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(US-Central, 12 June)
The following story highlights the truism that “Bahá’í teaching” comprises the rightly directed endeavor of the individual believer within the pale of God’s consummate Grace, and his consequent spiritual progress as a result of the promised confirmations from on High!
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All of us have our set of experiences that shape our view of what teaching is… We may not have seen much interest or receptivity from the people we have encountered over the years. And yet, we still want to respond to the Five Year Plan. We take on responsibilities, maybe participating in an institute course. We step up and do something we may not feel ready to do. And we find out we CAN teach directly, and that we WILL meet people who are interested. Here are the reflections of an individual believer from the Central region, recounting some of her experiences from before and during her cluster’s new intensive program of growth.
In reflecting about what I have learned in the process of getting ready for and going through our first Intensive Program of Growth, I am in awe by the amount of subtle points that I have learned.
After declaring as a Bahá’í in 1982 I was very excited to share my new Faith with all my friends and family. Unfortunately, none of them were very interested. I’ve never stopped trying to share the Message with others, but my experiences over the years made me become more cautious and less open about sharing what was in my heart. . . .
When it was announced at Ridván 2008 that we were to embark on an IPG before Ridván 2009, I thought we should be ‘ready’ to do whatever was needed. To that end, our Bahá’í Group set a goal of finishing our study of the Ruhi Books, which we did.
Back in November 2008, I received a call from our Auxiliary Board member to see if I would serve as the cluster institute coordinator. I agreed to take it on, saying that I’d probably only able to do it part time.
I started with organizing refresher courses of the Ruhi materials with the community in December and January. In February, a “test teaching weekend” was scheduled. I was nervous. I was apprehensive. I was not believing that someone (us) could visit a home and find people who would embrace the Faith based on one presentation—given my 27 years of disappointment. But I prepared, and prayed, and went. We had someone “experienced” lead the way. Our presenter was confident and open about what we were out in the field doing. She openly asked people who opened their door if they wanted to hear a presentation about the Bahá’í Faith. While we didn’t have so many takers, what it did for me was show me that it was OK to directly ask people if they wanted to hear about the Baha’i Faith. It really bolstered my courage and made it straightforward. I was heartened.
When it came time for our IPG launch, I was teamed up with our Auxiliary Board member. I thought he should be the presenter since he had more “experience,” but he said, “No, you go ahead and do it. I’ll be the prayer partner.” I thought, “Well, here goes…” When we visited the first home, a Spanish lady answered the door. I introduced who was on our team and said that we were in the neighborhood today. I also told her that I was wondering if she would like to hear the spiritual message of the Bahá’í Faith. She was busy and turned us away. We visited the next home, and were told to come back another time. Sometimes wasn’t an adult home.
Finally, we came to a house where the person who was home stated that they “had their church”. I then asked if I could share a prayer, to which she said, “Yes.” So I began saying the “Refresh and gladden my spirit” prayer. She listened intently as I prayed out loud. By the end of the prayer, she was visibly touched. She then asked, “So, what church are you with?” She didn’t have time for a long presentation, but asked us to come back another time to share more.
The same thing happened at another house too. We met a woman and shared a prayer and she was in tears at the end. She, too, wanted us to return. I’ve been going back to her house and sharing Anna’s Presentation with her, answering questions as they come up. Already we are breaking down barriers and building friendship. We are getting to know each other and our personal circumstances. Where will this lead us, God only knows. But it is a bounty to be able to go out into the field and share this healing Message with those who want to hear it.
Truly it’s the Word of God that changes hearts. With the first lady, when we were able to return and had a conversation about the Faith, she said she would pray about it. We gave her a little prayer book to which she tenaciously clung. This process is not in our hands it’s in God’s. We must be patient. We must be obedient. And we must be of service.
I’ve learned so much through this process—and it’s mostly about reliance on God.
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Interior view of the prison cell where Bahá’u’lláh was first confined in ‘Akká, Israel.
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Say: This is the Day of meritorious deeds, did ye but know it. This is the Day of the glorification of God and of the exposition of His Word, could ye but perceive it. Abandon the things current amongst men and hold fast unto that which God, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, hath enjoined upon you. The day is fast approaching when all the treasures of the earth shall be of no profit to you. Unto this beareth witness the Lord of Names, He Who proclaimeth: Verily, no God is there besides Him, the Sovereign Truth, the Knower of things unseen.
– Bahá’u’lláh, TB, p. 232
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(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog http://teaching.bahai.us/2009/06/it-is-bounty-to-be-able-to-share.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community, view here)