(US – TX/ New Zealand, 2010)

In this recording of a talk given by the late Dr. Peter Khan in New Zealand 2010, he tells the fascinating and instructive story of a Baha’i teacher who was able to teach and confirm a number of people where he lived despite his inability to communicate with them in their language.

Listen to the 6 minutes starting from 57min14sec (it is set to start automatically from there at this link:)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMDFaES2cGs&list=UUiOOGHNiUXXzMQjYAoYHZwQ#t=57m14s

until 1hr3min40sec.

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When the friends do not endeavour to spread the message, they fail to remember God befittingly, and will not witness the tokens of assistance and confirmation from the Abhá Kingdom nor comprehend the divine mysteries. However, when the tongue of the teacher is engaged in teaching, he will naturally himself be stimulated, will become a magnet attracting the divine aid and bounty of the Kingdom, and will be like unto the bird at the hour of dawn, which itself becometh exhilarated by its own singing, its warbling and its melody.

- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections, #211

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 Praise be to God that the teachings of God are revoiced, the light of reality has dawned again, the effulgence is increasing daily, and the radiance is shining more gloriously in the zenith. From the cloud of mercy a deluge is descending; the Sun of Reality is brilliant in its eternal station.

Again we are hopeful that the same springtime may pitch its tent and that these boundless bestowals may appear once more among us. Through your efforts and sincerity this is made possible. If you arise in the Cause of God with divine power, heavenly grace, the sincerity of the Kingdom, a merciful heart and decisive intention, it is certain that the world of humanity will be entirely illumined, the moralities of mankind will become merciful, the foundations of the Most Great Peace will be laid, and the oneness of the kingdom of man will become a reality. This is the great bounty I desire for you, and I pray and supplicate the divine threshold, imploring in your behalf.

O Thou merciful God! O Thou Who art mighty and powerful! O Thou most kind Father!

These servants have gathered together, turning to Thee, supplicating Thy threshold, desiring Thine endless bounties from Thy great assurance. They have no purpose save Thy good pleasure. They have no intention save service to the world of humanity.

O God! Make this assemblage radiant. Make the hearts merciful. Confer the bounties of the Holy Spirit. Endow them with a power from heaven. Bless them with heavenly minds. Increase their sincerity, so that with all humility and contrition they may turn to Thy kingdom and be occupied with service to the world of humanity. May each one become a radiant candle. May each one become a brilliant star. May each one become beautiful in color and redolent of fragrance in the Kingdom of God.

O kind Father! Confer Thy blessings. Consider not our shortcomings. Shelter us under Thy protection. Remember not our sins. Heal us with Thy mercy. We are weak; Thou art mighty. We are poor; Thou art rich. We are sick; Thou art the Physician. We are needy; Thou art most generous.

O God! Endow us with Thy providence. Thou art the Powerful. Thou art the Giver. Thou art the Beneficent.

                                                                                    .

- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 55-56

(US – CA, 1912)

Notes from ‘Abdu’l-Bahás words on teaching and divine inspiration to a few youth in San Francisco, 23 October 1912. The talk He encourages them to memorize is found here.

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These young ladies have asked Me how to teach and the method of teaching. I have told them a few days ago, and now I will recapitulate.

You must first be assured of the fact that whosoever heralds the Cause of God, the Kingdom of Abha, will be confirmed. This has been tried heretofore. Whosoever has stepped forth in this arena, the hosts of the Supreme Concourse have aided. He has been confirmed and assisted. He has achieved extraordinary progress. Upon him the door of Knowledge has been opened. His eyes were opened, and the Breath of the Holy Spirit aided him, and he was instrumental in guiding others. It has been tried. No one has advanced toward this Cause without receiving this confirmation.

Secondly: when a man sings a beautiful melody, he, himself, more than his audience, will be moved by his song. Hence, when a man commences guiding souls, when he expounds the Teachings, he, himself, will experience keenly the sense of joy.

Thirdly: everything in the world of existence is limited. There is nothing which is unlimited, except the eternal confirmation of God, and that eternal confirmation of God through teaching, will be attained by man.

Consequently, His Holiness Christ says, when you speak that which is in your heart, you are inspired to say, that you must expound, and that is the Breath of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I say to you, and to all of you: If you seek the eternal Bestowal, teach. If you seek entrance at the Threshold of God, teach. If you seek eternal glory, teach. If you wish to win eternal life, teach. If you wish the supremacy of heaven, teach. And be confident that confirmation will attend you and that Divine assistance will uphold you. Because it has been tried many, many times.

But it requires firmness, it requires steadfastness. Consider the disciples of Christ, and their steadfastness. They were exposed to the sword, and they were not afraid; they were firm and steadfast. When a man drinks from a fount of salubrious waters, naturally he wants to convey the water to others. If a man reaches a tree bearing luscious fruits, he wishes to enjoy them with others. If a man hears a beautiful voice, he wishes others to hear it also.

If you seek to attain the everlasting bounties, and occupy yourselves conveying the message of God, and to be the means of guiding souls, do not look at your capacity, do not look at your [deserts]. If Peter had looked at his own capacity, he would have remained a fisherman. He was quite devoid of knowledge. But he did not look at his own capacity. Nay, rather, he looked at the divine bounty. And you must not look at your own capacity. You must not say that you are young, that you have not entered college, that you have not attained an extraordinary education. Nay, rather, consider the bounties of the Kingdom of Abha. What beautiful fruits are produced by the black soil. This is not due to the capacity of the soil, but because of the great heat of the sun and of the rain from the clouds. Likewise, you must not say that you are dust. Nay, rather, you must look at the effulgence of the Sun of Reality, which ever shines upon you. You must look at the cloud of the Kingdom that ever pours down its rain upon you. You must feel the breeze of Providence that ever blows toward you.

We three sat spellbound as ‘Abdu’l-Baha impressed upon us in simple and beautiful language the great importance of teaching the Faith and assured us of wonderful confirmations. For a moment, as we remained seated, I silently prayed that I would ever remain firm and steadfast. Then we stood, and just as the Master started to leave the room, I asked Him what I should teach. He smilingly replied, “Memorize the talk I gave at Stanford University.”

(Brown, Ramona Allen, Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – Recollections of the Early Days of the Bahá’ís of California, pp. 79-80)

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Notes from a talk by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on differing approaches to delivering the Message.

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Limited and unlimited teaching

About teaching. You may teach in two ways. One way is limited teaching; another way is the unlimited teaching.

Teaching in a limited way consists of the following, namely: explaining the proofs and evidences in regard to the principles of Baha’u’llah, quoting prophecies from the Old and New Testaments, stating that that Day has come. Moreover the intellectual proofs and evidences are this and this, etc. The principles of Baha’u’llah have been set forth with such potency and penetration that no one can deny them. While He was in prison, He was in chains, and He wrote important Epistles to the Kings and Rulers of the world. All that which He wrote in these letters came to pass later on. The Tablets of Baha’u’llah do exist quoting therein wonderful signs which appeared to Baha’u’llah during the various periods of His life.

While in prison He withstood two despotic kings, and He gained victory over both. In prison He raised His Banner, He spread His Teachings and spiritually defeated two despotic kings. They could not prevent the spread of His Teachings. In brief, while in prison, He raised the Ensign of His Principles. This is impaneled in the history of the world. Such dominion appeared from Him, and such potency manifested from His personality. There are many instances of such, and when a person explains these things, He is guiding. He is teaching, He is crying out. This is teaching in a limited sense [!].

Teaching in an unlimited sense consists of the following and is very good, very great: the teacher himself (or herself) becomes the standing proof of Baha’u’llah — that he (or she) may become a miracle of Baha’u’llah with such power and such knowledge and desire such actions and such words and character, and such heavenly powers, that you may live amongst the people, that you may be a proof, undeniable proof, of Baha’u’llah.

If someone ask: “What is the proof of Baha’u’llah?” one may say such a person — there is the proof; look at her. Baha’u’llah has educated this person. He has awakened this soul. He has quickened this life. He has made this person a speaker; He has given her knowledge, made her holy, made her sanctified — a shining light — He has made her a sun.

This is the unlimited teaching.

(Brown, Memories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 66-67)

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A fascinating story of how the Beloved Master’s intuition guided him to find a receptive soul and teach him, in this case indirectly, about one of the fundamentals of religion, namely the reality and existence of the spiritual world, and of the superiority of that dimension over the material one.

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The Master and the museum watchman

While ‘Abdu’l-Baha was in New York City in 1912, Juliet Thompson recorded the following touching incident, reminding us of so many mystical things in life on which one needs to ponder:

On Monday, 9 July, the Master invited me, with the Persians to go to the Natural History Museum. It was a broiling afternoon and I couldn’t imagine why He should want to go to that Museum, and in the hottest part of the day. But wherever He went, there I wanted to be.

When we reached the Ninth Avenue corner of the Museum the Master, exhausted by that time, sank to a low stone ledge to rest. Between us and the main door on the Central Park corner stretched a long cross-town block in glaring sun, not a single tree on the sidewalk.

“My Lord,” I said, “let me try to find a nearer entrance for You.” And I hurried along the grass, keeping close to the building, searching the basement for a door. The employees’ entrance was locked. Just beyond stood a sign: “No Thoroughfare.” I was rushing past this when a shrill whistle stopped me, and I turned to face the watchman of the grounds. He was a little bent old Jewish man with a very kind face.

“Oh excuse me,” I said, “for breaking the rules, but I must find a nearer door than the main one. See Who is sitting on that ledge! I must find it for Him.”

The watchman turned and looked at the Master, looked and looked, at that Figure from the East, from the Past — the Days of the Old Testament — and his eyes became very soft. “Is He a Jew?” he asked.

“A descendant of Abraham.”

“Come with me,” said the watchman. “Ask Him to come with me.”

I went over and spoke to the Master and He rose and followed with the Persians, I dropping back to walk with them. There was not a nearer entrance, but the watchman, taking a risk perhaps, led us across the grass, where at least it was cooler and the way shorter.

In the Museum we passed through a room in which a huge whale hung from the ceiling. The Master looked up at it, laughed and said: “He could hold seventy Jonahs!”

Then He took us straight to the Mexican exhibit, and this seemed to interest Him very much. In the great elaborately carved glyphs standing around the room He found traces of Persian art and pointed them out to me. He told us this sculpture resembled very closely the ancient sculpture of Egypt. “Only,” He said, “this is better.” Then He took me over to the cases where He showed me purely Persian bracelets.

“I have heard a tradition,” I said, “that in the very distant past this country and Asia were connected.”

“Assuredly,” answered the Master, “before a great catastrophe there was such a connection between Asia and America.”

After looking at everything in the Mexican rooms, He led us to the front door and out into the grounds again. Then, stepping from the stone walk to the grass, He seated Himself beneath a young birch tree, His back to us, while we stood behind Him on the flags. He sat there a long time, silent. Was He waiting for someone? I wondered.

While He — waited? — the old watchman stole quietly up to me from the direction of the Museum.

“Is He tired?” he whispered. “Who is He? He looks like such a great man.”

“He is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of Persia,” I said, “and He has been a great Sufferer because of His work for the real Brotherhood of Man, the uniting of all the races and nations.”

“I should like to speak to Him,” said the watchman. And I took him over to the tree under which the Master still sat with His back to us.

At the sound of our footsteps He turned and looked up at the watchman, His brilliant eyes full of sweetness.

“Come and sit by Me,” He said.

“Thank You, Sir, but I am not allowed.”

“Is it against the rules for Me to sit on the grass?”

The old man’s eyes, softly shining, were fixed on the Master. “No, You may sit there all day!”

But the Master rose and stood beneath the tree.

Such pictures as I see when the Master is in them could never be put upon canvas — not even into words, except by the sublimest poet — but I always want to try at least to leave a trace of their beauty. The Master, luminous in the sunlight, His white robe flowing to the grass, standing beside the white slender trunk of the birch tree, with its leafy canopy over His head. The Jewish watchman standing opposite Him — so bent, so old — his eyes, like a lover’s, humbly raised to the face of his own Messiah! As yet unrecognized, his Messiah, yet his heart worshiped.

Eagerly he went on, offering all he could think of to this Mysterious One Who had touched him so deeply.

“You didn’t see the whole of the Museum. Would You like to go back after You have rested? You didn’t go up to the third floor.” (Unseen by us he must have been following all the time.) “The fossils and the birds are up there. Wouldn’t You like to see the birds?”

The Master answered very gently, smiling.

“I am tired of travelling and looking at the things of this world. I want to go above and travel and see in the spiritual worlds. What do you think about that?” He asked suddenly, beaming on the old watchman.

The watchman looked puzzled and scratched his head.

“Which would you rather posses,” continued the Master, “the material or the spiritual world?”

Still the old man pondered. At last he brought forth: “Well, I guess the material. You know you have that, anyway.”

“But you do not lose it when you have attained the spiritual world. When you go upstairs in a house, you don’t leave the house. The lower floor is under you.”

“Oh I see!” cried the watchman, his whole face lighting up, “I see!”

After we parted from the watchman, who walked with us all the way to the Ninth Avenue corner, leading us again across the grass, I began to blame myself for not inviting him to the Master’s house, forgetting that the Master Himself had not done so. Every day I meant to return to the Museum to tell the old man where the Master lived, but I put off from day to day.

When, at the end of a week, I did run over to the Museum, I found a young watchman there, who seemed to know nothing of the one he had replaced.

Had our friend “gone upstairs?”

Why had the Master visited a Museum of Natural

History in the hottest hour of a blistering July day? Had He instead visited a soul whose need was crying out to Him, to open an old man’s eyes so that he might see to climb the stairs, to take away the dread of death?

(Many years later, in 1947, Juliet wrote: There may have been two meanings to that visit to the Museum and the second meaning I could not have thought of till 1940, when I became so deeply involved in the Bahá’í work in Mexico and completely at one in heart and spirit with the believers there.) (The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

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Under all conditions the Message must be delivered, but with wisdom. If it be not possible openly, it must be done quietly. The friends should be engaged in educating the souls and should become instruments in aiding the world of humanity to acquire spiritual joy and fragrance…

Souls are liable to estrangement. Such methods should be adopted that the estrangement should be first removed, then the Word will have effect. If one of the believers be kind to one of the negligent ones and with perfect love should gradually make him understand the reality of the Cause of God in such a way that the latter should know in what manner the Religion of God hath been founded and what its object is, doubtless he will become changed; excepting abnormal souls who are reduced to the state of ashes and whose hearts are like stones, yea, even harder.

- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets, p. 391)

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Source: http://bahaistories.blogspot.it/2012/06/master-and-museum-watchman.html

(UK, 30 April 2012)

The newly elected National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom write in a spirited report to the Baha’is of the UK after their National Convention:–

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At the Convention, the National Spiritual Assembly shared some reflections that emerged from its consultation at its first meeting, held together with Counsellor Shirin Fozdar-Foroudi… The Assembly conveyed its heartfelt wish that the efforts of each and every believer exerted towards the growth and development of the Faith is recognised, cherished and valued.  In their 28 December 2010 message, the Universal House of Justice give a very clear description of how “to generate a movement” of a population “towards the goal of a New World Order”.  They envisaged this movement as a “continuum” which starts with a simple conversation with someone about the Faith with the object of creating within that soul a desire to serve Bahá’u’lláh and humanity and to build their capacity to do so. This continuum eventually leads to a more complex “programme of growth”.  It is a beautiful and profound path that begins with a meaningful conversation.  We are all striving to walk the path of service as described by the Universal House of Justice.  Our unique circumstances bring us to this path in different ways and reflection on our personal circumstances and our actions – alone and with others – enables us to progress along this path towards the stupendous vision before us. In this effort we, the Bahá’ís, need to love each other, support each other, cherish and value each other, as much as we do our community of interest.

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Counsellor Shirin Fozdar-Foroudi continued this theme in her subsequent address…  She reminded us that the process of growth needed simple steps and that we need to ask ourselves: “How do we link the steps we are taking to enable those that we are working with to connect to the process of spiritual transformation?”  It is Bahá’u’lláh who is the Divine Physician, the Counsellor reflected, and it is He Who has “His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy.”  Each of us, in whatever situation we find ourselves, can reflect on how we can offer the Divine remedy in light of the guidance of the Universal House of Justice in their 28 December message.  In doing so, we should turn to the institutions of the Faith for help; likewise, the institutions of the Faith need to ask for the help of the friends.  Both sides need to learn to reach out. This is a demonstration of love.

In concluding, the Counsellor left us with these beautiful words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Master, whose spirit imbued the entire proceedings of Convention given the special Centenary period we are celebrating:

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Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings.

Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul.

Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things.

Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next.

Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul.

Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms.

Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe.

Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation.

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- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, SWA 27-28

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(Emphasis has been added.)

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From the latest Ridván message of the Universal House of Justice encouraging systematic application on behalf of the Baha’is’ of learnings being gained as a result of the friends’ dedicated efforts in pursuit of the goals of the Plan.

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Our supplications, offered at the Threshold of an All-Bountiful Providence, are for the assistance of the Supreme Concourse to be vouchsafed to every one of you in contributing to the progress of the Plan. Our fervent desire, bolstered by witnessing your consecrated efforts during the past year, is that you will intensify your sure-footed application of the knowledge you are acquiring through experience. Now is not the time to hold back; too many remain unaware of the new dawn. Who but you can convey the divine message? “By God,” Baha’u’llah, referring to the Cause, affirms, “this is the arena of insight and detachment, of vision and upliftment, where none may spur on their chargers save the valiant horsemen of the Merciful, who have severed all attachment to the world of being.”

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(Emphasis has been added. Read the full message here: http://messagesbahaiworldcentre.blogspot.com/2012/04/universal-house-of-justice-ridvan-2012.html)

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The 1 January 2011 message from the Universal House of Justice addressed to the Bahá’ís of the world gives a succinct summary of the nature of the activities the friends are striving to accomplish in service to their Faith:–

It is hard to express in words how much love for you has been shown in these few, fleeting days [of the Continental Counsellors' conference]. We praise God that He has raised up a community so accomplished and render thanks to Him for releasing your marvellous potentialities. You it is who, whether in collective endeavours or individual efforts, are presenting the verities of the Faith and assisting souls to recognize the Blessed Beauty. You it is who, in your tens of thousands, are serving as tutors of study circles wherever receptivity is kindled. You it is who, without thought of self, are providing spiritual education to the child and kindly fellowship to the junior youth. You it is who, through visits to homes and invitations to yours, are forging ties of spiritual kinship that foster a sense of community. You it is who, when called to serve on the institutions and agencies of the Cause, are accompanying others and rejoicing in their achievements. And it is all of us, whatever our share in this undertaking, who labour and long, strive and supplicate for the transformation of humanity, envisioned by Baha’u’llah, to be hastened.

- The Universal House of Justice (view the full message here)

Two anecdotes from the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regarding teaching – not to be taken as His authentic words – not authoritative – but they convey the spirit we are called upon to nourish in our hearts!

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The Master made it quite clear that people of very different capacities were qualified to teach this great Faith, each in his own way. John David Bosch, who had come to America from Switzerland, felt that he could not be a speaker—instead he circulated pamphlets and books. The Master encouraged him: ‘You are doing very well; you are doing better than talking. With you it is not words or the movement of the lips; with you it is the heart that speaks. In your presence silence speaks and radiates.’

(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 59)

*

Once, in the early days, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sent an eager believer there to ’sow the seed, deliver the Message.’ The man went, and two years later returned very discouraged. “I have sown the seed. I have delivered the Message through the length end breadth of India and they will not listen. Not one single soul has declared his belief in Bahá’u’lláh! What shall I do now?” And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said rather sternly, “Go back and sow the seeds. I did not tell you to gain believers. I told you to sow the seeds.”

(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 39)

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Some illuminating reflections on, and pointers about the teaching process as seen in different localities and situations through nine stories. The list of learnings at the end nicely summarizes the varying experiences gained through the teaching process.

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Spiritual conversations build bonds, confidence

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May 31, 2011
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A children’s class in a New York [State town], arose from spiritual conversations after [this] couple…resolved to bring the core activities to their neighborhood. [They] began with simply inviting neighbors and Bahá’ís for devotions and socializing; now the regular class involves neighborhood participants (some invited by children) as well as Bahá’í families who support the effort.

Baha’is in the…area are discovering anew the joys of spiritual conversation.

Inspired by reflection at the start of a new cycle of outreach to area residents, they looked for opportunities to share how Baha’u’llah’s teachings can change lives and build community, says M…

Oh, did they find opportunities! Quite literally everywhere — in a chapel, a farmer’s market, a chiropractor’s office — as several of them share below, in their own words.

Story 1: Comforting words in a comforting place

A dear Baha’i friend wrote the following words as she encouraged my first tentative steps:

“The heavenly hosts will be with you! The Lord of Lords will be with you! All the angels will descend upon you! And you will feel the light of the spirit like you never have because you stretched so far.”

Since that letter, I’ve been thinking about those heavenly hosts, about the Lord of Lords, and about all those angels! I admit, it’s pretty intimidating to think they are waiting for me to do something.

On the first day I try this approach, with angels close at hand,  I chat with a co-worker. We talk about gardens and nature but, no matter what I say, the conversation doesn’t go any further.

Disappointed, I walk into our Catholic chapel (part of our nursing home) and pray to the Concourse: “Where are you? I need your help!”

As I leave, I gather my courage and introduce myself to a Catholic nun whose office is at the back of the chapel. I learn that it is the anniversary of the death of her niece, who was killed in a car accident at the age of 8.

We talk about the nature of the soul and about life after death. Somehow or other (with the angels nudging me), I say that I’m a Baha’i. She’s never heard of the Faith so I tell her about Baha’u’llah as we sit inside a Catholic church.

She gives me a big hug when we part. I plan to give her a Baha’i prayer written on a card, in memory of her niece. Coincidentally, I now see her all the time!

Story 2: A not-at-all-wrenching experience

At the last cluster reflection meeting, I was able to find and be part of a teaching team for the first time ever.

We talked about what we could do together and the first commitment was to say prayers together every day, even if it had to be over the phone. I found this very supportive.

I then got sick with a bad cold and I couldn’t get together for the prayers in person, nor could I go out walking in the neighborhood with my teaching team like we planned. But the intention of reaching out to people stayed with me.

That first week, we had to call a plumber to our home. He was very conversational about the affairs of the world and was really concerned about the world.

Because I was sick, I normally would have gone back to bed while he was doing his work. Instead, I prayed for guidance as to how I could bring up the Faith in a way that was natural.

When he finished his work, I said: “Even though the world has so many problems, I have a lot of hope. What gives me hope is the Baha’i Faith. Have you ever heard of it?”

He was curious about the Faith, so I gave him a teaching card with a picture of the Shrine of the Bab and contact information if he wanted to learn more. He seemed really excited and said he was going to look it up.

I felt as if Baha’u’llah had given me a wonderful gift. Having gone to the cluster meeting, I received the support of my teaching team as we shared our intention of teaching others.

It helped me rise above my illness so that I could see the teaching opportunity more clearly. We always talk about meeting receptive souls. The cluster meeting helped me become more receptive to teaching!

Story 3: An invitation and a realization

My teaching team is planning to host devotional gatherings for our neighbors. We want to keep them small and intimate, and invite our friends and neighbors who are not Baha’is.

But, first, we have to invite someone to attend! I decided to summon up my courage and invite a neighbor whom I know only a little.

She had come to an Ayyam-i-Ha party in 2010. Except for what was written on that invitation, I have not told her anything about the Faith.

I saw her pull her car into the parking lot and decided to invite her; one of our teaching team members continued walking, silently saying the Greatest Name.

As I told her our plans to share prayers and sacred writings together with our neighbors, she became very enthusiastic and said: “Of course! It’s so much better to pray together than praying alone!”

Why hadn’t I ever asked her sooner? What a lesson I’ve learned. I plan to continue my personal teaching expansion phase even after the cluster’s expansion phase ends!

Story 4: Making a connection via the Covenant

On my way to a Ruhi Book 8 class, I was approaching the Baha’i Center from the museum parking lot down the street and noticed three men walking toward me.

Two kept walking by but one stopped right in front of the Center and was looking toward the door.

As I approached him, I decided to say hello and added, “I see you’re looking at the Baha’i Center. I’m taking a class there at one o’clock.”

He actually asked what the class was, and I said we were studying the covenant between God and humanity.

And then he asked, “Which covenant is that?” (Great question!) I said it was the Covenant of Baha’u’llah, who was the founder of the Baha’i Faith.

Anyway, we chatted a bit more, and he said he knew a couple of Baha’is but couldn’t remember their names. With a bit more conversation, I identified them!

He then said he’d have to learn more about the Faith sometime. Since his friends were waiting for him, I offered to go inside and get him a book; then I suggested he come inside with me. (I didn’t want him to leave.)

So he was then greeted by all the class members while I got the book. Ironically, they were sharing teaching stories for this expansion phase!

We went back outside and I wrote my contact information inside the book, and he went on to catch up to his friends.

I found out the next night that he’ll be seeing those two Baha’is he knows this coming weekend!

Story 5: Discussion, here and now, of the afterlife

My goal has been to walk in my neighborhood to meet people I don’t know and to mention the Faith to them. Today I said a teaching prayer and went out for my walk.

It was mid-afternoon so there weren’t many people outside. However, there was one woman out weeding her garden.

She began the conversation by saying something like, “What a wonderful day the Lord has made.” I kept thinking about how I could bring the Faith naturally into the conversation.

She moved the conversation to the strength of the mother of the little boy who had recently died on the school playground. Her sister had also recently passed away after painful complications from diabetes.

I shared with her that I was a member of the Baha’i Faith and that I believed that God was like the gardener who knows what is best for the plant. He moves it to the place where it can grow and flourish. She agreed.

We talked about taking our good qualities with us into the next life and how we can pray for those in the next world as they can pray for us. At the end of the conversation I found out that she is 85 years old and still living in her own home.

She ended the conversation by saying, “I made a new friend today.” I told her I had, too.

I learned that I need to prepare prayerfully, begin to walk, and trust that those who are receptive will be in my path. I plan to go back to visit her again.

I would like to say prayers for her sister. Next time I would like to mention Baha’u’llah’s name and share a quote from the Writings.

Story 6: Seeds planted at a farmer’s market

Saturday was the first day for our community’s farmer’s market, and I was looking forward to going.

Two other Baha’is came with me. It was the first time all three of us were doing something together.

I noticed a lady [of another race] looking at the same plant I had an interest in. We started to ask each other if we knew anything about this particular plant.

Just then another woman came in front of us and picked up the plant we were discussing, announcing sweetly she had just bought it.

For some reason, this lady and I started laughing about what just happened. Then we started talking.

She is a relocated, retired educator from California who wasn’t planning on going to the market that day. She lives nearby and wanted to take a shortcut through the parking lot.

She said she didn’t know why she stopped when she had an errand that she wanted to do someplace else. Fairly soon after the four of us were talking, she asked if we were Christians.

We told her we are Baha’is. She asked for a little background on the Baha’i Faith, then said, “This is of God.” She said she thought God brought us together for her to meet each of us.

The conversation shifted, and she told us a little bit of her life. At one point she said she had “chutzpah” when working with a difficult principal who seemed to like her gutsy spirit.

I said I’m going to have “chutzpah” and invite you to something I think you might like. I told her about the Unity Night (at the Baha’i Center) that was going to be held that very evening.

We all invited her and she came. She liked the talk.

Toward the end, the speaker discussed a social experiment where one participant interacted with another participant of a different race.

At first their anxiety levels were high. As the participants continued with more interactions, their anxiety levels lowered.

She leaned over to me and asked if there was any anxiety in our interaction. She seemed to expect the answer I was about to give her: ”None.”

Story 7: An appointment with receptivity

During the expansion phase, I had an appointment with my chiropractor. He is a capable and caring doctor, but I’ve never thought about sharing the Faith with him.

Could I tell him about Baha’u’llah? I had to try. I prepared in advance by praying and by bringing a few small teaching cards, writing the Baha’i website on them.

As I was getting adjusted in his office, I couldn’t imagine how I was ever going to bring up the Faith. Then he asked what my plans were for the rest of the day.

A Continental Counselor was visiting us, so I told him we had Baha’i guests from out of the area. He had not heard of the Faith and asked about it. Somehow or other, I mentioned unity and the oneness of humankind.

He said: “It’s interesting that you say that. I’ve been a Roman Catholic for many years but I haven’t gone to church for a while. I’ve been thinking lately that there must be other religions that are also right, that everyone else can’t be wrong!”

I told him about Baha’u’llah and offered him one of the teaching cards. I pointed out the website and he plans to investigate it further.

What I’ve learned is that I have to keep praying for opportunities to meet receptive souls and then to be prepared to actually say something!

Story 8: Handwritten card opens the door

I’ve learned that offering to pray for a friend can be the first step in forging a deeper bond of the spirit.

[Recently] my supervisor, who is only 32, told me she has breast cancer. She knows I’m a Baha’i but I’ve never shared a prayer with her. Well, she needed prayers now.

It doesn’t matter whether she ever wants to learn more about the Faith. The prayers would be an offering, from one soul to another.

I bought a greeting card and decided to enclose a smaller card with the short healing prayer on it.

I’ve used preprinted prayer cards before, and they are very beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any. My efforts to make a card on my computer failed miserably!

I couldn’t wait any longer. I wrote the prayer, by hand, on a pink index card. It’s all I had.

With more than a little hesitation because of how it looked, I gave her the two cards. I never did mention my misgivings.

Later that day, she sent me an email:

“Thanks so much for your card. I absolutely will carry the pink one with me. I like that it’s in your handwriting which will remind me of you. :)”

I couldn’t believe what she wrote. I’m humbled by the thought that offering a prayer — with all my heart and for no other reason than the love of God — brought such a response.

I think we both know that this opens the door for future spiritual conversation, if she ever desires it.

Story 9: An answer to the teacher’s prayer

A couple of months ago, we made a new friend who wanted to know about the Baha’i Faith. We talked with him a little and were able to share some of the concepts we had just reviewed while studying Unit 3 of Arising to Serve [Book 2 in the sequence of Ruhi training courses] about how ‘Abdu’l-Baha conversed with others on spiritual matters.

We mentioned many of the activities in which Baha’is and others are engaged in our communities for the betterment of society. We particularly thought he would be interested in the junior youth program and invited him to learn more about it.

Several weeks went by and I was praying for guidance. When the expansion phase began, I thought I needed to act and so I wrote an email asking him what he wanted to do next in his spiritual journey. He enthusiastically wrote back and invited us to come to the youth center where he volunteers.

On the last day of the phase, just before going to bed I was reflecting on the day and was feeling that it had not been as fruitful as I had hoped. I hadn’t heard anything from our friend and thought to myself, “‘Abdu’l-Baha, it sure would be nice if we had an email, phone call, or something from him to guide us to the next steps.”

Just then there was a knock at the door! Our friend, who lives nearby, had biked over in the rain and said he just wanted to stop in to say hi.

He did not want to stay long but I asked him if he would like to join others in a study of Reflections on the Life of the Spirit [Ruhi Book 1], which we had shown him before. He thought that would be great and we asked if he would like to invite anyone else. We set a time to meet that week.

Today he and his friend (who also works at the youth center) and another youth who lives nearby gathered at our home to reflect on the life of the spirit.

Reflections:

  • Calling to our aid those spiritual forces upon which the efficacy of our efforts depends is crucial.
  • Being ready with how ‘Abdu’l-Baha entered into conversation is helpful.
  • Taking the initiative to act is important.
  • Inviting others to explore together on equal footing and asking if they have anyone else they would like to invite resulted in new friendships.

* * * * * *

Source: http://www.bahai.us/2011/05/31/spiritual-conversations-build-bonds-confidence/

.

(UK, 13 December 2011)

A categorical and purposeful message from the Baha’i Council for England to the friends in the region regarding the implementation of the provisions for the Five Year Plan (2011-2016) in the various clusters.

* * * * * *

Baha’i Council for England

13 December 2011

To all believers in England

Dearly loved Friends,

Your newly elected Baha’i Council for England held its first meeting on 26-27 November 2011….

The Council reviewed and consulted upon the goals of the Five Year Plan set by the National Spiritual Assembly [of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom] and commended by the Universal House of Justice. At this stage of the plan the goals for England are:

- To establish in all clusters in England a programme of growth

- To enable clusters where a programme of growth is established, to progress towards a stage whereby hundreds are facilitating the participation of thousands in this spiritual enterprise.

To achieve this we will have to make constant reference to the letters of the Universal House of Justice, in particular the 28 December 2010 and Ridvan 2010 messages, to better understand how this can be achieved. At present eleven clusters must work towards the former goal, and twenty-one towards the latter.

The Council is keen to create spaces for Area Teaching Committees, members of cluster agencies and individuals to reflect, consult, act and plan – thereby helping to foster environments where we can learn how to progress and derive inspiration and support from each other. To this end, the Council is in the process of planning various gatherings. Gatherings for Area Teaching Committees to reflect upon their role, and gatherings for the friends in clusters where programmes of growth have not yet been established to reflect upon how they can survey their possibilities and learn how to initiate the process in their own neighbourhood….

During our meeting we were able to consult with Counsellor Fozdar-Foroudi on the use of statistics at the cluster and regional levels and the ways in which the Council can help the development of capacity in this area. In light of this we are pleased to announce that we now have a regional statistics officer and that ………………….. has accepted to take on this new role. We look forward to learning with her.

Last but not least, such ambitious goals could never be achieved without the financial support of the friends and institutions alike. Over six decades ago, the beloved Guardian wrote that “Now is the time to pour out ones substance as copiously and as readily, as the Dawn breakers of the Heroic Age of the Faith have shed their life blood in the path of this most precious Cause.” If you have questions about donating to the Funds, please contact …………………….. .

Please keep the Council in your prayers, as you are all in ours. The next meeting of the Council for England is on …………………. .

With loving Baha’i greetings,
Baha’i Council for England

* * * * * *

Propelled by forces generated both within and outside the Baha’i community, the peoples of the earth can be seen to be moving from divergent directions, closer and closer to one another, towards what will be a world civilization so stupendous in character that it would be futile for us to attempt to imagine it today.  As this centripetal movement of populations accelerates across the globe, some elements in every culture, not in accord with the teachings of the Faith, will gradually fall away, while others will be reinforced.  By the same token, new elements of culture will evolve over time as people hailing from every human group, inspired by the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, give expression to patterns of thought and action engendered by His teachings, in part through artistic and literary works.  It is with such considerations in mind that we welcome the decision of the Ruhi Institute, in formulating its courses, to leave for the friends to address locally issues related to artistic activity.  What we ask at this stage, then, when energies are to be invested in the extension of children’s classes and junior youth groups, is that the multiplication of supplementary items for this purpose be allowed to occur naturally, as an outgrowth of the process of community building gathering momentum in villages and neighbourhoods.  We long to see, for instance, the emergence of captivating songs from every part of the world, in every language, that will impress upon the consciousness of the young the profound concepts enshrined in the Baha’i teachings.  Yet such an efflorescence of creative thought will fail to materialize, should the friends fall, however inadvertently, into patterns prevalent in the world that give licence to those with financial resources to impose their cultural perspective on others, inundating them with materials and products aggressively promoted. …

- The Universal House of Justice, 12 December 2011 message, 3rd from last §

* * * * * *

(Source: UK Baha’i News Email Service. Emphasis has been added.) 

(Map source: http://www.visitmap.info/britainvisitoratlas/england.asp?x=100)

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