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(US – IN, June 2010)
Thoughtful, seeking people exist in every community, we are assured of by the beloved Guardian and the Universal House of Justice. This story shows how they were found through the persistent efforts of one of the friends in an Indiana town neighborhood, using one of the core activities as a meeting point.
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3 adults and 4 children in my neighborhood enrolled into our Beloved Cause!
Weekly devotions proved to work better on Thursday afternoons; and it is through these devotions that the enrollments occurred. By being exposed to the Word of God at these devotions and through the [prayer] book, “Healing the Soul” that they took home, a married couple in my neighborhood responded with earnest and asked me to please teach them more about Baha’u’llah. So, the following week, I went through Anna’s presentation. They were so overwhelmed that they called a close friend of theirs to come and hear the presentation because this friend had been something of a spiritual mentor for them. He came and listened and said, “This is the truth. This is what I have been preparing you for.” They stayed a total of 6 hours; and left with books…
The following week they were both very excited and said that they believed in Baha’u’llah, but still had some residual doubts resulting from their continued attachment to some of the teachings in Islam. After this gathering, I started daily home visits with the friend (spiritual mentor). My thought was that he might be the one to guide them. At one point during the first home visit, I was inspired to share with him the fact that an entire world community existed that shared these ideals. He was not alone (as he thought). He did not seem to respond to this, but the following day he said that he had been thinking about this and told me that he knew in his heart that there had to be such a community, but he didn’t know where they were, and he never thought he would be blessed enough to see the day.
The following day, he arrived first at the devotions and said that he and his friends knew that they had found the truth and were overwhelmed by the joy they felt. When the married couple entered a few minutes later, the husband said, “I have been guided my whole life to this point. I cannot deny this truth. My heart knows this is true. Where do I sign?” I went to get three enrollment cards, and all three enrolled. The four children will also be enrolled as soon as I sit down with the mom to get this done.
This overwhelming experience of the past couple of months is proof beyond any words that anyone could tell me that by following the guidance of our Supreme Institutions, we will have the success that we long for in our hearts.
There is still much work to be done, and more fruit to gather. Hopefully I will write with more joyous news as the weeks and months unfold.
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Where a training institute is well established and constantly functioning, three core activities–study circles, devotional meetings, and children’s classes–have multiplied with relative ease. Indeed, the participation of seekers in these activities, at the invitation of their Bahá’í friends, has lent a new dimension to their purposes, consequently effecting new enrolments… These core activities, which at the outset were devised principally to benefit the believers themselves, are naturally becoming portals for entry by troops. By combining study circles, devotional meetings and children’s classes within the framework of clusters, a model of coherence in lines of action has been put in place and is already producing welcome results…
– The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2002 message, § 4
Wherever an intensive programme of growth is established, let the friends… not lose sight of the remarkable receptivity they found—nay, the sense of eager expectation that awaited them—as they gained confidence in their ability to interact with people of all walks of life and converse with them about the Person of Bahá’u’lláh and His Revelation. Let them hold fast to the conviction that a direct presentation of the Faith, when carried out at a sufficient level of depth and reinforced by a sound approach to consolidation, can bring enduring results…
– The Universal House of Justice, 28 December 2010 message, § 15
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(Adapted from a report on the US Teaching blog: http://teaching.bahai.us/2010/08/3-adults-and-4-children-in-my.html. Emphasis added.) (Photo copyright of the Bahá’í International Community – for source, click here.)
(Haifa, January 2010)
Messages – reminders – relevant to us all in our paths of service, although addressed to Baha’i youth attending a UK conference, from our Supreme Body. Could it really be this simple: Renewed dedication to the process of learning-through-action, then commitment to engage in one or more of the core activities? Let’s try it, and find out!
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7 January 2010
The hundreds of pledges made to establish or assist with core activities is vivid testimony to the spirit of dedication which permeated that gathering. The friends may be assured of the prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines that Baha’u’llah may guide and confirm their every step taken in selfless service to His Cause.
With loving Baha’i greetings,
Department of the Secretariat
1 January 2010
To the Friends Gathered at the Youth Conference in the United Kingdom
(…) The need for you to apply yourselves to service in two capacities in particular–as teachers of children’s classes and as animators of junior youth groups–has never been more apparent. Countless parents yearn for the means of developing their children’s spiritual faculties that would lay within them the foundations of a principled and upright character. And surely every young person will flourish in a programme that helps to form a strong moral identity in the critical years of early adolescence and empowers participants to contribute to the well-being of society. Beyond these specific fields of activity, you must not refrain from acquainting your peers with the potent, the compelling, the world-embracing mission with which you are charged. Which of them would not feel their spirits enriched for contemplating how, through the application of those far-reaching principles enunciated by Baha’u’llah, the regeneration of the world can be accomplished and its perplexing crises resolved? Which of them would not be raised to a new consciousness of humanity’s capacity to “carry forward an ever-advancing civilization” by combining their energies with yours and bending them towards this noble aim?
The Universal House of Justice
Read the full messages here.
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Dancing youth express their energy in Canada. (Photo: Ryan Lash)
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Photo copyright Baha’i International Community. View here.
The following article is adapted from an address given by Dr. Vahid Saberi to a recent conference in Victoria, Australia.
The task of transforming the human race begins with transforming ourselves.
The Four Year Plan, Twelve Month Plan and the last and the current Five Year Plans are nothing more than instruments to achieve this great goal. The power to achieve this rests with us individuals.
Bahá’u’lláh deliberately left the assignment of transforming the human race to countless ordinary, unassuming people like us. Look at the first disciples of Jesus; they were just fishermen, but they took on the world and changed it utterly.
We are now called upon to do the same, but on a far more momentous scale.
He has entrusted us to begin by transforming ourselves.
Consider the plight of the world; never, at any other time in history, have so many people been so materially prosperous, and at the same time, so spiritually lost. Never has there been so much despondency, depression, dysfunction, loss of purpose and fear. Why is this happening?
We know that the “…world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order….revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System.”
Shoghi Effendi has told us that only Bahá’ís “….know full well whence it comes, and what it will ultimately lead to [and that] they clearly recognize its genesis, are aware of its direction, acknowledge its necessity ….” And it is cleansing the world. Gripped in the clutches of this tempest, humanity, even while it is bewildered, continues painfully to move towards peace and unity.
That turmoil will continue because humanity has not yet turned away from Godlessness. That is why Shoghi Effendi told us that “…all humanity is disturbed and suffering and confused; we cannot expect to not be disturbed and not to suffer – but we don’t have to be confused.”
We know that the only panacea of the world’s ills is the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, which is why …. “The believers must rest assured that having the Faith, they have everything”.
That is why we must act. Through taking ownership of our personal suffering and spiritual development, we can learn to be more compassionate and concerned for others, until “confidence and assurance, hope and optimism are our prerogative”.
But how do we measure our efforts?
Shoghi Effendi clearly states that ….. “The successful carrying out of our various Plans is the greatest sign we can give of our faith and inner assurance, and the best way we can help our fellow-men out of their confusion and difficulties.”
Bahá’u’lláh Himself took on humanity’s turmoil when He was imprisoned in the “Siayh-Chal”. In this grim place of utter darkness reserved only for the most degraded of criminals; amidst foul stench, deprived of food and drink, rest and sleep, with a huge chain galling his neck, Bahá’u’lláh experienced a moment of intense illumination which revealed His task to be the Manifestation of this unprecedented Age of Fulfilment. In the Black Pit, God promised Bahá’u’lláh that “Ere Long shall the Lord send forth and reveal the treasures of the earth, men who shall give Thee victory by Thyself and by They name …”
So, how can we be silent? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’’ reminded us of this responsibility when He wrote: “Why then are ye quenched, why silent, why leaden and dull? Ye must shine forth like the lightning, and rise up a clamouring like unto the great sea. Like a candle must ye shed your light, and even as the soft breezes of God must ye blow across the world … know ye the value of this chance, ere it slip from your hands.”
In reality, the time we give to serve the Faith matters above all else. As many aspects of society continue to break down and the surrounding community begins to disintegrate, Bahá’ís must respond by building a genuinely loving, compassionate and inclusive community.
Gradually, we can learn to purify our motives, live prayerfully, strive to understand and do only what is right, and work together in love and harmony. Our victories over ourselves must be demonstrated through how we work and consult together, both with each other and with those around us.
Above all, we must enthusiastically involve ourselves in the implementation of the Five Year Plan. We must implement the core activities, which are nothing more or less than creative opportunities to teach.
They are about opening the hearts to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s message, They are about listening intently, like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did. They are about using Bahá’u’lláh’s Words, rather than our own, to teach.
They are about learning to be responsive to the needs of seekers. They are about gaining new skills and personal resources.
Above all, they are about making teaching the dominating passion of our lives.
So, my task and yours are crystal clear; take the next step whatever it is. Those who have completed Book 1can move onto Book 2. Those who have completed Book 7 can become tutors. And once your cluster achieves an “intensive programme of growth”, the heartbeat of each of the core activities begins to quicken.
When starting a fire, you fan a tiny spark. Then, carefully shielding it, you softly blow until it is ready to burst into flame. More time and purposeful effort is needed to bring that flame to a fire and ensure it becomes a blazing inferno. This is how the intensive programme of growth works. It starts slowly and then organically grows and intensifies.
So, let us not neglect our task. Let us not lose our chance. If we neglect our role, we have no right to call ourselves Bahá’ís.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá has added: “Soon will our handful of days, our vanishing life, be gone, and we shall pass, empty handed into the hollow that is dug for those who speak no more.” There is no need to be overwhelmed when we can: “Be confident in Bahá’u’lláh’s help. His Spirit will help you, and will feed your soul with that spiritual sustenance whereby you will be able to overcome the obstacles which seem to so hopelessly beset your path”.
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Sharing the Teachings, Cidade de Bahia, Brazil
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The Blessed Perfection, in a clear text, hath promised us in the Book: “Verily I behold you from the Horizon of Abha and will make victorious whomsoever will arise in the service of my cause with the hosts of the Supreme Concourse and the cohorts of the favored angels!” Praise be to God! that this victory and confirmation became visible and manifest and hath shone forth from the horizon of the world like unto the sun. Therefore, O ye friends of God! Show ye forth an earnest endeavor and display ye a resolute effort, so that ye may become assisted in the adoration of the Ancient Beauty and the Manifest Light; to be the cause of spreading the light of the Sun of Truth; to infuse into the dead, antiquated body of the world a new spirit; to cast in the fields of the hearts pure seeds; to arise in the service of the Cause; to speak with eloquent tongues; to become candles of guidance in the assemblage of the world; to become shining stars in the horizon of the existent being; to become merciful birds in the rose-garden of oneness; to sing the melodies of realities and significances; to spend every breath of your lives in the most great Cause; and to devote the period of your existence to the service of this conspicuous Light; so that in the end ye may be freed from loss and failure and attain to the inexhaustible treasury of the Kingdom. For the life on man is wholly subject to danger and impermanency. A person cannot put his assurance even in one moment’s continuity. Notwithstanding this, the nations of the world, deceived by the mirage of superstition, imagine themselves secure in the heavenly way.
Alas! Alas! Former communities in bygone ages entertained the same perishing thoughts; but by one of those periodical fluctuations they were all hidden under the ground and afflicted with deprivation and loss, except those souls who had become pure evanescence and had arisen with great self-abnegation in the path of God. Such souls shine forth as brilliant stars from the Horizon of the Ancient Glory, and the results which emanated from their lives in succeeding ages and cycles are the proofs of this statement. Therefore, do ye not rest, neither day nor night; seek ye not for composure; talk ye of the mystery of servitude, and seek ye the path of thralldom; so that through the promised confirmations ye may become assisted from the Kingdom of Oneness.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, 566-7
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(Article reprinted from “The Australian Bahá’í, March 2008”) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community, view it in the gallery here)
(US, AZ, 14 November)
This report from an Arizona B-stage cluster provides some central insights about how to motivate the friends in service and build trust and rapport with a target population. It also underscores the merit of immediately offering seekers and declarants consolidation activities they can contribute to.
● Because we are holding study circles, children’s classes, home visits and devotional meetings at the same time every week in one neighborhood, the residents now know they can expect us to be there at that time. It has also helped the believers to participate in a collective effort based on unity of vision.
● Attentive consultation with the residents allowed us to understand that a key need of the community is an English class. So weekly afternoon English classes are being held and are well attended.
● In meeting the challenge to assist all members in the cluster to find their niche in the Five Year Plan, we have learned to focus on the guidance. This helps everyone understand that teaching can occur in a variety of venues.
The new believers and family members are quickly involved in the core activities:
★ Another couple enthusiastically declared their Faith during Anna’s presentation after hearing of the sacrifice and suffering of the Blessed Beauty. They immediately requested study sessions to learn more of their new Faith.
★ Three other young people declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh after hearing Anna’s presentation. Two of them immediately began studying Book 1 with their teacher. Another member of the family has been studying the Faith and always seeks us out when we are visiting the neighborhood. He is participating in a Book 1 study circle each week as well.
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Abdu’l-Bahá returning to his home on Haparsim Street in Haifa
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Thousands upon thousands, embracing the diversity of the entire human family, are engaged in systematic study of the Creative Word in an environment that is at once serious and uplifting… As they call on one another in their homes and pay visits to families, friends and acquaintances, they enter into purposeful discussion on themes of spiritual import, deepen their knowledge of the Faith, share Baha’u’llah’s message, and welcome increasing numbers to join them in a mighty spiritual enterprise. Aware of the aspirations of the children of the world and their need for spiritual education, they extend their efforts widely to involve ever-growing contingents of participants in classes that become centres of attraction for the young and strengthen the roots of the Faith in society. They assist junior youth to navigate through a crucial stage of their lives and to become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization.
– The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2008
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(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog, report from an individual believer in West Valley, AZ (B) http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/11/building-trust-in-west-valley.html ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
Regular core activities and training in Anna’s presentation lay a foundation for successful teaching efforts
(US, CA, 1 May)
The following report from a recently launched intensive program of growth shows how core activities nourish the teaching efforts of the believers:
Today is day number one for door-to-door teaching at one apartment complex where one of the friends has been teaching a children’s class for over a year. There are about 200 adults and children in this complex, and more than 30 are already part of the community of interest.
This evening two of the friends started teaching. They knocked on one door of a home where family members are already participating in study circles and children’s classes. During this visit, three people declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh.
For certain, a new spirit is permeating this cluster. Friends are calling and asking to receive training on delivering Anna’s presentation more effectively; young adults have recently called and asked to consult on how to be more outward looking and how to use Anna’s presentation, and the Local Assemblies are quickly and nimbly responding to the Plan and to collaboration.
(Report from the Santa Clara County West “A” stage cluster)
Some reflections on the teaching method used in an Intensive Program of Growth by an experienced teacher
I have also learned, and I think this is one of the main lessons being learned in IPG/direct teaching campaigns worldwide, that when receptive souls are invited into the Cause based on just having experienced a “spark” of the conflagration which Baha’u’llah has ignited, they come in–and they come from all backgrounds and temperaments. They matriculate into the worldwide university of the Faith, and then begin the learning process once they are in.
The presentations we are using are carefully designed to enable us to be the channels of the Holy Spirit which produce this “spark”, and always includes an invitation to join our faith community (or, if they indicate they are not quite ready to declare, they are invited to join our core activities as a seeker). The core activities are designed to help fan this spark into a flame. In effect, we have been given permission to go out and invite most everyone into the Faith in this manner. (The only proviso being that the Core agencies will turn on and off the number of new enrollments based on the ability of the community to absorb them).
Through Richard Hoff’s and others’ training I have realized that we can all be trained to be better and more effective channels of the Holy Spirit, in this regard, and that one result of that increased effectiveness is the ability to ask the “question” [of whether a person is willing to join] in a simple and loving manner addressed to the heart, which rarely, if ever, offends anyone. In fact, I have found, that my sometimes inability to invite receptive souls into the Faith has everything to do with my own hang-ups and little to do with the seeker’s readiness or lack thereof. Even though I am fairly experienced at doing this direct teaching and inviting I still often get “stage fright” (which means my ego gets in the way and the Holy Spirit goes away–at least temporarily).
Just last week, door to door teaching in a small Texas town, three times I judged or rationalized that seekers whom I was teaching were “not ready”, and I was about to leave them with an invitation to a future visit or activity, until each one of the seekers (really the Holy Spirit working through their souls) clobbered me with signs that they were indeed ready and needed to be asked–so I did, and they did (declared). Part of it is in the presentation of the question, and this is where training comes in.
(used with the author’s kind permission)
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Baha’u’llah and the Master have both urged us repeatedly to disregard
our own handicaps and lay our whole reliance upon God. He will come to
our help if we only arise and become an active channel for God’s
grace. Do you think it is the teachers who make converts and change
human hearts? No, surely not. They are only pure souls who take the
first step, and then let the spirit of Baha’u’llah move them and make
use of them…
Shoghi Effendi will surely pray for your success if you should arise
and start to teach. In fact the mere act of arising will win for you
God’s help and blessings.
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)