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(US, NV, 2 June)
Here is an inspiring story of a believer who arose with a teaching partner to teach a children’s class, and how they were confirmed in their service:
I have been teaching children’s classes since the beginning of the last cycle. It’s been three months now and each time I go to the neighborhood the same thing happens: the second I set foot on the property all the children from my class start to gather around and want to know what’s going on! Most of the kids in the class are not Bahá’ís. So, I decided to do two things today. First, to talk to the families of the children about the Bahá’í Faith, and second, to have the children in my class introduce me to new families who may want to send their kids to the class. With that, we went out.
As the children in our class gathered around we asked them if they wanted more of their friends to help us. They all gladly agreed! All of the doors were now open to us as the children guided us to every building and insisted that we not miss any of their friends! I was delighted to see that already these children had friends of every background. I was further delighted to see an eight year old Spanish speaker in my class insist on going with us to every house. He even spoke to all the families that I wouldn’t have been able to reach. We were even going to doors where people had previously indicated they were not interested in hearing about the Faith. My prayer partner looked at me and asked ‘Do you think we should go to these homes?’ Before I could reply the children started knocking on the doors. For the next hour and half we visited eight homes with wonderful results. ALL of them wanted their children to attend the class. Just like that our class tripled in size!
(Report from the Area Teaching Committee in the Southern Nevada “A” stage cluster)
As we read in “Anna’s presentation”, one of the laws of the Faith is the education of children. In the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
(Bahá’í World Faith, p. 398-399)
The following letter written on behalf of the Guardian will inspire any would-be teacher to arise to carry out this vital service (just think of the children in your family or neighborhood!):
Today the need is so great on the part of humanity to hear of the Divine Message, that the believers must plunge into the work, wherever and however they can, heedless of their own shortcomings, but ever heedful of the crying need of their fellow-men to hear of the teachings in their darkest hour of travail.
Hand of the Cause of God Rahmatu’lláh Muhájir with children
Blessed is that teacher who shall arise to instruct the children…
– Bahá’u’lláh, BE #25
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(http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/06/day-5-of-southern-nevada-s-expansion.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
(US, NV, 6 June)
This Nevada “A” stage cluster reports how many new believers are arising to participate in teaching the Faith as a result of consolidation activities, particularly starting study circles.
Many teaching and consolidation teams have been following up with seekers and new believers by sharing Anna’s presentation and beginning Ruhi Book 1 study circles. The new believers benefit so much from saying prayers together and connecting with the Word of God. Starting a Ruhi study circle immediately after a soul’s declaration has been shown to be vital to the consolidation effort. This past weekend, the teaching and consolidation teams started at least three Ruhi Book 1 study circles with seekers and newly enrolled Bahá’ís. Here is an account of one of them:
More good news: Six Bahá’ís who enrolled in the last cycle came forward and taught the Faith! These friends not only shared Anna’s presentation, but also helped bring new souls into the Cause. Of all the victories won in this cluster, this is perhaps the most outstanding.
The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh
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O CHILDREN OF MEN!
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(Adapted from a report from the Area Teaching Committee of the Southern Nevada cluster) (http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/06/update-from-southern-nevada-which-has.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
Reflection into action in a “B” stage cluster
(US, SC, 6 June)
Here is a report of a reflection gathering, which is an important element in teaching campaigns. The friends made use of this event to plan activities and prepare themselves for sharing the message of Bahá’u’lláh with their neighbors:
The first part of the meeting consisted of a review of relevant statistics related directly to the growth and activity of the Faith in the cluster. The participating friends were able to visualize the status of the cluster and carry out a healthy examination of strengths to build on and weaknesses to address. For example, it was noted that we have succeeded in firmly establishing three regular devotional gatherings, three Bahá’í children’s classes, and one junior youth group. In addition, at the time of reporting, there were a total of eight study circles in progress around the cluster. At the same time, our review of the statistics made it clear that there is significant room for advancement in the area of multiplying these activities.
The next portion of the meeting was an open discussion about where we are going. A friend shared experiences and insights from experience with another advanced cluster, and spoke to us about the dedication and commitment that is required from individuals and communities to shoulder the responsibilities of intensive growth, the need to go beyond the barriers of comfort, to step into new arenas of service. She also spoke of the joys of collective service and the bonds of love and friendship that are built as believers in a community work together to teach the Cause to the peoples of the world.
We later divided into five teams of two. We examined a map of the neighborhood and assigned routes to take. We prayed and requested the confirmations of the Holy Spirit. Equipped with copies of Anna’s presentation, neighborhood visit charts, prayer cards and invitations, we hit the streets.
We knocked on approximately 60 doors, and spoke to people in 32 homes. Everyone we spoke to was courteous and friendly. Nine households were open to receiving a subsequent visit. Two individuals were happy to hear an in depth presentation of the Faith.
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Upper Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb
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By nature is meant those inherent properties and necessary relations derived from the realities of things. And these realities of things, though in the utmost diversity, are yet intimately connected one with the other. For these diverse realities an all-unifying agency is needed that shall link them all one to the other. For instance, the various organs and members, the parts and elements, that constitute the body of man, though at variance, are yet all connected one with the other by that all-unifying agency known as the human soul, that causeth them to function in perfect harmony and with absolute regularity, thus making the continuation of life possible…
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablet to August Forel p 13
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(Adapted from a posting at teaching.bahai.us reporting from Upstate Foothills, SC cluster: http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/06/reflection-gatherings-are-important.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
Connecting hearts and souls
(US, DC, 9 June)
Here are three highly inspiring stories of teaching encounters by experienced teachers in teams in this “A” stage cluster. They clearly illustrate the working of unseen spiritual forces that are released when the believers unitedly arise for the triumph of the Cause of the Bahá’u’lláh!
We arrived at this house last. I personally was praying to Bahá’u’lláh that I not be distracted the bit of hunger and fatigue I was feeling. As soon as we knocked on the door, a man and his two children appeared. His radiance dispelled any thoughts I had about sleep or food.
He greeted us warmly, stepped out to the porch and his next question was, “So what is this Bahá’í Faith anyways?” My teaching partner began the presentation and there was a flow of warmth and camaraderie between the two men. I began to pray, imagining that ‘Abdu’l-Baha was standing between the two men with his hand on both of their hearts serving as a conduit for Bahá’u’lláh’s love.
As we proceeded with the presentation, he agreed with many of the concepts introduced, saying that he always knew there was one religion, one human family, and one God. He seemed visibly touched by the picture of Bahá’u’lláh’s chains and when asked if he thought Bahá’u’lláh was one of the mirrors he said, “If Christ is a mirror then Bahá’u’lláh is too.”
We talked about getting back together soon. We were impressed with his compassion. We all embraced and departed.
A second story:
Our teaching team came across one person. We proceeded to present the presentation to him and he seemed rather engaged, really looking over the pictures and listening intently to the quotes. We made it through the section about the life of Bahá’u’lláh and asked if he thought Bahá’u’lláh might be one of these Manifestations sent to guide us. He nodded yes and we asked if he would like to join us in our mission to unify mankind and he said yes.
So we continued with more on the history of the Faith and some further principles. After hearing more about the life of Bahá’u’lláh and some further teachings, he suddenly had a look of intensity and started to look around for the declaration card. He really wanted to sign it. It was as though his soul was recognizing the truth before it—as though it had been waiting for this—and he was suddenly very intent about signing the card. He clearly understood the significance of this act and it was a moving event to witness. It conveyed to us that the soul is so aware of what is happening and is always ready to recognize it’s Creator.
We gave this man the Gift of Prayers and said the Obligatory prayer with him before moving on in our teaching. A few porches down we had another long adventure—this time with my teaching partner doing the presentation. From the porch I could see the gentleman that had just embraced the Cause. The entire 30 minutes that we were engaging with the next group, he was reading the Gift of Prayer with all of its prayers and Writings; he never put the book down.
And a third:
We were standing outside a lovely home, and a kind man came down the stairs in response to the bell ring. We introduced ourselves and shared with him that we are Bahá’ís and would like to share with him about the Bahá’í [Faith]. He invited us into his home and said that he was feeding his wife who was a little ill. Together we held hands and shared the short healing prayer by Bahá’u’lláh, and he shared his own prayer as well.
We asked if we could share the presentation and they agreed, so we started sharing Anna’s presentation, and as each page went by and each beautiful quote was read, he was agreeing more and more.
We asked him if he believed that Bahá’u’lláh was one of the Manifestations from God, one of these perfect mirrors that we had spoken of earlier, and he said yes. It was a wonderful conversation and spiritual moment. We asked if we could finish the presentation with them and both of them said “yes!”. At the end of the presentation, both he and his wife declared.
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Monument of the Greatest Holy Leaf
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The ordinances of God have been sent down from the heaven of His most august Revelation. All must diligently observe them. Man’s supreme distinction, his real advancement, his final victory, have always depended, and will continue to depend, upon them. Whoso keepeth the commandments of God shall attain everlasting felicity.
A twofold obligation resteth upon him who hath recognized the Day Spring of the Unity of God, and acknowledged the truth of Him Who is the Manifestation of His oneness. The first is steadfastness in His love, such steadfastness that neither the clamor of the enemy nor the claims of the idle pretender can deter him from cleaving unto Him Who is the Eternal Truth, a steadfastness that taketh no account of them whatever. The second is strict observance of the laws He hath prescribed—laws which He hath always ordained, and will continue to ordain, unto men, and through which the truth may be distinguished and separated from falsehood.
– Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, CXXXIII
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(Adapted from a posting at teaching.bahai.us: http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/06/here-are-three-recent-stories-of.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
“Anna’s presentation” is found in Ruhi Book 6, Teaching the Cause, and consists of a comprehensive hypothetical narrative of how a Bahá’í named Anna explains the fundamental verities of the Faith to her friend Emilia.
How people are applying it:
People are using Anna’s presentation as a good option to support direct person-to-person teaching of the Bahá’í Faith in many settings: for example, firesides, individual encounters or “coffee shop” meetings, collective teaching campaigns, home visits or Holy Day events.
Many have memorized the presentation. Others use an outline and make the presentation conversationally. Still others use flip books with pictures to help give the presentation structure.
If presented in one session it can last 30-45 minutes. Depending on the responsiveness of the listener and time available, though, people also present one or two sections at a time over several sessions.
* God, our relationship with Him and His Manifestations; Bahá’u’lláh as the Promised One of all ages
* Unity as the primary aim of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings; the essential oneness of humanity and need to eliminate prejudice
* Story of Bahá’u’lláh; His suffering and endurance in the face of persecution; His Revelation and its influence on people’s hearts and minds
* Story of the Báb; His station as the “Gate” leading to the Promised Day of God; establishment of the spiritual and administrative World Center
* Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh; life and station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; station of the Guardian; establishment of the Universal House of Justice
* Laws and commandments as a sign of God’s love; a few examples of spiritual and social laws (emphasis in Ruhi Book 6 is on obligatory prayer, prohibitions against backbiting and intoxicants, and importance of education)
* Religion building a World Order: roles and benefits for the individual believer; roles and benefits for the community; roles of the institutions and benefits for society
Practices and attitudes:
* Frequent quotation from writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
* Respect for the hearer’s faith background
* Logical progression of the above concepts with few details conveyed immediately, to avoid overwhelming the seeker or inviting argument on specific points before the seeker understands the “big picture”; the underlying expectation is that the hearer will follow up afterward if interested
* Asking the hearer what he or she feels at certain intervals, and asking permission to continue
* Listening and being sensitive to the hearer’s state of receptivity
* Expressing the hope that the hearer will join the Bahá’í community
* Inviting the hearer at appropriate points to participate in core activities
* Finishing the presentation with a shared prayer and a gift of a small prayer book
Anna’s presentation in various formats:
Microsoft PowerPoint: ̀(with text and photos)
Microsoft Word: (text-only, no photos)
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‘Abdu’l-Bahá turned to the Blessed Beauty and prayed: ‘O Blessed Beauty, confirm me!’
“…in the city of Baghdad, I talked with a learned man, Mulla Hassan, some of whose relatives were believers. No matter how hard they tried to give him the Message, he would not accept it. Once, they brought him to my house when I was just getting up from my sleep and combing my hair. They said, ‘We have brought so-and-so here and we beg you to come and speak with him; perhaps, he will become a believer.’ I said, ‘Very well,’ and then I turned to the Blessed Beauty and prayed: ‘O Blessed Beauty, confirm me!’ Afterwards, I talked to him, and in the same hour he became a believer. He became exceedingly good and was so enkindled that, although he was of high rank, he used to go into the kitchen and cook things with his own hand to entertain the friends.”
(Talk by Abdu’l-Bahá in the Holy Land, translated by Dr. Zia Baghdadi: Star of the West, Vol. IX, No. 3, p. 36) (Found in Lights of Guidance, second part, ch. 4, no. 1981)
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(Excerpted and adapted from an article in The American Bahá’í online, 20 April 2008 ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)