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(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)
(US, AZ, 3 September)
The Seeker Response system in place in the US for seekers who register their interest in the Faith on the internet or by telephone is increasingly leading to declarations. In one Arizona cluster five declarations in a single month have been seen by such contacts. These individuals were connected to a believer that lives nearby; one such believer here describes the steps she follows in contacting him/her:
An email is first sent, which reads:
On ___, you asked for more information from the U.S. Bahá’í Web site. I live near you, and I would love to talk with you about the Bahá’í Faith. I would also like to hear what attracted you to the Web site. I’m sure I could provide you with more information.
You could reply to this email, or you could just call me at home. My number is _____. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
She goes on to explain her practice:
Most generally I hear back from them within two days, and often immediately. I then either email back or call, inviting them to meet and asking them where they would feel most comfortable meeting. I ask this, particularly if it is a woman, so that we could meet in a public venue if they request. If you and they are both comfortable, you can offer your home. (Most are not comfortable with meeting in their own homes.) I generally ask if it is alright to invite another friend to accompany me. . . .
Since the majority of people are most comfortable meeting for the first time in a public place rather than a home, a coffee shop is a great venue. They have, in most cases arrived early. That allows them to get what they want and settle in before I arrive.
I first tell them a little about myself, and ask them to tell me a little about themselves. Generally I ask what they know about the Bahá’í Faith. I tell them I can offer them a brief presentation and begin Anna’s presentation. I do not stop for questions unless they request it, so I do not lose my train of thought. I try to read sideways but if there are two people I am reading upside down. Pictures help!
If they ask questions I answer them, being careful to remind them I am giving my interpretations and that as Bahá’ís we are obligated to investigate the truth for ourselves.
I try not to deviate much from the original language in Anna’s presentation. When we get to the laws I may interject that we are all striving to bring ourselves in line with the guidance and none of us is perfect. I always ask them to read at least a few of the quotes and the closing prayer. Then I ask if they believe Bahá’u’lláh is the Manifestation for today.
If they say yes, I tell them they are already a Bahá’í and ask if I can hug them and welcome them. I try to have a prayer book for them on that day.
I offer two quotes from Ruhi Book 1 and invite them to Feast and so on. I point out the importance of the Obligatory prayer. I generally follow up the same day in an email telling them how enjoyable it was for me to have met them and offer to meet again. That allows me to schedule a follow up visit the next week to introduce them to some of the Bahá’ís.
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Hand of the Cause Tarazu’llah Samandari with Gloria Faizi, New Era High School, Panchgani, India, 1967.
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O thou lamp who art enkindled with the fire of the Love of God!
Verily, I read thy recent letter which showed thy strong love, thy being ablaze with the fire of the love of thy Lord, the Mighty, the Praised, and the penetration of the Spirit of Truth in thy limbs, nerves, veins, arteries, bones, blood and flesh, until it hath taken the reins of power from thy hands and moveth thee as it willeth, causeth thee to speak in what it willeth and attracteth thee as it willeth. This is becoming of whatever heart is replenished with the spirit of the love of God. Thou shalt surely behold wondrous traces and shalt discover the signs of thy Mighty Lord.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 716-7
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(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog, http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/09/exciting-breaking-news-seeker-response.html ) (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!
* 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.
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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)
(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)
New believer: “I tell them who Baha’u’llah is”
(US, DC, 17 May)
Here is a prime example of the practice and outcome of consolidation reported about a new believer that truly speaks for itself:
C__ embraced the Faith during the expansion phase, and at the same time enrolled her young son. Right away she was invited to begin to study. Within a week of accepting Baha’u’llah, she had been visited twice and was studying Book 1 (Reflections on the Life of the Spirit), and has been doing so regularly since then. She is now in the middle of the second unit of the book, and understands that this is a sequence of courses, and she is excited about moving through the sequence and carrying out the practices.
When she completed the first unit, the tutors (who also were the teachers who presented Anna’s presentation to her during the expansion) gave her a gift of the Hidden Words. She was thrilled with the book, holding it carefully in her hands, saying how it is “so beautiful on the cover and what’s inside”. She understood that the practice of the first unit was to read from this book or from some of the Baha’i writings every morning and evening. And when she came the next week to study again (and join her tutors for dinner at their home), she had obviously gone beyond her personal reading and had begun to share the Writings with others.’
Over dinner, we asked her if she might want to share some thoughts with the cluster about her experience over the past weeks. She talked about how during the last week “friends have asked about Baha’u’llah, and I tell them who Baha’u’llah is. I have shared prayers with friends and co-workers. One friend commented how nice the Hidden Words are. One of my friends had a difficult day and had a problem, a test, with another coworker and I shared with her ‘when a thought of war comes, replace it with a stronger thought of peace’ and my friend really liked that.”
She also talked about how she is using the Baha’i Writings now rather than making up her own prayers. She said, “I’ve always been in the habit of saying my own prayers, short prayers that I make up, now I am beginning to develop the habit of saying these prayers from Baha’u’llah.”
She has begun to teach the Faith – arising immediately to share with others the Message she has embraced. She told us, “I’ve told several peple about the Bahai Faith and people seemed interested.” Also she said that some family members have asked, “Who is Baha’u’ll’ah, who is this person?”, showing a little bit of reluctance about the “new religion” she had accepted and begun to promote. She said that when they spoke to her like that, she told them that, “The Baha’i Faith is about love, it’s about unity, it’s about the oneness of all religions.” And with this response “…they calm down, they even begin to get interested.” She has a plan to share Anna’s presentation with one person who has expressed interest, and, together with her tutors, is thinking about other people she can present the Faith to during the next few weeks.
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The most important thing is to polish the mirrors of hearts in order that they may become illumined and receptive of the divine light. One heart may possess the capacity of the polished mirror; another be covered and obscured by the dust and dross of this world… Therefore our duty lies in seeking to polish the mirrors of our hearts in order that we shall become reflectors of that light and recipients of the divine bounties which may be fully revealed through them.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá BWF 218
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(Report from the “A” stage Washington DC cluster) (http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/05/following-stories-from-atc-of.html)(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
(US, WA, April)
Report from a teaching campaign in this “A” stage cluster:
A team of one Adult and one Youth knocked on a door. [A mother opened, and] the youth immediately began praying from his prayer book! The TV was on and a 3-year-old played close by. The team stayed focused on giving all of Anna’s Presentation. When asked if she had any questions, she replied, “No, but I like what I am hearing!” When the last page of the presentation was given and she was asked, “Do you believe in Bahá’u’lláh and His message?” She said “yes” and the teacher quickly began filling in her card with name, address etc. She took the card and corrected the date and signed her name. This was a third attempt to follow up. Persistence, love, and prayers for Divine Assistance = Declaration! A follow up visit included 2 friends, having just completed Ruhi Book 2, who gave the first deepening theme on the Eternal Covenant.
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With hearts overflowing with the love of God, with tongues commemorating the mention of God, with eyes turned to the Kingdom of God, they must deliver the Glad Tidings of the manifestation of the Lord of Hosts to all the people.
(Report from Pierce County – Metro Tacoma IPG, “The Hilltop Teaching Campaign”. Used with permission)