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(Pacific – Tonga, February 2011)
A refreshing report from a devoted pioneer in the Pacific — filling her schedule with service: Taking the initiative to fill gaps she recognizes at the school at which she serves; spending evenings doing home- and deepening visits; and dedicating weekends to childrens’ classes and junior youth groups!
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NEWS FROM TONGA
So, I arrived last Tuesday night and went straight to a devotional in the house next to us – and of course I had to sing…talk about throwing yourself in so quickly! We got settled in that night and then went to the Ocean of Light school the next day. It’s a primary and high school and it’s run by Bahá’ís but it’s for non-Bahá’ís too.
I’m currently working in the Library in the school because it’s still pretty bare at the minute! Books are being donated all the time, so I’m helping categorize and shelve them…
I realised very quickly that there is like NO music whatsoever in the school… there was nothing structured for them. So I talked to the Director of the school and got his permission to start a choir! So basically at the minute, I’m just trying to find songs to teach them and working out different parts and harmonies, hopefully it will sound as good as it does in my head.
Also, after school some days there is a dance workshop so I’m helping out there! It’s a lot of fun and the kids are learning the steps really quickly.
Most days after school, we will go round the neighbourhood and home visit. At the minute we’re really working with a girl, like sharing quotes about the youth and what the youth can do to better the world and she’s bringing some of her friends to a devotional this weekend, so people around here seem to be really receptive and enthusiastic about the Faith. We’re having an event almost every evening, like devotionals and firesides and then children’s classes and junior youth groups at the weekend.
The children’s class I’m teaching has about 15-20 kids in it so it’s always entertaining! Also, we’re helping to improve their English in the classes, so we’re using games like ‘Simon says’ and singing songs like ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ which are fun at the same time.
I’ve been here a week and have done so much already. I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening next!
The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands, 52 of which are inhabited. The total population is only 102,000. In 2004 there were 29 local Spiritual Assemblies and 5% of the population is Bahá’í. The Bahá’í Faith was first established in Tonga in the 1950s. The National Spiritual Assembly of Tonga was established in 1976.
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O servant of Bahá!
Music is regarded as a praiseworthy science at the Threshold of the Almighty, so that thou mayest chant verses at large gatherings and congregations in a most wondrous melody and raise such hymns of praise at the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar to enrapture the Concourse on High. By virtue of this, consider how much the art of music is admired and praised. Try, if thou canst, to use spiritual melodies, songs and tunes, and to bring the earthly music into harmony with the celestial melody. Then thou wilt notice what a great influence music hath and what heavenly joy and life it conferreth. Strike up such a melody and tune as to cause the nightingales of divine mysteries to be filled with joy and ecstasy.
I rejoice to hear that thou takest pains with thine art, for in this wonderful new age, art is worship. The more thou strivest to perfect it, the closer wilt thou come to God. What bestowal could be greater than this, that one’s art should be even as the act of worshipping the Lord? That is to say, when thy fingers grasp the paintbrush, it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple.
– `Abdu’l-Bahá, Importance of Arts, #11, 12
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(Report is from the Northern Ireland Baha’i newsletter “CommuNIqué”, issue 154 – 1 March 2011, used with the author’s kind permission.) (Photos are copyright Bahá’í International Community, view here and 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.
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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 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)
“Anna’s presentation” is found in Ruhi Book 6, Teaching the Cause, and consists of a comprehensive hypothetical narrative of how a Bahá’í named Anna explains the fundamental verities of the Faith to her friend Emilia.
How people are applying it:
People are using Anna’s presentation as a good option to support direct person-to-person teaching of the Bahá’í Faith in many settings: for example, firesides, individual encounters or “coffee shop” meetings, collective teaching campaigns, home visits or Holy Day events.
Many have memorized the presentation. Others use an outline and make the presentation conversationally. Still others use flip books with pictures to help give the presentation structure.
If presented in one session it can last 30-45 minutes. Depending on the responsiveness of the listener and time available, though, people also present one or two sections at a time over several sessions.
* God, our relationship with Him and His Manifestations; Bahá’u’lláh as the Promised One of all ages
* Unity as the primary aim of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings; the essential oneness of humanity and need to eliminate prejudice
* Story of Bahá’u’lláh; His suffering and endurance in the face of persecution; His Revelation and its influence on people’s hearts and minds
* Story of the Báb; His station as the “Gate” leading to the Promised Day of God; establishment of the spiritual and administrative World Center
* Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh; life and station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; station of the Guardian; establishment of the Universal House of Justice
* Laws and commandments as a sign of God’s love; a few examples of spiritual and social laws (emphasis in Ruhi Book 6 is on obligatory prayer, prohibitions against backbiting and intoxicants, and importance of education)
* Religion building a World Order: roles and benefits for the individual believer; roles and benefits for the community; roles of the institutions and benefits for society
Practices and attitudes:
* Frequent quotation from writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
* Respect for the hearer’s faith background
* Logical progression of the above concepts with few details conveyed immediately, to avoid overwhelming the seeker or inviting argument on specific points before the seeker understands the “big picture”; the underlying expectation is that the hearer will follow up afterward if interested
* Asking the hearer what he or she feels at certain intervals, and asking permission to continue
* Listening and being sensitive to the hearer’s state of receptivity
* Expressing the hope that the hearer will join the Bahá’í community
* Inviting the hearer at appropriate points to participate in core activities
* Finishing the presentation with a shared prayer and a gift of a small prayer book
Anna’s presentation in various formats:
Microsoft PowerPoint: ̀(with text and photos)
Microsoft Word: (text-only, no photos)
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‘Abdu’l-Bahá turned to the Blessed Beauty and prayed: ‘O Blessed Beauty, confirm me!’
“…in the city of Baghdad, I talked with a learned man, Mulla Hassan, some of whose relatives were believers. No matter how hard they tried to give him the Message, he would not accept it. Once, they brought him to my house when I was just getting up from my sleep and combing my hair. They said, ‘We have brought so-and-so here and we beg you to come and speak with him; perhaps, he will become a believer.’ I said, ‘Very well,’ and then I turned to the Blessed Beauty and prayed: ‘O Blessed Beauty, confirm me!’ Afterwards, I talked to him, and in the same hour he became a believer. He became exceedingly good and was so enkindled that, although he was of high rank, he used to go into the kitchen and cook things with his own hand to entertain the friends.”
(Talk by Abdu’l-Bahá in the Holy Land, translated by Dr. Zia Baghdadi: Star of the West, Vol. IX, No. 3, p. 36) (Found in Lights of Guidance, second part, ch. 4, no. 1981)
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(Excerpted and adapted from an article in The American Bahá’í online, 20 April 2008 ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)