-Inch Prophecy by William Sears, and Christ and Baha’u’llah by George Townsend. Everything made sense . . . . I read it with an open mind and never doubted or questioned the “proof” Sears was giving me. Throughout this time I had been attending devotionals with my friends. I also joined a [study group for] Ruhi book 1 [on “Reflections on the Ife of the Spirit”]; there I made more amazing Baha’i friends.
I had been searching to feel closer to God. I thought maybe I should practice Buddhism, or maybe Hinduism. It wasn’t until I learned about the Baha’i Faith (through Facebook, ha!) that I really felt like I had found my home. I am a Christian, I am a Buddhist, and I am a Hindu. I’m all of those things because I am a Baha’i.
It took me quite a while to declare. Coming from a Catholic family, I had struggles with my family because they did not and still do not understand the Baha’i Faith. It was a big, scary thing to them. I explained the main principles to my parents who were receptive and agreed “How could you disagree with any of those?” They were skeptical of everything beyond the main principles. They didn’t understand how I could still believe in Jesus when I believed in Baha’u’llah. Yet, they do understand that I am an adult and they can’t force their beliefs on me. I am sure this will be a struggle for a while, but I’m optimistic.
My biggest concern was that I didn’t understand what “declaring” meant and what the point of it was. I kept studying, reading, praying and was involved in some Baha’i activities, so what is this card for? I realized, I already am a Baha’i… ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “To be a Bahá’í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.” How many Baha’is must there be that don’t know it yet? To register yourself as a Baha’i (at this time) you declare your belief in Baha’u’llah as the Manifestation of God for this age.  I had believed in Baha’u’llah for over a year, and had been living a “mostly” Baha’i life for years. I realized to declare was in one sense a big deal but in another sense not a big deal at all because I already was Baha’i. I wanted to be more involved so for me it made sense to declare. While talking with a member of the [local spiritual assembly] I learned that it is okay to declare being a Baha’i without knowing all the “rules”. No one is perfect and we are all learning. If I waited until I was the “perfect Baha’i” to sign my card I would never sign it!
This part is silly, but I waited until 9/19 to sign my card so my Baha’i-versary would be 9/19. I figured I already waited this long to sign it, what is a few more days?
Next, Baha’u’llah sent me a sign. The same day I declared that I was a Baha’i, I was at an event through my work. A woman randomly sat down next to me and introduced herself. She looked like she has a similar cultural background to me, but her name was unusual, so I asked her about it and she told me she is Baha’i. I was thinking, “You have got to be kidding me!” What are the odds to meet a female Baha’i in the same (traditionally male industry), the DAY I declared! What a confirmation. Amen."

“I have felt like I already was one for a very long time”

A Bahai in the great lakes area received word that Denise was interested in learning more about the Bahai Faith. Here is the story she shared about Denise’s journey in becoming a member of the Bahai Faith.
[She had] a college friend [who] was a Baha'i and although Denise listened out of respect, she was not interested. She went on to study theology and was very involved with the Christian ministry for decades but in 2006 she felt she needed more. Denise also had a Godmother who was a Baha'i and when she passed away a few years ago, Denise began "talking" to her Godmother. It was after this experience, out of the blue, Denise became interested in learning about the Baha'i Faith. Denise has [completed her study of Ruhi] book 1 and most of book 2, read three biographies about Baha'u'llah and a number of other Baha'i books and is now studying with a group of Baha'is, the Kitab-i-Iqan. She has thought of becoming a Baha'i for a long time. Today after their study session, Denise felt ready to become a believer.
Denise and the Bahai have connected several times and recently shared this note.
“Thank you for the very nice call and email. Thank you for all the books you mentioned. I found another book on death by Dr. Hatcher that I added to my wish list on Amazon that looked good. I especially liked his voice in the intro and would love to read it. Hopefully, I can find some give aways at the Baha'i center when I visit, as well. I've attached my book review that has been published in Retirement Living Magazine. I am looking forward to continuing my journey as an "official" Baha'i, as I have felt like I already was one for a very long time.


“This is the third declaration that has occurred in our community since we moved here”

Barbara, a local Bahai, has been opening her home to those interested in learning more about the Faith.  She shares exciting news of a new declaration.
“ . . . today Tammy, [whom] I met at my work, has been attending our Sunday morning gatherings at our home for the last year.  These gatherings are followed by Ruhi classes that run until the [afternoon].  We are in Section 1 of book 2 now . . . Tammy will be attending the Unit Convention on Sunday  . . . “


“I actually have ALMOST got to the point of giving up”

Stephanie had been on a search for spiritual truth for quite a while. Here is her story, in her own words.

I just discovered the Bahai Faith, an am very interested. I've been really searching/questioning/studying religions for the past 4 years, since taking a college class on religion. I was raised Christian, but am very unsatisfied with it. Can you send me some literature/books on the faith?

A Bahai reached out to Stephanie, once she made contact through  She left a simple note that said, “I would like to find out more.”  She was mailed a small introductory pamphlet and when she received it, she wrote back sharing more about her journey.

I attended a local college, where I took a religion course. It started me down a road that has shook up everything I was ever taught. For the past few years, I have been almost obsessively researching, studying, attending many religions. Searching for...well, I don't know WHAT exactly, but every faith, every religion seemed to either be prejudiced, cliquish, money-obsessed, or something that I KNOW a being that is capable of creation would not be about.

I actually have ALMOST got to the point of giving up. I believe in science and I believe in god. The 2 do not have to be mutually exclusive. But, the churches around here sure think so.

Well, I came to believe as I studied, that either: EVERY religion is wrong, or EVERY religion is right. No way could an intelligent creator say" hmm..only the Baptists are right, and I'm going to burn all the rest" ! Trying to talk about this with leaders of the churches I've attended left me feeling like I was trying to be hoo-dooed! Or worse, like I was a raving heretic!

So, when I read that the Baha'i Faith believes All the world's religions share a common source, I felt hope for the first time.

I would love to talk with some local Baha'i s. I live in the boonies . . .  lol, so I would guess there's none close to me! I understand there are no "clergy"?

Stephanie has had a few one-hour telephone visits and many shorter ones.  She completed the online form to register her declaration.  Her community shares that she “is extremely active in her community,” and “is a frank and truth-seeking individual.”    

Stephanie is now an enrolled member of the Bahai community.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm speaking for all 650 youths - Atlanta Youth Conference

I’m from Naples, Florida. I am writing this letter to the beautiful souls who made possible my wonderful experience at the Atlanta Youth Conference. I have no words to express my gratitude towards every single one of you, and of course God. I am so thankful and inspired by all that which took place this past weekend and I only hope I can live up to such grand expectations.

The conference was just unbelievable. The vibe all around that hotel was incredible. Everyone was so enthusiastic and eager to learn. At first, we didn’t know what to expect, we just knew this was a very special moment for all of us. All we could see was smiles and beautiful people. My sister and I were so please to see so many genuinely nice people around and how much they cared for us. That itself was very inspiring and touching for me. I am overwhelmed with emotion every time I think back on that weekend and about all the people that made it possible.

After reflecting back on this conference, I can honestly say this could very well have been one of the most important and influential weekends of my entire life, thus far. In this conference I finally fully grasped the concept of service. I’ve realized that God has entrusted my generation with one of the most vital task of them all: empower those around us and unify the world. The youth is expected to drive forward Baha’u’llahs’ Cause and I honestly felt this conference gave us the inspiration and empowerment needed to do just that. I, along with many others, have made the commitment to selflessly serve our communities. With the tools that the Universal House of Justice has facilitated for us, I believe we are more than ready to take on this task. I say this because after networking with many of my peer youth, we all concurred that if we don’t act and serve for the Cause, no one else will. It’s out time, the future of humankind is currently in our hands; and even though this is a heavy statement to make, I believe is also a blessing, and with God’s presence in our hearts and minds, I know we will come out victorious and leave this world a better place.

I’ve also gain consciousness to the fact that these few years of youth I’ve been granted are meant to serve God and humankind; and I plan on doing just that. I cannot take a year off of school at the moment to serve full time; however, in our next reflection gathering I plan on consulting my thoughts and ideas with the members of the community and set a date when we can start planning and implementing our plans onto the local communities. It is my deepest desire to serve this beautiful Cause; and I will do so restlessly, until the day my physical being gives up. But even then, I know that my soul will continue to serve this most important Cause.

From the most sincere and loving place of my heart, I thank you in the name of all us (my siblings, friends old and new) whom attendance to this magnificent conference you made possible. As I have stated previously, this Youth Conference has changed my life, and I am sure the same is true for the rest of the other 650 attendees. Thank you for all your help and support. I promise to return your kindness in the form of service and endless love for all.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Seattle Youth Conference - "An amazing experience!"

Gwen has been involved in the Baha'i community on and off for 6-7 years, and most recently attended the Seattle Youth Conference!  She first learned of the Faith from her Baha'i father-in-law when she began dating her husband.  Her husband stays involved in Baha'i activities though hasn't registered [his declaration].  At her husband's invitation, Gwen participated in Ruhi study circles while attending the University several years ago, and remained involved with the [Bahai College Club there] for some time.  After college, many of these friends moved away and her connection with the Baha'is lessened. Over the past year, Gwen has again become more involved.  She shared that she observes the Baha'i Fast and Holy Days, prays daily, and turns to the Kitab-i-Aqdas and [other] Baha'i Writings as the source of guidance for her life.  Gwen shared that attending the Youth Conference was an "amazing experience"!  It occurred to her that the only reason she hadn't registered her declaration to become a Baha'i was because she had never gotten around to it.  It was on her "to do" list today, and now is done!  Gwen is currently training to be a junior youth animator and is looking forward to attending more community activities, such as Feast with the Baha'i community.