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Hear this enlightening explanation of the purpose of teaching – from 26:15 minutes – in the recording of a talk given by former member of the Universal House of Justice and renowned author Mr. Adib Taherzadeh, at a conference in Alaska in the mid-80s.
(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)
(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.
♣ ♣ ♣
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)
This story from Chantelle’s blog demonstrates the effectiveness of a discerning use of arts and media as a means for attracting hearts when presenting the sacred Message of Bahá’u’lláh.
– “Are you a Baha’i?”
– “No, my daughter is, she just got back from Israel, she can tell you all about it.”
So we organised this event, with her in mind, going through ‘Anna’s presentation’ with songs dispersed throughout and two videos, and slide show with quotes on….
It was AMAZING, we had three interested people come, and [after the presentation] we all naturally paired off and went through in more detail what we had covered using the flipcharts….for about 45 minutes we did that one-on-one type deepening and the room was alive… [My mother] handed out dessert and we continued, then the lady [my father had] brought came to me and said “I just told [your mother] and I would like to tell you that I would like to formally become a Baha’i” – Stunned look on Chantelle’s face….
“Wow…yes oh my gosh…thats great”
Of course we have no declaration cards…but yeah…she just instantly recognised Baha’u’llah in those two hours…
She is from India, had been living in NZ for two years, and told me, at the age of 13 she [had encountered a man in New Dehli who informed her about] the building of the ‘new Baha’i Temple’. From that moment on she was intrigued by this Faith…and then as a 32 year old living in NZ….she finally finds out more deeply about it and declares…
What a gift.
I sat and talked with her at her place quite a few times…, it was like meeting my sister in a way…we just got each other!!
Chantelle adds in an email to me about what they did after the media presentation, studying together one-on-one:
Thank you, Miss Brader!
Ringstone symbol on the Shrine of the Báb
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Down the millennia, the lives of those who responded to intimations of the Divine have inspired breathtaking achievements in music, architecture, and the other arts, endlessly replicating the soul’s experience for millions of their fellow believers. No other force in existence has been able to elicit from people comparable qualities of heroism, self-sacrifice and self-discipline.
The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith, p. 14
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(US, WA, 28 July)
The following article-series hopes to share relevant points of learning gleaned from collective teaching efforts worldwide. Here is from a C-stage cluster (sure to advance very soon considering their dedicated efforts!):
Learnings, tips, insights gleaned:
· Try to ascertain what the person’s needs are and then address those. Maybe they need to empty themselves first. Choose parts of the presentation that seem needed.
· Don’t be afraid.
· The person who makes eye contact with the seeker should do the presentation, while the other team member prays.
· Have at least one female on the team. A team of two guys could seem threatening to women who answer the door.
· Age diversity is good in a team.
· A follow-up fireside can be focused on something from “Anna’s Presentation”.
· When the door opens, what do you say? Basically give the introduction to Anna’s Presentation. “We are Baha’is, followers of Baha’u’llah, members of the Baha’i Faith, a new religion whose purpose is to unite all the people of the world in one common purpose, one universal Faith.”
· Don’t make a big deal of saying your name. Say your name and shake hands.
· Give CONCEPTS not facts. These are most important.
· For home visits give the “Gift of Prayers”, or other printed prayers.
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November 1998, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Bahá’í Faith in France, when more than 2,000 people came from some 50 countries to celebrate.
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Problems arise where followers of one of the world’s faiths prove unable to distinguish between its eternal and transitory features, and attempt to impose on society rules of behaviour that have long since accomplished their purpose. The principle is fundamental to an understanding of religion’s social role: “The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be 38 the same as that which a subsequent age may require”, Bahá’u’lláh points out. “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”
– The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith, p. 37-8
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(From an update about the direct teaching effort in the C-stage Spokane, WA cluster, http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/07/here-is-update-about-direct-teaching.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)
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)