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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, NYC, 16 April)
Reported from the first weekend of New York City cluster’s expansion phase:
…perhaps the greatest “success” was the incredible spirit of unity and love that was cultivated among the friends who participated in the teaching efforts… Over 500 doors were knocked on, and, over the course of only three days, 20 souls entered the Cause of God. And this is only the beginning!
Before going out to teach, the teams prayed fervently that Bahá’u’lláh would guide them to souls who were ready to receive the message.
Of a certainty, guidance was given: While sharing the Faith with a young man in a Washington Heights park, the teacher discovered that she had taught the faith to the man’s father in Ecuador several decades ago! Another teaching team approached a security guard of a high-rise building, requesting permission to enter.
It turned out that the security guard had been a Bahá’í in the Dominican Republic in the 1980’s, but after migrating to the States, had lost touch with the community, and had no idea that there were Bahá’ís in New York City, let alone in his very neighborhood.
On Saturday a team visited a Jamaican family in Brooklyn. The mother was interested but asked if they’d come back Sunday. On Sunday the mother wasn’t home but the team gave the presentation to the father and his 8 year old son. Both enrolled. Last night, the team returned and the mother and two daughters enrolled. Now we have a whole family that has stepped into the Cause. They are so happy and excited. The two older children sat and listened to the entire presentation and asked if they could be Baha’is. The son had a friend visiting who kept asking if he was ready to play a video game but the son said “Not right now. I’m learning about God.”
(From a report shared by the Regional Bahá’í Council of the Northeastern States after NYC’s launch of Cycle 12 of their Intensive Program of Growth. Used with the Council’s permission.)
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O Lord! Grant Thine infinite bestowals, and let the light of Thy guidance shine.
—‘Abdu’l-Bahá, BP 100
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…the couple looked to relocate…
Appropriately, they sought guidance from the Regional Bahá’í Council…
The Council’s homefront pioneering office sent them a list of priority clusters, and armed with that they set about listening to clusters’ needs and trying to “decide who we could be the most help to,” recalls Margie.
When the dust settled, Margie and Fariborz and two children still in high school found themselves in New Berlin in the B-stage Waukesha County cluster.
As for their own service, Margie and Fariborz, after much prayer, decided to start a musical fireside.
“The idea was the local Bahá’ís could show off their musical talent and invite their friends,” explained Margie. “Musical talent, however, is not a requirement, as many come just to enjoy the music.”
Each fireside begins with a potluck dinner and social hour. Then the musical portion starts with a prayer and the reading of Bahá’í writings on music.
“At the last fireside, there were three members of the community of interest who were very inspired, and at their follow-ups requested more information about the Bahá’í Faith and promised to be back,” reports Margie.
(“Homefront pioneers help ignite two clusters“, The American Bahá’í – Published: 4/4/2008 http://www.usbnc.org/tab/news/templates/layout1.aspx?articleid=2947&zoneid=3)