Sunday, October 11, 2009

On Preparation for Teaching: The power of a story

Stories inspire us to action like nothing else can. At the Hilltop Baha'i teaching meeting in our home Friday night, we were contemplating the activities we would be engaging in during the upcoming Intensive Program of Growth, the 17th in our cluster: going door to door to invite residents to partake of the Baha'i core activities designed to further establish a spiritual community among the residents of one of Tacoma's oldest neighborhoods. Below is a story of a home-visit made in our state recently that was shared by one of the Friends attending, unusual in the depth that the homevisitors went into, given the unique circumstances that presented themselves, but not unusual in the spirit characterizing home-visiting generally. -gw

Tonight my teammate and I went to visit her neighbors to meet them (she’s only lived there one month) and to speak to them about building a spiritual community right there in the neighborhood.   I don’t think she knew an hour before she’d be going to knock on anyone’s doors, let alone her own neighbors…   At any rate, as we walked across the parking lot she said they are her neighbors so she’d like to initiate the conversation, using the method we just practiced, and after which I could speak, which I readily agreed to.
We started with one of the doors immediately next to hers and ended up spending several (3?) hours there.  A Tanzanian couple lives there with their jr youth daughter – the father knows a Bahá’i from work but didn’t know what a Bahá’i is.  The mother and daughter have just arrived in last month and the father has been here for a while.  The father is a devout Christian and the mother a Moslem.   The father very much wants the mother to convert to Christianity.  When we arrived they had some friends visiting who immediately left and then we sat down in the living room. 

I spoke with the father about why we hold devotionals and he indicated he prays 3 times daily so, as my teammate went into the kitchen to speak with the mother, I encouraged the father and daughter to share a prayer or song with me (in Swahili) – I then sang a quote to a melody I learned from my children (“To be a Baha’i simply means to love all the world, to love humanity, and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.”).  The mother and my teammate came in immediately and we began by talking about building spiritual communities, which lead the father to tell me his wife is a Moslem and doesn’t believe____ and could I talk with her.  I shared many of the analogies from Anna’s conversation, explaining the difference between a Manifestation and a Prophet (using analogy of the mirror) which everyone accepted. 

As they learned about our beliefs the wife then asked me to prove to the husband that Mohammad is in fact in the Bible.   We played ping pong like this for a while on several topics, and I used the familiar analogies from Anna’s Presentation and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on progressive revelation, etc. and then I offered to get a presentation from my car which derives the birth and Ascension of Jesus from the Bible, and then in a similar manner derives Mohammad, the Báb, and Bahá’u’llah.  I offered the father that someone would drop by Some Answered Questions, which is the source of the interpretation and quotes we used (he wants a copy of this as well as anything in Swahili we have).  I also spoke at length on how the Pharisees/Rabbis didn’t recognize Jesus because of their own “scholarly” interpretations of the Torah and how one must be careful not to reject Baha’u’llah in a similar manner. 

We made it through the entire presentation (with him looking up some of the quotes in his Swahili Bible) and then I asked if I could share a presentation about the Faith, which both readily acquiesced.   So next we went through all of Anna’s Presentation (a couple times the mother walked across the room to look at pictures and quotes in the flipbook).  They would both like to participate in neighborhood devotionals and the father would like someone to study with him (probably more from Bible standpoint).  My sense is that the mother is very receptive and is the more interested of the two (though the father asked many questions and is eager for another visit).  I brought up our jr youth spiritual empowerment program and the mother nodded when she understood its purpose (after another visit I think their daughter could be invited to join a jr youth group). My teammate offered to assist the mother in applying for jobs. 

I have to say this was the most unusual visit I’ve had (my first Biblical encounter going door to door and the interesting dynamic of helping the mother and father to find common ground in their beliefs).  Would you all pray for this dear family, as well as my teammate in her following up?  I am very excited about this apartment complex and would like to go back again to visit others.  I’m hoping to revisit this dear family next Saturday with my teammate.

Cat comfort Shawn reading PICT3745 


The story and the consultation had its desired effect. The veils from our eyes were lifted, and we became ready to teach. -gw

No comments: