Here is an inspiring story from one of the Bahá’ís in West Virginia, illustrating the attitudes and skills of a teacher of the Faith. The effort of every Bahá’í is sacred. This story is an example of how all Bahá’ís can reach out to souls with Baha’u’llah’s message using patience and love coupled with a sense of urgency.
“I began working in Charleston on May 11, two days after I arrived [in] the city. I got a job as a Customer Service Representative at the Division of Motor Vehicles. In my mind, it was the perfect job to be of service to humanity, make contact with 50-100 souls a day, and get paid for it! I was certain that Bahá’u’lláh had placed me in my workplace for the purpose of serving His Cause so I prayed to be enabled to recognize those special souls who I would be able to have a meaningful conversation with and ultimately begin a core activity. I was intentional in my conversation and systematic in my approach to the invitations that I extended. I prayed often to find these special souls, to recognize His signs and to be guided in how to converse with them.
“My first week, I was asked to shadow a beautiful soul. She had standards of service to her fellow human beings that were not of this world. By the end of the first week, she had asked me if she could take me to lunch (for my birthday), because she was aware that I didn’t know many people in the area. She later told me that she agonized the entire week about how to make friends with other “grown-ups.” During our lunch, I expressed to her the beautiful virtues that I had observed in her all week. I told her that God had created her so beautiful. She told me that she loved her World Religions course in college and that she was drawn to the quiet meditation often practiced in the Buddhist tradition. She expressed that she had a desire to learn how to memorize sacred writings to use in times of tests. I was in awe of who she was and I shared it with her; I explained to her that we should get together to study sacred writings and she agreed. Now I knew that I had one participant for the Reflections on the Life of the Spirit study circle: the seed had been planted.
“One bounty that my position offered me was the opportunity to interact with her and others on a regular basis and in small spurts. I remember Adib Taherzadeh saying that we should give them small doses, and aid them to come closer and closer to the warmth of the fire. So Hannah and I would often have meaningful conversations that would be cut short, which little to my knowledge, left her hungry for more. Each time that we interacted, I tried to think of a way to continue the conversation, either by saying “hey, lets talk more about that tomorrow,” or “can we get together soon to (do something social) soon?” I continued to pray to Bahá’u’lláh to help me find other souls for this budding study circle with her.
“One week after this, I asked a co-worker, whom I had a feeling was another potential member of the study circle, if she knew of anyone that lived in the area that I lived so that I could get a ride to work one morning. She said that she lived in my area and not only would she pick me up in the morning, but that she would insist on taking me to the airport to catch my flight after work that day. On the way to the airport, she poured out the beauty of her soul. She expressed her desire for true friendship and told me stories about her life that left me in awe of her character. She also expressed to me her desire to find a religious community to belong to. She had visited a few churches, but nothing felt right. All the while, I spoke openly and honestly about the Baha’i Faith and the community. I told her what led me to the Faith and how the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh had transformed my whole life and being.
“Kelly and her husband serve as a refuge for many youth in their community who do not always have safe homes to stay in. From the beginning, I envisioned them to following a path of service that would lead to animating a [junior youth group]. I shared my vision of them being animators of the youth in their community and I explained the role of an animator. Another seed was planted!
“As time progressed, I was able to speak about the themes of Book 1 with ease and add details to the pending invitation with both Hannah and Kelly. I learned soon after that Hannah and Kelly were actually good friends and would talk about me. One key aspect to our budding friendships was having social time together. We got together for board games, swimming at the pool, and other fun things.
“On June 7, I invited Kelly and her husband for a tour of the Bahá’í Center one Sunday evening and I asked Hannah if she wanted to join us. Kelly had expressed a desire to learn more about the Faith and I explained that there was a small workbook that we could study together so that she could learn about the foundation of the Faith. She agreed and I knew that we would be enabled to start the study circle on the night of their visit so I brought the Ruhi books along with me. Soon after, a bi-weekly devotional and poetry reading started in a nearby Bahá’í Center and Kelly and Hannah, and occasionally Kelly’s husband joined the group of us. 3 weeks later, at end of June, Kelly came to me at work and explained that she had been thinking about all of our conversations about the Faith and she had been reading online. She asked me how someone ‘converts to Bahá’í.’ I explained that to be a Bahá’í simply means follower of Bahá’u’lláh. One is a Bahá’í when the heart recognizes Him as the Manifestation of God for this day and agrees to abide by His laws. She said great and I we agreed to talk about it more at the next devotional. Before the devotional, I contacted the host and explained that I would bring my laptop with me in case Kelly decided to enroll that night. The topic came up very naturally and I asked Kelly if she wanted to formally enroll in the Faith and she did. The next day was the Commemoration of the Martyrdom of the Báb, and Kelly read the story on her break at work since she wasn’t able to attend the gathering.
“On July 19, at the study circle, Hannah asked if she could ‘pick my brain,’ about how to enroll in the Faith, while still having unity with her conservative Christian family, whom she lives with. We read writings about the relationship between parents and children, the importance of family unity, and specific letters that the Guardian had addressed to people in similar situations. Both Hannah and Kelly and Kelly’s husband Josh plan to attend the approaching Youth Summit. Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!”*
At this Riḍván, then, while we see much to be done, we see many ready to do it. In thousands of clusters, neighbourhoods, and villages, fresh springs of faith and assurance are pouring forth, cheering the spirits of those touched by their reviving waters. In places, the flow is a steady stream, in some, already a river. Now is not the moment for any soul to linger upon the bank—let all lend themselves to the onward surge. – The Universal House of Justice
* [A Bahá’í invocation meaning “O Glory of the Most Glorious!”]