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(US, AZ, 14 November)

This report from an Arizona B-stage cluster provides some central insights about how to motivate the friends in service and build trust and rapport with a target population. It also underscores the merit of immediately offering seekers and declarants consolidation activities they can contribute to.

In order for people to commit to service, they need to feel that they “own” their role in the process. One way to achieve this is to ask them to do something specific and then report back on their experience. Keeping data is another way to help the friends take ownership of the process.


Because we are holding study circles, children’s classes, home visits and devotional meetings at the same time every week in one neighborhood, the residents now know they can expect us to be there at that time. It has also helped the believers to participate in a collective effort based on unity of vision.


Attentive consultation with the residents allowed us to understand that a key need of the community is an English class. So weekly afternoon English classes are being held and are well attended.


● In meeting the challenge to assist all members in the cluster to find their niche in the Five Year Plan, we have learned to focus on the guidance. This helps everyone understand that teaching can occur in a variety of venues.

The new believers and family members are quickly involved in the core activities:

★ One had been studying the Faith for several years, including online. She contacted the National Center and it has been clear sailing ever since! Both she and her husband declared and registered their children. Currently at their home there is a weekly children’s class, junior youth group, and a Book 1 study circle occurring simultaneously!


Another couple enthusiastically declared their Faith during Anna’s presentation after hearing of the sacrifice and suffering of the Blessed Beauty. They immediately requested study sessions to learn more of their new Faith.


Three other young people declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh after hearing Anna’s presentation. Two of them immediately began studying Book 1 with their teacher. Another member of the family has been studying the Faith and always seeks us out when we are visiting the neighborhood. He is participating in a Book 1 study circle each week as well.


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Abdu’l-Bahá returning to his home on Haparsim Street in Haifa

* * * * * *

Thousands upon thousands, embracing the diversity of the entire human family, are engaged in systematic study of the Creative Word in an environment that is at once serious and uplifting… As they call on one another in their homes and pay visits to families, friends and acquaintances, they enter into purposeful discussion on themes of spiritual import, deepen their knowledge of the Faith, share Baha’u’llah’s message, and welcome increasing numbers to join them in a mighty spiritual enterprise. Aware of the aspirations of the children of the world and their need for spiritual education, they extend their efforts widely to involve ever-growing contingents of participants in classes that become centres of attraction for the young and strengthen the roots of the Faith in society. They assist junior youth to navigate through a crucial stage of their lives and to become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization.

– The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2008

* * * * * *

(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog, report from an individual believer in West Valley, AZ (B) http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/11/building-trust-in-west-valley.html ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

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(Haifa, 27 November 2008)

From the Universal House of Justice:

We were deeply grieved to learn of the untimely passing of cherished handmaiden of the Blessed Beauty Rebequa Murphy. Her long years of sacrificial, devoted labor for the Cause of God were distinguished by tireless efforts to protect and propagate the Faith as a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors for the Americas, preceded by her membership on the National Spiritual Assembly of Alaska, her service as a pioneer in West Africa, and her work as a representative of the Faith to the United Nations in New York. With abiding admiration we pay tribute to her fervor for teaching, her close and caring relationship with youth, her capacity for showing genuine love and affection to individuals from all strata of society, and her ability to enkindle in the hearts of the friends the desire to serve. We ardently supplicate at the Sacred Threshold for the progress of her luminous soul throughout the heavenly realms and extend our heartfelt sympathy to her family and friends.
.

We call for memorial services to be held in her honor in the Houses of Worship in Wilmette and Panama City and for commemorative gatherings to take place in communities throughout the Americas and in her native Ethiopia.

Here are two excerpts to inspire us from stories in the news quoting her:

“Providing spiritual education for children is a fundamental part of social development,” said Counselor Rebequa Murphy at the 2006 Baha’i Conference on Social and Economic Development. Her comments came in a talk titled “The Preservation of Human Honor,” explaining how human progress will organically spring from core activities. The primary development task of Baha’is today is to “strive to safeguard the sanctity of the human spirit.””Baha’u’llah says, ‘The well being of mankind, its peace and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established’,” said Ms. Murphy. “So nothing we do, no amount of money, no amount of research is going to guarantee the security of mankind unless its unity is firmly established. So that’s what our job is – to lay the foundation [for development], which is the unity of the world.”

http://news.bahai.org/story/500

And in 2003 at the Southern Regional Baha’i Conference together with Counselor Eugene Andrews:

[Mr.] Andrews told the participants that the Faith is not a church, and its members should not conduct themselves in a way where leadership comes from an individual or individuals presumed to be qualified for the purpose.”Where does our spiritual vitality come from? It comes from you all,” he said.

Rebequa Murphy…used an urban analogy to illustrate her point that the institute process (which includes study circles, children’s classes and other community activities) was aimed at raising a community of teachers of the Faith.

“In New York City you learn [to] only hail cabs that have their light on, because if their light’s not on they’re not open for business,” Ms. Murphy said.

“When we become communities of teachers, what happens? What the institute process does, it turns on [our] lights. So people know we’re open for business. And they come to us.

“We must never forget the purpose for which we live — to bring about the oneness of the human family.”

http://www.bahaiworldnews.org/story/267?storyid=267

At the 2007 US National Convention she demonstrated her deep and sincere attachment to the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh and her reverence for the Supreme Body, the Center of the Covenant today, when she said, to effect, “[We want to see and hear] through the eyes and ears of the House of Justice [and not through our own eyes and ears].”

Here are the words of Bahá’u’lláh Himself:

If it be your wish, O people, to know God and to discover the greatness of His might, look, then, upon Me with Mine own eyes, and not with the eyes of any one besides Me. Ye will, otherwise, be never capable of recognizing Me, though ye ponder My Cause as long as My Kingdom endureth, and meditate upon all created things throughout the eternity of God, the Sovereign Lord of all, the Omnipotent, the Ever-Abiding, the All-Wise.

(Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, 272-3)

.

A touching anecdote about a meeting with Ms. Murphy can be found here.

Two audio files of one of her talks are available here and here.

A PowerPoint presentation she made on “The Condition of Humanity” can be downloaded from here.

* * * * * *
.                                                                                                                                                                       .
Counselor Rebequa Murphy(died 25 November 2008 in New York City, after recent travels in Florida)
God bless her radiant soul!

Delegates and observers at the yearly national convention of the Baha’is of the United States (at which Ms. Murphy frequently participated) in 2005 pictured outside the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois

* * * * * *

O my God, Thy Trust hath been returned unto Thee. It behooveth Thy grace and Thy bounty that have compassed Thy dominions on earth and in heaven, to vouchsafe unto Thy newly welcomed one Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and the fruits of the tree of Thy grace! Powerful art Thou to do as Thou willest, there is none other God but Thee, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful, the Compassionate, the Bestower, the Pardoner, the Precious, the All-Knowing.

I testify, O my Lord, that Thou hast enjoined upon men to honor their guest, and he that hath ascended unto Thee hath verily reached Thee and attained Thy Presence. Deal with him then according to Thy grace and bounty! By Thy glory, I know of a certainty that Thou wilt not withhold Thyself from that which Thou hast commanded Thy servants, nor wilt Thou deprive him that hath clung to the cord of Thy bounty and hath ascended to the Dayspring of Thy wealth.

There is none other God but Thee, the One, the Single, the Powerful, the Omniscient, the Bountiful.

—Bahá’u’lláh, BP 44-45

* * * * * *

(Images reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community. The second was photographed by Eric Van Zanten)

(Haifa, 14 November)

To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Baha’i Friends,

The first three of 41 regional conferences called for by the Universal House of Justice in its 20 October 2008 message to the Baha’is of the world have taken place amid great enthusiasm, with focused, action-oriented consultation. Reports from the conferences in Lusaka, Johannesburg, and Nakuru carry news of the tremendous joy that has animated these gatherings. Several accounts have been received of the Baha’is’ being so energized by the spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion to the Cause that they have arisen directly to seize opportunities in cluster after cluster.

The Web site “Baha’i Community News” at http://news.bahai.org/community-news/regional-conferences/ has been created to make available the reports of these regional conferences, based on information received from participants…

Please share this information with the believers in your communities. The reports will no doubt provide encouragement to the friends as they continue to pursue the aim of the Five Year Plan.

With loving Baha’i greetings,

[signed:]

For the Office of Public Information

* * * * * *

“The conference played a big role in recharging my batteries and saying to me, ‘there’s work that needs to be done.’ And I’ll do it happily.”

Tsepo Ngobeni, age 13, South Africa

* * * * * *

photo-header-johannesburg1

The Johannesburg conference, with 1,150 participants, was the largest Baha’i gathering ever held in that country.

* * * * * *

He, verily, will aid everyone that aideth Him, and will remember everyone that remembereth Him. To this beareth witness this Tablet that hath shed the splendor of the loving-kindness of your Lord, the All-Glorious, the All-Compelling.

–Bahá’u’lláh

(cited in The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 76)

* * * * * *

(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

(Haifa, 20 October 2008)

In the House of Justice’s latest message to the Bahá’ís of the world dated 20 October, coinciding with the joyous Celebration of the Birth of the Báb, we learn that our Supreme Institution is turning their hearts “in frequent prayer to Baha’u’llah” and beseeching Him “to strengthen His followers through His unfailing grace.” We have thus each been given yet another golden opportunity to respond to the desire of our Lord! After describing the “twofold character” of “the challenge facing the friends”, and linking it to the “further decline” and “lamentable condition of the present [old world order]”, the letter continues (see the whole of it, unmarked, further down):

In such moments, we implore Him to illumine their souls with the light of knowledge and faith. Let them not underestimate the power inherent in the system they are putting in place for the propagation of His Faith, nor mistake the true purpose of the global enterprise on which they have embarked. Let them not deviate from the path of learning on which they are set, nor be distracted by the ephemeral pursuits of a bewildered society. Let them not fail to appreciate the value of the culture now taking root in the community that promotes the systematic study of the Creative Word in small groups in order to build capacity for service. Let them never forget the imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character. Let them come to realize the full significance of their efforts to help young people form a strong moral identity in their early adolescent years and empower them to contribute to the well-being of their communities. And let them rejoice at having learned through consistent, systematic action how to establish a rhythm of growth that pays due attention to the essential elements of expansion, consolidation, reflection and planning. May they one and all be endowed with constancy and fidelity and be granted the courage to make whatever sacrifices are needed to ensure the resounding success of the Plan. By the rectitude of their conduct, the sincerity of their love for their fellow human beings, and the ardour of their desire to serve the peoples of the world, may they vindicate the truth proclaimed by Baha’u’llah that humanity is one. May they be diligent in their efforts to establish ties of friendship that show no regard for prevalent social barriers and ceaselessly endeavour to bind hearts together in the love of God. That they may recognize the profound implications of their mission is our fervent hope. That they may not falter in accomplishing their ambitious goals, no matter how severe the crises engulfing the world around them, is our most heartfelt prayer at the Sacred Threshold.

Are we ready? One simple way to respond is to attend one of the special conferences the House has called for in each region:

We urge the believers, both those fully engaged in executing the provisions of the Plan and those whose circumstances have prevented them from fulfilling their desire to do so until now, to avail themselves of this opportunity and attend the conference to be held in their area [as much to celebrate the feats already achieved during the Plan as to deliberate on its current exigencies].

But even if we miss it, there are ever new gatherings convened by the Faith’s national, regional and cluster agencies through which we can fulfill our pledge to build the new Order of Bahá’u’lláh, one small step at a time!

An overview of the conferences with reports can be found here: http://news.bahai.org/community-news/regional-conferences/

* * * * * *

Volunteers serving at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel, representing a cross section of the nationalities, races, ethnic groups, and religious backgrounds around the world who have declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh.

* * * * * *

All praise, O my God, be to Thee Who art the Source of all glory and majesty, of greatness and honor, of sovereignty and dominion, of loftiness and grace, of awe and power. Whomsoever Thou willest Thou causest to draw nigh unto the Most Great Ocean, and on whomsoever Thou desirest Thou conferrest the honor of recognizing Thy Most Ancient Name. Of all who are in heaven and on earth, none can withstand the operation of Thy sovereign Will. From all eternity Thou didst rule the entire creation, and Thou wilt continue for evermore to exercise Thy dominion over all created things. There is none other God but Thee, the Almighty, The Most Exalted, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise.
Illumine, O Lord, the faces of Thy servants, that they may behold Thee; and cleanse their hearts that they may turn unto the court of Thy heavenly favors, and recognize Him Who is the Manifestation of Thy Self and the Dayspring of Thine Essence. Verily, Thou art the Lord of all worlds. There is no God but Thee, the Unconstrained, the All-Subduing.

– Bahá’u’lláh, BP 120-21

* * * * * *

BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE

20 October 2008

To the Baha’is of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

Today, the anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, marks the midway point of
the five-year enterprise that will engage the Baha’i world until Ridvan 2011.
We bow our heads in humble gratitude to Baha’u’llah for the favours and
confirmations He has vouchsafed unto those labouring so diligently and
sacrificially in the forefront of the teaching work. Since the conclusion of
the Tenth International Baha’i Convention a few months ago, there has been
a rise in awareness of the efficacy of the framework governing the operation of
the Five Year Plan as insights gained by the delegates have been widely
diffused throughout the Baha’i community…

The challenge facing the friends in these and all clusters continues to be
twofold in character. While learning to identify receptive segments of society
and share with responsive souls the message of the Faith–an aspiration
generally not difficult to fulfil–they are striving to understand in practice
how the diverse elements of a healthy pattern of growth, particularly
the development of human resources, are to be integrated into a cohesive whole. How heartening it is to see that the moment the friends in a cluster begin to meet this dual challenge, immediate progress is achieved; the goal of launching an intensive programme of growth becomes imminently attainable.

That the continued strengthening of the community should be matched by a
further decline in the old world order comes as no surprise. Indeed, the
friends should be on their guard, lest the development of capacity in the
community not keep pace with the rise in receptivity of a disillusioned
humanity. Behold how even in the short span of time since we raised this
warning in our Ridvan message, financial structures once thought to be
impregnable have tottered and world leaders have shown their inability to
devise more than temporary solutions, a failing to which they increasingly
confess. Whatever expedient measures are adopted, confidence has been shaken and a sense of security lost. Surely such developments have caused the believers in every land to reflect on the lamentable condition of the present order and have reinforced in them the conviction that material and spiritual civilization must be advanced together.

It is with these thoughts in mind that we turn our hearts in frequent
prayer to Baha’u’llah and beseech Him to strengthen His followers through His unfailing grace. In such moments, we implore Him to illumine their souls with the light of knowledge and faith. Let them not underestimate the power
inherent in the system they are putting in place for the propagation of His

Faith, nor mistake the true purpose of the global enterprise on which they have embarked. Let them not deviate from the path of learning on which they are set, nor be distracted by the ephemeral pursuits of a bewildered society. Let them not fail to appreciate the value of the culture now taking root in the community that promotes the systematic study of the Creative Word in small groups in order to build capacity for service. Let them never forget the imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character. Let them come to realize the full significance of their efforts to help young people form a strong moral identity in their early adolescent years and empower them to contribute to the well-being of their communities. And let them rejoice at having learned through consistent, systematic action how to establish a rhythm of growth that pays due attention to the essential elements of expansion, consolidation, reflection and planning. May they one and all be endowed with constancy and fidelity and be granted the courage to make whatever sacrifices are needed to ensure the resounding success of the Plan. By the rectitude of their conduct, the sincerity of their love for their fellow human beings, and the ardour of their desire to serve the peoples of the world, may they vindicate the truth proclaimed by Baha’u’llah that humanity is one. May they be diligent in their efforts to establish ties of friendship that show no regard for prevalent social barriers and ceaselessly endeavour to bind hearts together in the love of God. That they may recognize the profound implications of their mission is our fervent hope. That they may not falter in accomplishing their ambitious goals, no matter how severe the crises engulfing the world around them, is our most heartfelt prayer at the Sacred Threshold.

To provide the opportunity for the friends to gather together, as much to celebrate the feats already achieved during the Plan as to deliberate on its current exigencies, we announce the convocation of a series of regional conferences, forty-one in number, to be held in the following cities between November and March: Abidjan, Accra, Almaty, Antofagasta, Atlanta, Auckland, Baku, Bangalore, Bangui, Battambang, Bologna, Bukavu, Chicago, Dallas, Frankfurt, Guadalajara, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Kiev, Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Lae, London, Los Angeles, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, Madrid, Managua, Manila, Nakuru, New Delhi, Portland, Quito, Sao Paulo, Stamford, Sydney, Toronto, Ulaanbaatar, Vancouver, Yaounde. To each of these conferences, two members of the International Teaching Centre will be sent as our representatives… We urge the believers, both those fully engaged in
executing the provisions of the Plan and those whose circumstances have
prevented them from fulfilling their desire to do so until now, to avail
themselves of this opportunity and attend the conference to be held in their
area.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]

The following is a digest of the 13 May letter of the House of Justice to the Baha’is of the World:

At midday on the second of May, the Tenth International Baha’i Convention drew to its close. Over the course of several days some one thousand delegates from over 150 countries had taken part in five consultative sessions that centred on the progress of the current global Plan. It was a source of inspiration and joy to note the wealth of experience that they brought to the discussions and the unity of thought that distinguished the comments put forward.

An historical analysis of efforts to establish intensive programmes of growth in different parts of the globe was presented to the delegates. What it demonstrates, above all, is how rapidly the process of learning that impels progress is accelerating worldwide.

At the Conference of Continental Boards of Counsellors [that immediately followed the International Baha’i Convention] observations made by these high-ranking officers of the Cause confirmed the efficacy of the strategies being put in place for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith.

The House of Justice ends their letter thus:

As we enter the third year of the Five Year Plan, we are delighted to announce that the number of intensive programmes of growth in operation has surpassed the 600 mark. However impressive this accomplishment, it pales before what remains to be achieved. We urge you, one and all,

to maintain your focus,

to strengthen your resolve and

to arise with even greater determination to carry forward the teaching work.

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

* * * * * * * *

As to the words—“Immediately after the oppression of those days”—they refer to the time when men shall become oppressed and afflicted, the time when the lingering traces of the Sun of Truth and the fruit of the Tree of knowledge and wisdom will have vanished from the midst of men, when the reins of mankind will have fallen into the grasp of the foolish and ignorant, when the portals of divine unity and understanding—the essential and highest purpose in creation—will have been closed, when certain knowledge will have given way to idle fancy, and corruption will have usurped the station of righteousness…
What “oppression” is greater than that which hath been recounted? What “oppression” is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?

Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán p. 29,31

* * * * * * * *

(Excerpted from letter of Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, 13 May 2008.)

(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

(Haifa, Israel, 30 April)

These are the impressions of an onlooker to the announcement of the new membership of the Supreme Body of our Faith:

The humility present when the [membership of the] Universal House of Justice was finally announced blew me away. Each member would be announced one by one and would stand on the stage, head bowed to the ground in absolute reverance, these spiritual giants standing before us, now carrying a heavy heavy load, the weight of the Baha’i World on their shoulders.

Doctor Arbab briefly addressed the audience with speech which highlighted their “absolute unworthiness of this position” and reminded us that this is Baha’u’llah’s work, Baha’u’llah’s faith and that they are “just servants” of the Blessed Beauty.

(http://chantellesadventures.blogspot.com/2008/04/witnessing-history.html)

(Used with the author’s permission)

Members of the Universal House of Justice elected by delegates to the 10th International Bahá'� Convention in Haifa. Election results were announced on 30 April 2008

The same, one might say, goes for our work as teachers!


O Lord, my God!

Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for Thou hast guided me to the highway of the kingdom, suffered me to walk in this straight and far-stretching path, illumined my eye by beholding the splendors of Thy light, inclined my ear to the melodies of the birds of holiness from the kingdom of mysteries and attracted my heart with Thy love among the righteous.

O Lord! Confirm me with the Holy Spirit, so that I may call in Thy Name amongst the nations and give the glad tidings of the manifestation of Thy kingdom amongst mankind.

O Lord! I am weak, strengthen me with Thy power and potency. My tongue falters, suffer me to utter Thy commemoration and praise. I am lowly, honor me through admitting me into Thy kingdom. I am remote, cause me to approach the threshold of Thy mercifulness.

O Lord! Make me a brilliant lamp, a shining star and a blessed tree, adorned with fruit, its branches overshadowing all these regions.

Verily, Thou art the Mighty, the Powerful and Unconstrained.

—‘Abdu’l-Bahá

http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/c/BP/bp-156.html
(http://news.bahai.org/story/629)
(Photograph is copyright of the Bahá’í World News Service)

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