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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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Experiencing the devotional attitude: Bahá’ís on pilgrimage enter the Shrine of the Báb

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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

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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.)

(US – South Central region, 25 October)

A report highlighting the systematic nature of teaching and the development of language use in explaining our purposes and activities.

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Using Different Language to Describe Devotional Gatherings

 

With regard to devotional meetings, the Universal House of Justice wrote in its Ridván 2008 Message:

Responding to the inmost longing of every heart to commune with its Maker, [thousands upon thousands, embracing the diversity of the entire human family] carry out acts of collective worship in diverse settings, uniting with others in prayer, awakening spiritual susceptibilities, and shaping a pattern of life distinguished for its devotional character.

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A believer from the South who has been holding a regular devotional gathering explains how her choice of language has shifted in more recent attempts to describe these gatherings to friends and neighbors.  This shift in language, she explains, is due to experience that has been gained from communities that are practicing the core activities.

 

Before:

I was calling it a ‘devotional’.

Now:

I’m

  • inviting everyone to a get-together; and
  • each time has a theme.

 

Before:

[The purpose is] ‘to pray together’–it kinda of felt like ‘church’.

Now:

  • The purpose is to strengthen the neighborhood by focusing on friendship and unity

    we have opportunities at the get-together to

    • talk about common spiritual interests, like ‘gratitude’ or ‘being fearless’ or ‘friendship’.

    Also, we read from uplifting poems, quotations, and have music.

     

    Before:

    I’ll provide everything: refreshments, music, quotes, home.  Even though I wanted folks to play music, bring quotes, etc., it was still mostly ME being in the center.  I believe it’s important that no one person is in the center, that the spirit is in the center, and our love for each other.

    Now:

    • The vision is that additional folks in our neighborhood will arise to offer a weekly or monthly devotional.

    They may just do it, or they may like to have training [on] how.  The course called Reflections on the Life of the Spirit provides the training.  I’d like to start one in Oct. or Nov. on a Friday if there is interest.  I probably will not announce this at the get-togethers, but will talk with guests one-on-one.

     

    Before:

    Monthly devotional only–a stand-alone activity.

    Now:

    • Focus on additional activities and service projects to bring neighbors together for the good of our families, each other, the neighborhood, and the environment.

    [For instance through] the Junior Youth empowerment program. I’m going to see if there is interest in being of service with:  Creek clean-up, erosion prevention of the creek, water catchment for the neighbors who live here, plus input and ideas and involvement from everyone will be welcome.

    ‘Thank you for collaborating [with] me.  I look forward to continuing to learn, incorporating the learning, and seeing you very soon.’

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    Public gardening service project in Bucharest, Romania

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    More important [than enrollment] is that every soul feel welcome to join the community in contributing to the betterment of society, commencing a path of service to humanity…

    Energies are…focused on smaller pockets of the population, each of which should become a centre of intense activity… Those who serve in these settings, both local inhabitants and visiting teachers, would rightly view their work in terms of community building…

    [T]heir teaching efforts [represent] a process that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development. The activities that drive this process, and in which newly found friends are invited to engage—meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives—may well need to be maintained with assistance from outside the local population for a time. It is to be expected, however, that the multiplication of these core activities would soon be sustained by human resources indigenous to the neighbourhood or village itself—by men and women eager to improve material and spiritual conditions in their surroundings. A rhythm of community life should gradually emerge, then, commensurate with the capacity of an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new World Order.

    Within this context, receptivity manifests itself in a willingness to participate in the process of community building set in motion by the core activities…

    [T]he task before the friends this coming year is to teach within one or more receptive populations, employing a direct method in their exposition of the fundamentals of their Faith, and find those souls longing to shed the lethargy imposed on them by society and work alongside one another in their neighbourhoods and villages to begin a process of collective transformation.

    (The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2010 Message, par. 4-6)

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    (Adapted from the Teaching blog http://teaching.bahai.us/2010/10/using-different-language-to-describe.html ) (Photo copyright Baha’i International Community – view here)

    (US, PA, 21 August)

    Here is a refreshing report from Pennsylvania where they are learning to apply the guidance of the Five Year Plan, and to move collectively.

    ♣ ♣ ♣

    Dearly Beloved Friends,

    It was a beautiful day to teach! After the devotions and consultation, a group of beloved souls embarked on an afternoon of directly sharing the message of Bahá’u’lláh.

    A pair of believers went on a home visit planning to share Anna’s presentation with a friend. Instead, they found themselves sharing the Faith with members of the whole family. One friend lovingly expressed the joy she saw in one of the souls: “They were listening to Anna’s presentation and were really interested. One said, ‘You have opened my eyes to something new and I do believe that Bahá’u’lláh is the return of Christ.’ It was a wonderful experience for me.”

    Two other friends spent a few hours in a park. With a table and books set up, they were prepared and energized to encounter new people. One member described her experience: “A woman stopped by. She was happy to listen to the whole of Anna’s presentation and is interested in attending devotional meetings. We wrote down her information for future contact.”

    The wonderful part is that we are exploring a number of different ways of directly sharing the Message. The more we teach, the more we develop our capacity to teach. Friends, we encourage you all to participate… The Area Teaching Committee continues to pray for the success of our community.

    We leave you with the words of our Beloved Master: “Of all the gifts of God, the greatest is the gift of Teaching.” Let us continue to share this gift with others.

    With hearts full of love and excitement,

    The Area Teaching Committee of Philadelphia


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    Cactus garden at Bahji, ‘Akká (Acre), Israel

    Cactus garden at Bahjí, ‘Akká (Acre), Israel

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    For every era hath a spirit; the spirit of this illumined era lieth in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. For these lay the foundation of the oneness of the world of humanity and promulgate universal brotherhood. They are founded upon the unity of science and religion and upon investigation of truth. They uphold the principle that religion must be the cause of amity, union and harmony among men. They establish the equality of both sexes and propound economic principles which are for the happiness of individuals. They diffuse universal education, that every soul may as much as possible have a share of knowledge. They abrogate and nullify religious, racial, political, patriotic and economic prejudices and the like. Those teachings that are scattered throughout the Epistles and Tablets are the cause of the illumination and the life of the world of humanity. Whoever promulgateth them will verily be assisted by the Kingdom of God.

    – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, SWA 109, no. 71

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    (Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog, report from the Philadelphia A-stage cluster: http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/08/across-country-friends-are-discovering.html ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

    (US, IL, 14 May)

    Persistent efforts have lead to learning in this IL “A” stage cluster, which just completed the expansion phase of the second cycle of its intensive program of growth:

    Even in places where people said they were not interested in learning about the Faith, they were happy to pray with the Bahá’ís, and some individuals specifically requested prayers for friends and family members.

    One person was surprised and happy when the Bahá’ís offered to organize a devotional gathering in her home… The friends have seen the benefits of leaving people [of different faiths] with the understanding that we are all co-workers.

    Another way in which the friends demonstrated openness was to make it clear that the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are for everyone, not just the members of the Bahá’í community. Thus, they are saying, “Bahá’u’lláh teaches this” rather than saying “We Bahá’ís do this and this.”

    Another believer noted that opening by saying, “Hi, my name is ___ and we are in your neighborhood,” that it would create a personal connection.

     	The Bahá'� House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.A.

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    Blessed is he who hath enjoyed intimate communion with Thee, and rid himself of all attachment to anyone save Thee.

    —Bahá’u’lláh, BP 52

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    (Report from the Evanston and Skokie, IL cluster, excerpted)(http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/05/persistent-efforts-have-lead-to.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

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