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(US, SC, 31 July)
This astonishing report shows how a believer used Anna’s presentation in a simple way to confirm those people he had nurtured friendly contact with over a period and whom he felt to be receptive, in the Faith.
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Recently a forum was held for individuals who lead chapters of the Bahá’í-inspired Black Men’s Gathering. One of the activities at this event was an in-depth study of and consultation on the use of Anna’s presentation, which helped the participants gain confidence in using the presentation in their teaching activities. Here is a brief report from one individual at the Black Men’s Gathering Leadership Forum about what happened with Anna’s presentation after returning to his home in Greenville, SC (B-stage cluster). This experience also shows the power of directly and lovingly inviting someone to embrace the Faith.
I just wanted to share our results with Anna’s presentation here in Greenville since returning from the gathering. Dad and I have shared it with three seekers and we have three new Bahá’ís! We picked who we thought was the most receptive in our community of interest and invited two of them to the [Bahá’í] center on Saturday evening and told them we wanted to share something with them. We got through the section on the Báb and then had some refreshments and then invited them to become Bahá’ís!!! They immediately and excitedly almost jumped off the couch with Yes! Yes! Yes! and shared with us how special they felt to be invited to become Bahá’ís in such a way. On Sunday evening we met with a third person we had thought of and shared Anna’s presentation again breaking at the same spot for refreshments, inviting them to become a Bahá’í and with the same results!
These new Bahá’ís were seekers in our Saturday morning African drum class and have recently been attending our Sunday Devotionals and adult class. We have another Anna’s presentation scheduled for tomorrow at 7:30 pm
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Inside the main entrance of the House of ‘Abbúd in ‘Akká (Acre), Israel
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O thou who art turning thy face towards God! Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious. Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou seekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance He healeth a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a nod He layeth balm on every wound, with a glimpse He freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief. He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord..
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, SWA 51, no. 22
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(Excerpted from the teaching blog: http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/07/black-mens-gathering-is-organization-of.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
Connecting hearts and souls
(US, DC, 9 June)
Here are three highly inspiring stories of teaching encounters by experienced teachers in teams in this “A” stage cluster. They clearly illustrate the working of unseen spiritual forces that are released when the believers unitedly arise for the triumph of the Cause of the Bahá’u’lláh!
We arrived at this house last. I personally was praying to Bahá’u’lláh that I not be distracted the bit of hunger and fatigue I was feeling. As soon as we knocked on the door, a man and his two children appeared. His radiance dispelled any thoughts I had about sleep or food.
He greeted us warmly, stepped out to the porch and his next question was, “So what is this Bahá’í Faith anyways?” My teaching partner began the presentation and there was a flow of warmth and camaraderie between the two men. I began to pray, imagining that ‘Abdu’l-Baha was standing between the two men with his hand on both of their hearts serving as a conduit for Bahá’u’lláh’s love.
As we proceeded with the presentation, he agreed with many of the concepts introduced, saying that he always knew there was one religion, one human family, and one God. He seemed visibly touched by the picture of Bahá’u’lláh’s chains and when asked if he thought Bahá’u’lláh was one of the mirrors he said, “If Christ is a mirror then Bahá’u’lláh is too.”
We talked about getting back together soon. We were impressed with his compassion. We all embraced and departed.
A second story:
Our teaching team came across one person. We proceeded to present the presentation to him and he seemed rather engaged, really looking over the pictures and listening intently to the quotes. We made it through the section about the life of Bahá’u’lláh and asked if he thought Bahá’u’lláh might be one of these Manifestations sent to guide us. He nodded yes and we asked if he would like to join us in our mission to unify mankind and he said yes.
So we continued with more on the history of the Faith and some further principles. After hearing more about the life of Bahá’u’lláh and some further teachings, he suddenly had a look of intensity and started to look around for the declaration card. He really wanted to sign it. It was as though his soul was recognizing the truth before it—as though it had been waiting for this—and he was suddenly very intent about signing the card. He clearly understood the significance of this act and it was a moving event to witness. It conveyed to us that the soul is so aware of what is happening and is always ready to recognize it’s Creator.
We gave this man the Gift of Prayers and said the Obligatory prayer with him before moving on in our teaching. A few porches down we had another long adventure—this time with my teaching partner doing the presentation. From the porch I could see the gentleman that had just embraced the Cause. The entire 30 minutes that we were engaging with the next group, he was reading the Gift of Prayer with all of its prayers and Writings; he never put the book down.
And a third:
We were standing outside a lovely home, and a kind man came down the stairs in response to the bell ring. We introduced ourselves and shared with him that we are Bahá’ís and would like to share with him about the Bahá’í [Faith]. He invited us into his home and said that he was feeding his wife who was a little ill. Together we held hands and shared the short healing prayer by Bahá’u’lláh, and he shared his own prayer as well.
We asked if we could share the presentation and they agreed, so we started sharing Anna’s presentation, and as each page went by and each beautiful quote was read, he was agreeing more and more.
We asked him if he believed that Bahá’u’lláh was one of the Manifestations from God, one of these perfect mirrors that we had spoken of earlier, and he said yes. It was a wonderful conversation and spiritual moment. We asked if we could finish the presentation with them and both of them said “yes!”. At the end of the presentation, both he and his wife declared.
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Monument of the Greatest Holy Leaf
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The ordinances of God have been sent down from the heaven of His most august Revelation. All must diligently observe them. Man’s supreme distinction, his real advancement, his final victory, have always depended, and will continue to depend, upon them. Whoso keepeth the commandments of God shall attain everlasting felicity.
A twofold obligation resteth upon him who hath recognized the Day Spring of the Unity of God, and acknowledged the truth of Him Who is the Manifestation of His oneness. The first is steadfastness in His love, such steadfastness that neither the clamor of the enemy nor the claims of the idle pretender can deter him from cleaving unto Him Who is the Eternal Truth, a steadfastness that taketh no account of them whatever. The second is strict observance of the laws He hath prescribed—laws which He hath always ordained, and will continue to ordain, unto men, and through which the truth may be distinguished and separated from falsehood.
– Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, CXXXIII
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(Adapted from a posting at teaching.bahai.us: http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/06/here-are-three-recent-stories-of.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
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)