You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2008.

(US, WA, 28 July)

The following article-series hopes to share relevant points of learning gleaned from collective teaching efforts worldwide. Here is from a C-stage cluster (sure to advance very soon considering their dedicated efforts!):

Learnings, tips, insights gleaned:

· Try to ascertain what the person’s needs are and then address those. Maybe they need to empty themselves first. Choose parts of the presentation that seem needed.

· Don’t be afraid.

· The person who makes eye contact with the seeker should do the presentation, while the other team member prays.

· Have at least one female on the team. A team of two guys could seem threatening to women who answer the door.

· Age diversity is good in a team.

· A follow-up fireside can be focused on something from “Anna’s Presentation”.

· When the door opens, what do you say? Basically give the introduction to Anna’s Presentation. “We are Baha’is, followers of Baha’u’llah, members of the Baha’i Faith, a new religion whose purpose is to unite all the people of the world in one common purpose, one universal Faith.”

· Don’t make a big deal of saying your name. Say your name and shake hands.

· Give CONCEPTS not facts. These are most important.

· For home visits give the “Gift of Prayers”, or other printed prayers.

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November 1998, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Bahá’í Faith in France, when more than 2,000 people came from some 50 countries to celebrate.

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Problems arise where followers of one of the world’s faiths prove unable to distinguish between its eternal and transitory features, and attempt to impose on society rules of behaviour that have long since accomplished their purpose. The principle is fundamental to an understanding of religion’s social role: “The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be 38 the same as that which a subsequent age may require”, Bahá’u’lláh points out. “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”

– The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith, p. 37-8

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(From an update about the direct teaching effort in the C-stage Spokane, WA cluster, http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/07/here-is-update-about-direct-teaching.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

(US, Northeast, July 2008 )

The following is a list of possible avenues of service (though by no means exhaustive) that we ALL can consider carrying out in our lives (or better: make habits of). In this way we will fulfill directly the purpose of our creation, according to Bahá’u’lláh, “to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization”:

  • Setting up time to speak with friends and give them parts or all of Anna’s Presentation
  • Reaching out to neighbors and inviting them to dinner and discussion about the Faith with prayers
  • Starting a neighborhood children’s class
  • Sharing and discussing a prayer with a friend or co-worker
  • Hanging out in coffee shops and starting conversations with people about the Faith and religion

The means to carry out each of these vital services have (potentially) been given us through group study of the Ruhi institute books, notably Books one, two, three and six. In applying the knowledge gained through such studies, assistance is meant to be at hand for the participants in the form of a tutor who has completed the prescribed practices (as in the avenues above) himself, and who should be ready to support and walk together with us in taking our initial steps along these paths. Ultimately, through persistent and courages practice, we should become able to sustain these activities on our own initiative. The House of Justice wrote in 2005:

A discernible outcome of the emphasis on capacity building has been a steady increase in the exercise of individual initiative… Endeavours are pursued in a humble posture of learning within the framework defined by the Plan.

(Universal House of Justice, 27 December 2005, my emphasis)

And in this year’s Ridvan message we read:

In previous messages we have referred to the impetus that the institute process imparts to the exercise of initiative by the individual believer. The friends in every continent are engaged in study of the Writings for the explicit purpose of learning to apply the teachings to the growth of the Faith. Remarkable numbers are now shouldering responsibility for the spiritual vitality of their communities; energetically, they are carrying out those acts of service befitting a healthy pattern of growth. As they have persevered in the field of service to the Cause, maintaining a humble posture of learning, their courage and wisdom, zeal and acuity, fervour and circumspection, determination and trust in God have combined all the more to reinforce one another.

(Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2008, my emphasis)

“A humble posture of learning” is one of the recurring themes in the House’s messages of late. Can you name others?

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Resting places of The Purest Branch (Mirzá Mihdí) and Navváb, the wife of Bahá’u’lláh, in the Monument Gardens on Mount Carmel

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In truth, the hearts of men are edified through the power of the tongue, even as houses and cities are built up by the hand and other means. We have assigned to every end a means for its accomplishment; avail yourselves thereof, and place your trust and confidence in God, the Omniscient, the All-Wise.

– Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, §160

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(Suggestions given by an Area Teaching Committee (ATC) in the Northeast for those not participating in the door-to-door teaching campaign of the Expansion Phase of their Intensive Program of Growth, adapted and expanded) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

Invitation to prayer, service to community, children as teachers, the effects of prayer, lessons learned

(US, MA, April)

The following is an exciting and discerning report from the first cycle of this”A” stage cluster in the northeast:

Over the last three weekends, 25 friends in the South Middlesex cluster have valiantly and joyfully arisen to share the news of Baha’u’llah throughout the cluster. Through personal teaching, home visits and door to door teaching, these friends have introduced hundreds of people in this cluster to the Faith of Baha’u’llah in the last two weeks. 145 souls have accepted the invitation to investigate the Faith and have asked for teachers to come back and visit with them to share with them more about these Glad Tidings. One eighty-two year “young” luminous soul, who we met this past weekend, became the first during this IPG to accept the message of Baha’u’llah and declare herself as His handmaiden.

* One team went out in their neighborhood in Marlborough. They found a Brazilian lady across the street from their home who invited them inside. Initially, the team invited them to prayers at their home, but finding the friend to be very receptive and interested in learning more, pulled out Anna’s presentation and began offering it. Not blinking at the sight of “a flipchart being pulled out of nowhere”, she listened with an open heart to the presentation. At page 22, her friend arrived–she had apparently been scheduled to leave for another meeting. She repeatedly begged the teaching team to remember where they were in the presentation so they could learn more… The team promised to return the next day.

* A third team went to the home of a seeker whose children are in children’s classes in Lexington. This family took them throughout the neighborhood and introduced them to all of their neighbors. The Bahá’í “Peacemaker kids-group” decided to return to the neighborhood to help some of the older residents and one disabled woman with their yards as a service. The spirit of love and community that was created was unimaginable–and people naturally began to ask more about the Faith. Three teachers returned to share Anna’s presentation with the original seekers and were met with an incredible receptivity

* We had a children’s cluster meeting at the same time as our adult cluster meeting and the children created their own personal teaching plans for who they would like to teach. A five year old decided that he was going to share the Faith with his babysitter. Well, the next week his father learned that their nanny was in fact interested in learning more and decided to invite her to a fireside in Lexington the following weekend. She came and was incredibly attracted to the Faith. She has decided to investigate the Faith further and is coming to her first study circle tonight!

 

Lessons learned:  

 

* the power of prayer – this has turned out to be the most important teaching tool we have. There are countless stories of teams that were struggling about where to go, prayed, and then immediately found the receptive soul. This is first and foremost a spiritual process. One team was not meeting success and decided to pray in the stairwell. As they were finishing, a young man approached the mailboxes in front of them wearing a big “19” on their shirt. His name was Israel and after listening to Anna’s presentation, he has become one of the seekers who is interested in learning more.

* we cannot find receptive souls if we do not prepare ourselves for the possibility and arise to teach them. The number of people we have taught in the last two weeks is far greater than the number we have taught in probably the last several years combined. During these teaching days, more and more people have arisen in this path. The unity and love they have created in their relationships is truly palpable. By the end of this expansion phase, one in six people in this cluster had taken part in this process, most people multiple times.

* we have learned that in certain neighborhoods, door to door teaching is a very effective way to share the Faith in our cluster. In Framingham, we learned that one-in-four to one-in-six people who answered their doors, depending on the neighborhood, were interested in hearing more about the Faith and readily gave their contact information–and the rest were in general incredibly polite, and often wished us well. In neighborhoods where the friends had formed some bonds of friendship already, the reception was of course far friendlier.

* we learned the great value of starting with Anna’s presentation and sticking to it, whether it is during home visits or in the door to door setting. We have built enormous capacity in this cluster to do this and have learned in the field that this is one of the most effective ways to quickly develop a truly spiritual conversation and to share the fundamental verities of the Faith. We are finding that we have a much better sense very quickly whether someone is truly interested in learning more.

* we learned the importance of inviting people to accept the Faith. Our task is to offer the Faith as if it were a “jewel to a king.” This means we have to offer it completely (and not just say, “I’ll bring the jewel back for you to see next time!”). This past weekend, we found a Catholic woman, Rose, and her mother, Viola, who received Anna’s presentation with great interest. The mother kept nodding and reading the sacred word with great wonder. At the end of the presentation, they prayed and were invited to consider in their hearts whether this was the Spirit of Truth and whether they would like to join the Baha’i Faith. Rose immediately said she would need to investigate further, but Viola, after looking at her askance a couple of times, said well, I would like to fill out one of those cards and become a Baha’i.” She then turned to her daughter and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to take one of these cards and at least hold on to it?” We assured her that it was OK for her daughter to take her time to investigate and that we would return to share more about the Faith with both of them. They both gladly accepted this invitation.

It is between each soul and Baha’u’llah when they will accept the Faith. Our job is merely to offer the invitation to the Divine Garden.

 

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The Baha'i House of Worship in Sydney, Australia.

The Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney, Australia.

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O My beloved friends! You are the bearers of the name of God in this Day…. You are the lowly, of whom God has thus spoken in His Book: “And We desire to show favour to those who were brought low in the land, and to make them spiritual leaders among men, and to make them Our heirs.” You have been called to this station; you will attain to it, only if you arise to trample beneath your feet every earthly desire, and endeavour to become those “honoured servants of His who speak not till He hath spoken, and who do His bidding”.… Heed not your weaknesses and frailty; fix your gaze upon the invincible power of the Lord, your God, the Almighty…. Arise in His name, put your trust wholly in Him, and be assured of ultimate victory.

The Báb, quoted in Century of Light, p. 53

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(Report from the the expansion phase of So. Middlesex County (MA) cluster, taken from a report from expansion phases in the northeast distributed by the Regional Baha’i Council of the Northeastern States by e-mail 19 May 2008 ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

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