---------- Reflections on growth------------

Learning from New Believers

Some of the most inspiring and instructive stories of the Five Year Plan recount the
experiences of new believers. From these souls we are given a first-hand impression of what
attracted them to the melody of Bahá’u’lláh’s voice and what motivated them to walk the path
of service.
This is a type of learning that should stimulate our outreach and give us greater
confidence in our teaching work. For ultimately our aim in the Plan is to assist “growing
numbers of the world’s people to find the Object of their quest” as the new Bahá’ís in the
accounts below have been guided to do.
Many of the stories in this issue are drawn from clusters in Western countries where it is
sometimes felt that people are less receptive to the Faith. The moving responses of the new
believers in these areas testify to the fact that there are “ready souls” in every city and that the
daily afflictions striking humanity are preparing hearts to receive the message of Bahá’u’lláh, if
we but offer it directly.
In a Riván message the Universal House of Justice reminded us that
we have “a sacred duty to perform towards every other one who is not yet aware of the call of
God’s latest Manifestation.” That duty is teaching.

We now have the instrumentality of the institute process so that as we teach the Faith to
seekers, they grow in insight and become committed to serving the Cause to the best of their
abilities. As the following stories so compellingly affirm, a balance in expansion and
consolidation is being achieved, even in areas where large numbers are enrolling. It is
heartening to witness more and more in the teaching work the fulfillment of these inspired
words by the House of Justice describing the true nature and purpose of the teaching process.

Teaching may also be likened to kindling a fire, the fire of faith, in the hearts of men.

If a fire burns only so long as the match is held to it,

it cannot truly be said to have been
kindled; to be kindled it must continue to burn of its own accord.
This is the “state of enkindlement” that we hope will be expressed “in unremitting action
in the field of service” by thousands upon thousands throughout the course of the Plan.
* * * * *
Beginning to Walk a Path of Service. The following stories illustrate how new believers
naturally begin to walk a path of service when their faith is enkindled and nurtured through
their study of the Creative Word and their experience with the institute process.
United States
These accounts from the United States represent two very different areas of the country—
Easley, South Carolina and San Francisco, California. But in both cases the loving attention of
the friends and the transformative experience of the study circles fostered in the seekers a desire
to arise and serve as soon as they embraced the Faith.
California. The path I have found myself upon these past six months is a glorious
one, beginning as a search, and culminating in belief. I have seen glimpses of the Bahá’í
Faith throughout my life and was blessed to meet my friend Mona, who wears the beauty
Number 16, May 2007
Page 2
Reflections on Growth––Number 16, May 2007
Page 2
of the Baha’i religion as the precious jewel that it is. She taught me much about the Faith
and upon relocating to the San Francisco area, a deeper exploration of the Faith and its
community was a top priority of mine. The memory of my initial visit to the Bahá’í
Center in San Francisco will never escape me. I entered knowing no one and left feeling
immersed within and a part of a warm and open community. Within a week’s time I was
scheduled to participate in the first of what has come to be many study circles. This
particular study circle was structured around Book 1, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit.
As I have come to see through my participation in the Ruhi program, each book is
designed to provide its reader with a more lucid and concrete understanding of the Faith
itself, beginning with exposure to excerpts from Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation and carrying on
with investigating and penetrating questions regarding the concepts within the Bahá’í
revelation. In the study circle on Ruhi Book 1, I was given an opportunity to understand
the nature of the Bahá’í religion and also the Bahá’í community. Two wonderful
facilitators conducted our weekly classes, both playing a formative role in my
understanding of the beauty and depth of the Faith. Their capacity to answer my endless
questions with patience and wisdom never ceased to amaze me, and I hope to one day
have the ability to teach as they have taught.
Upon the conclusion of Book 1, I had declared myself a Bahá’í, as that was my
path to travel. The incredible thing is that one need not be a Bahá’í to feel as though they
are a part of the community. I felt as welcomed the first day I entered the doors of the
Center as I did on the evening of my declaration. It is open doors and hearts which
Bahá’u’lláh calls us to share with one another, and I as a recipient of these favors can
only hope to give, as I have been given to.
* * * * *
South Carolina. The story about one friend, Melanie, began when she and I met at
library story time. We were both pregnant with our now almost five-year-old girls. As
new friends, we kept in touch and occasionally met for lunch and went to free summer
movies. Two years ago, while talking on the phone about home schooling (which
Melanie does with her children), the subject of the Bahá’í Faith casually came up.
Melanie had seen the Bahá’í sign on the highway in Easley and had meant to call the
number, but still hadn’t. Acting immediately, I took books and information to Melanie
the next day and invited her to bring her children to children’s class. Melanie gladly
came with her three children.
The opportunities to teach Melanie flowed naturally. Most every week my son and
I went to Melanie’s home around the corner from where my daughters were taking
gymnastics. The visits helped to develop a friendship and allowed Melanie a chance to
ask more questions or share what she was learning. Melanie was invited to attend a Book
1 study circle in Easley and was joined by her husband, Steve. The local Bahá’ís worked
together to nurture and support Melanie. Many prayers were said to Bahá’u’lláh to guide
and help her. Melanie declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh in May 2005.
She continues to enthusiastically participate in the study circles, attend Feast,
support children’s classes, and has even partnered with another Bahá’í to start a home
visit prayer team. Together they and Melanie’s children (ages 10, 8, and 4) visit Bahá’ís
who are isolated or sick and share prayers with them.
Page 3
Reflections on Growth––Number 16, May 2007
Page 3
Melanie is also teaching! One challenge for Melanie has been the response from
her home school friends in this Bible Belt area. Melanie has remained steadfast, shares
her Faith, and continues to deepen her knowledge of the Bible and its fulfillment in the
Bahá’í Faith.
It all happened about four years ago. It was a sunny Saturday morning and I had
an appointment to have my hair colored. I was sitting next to a lady whose slant on life
was so refreshing and uplifting that I became stirred with spirit. And so began my
journey to Bahá’u’lláh and the Faith.
As a consequence of this meeting (and a few delicious morning teas with other
friends), I was invited to participate in a study circle. I was not sure what all this meant
but found the idea captivating.
My new friends introduced me to religious concepts I had not been exposed to
before. The freedom to comment in a safe environment was encouraged and valued and
this premise was the beginning of my awakening.
Through the continued exposure to the Words of Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb, and
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, my knowledge of other world faiths and their evolution began to fall into
place. This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me, as these were in
fact the questions I had been asking all my life. Finally I was in an environment which
not only had the knowledge I sought but also those who were equipped to discuss and
answer all my enquiries.
The regular exposure to the prayers began to enrich and change my life. The
weekly passages and their translations were of a constant amazement to me and I began
to notice a shift in my approach to relationships, work, my life, and my actions.
The group not only filled in the gaps but offered a deepening of my spirit through
the dynamics of discussion. This could not have been achieved alone. I have studied
distance education for seven years and can speak from experience. There just isn’t the
same deepening, which is required to obtain the full riches of the Faith, by doing the
study alone! The excellence of ideas put forward in the study group, the enthusiasm
behind each answer or enquiry, was in itself an acceleration of my spiritual growth and
provided me with plenty to contemplate and meditate on until I was to meet my group
again the next week.
One of the things which amazed me was the friends I was meeting through the
study circle. These were people I would call “evolved.” I was amazed that finally after
all this time on the planet I had met like-minded people who were prepared to discuss
subjects I had only idealized about.
As an outcome of studying Book 1, I was able to hold my first devotional meeting.
I was unsure what this devotional was about but was given some supportive ideas. The
wonderful thing about the devotional process was that it gave me the opportunity to
invite people to my home who were curious about the changes they had seen in me and
were interested in meeting my new friends.

Reflections on Growth––Number 16, May 2007

I found that this raised interest and I was able to arrange for a few people to partake
in Book 1—Reflections on the Life of the Spirit. This allowed me to share and support
their spiritual journey as well as enjoy the progress of us all working together.
New Believers Becoming Active Servants of the Cause. We should never underestimate
the capacity of new believers to take up the tasks of expansion and consolidation as soon as
they enroll. In fact, many seekers are motivated to carry out activities when they are in study
circles and often these acts of service lead them to greater conviction and to a declaration of
One of the visitors to the House of Worship near New Delhi became very interested in
studying the Faith because of his visit to the Information Center on the grounds of the House of
Worship. He and one of his friends began to regularly attend a study circle at 7:00 in the
morning when they finished working the night shift. After completing that book, both seekers
declared and went on to complete Ruhi Institute Book 2.
After completing the second course, the new believer pledged to teach one person a day;
but as soon as he made this resolution, his work took him away to another place for some
months and he was unable to fulfill his pledge. When he returned home, he was determined to
make up for lost time and began to visit three or four of his friends a day in order to teach them
the Faith. In one month’s time he carried out 90 home visits. His devoted teaching work led 16
of his friends to embrace the Cause. Using what he has learned through the institute process, he
continues to visit these new believers and accompanies them to the House of Worship for dawn
prayers. He is also trying to engage them all in the sequence of courses.
The story below brilliantly illustrates the spiritual power and influence of young children
when they accept and serve Bahá’u’lláh.
Luc, a very cute, blue-eyed French boy, has been my son’s best friend since we
moved to our town five years ago. Luc is now 10 years old. I decided to organize a
children’s class at our home. Luc’s parents defined themselves as atheists but when I
proposed that Luc join the class, they fully agreed.
Little by little, the parents noticed Luc was changing; he was more polite, calmer
and very keen on reciting prayers. After a few months, his mother Anne told us he had a
question she could not answer and suggested he ask me. He looked very serious. I could
never imagine what his question might be: “Tell me Roxana, how could I be a Bahá’í?”
It was one of the best days of my life! His beautiful eyes were shining and he was
anxiously waiting for my answer. So I started explaining to him what it meant to be a
Bahá’í, what it implied, and that his parents should know about his decision. His mother
asserted that she totally agreed with his decision because her son had never been as
happy as he was since he had met the Bahá’í Faith! And that she would even bring him
to the Feasts and fetch him back.
From that time, we all considered him as a member of our community. Little by
little, Anne was transformed too; she bought a picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and put it in her
Page 5
Reflections on Growth––Number 16, May 2007
Page 5
living room. She completed Book 1, organized a prayer meeting at her home, stated she
believed in God, and recited Bahá’í prayers every day. The first word she taught her
baby girl was: “Alláh-u-Abhá!” Then, she helped me with children classes, studied
Book 3, and felt she could be a teacher on her own.
Last Naw-Rúz, two years after Luc’s declaration, Anne accepted the Faith during a
children’s class. Her son loudly reacted: “Oh! Thank God, at last you’ve declared!”
She always says he is the one who brought her to faith and to the Faith.
His mother’s declaration helped Luc to gain a stronger Bahá’í identity. The next
day he told his friends at school he was a Bahá’í and wanted to wear the Greatest Name.
“This sign will always protect me,” he told them.
Anne has been appointed as my assistant. I have tried my best to accompany her in
her understanding of the Plan and in her activities. Her specific task is to follow up
children’s classes.
Last week, Luc organized with the help of his mother a prayer meeting at his home
for the children of both Bahá’í classes. About 12 of them attended it. They all went back
home with a copy of the prayers and a written explanation of progressive revelation. As
it was Ayyám-i-Há, Luc told his mother that they should go to visit his great-grandmother
who is in a home for the aged and do a prayer meeting for her.
I can confirm that Anne and Luc are among the most active Bahá’ís in the cluster.
Now Anne is accompanying other Bahá’ís to organize their own neighborhood classes.
Last week, her husband asked her about all her activities. She simply explained to him
that Bahá’ís have a plan with four specific activities to spiritualize humanity. He said
“OK, go on. I’m proud of you and Luc!”
A single mother of two, a renowned local artist, became interested in the Faith because of
her children’s participation in the Bahá’í Education in State Schools (BESS) program. This
interest prompted her to participate in a Book 1 study circle. She then went on to complete the
second course in the series. During her investigation of the Faith, she began to assist with the
BESS classes at her children’s school. The demand for the classes had grown to such a degree
that there was a need to split the classes into smaller groups, but there was a problem because of
legal requirements that only Bahá’ís were allowed to teach a class without the assistance of
another teacher. The mother, recognizing this need, saw it as both a challenge and a
responsibility and decided not to postpone becoming a declared believer! She is now a full
member of the team of teachers carrying out Bahá’í classes at the school.
As new believers are brought into the Cause through a teaching project in a receptive
area, the challenge is to consolidate them and mobilize them into active service. The
experience from teaching projects in two major urban clusters demonstrates that the institute
process is key to attaining this goal.
The following accounts are from new believers in New Delhi who entered the Faith after
a direct teaching project in their neighborhoods. It is clear that they understand their newfound
commitment and are eager to gain the skills to serve the Cause.
Page 6
Reflections on Growth––Number 16, May 2007
Page 6
I got the opportunity to visit the Bahá’í House of Worship with my family. I liked
the atmosphere so much that I decided to find out more about it. After a few months I
visited again, and then whenever I had free time I used to go to the Temple and loved to
spend time there. Now I am working near there so I have the opportunity to visit my
favorite place and avail myself of spiritual upliftment. Then I began to visit the Temple
every Sunday and received information first through pamphlets, and then in the library,
where I could read Bahá’í and other religious books.
I used to enjoy thoroughly the prayer sessions in the Temple. After some time I
had a chance to visit the information center. There one volunteer lady helped me and
provided all the information I needed. I learned about study circles in Delhi and in my
area and joined one. After finishing three-quarters of Ruhi Book 1, I felt my life was
totally changed. I tried to live according to Ruhi Book 1; I felt very calm and learned
how to adjust with my family, neighbors, relatives, friends, and colleagues in my office.
Recently in April, I joined the Bahá’í community, and my dream is now to finish
all the Ruhi books with proper understanding, and serve the Faith and also humanity as a
* * * * *
After Mr. Mukherjee accepted the Faith in October 2006, he immediately entered the
institute process. During the expansion phase two months later, he held a small fireside in his
home where he invited his closest friends. Five individuals enrolled in his home. He also
offered to host in his area a large-scale devotional gathering which was followed by a direct
teaching presentation. This was the first core activity in his area. However, he knew a lot of
people in his neighborhood and was confident that he could invite a large number of seekers.
After the direct teaching that night, 13 individuals enrolled. It also happened that after the
teaching team had left the gathering, four of Mr. Mukherjee’s friends arrived. He did not want
them to lose out so he phoned the friends in the teaching team and asked them to tell his friends
about the Faith on the phone! The Auxiliary Board member, who was also his tutor, told
Mr. Mukherjee that he had heard Anna’s presentation several times over the past few months
and that he should say a prayer and go ahead with confidence. The Board member told him to
trust in Bahá’u’lláh and to teach his friends based on what he knows. Well, Mr. Mukherjee
called back, half an hour later, and said that those four friends had also enrolled! This new
believer helped lead 17 souls to the Cause.
United States
Frank, aged 83, was the first person to declare during the College Park teaching project in
Atlanta, Georgia. “I will never forget when I became a Bahá’í. It was the most glorious day of
my life!” said Frank when he and six other members of the College Park Local Assembly
attended a recent Assembly conference organized by the Auxiliary Board member.
I remember sitting on the porch one day listening to music and was approached by two
believers who came to my apartment and explained the Faith to me. The word that struck
me the most was “unity.” They gave me some literature and the address of devotional
meetings I could go to. Sure enough, I went a couple of days later. I was really
impressed. I had never seen so many diverse and happy faces in my life! From there I
went on to investigate the Faith and became a Bahá’í.
Page 7
Reflections on Growth––Number 16, May 2007
Page 7
Frank took Book 1 twice and then Book 2, and 18 months later he was elected to the
Local Spiritual Assembly. He has been holding devotional gatherings for seekers and serves
them meals he cooks himself. For his last gathering not only did he spend time making
preparations, but he visited friends and invited them. Eight seekers participated. Frank has had
a longing to go on pilgrimage. As he could not wait for his turn to come, he decided to go for
three days. To realize this dream and despite the lack of means and transportation, he made two
trips to Alabama to find his birth records and obtain a passport. When Frank is asked about the
Faith, his response is always the same, “It’s been a glorious journey!”
Here are a few other brief examples of new believers arising to serve and putting their
newfound skills into action:
El Salvador. A youth who participated in a Bahá’í junior youth group declared and is now
a teacher of children’s classes and assists a junior youth animator. Her desire to teach
others led to her mother becoming a believer as well, and her enthusiasm and example have
inspired other youth in her area.
• Mauritius. After a new believer attended a reflection meeting, he realized the importance
of initiating core activities. He visited his neighbors, family, and friends and invited them
to a devotional meeting in his home. Ninety-six (96) persons have attended his devotional
gatherings. As a result of his contacts with nearly 500 individuals, four new study circles
began and the number of non-Bahá’í children attending children’s classes increased from
9 to 35.
• United Kingdom. A new believer plunged into the sequence of courses shortly after he
became a Bahá’í and finished the sequence during the course of a few months. He
subsequently pioneered to Colombia where he is serving as a cluster institute coordinator
for the Ruhi Institute.
Receptivity of the Seekers. Stories abound from Bahá’ís who are realizing that their
acquaintances are more open to the Faith than they had anticipated and that receptivity exists
even among groups where they did not expect it. Should we be surprised that the power of the
Creative Word of God is our greatest instrument in the teaching work? The friends are also
learning that receptive souls need to be warmly invited to join the Faith.
One tutor kept a close relationship with the participants in his study circle by visiting
them frequently. He made a point of telling them anecdotes from the lives of Bahá’u’lláh and
‘Abdu’l-Bahá in order to bring the Central Figures of the Faith closer to their hearts.
When his Book 1 study circle was drawing to an end, he decided to spend a whole
session on the last four questions in Book 1 which relate to recognizing the station of
Bahá’u’lláh. He asked each participant all four questions separately, to which most of them
answered “yes.” He then asked them what conclusions they were able to draw from their
answers. Some were, according to the tutor, scared or shy to admit the obvious and he gently
insisted by asking them: “If your heart answers ‘yes’ to all these questions, could one not
consider that you were touched by the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh? Can it be said that your heart
has been enkindled with the love for His message? Does this not mean that we can consider
you a Bahá’i?” Three of the participants of that particular study circle became Bahá’ís.
Page 8
Reflections on Growth––Number 16, May 2007
Page 8
One member of a study circle (Chris) had a friend in his office who was Persian like him
and from a Muslim background. He came from Canada and had told Chris that in Canada he
had also had a Bahá’í friend who would not tell him much about the Faith. So Chris decided
that this was the right opportunity, now that Bahá’ís are encouraged to teach trusted Muslim
friends. Chris explained that he was taking this course and wanted to share some words of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He explained who ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was and began to discuss the selection. The
passage dealt with how we should treat each other.
The office friend was very impressed and felt that this was certainly something he also
believed in. He was grateful when Chris indicated that the beautifully presented verse from the
Writings was a gift for him. The next day, feeling low at the end of a stressful day, Chris met
his Muslim friend in the office hallway. He was uplifted when the friend exclaimed that he had
found the selection from the Bahá’í Writings so beautiful and relevant. He then went on to say
that he loved this passage so much he had photocopied it and shared it with most of the
colleagues in the office and asked whether Chris minded? At that point, another office
colleague walked by, this one of Jewish background. He mentioned his joy at receiving the
quotation and described its relevance. It seemed to him as if ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had opened the
newspaper, read the shocking news of the day, and prescribed a remedy for the ills He had
United Kingdom
One of the exercises in Book 4 involves memorizing a long passage from the Writings of
the Báb. A participant in a Book 4 study circle decided that he needed help and so asked a
colleague at work to be his “study buddy.” This friend spent 10 to 15 minutes a day for a
couple of months working with the Bahá’í on memorizing and reciting the words from the Holy
Text. This daily exposure to the Creative Word touched the friend’s heart, so she was invited to
join a Book 1 study circle. At the conclusion of the course she enrolled in the Faith. Three
months later she completed Book 2. Her stated goal is to serve the Cause by becoming a tutor
and a teacher of children’s classes.
One day a young woman approached a group of Bahá’ís and stated that she would like to
be enrolled in the Faith. The believers were quite surprised because the young lady had never
been seen at a Bahá’í gathering. The young woman explained that she had listened through the
wall of her home to a study circle that was held in the house next door and that now she too
wanted to be a Bahá’í!
Prepared under the auspices of the International Teaching Centre for the institution of the Counsellors. Extracts from the
reports cited may have been edited for grammar, clarity, or length. All or portions of this publication may be reproduced
or distributed within the Bahá’í community without prior permission from the International Teaching Centre.


What is an A stage cluster?

•In order to advance from a B‐stage to an A‐stage cluster, the Institution often consider the following criteria:
–40‐50 people through the full sequence
–multiplication of core activities (with seekers)
–ownership and enthusiasm at cluster reflection meetings
–outward orientation

Intensive Program of Growth

An intensive program of growth suggests just
that—intensification—an intensification of activity that contributes to systematic growth.
International Teaching Center, Building Momentum: A Coherent Approach to Growth,

Expansion & Consolidation

As currently conceived, an intensive programme of growth is straightforward, simple and effective, but implies a level of exertion that tests the resolve of the friends. …It consists of cycles of activity, in general of three months’duration each, which proceed according to distinct phases of expansion, consolidation, reflection and planning.

Expansion Phase

The expansion phase, often a period of twoweeks, demands the highest level of intensity. Its objectiveis to widen the circle of those interested in the Faith, to find receptive souls and to teach them. Althoughthis phasemight include some element of proclamation,it should not be seen as a time to hold afew eventsforthis purpose or to undertake a set of activities thatmerely convey iformation.


…One of the primary objectives of [the consolidation phase] is to bringa percentage of the new believersinto the institute process so that an adequate pool of human resources willbeaailable in futurecycles to sustain growth. Those not participating instudy circles are nurtured through a series of home visits, and allinvited todevotional meetings,to the celebration of the Nineteen Day Feast and to Holy Day observances and are gradually introduced tothe patterns of commuity life. Not infrequently, the consolidation phase givesrise to further enrollmentsas the familymembers and friends of new declarants accept the Faith
Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated December 27, 2005, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counselors

Reflection key to growth

Key to the progress of an intensive program of growth is the phasededicated to reflection, in which thelessons learned in action are articulated and incorporatedinto plans for the next cycle of activity. Its principal feature is reflection meeting—as much a time of joyous celebration as it is of serious consultation. Careful analysis of experience, through participatory discussions rather than overly complex and elaborate presentations, serves to maintain unity of vision, sharpen clarity of thought and heighten enthusiasm. Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated December 27, 2005, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counselors

Questions an LSA may consult upon at an Assembly meeting…

•How many believers have completed book 1 of the Ruhi Curriculum in our community?
•How can we (as members of LSA)encouragegraduates Book 1 to initiate a devotional gathering?
Questions an LSA may consult upon at an Assembly meeting…

•How many new believers, seekers, and inactive believers live in our community?

•How many individuals have completed book 2 of the Ruhi curriculum?

•How can we as an LSA encourage book 2 graduates to make home visitsto the above?

What can LSAs do?

Encourage and promote:

•Institute Process
•Core Activities
•Teaching Activities
•Cluster Collaboration

How do LSAs foster the institute process?

•By encouraging its individual members to complete the full sequence
•By encouraging believers in their community to participate in courses
•Stimulating individuals to initiate study circles
•Utilizing participants from the institutes in the teaching work and other areas of service
International Teaching Centre, October 17, 2001