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(Thailand, 2 October 2010)
A report shared on the Thai mailing list that demonstrates understanding of the need for the core activities to be integrated, which would involve invitation of contacts made in one such activity (e.g. with children’s classes, inviting the parents) to another of the core activities (e.g. study circles or devotional meetings). Home visits would here provide the link between the various components of the system (the institute process) as a whole.
One may note the degree of focus and coordination achieved among the participants in the expansion phase through the formulation of a clear and realistic strategy for the group’s efforts, as stated in line two. A valuable learning on how to introduce Ruhi book 1 (giving a taster) to potential participants is also to be found. Any better?!
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Cycle 6: Expansion Phase
A mighty spiritual army of 3 teams joined in the expansion phase of the Chiang Mai cluster. The strategy was to teach and invite the parents of children’s class children to join study circles.
One team went to visit one parent and invited her for Book 1. A team member said: “We have totally changed our method of inviting people to study circles. We actually go ahead and do the first chapter with them on the first visit. We discuss 4-5 quotations with them but don’t do the writing part. Its just to get them in touch with the Writings. We have had a 90% success rate! Almost everyone wants to continue the courses without hesitation. Then we go back and do it completely on the next visit once the study circle has formally started. We now also explain the purpose of the institute courses that its not only for deepening and spiritual empowerment but also a training to increase our capacities to serve others in the neighborhood.”
Teaching in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The CIC [Cluster Institute Coordinator] said: “Now our challenge is to commit the tutor for this new group with a potential of 4 participants including the tutor. Many tutors already have a study circle and some are also children’s class teachers or junior youth animators. But we will manage with additional sacrifice!”
One CGC [Cluster Growth Committee] member said: “Chiang Mai is launching its IPG [Intensive Program of Growth] in Ridvan of 2011. Therefore we need more human recourses to be able to launch our IPG with full force as we want the IPG to keep on going strongly. Our focus is on teaching and inviting people to arise and serve with us. The Training Institute will play a major role, so that’s why we are teaching and inviting parents of the children’s class children to join study circles”.
Another team went to share prayers and discuss the children’s class courses with another parent that had never been visited before. The parent said he had actually gone to enquire about the children’s class from other parents at the Mooban center. He said: “They told me it was good and I believe them. We support our child to join in good things”.
Earlier on, another parent had acknowledged that her son was more peaceful, more hardworking with his homework, and helped his parents. She said: “We have seen positive developments in him and support his continuation in the class”.
The next challenge for the cluster is getting the parents involved in the community building process through the institute courses and their service components.
After the teaching day was over, a member in one of the teams said: “People are so receptive to the principles of the Faith, I can’t believe it! You just have to go out and open your mouth. Is there anything easier than that??”
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A programme of growth
Invariably, opportunities afforded by the personal circumstances of the believers initially involved—or perhaps a single homefront pioneer—to enter into meaningful and distinctive conversation with local residents dictate how the process of growth begins in a cluster. A study circle made up of a few friends or colleagues, a class offered for several neighbourhood children, a group formed for junior youth during after-school hours, a devotional gathering hosted for family and friends—any one of these can serve as a stimulus to growth. What happens next follows no predetermined course…. But…the outcome must be the same. Within every cluster, the level of cohesion achieved among the core activities must be such that, in their totality, a nascent programme for the sustained expansion and consolidation of the Faith can be perceived. That is to say, in whatever combination and however small in number, devotional gatherings, children’s classes and junior youth groups are being maintained by those progressing through the sequence of institute courses and committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster. This initial flow of human resources into the field of systematic action marks the first of several milestones in a process of sustainable growth.
(The Universal House of Justice, 28 December 2010, par. 4)
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(Emphasis added. – The editor) (Report and photo used with permission of the author.)
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, CA, 5 December)
From this short report may be gleaned virtually all the key concepts and methods that our beloved Supreme Body is directing us to learn about in the current stage of the unfoldment of the Divine Plan of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Let us make befitting use of these precious lessons, which serve to draw us nearer to our hearts’ Desire!
This story from Coachella Valley, CA (C-stage cluster) is full of gems. A group of believers, small in number but totally committed to teaching, accompanied by their friends from neighboring clusters, rose up to engage in a collective teaching effort. They tasted the joy of teaching and are steadily gaining in knowledge and experience. They are learning how to present the Message directly and respectfully. One particularly thought-provoking insight is highlighted in red below.
I am so pleased to report success in our mini teaching effort. We had approximately 12 people from our cluster participating, and joined by the cluster institute coordinator, Auxiliary Board member, and two members of the area teaching committee…
We have gained a lot of insights from our experiences. Here are some:
Our purpose in collective teaching is to find receptive, waiting souls and invite them to recognize Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for this Day.
Wisdom requires refraining from trying to convince, arguing about philosophical points or dogma, and avoiding engaging in contention or dispute.
As we work together as teaching teams, our skills and capacities improve markedly with each new interaction.
When we are presenting the Bahá’í Faith to someone, we need to encourage them to see themselves as having the capacities to help build the unity of the human family, and empower them to arise and serve.
As we invite people to join the Faith, we have the opportunity to encourage them to participate in the processes of growth by entering the institute process and engaging in the core activities. We need to be committed to accompany them in this process.
So now, our own cluster’s collective understanding has grown:
We realize that there are pure souls waiting for us. Visiting a receptive neighborhood is a very effective way to find them.
We can gain people’s confidence through our own sincerity and purity of motive, and speaking to them from the heart in a respectful and dignified way.
“Careful” teaching does not mean slowly over a long period of time! Anna’s presentation IS a careful, well-thought-out, effective approach!
We must not lose sight of the institute process when we get engaged in exciting and fruitful teaching efforts. In other words, we need everyone to continue moving through the Ruhi courses, so we have more resources to carry out the work. An integral part of the institute process is the practice and service components.
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Fountain and benches in the Ridván Garden, ‘Akká
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Behold the portals which Bahá’u’lláh hath opened before you! Consider how exalted and lofty is the station you are destined to attain; how unique the favors with which you have been endowed. Should we become intoxicated with this cup, the sovereignty of this globe of earth will become lower in our estimation than children’s play. Should they place in the arena the crown of the government of the whole world, and invite each one of us to accept it, undoubtedly we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.
To attain to this supreme station is, however, dependent on the realization of certain conditions:
The first condition is firmness in the Covenant of God …
The second condition: Fellowship and love amongst the believers…
The third condition: Teachers must continually travel to all parts of the continent, nay, rather, to all parts of the world, but they must travel like ‘Abdu’l-Bahá…
The aim is this: The intention of the teacher must be pure, his heart independent, his spirit attracted, his thought at peace, his resolution firm, his magnanimity exalted and in the love of God a shining torch. Should he become as such, his sanctified breath will even affect the rock; otherwise there will be no result whatsoever. As long as a soul is not perfected, how can he efface the defects of others? Unless he is detached from aught else save God, how can he teach severance to others?
In short, O ye believers of God! Endeavor ye, so that you may take hold of every means in the promulgation of the religion of God and the diffusion of the fragrances of God.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 50-54
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(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/12/learning-from-each-new-interaction.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)