More on the Regional Conferences
With a little help from my friends
My technical difficulties with Maxthink and Dosbox continue, so to keep you busy, here are some contributions from my friends, Jimbo and Joe,
Just thought I would give you a quick report of the Vancouver Regional Baha'i Conference which I just attended this past weekend.
About 3000 Baha'is gathered at the Vancouver conference which took place simultaneously in the large meeting rooms at the Sheraton, Fairmont, and Hyatt hotels in downtown Vancouver, Jan. 17-18, 2009.
This conference was a glorious gathering of western and northern Canadian Baha'is. Many of us hadn't seen each other literally in decades. Here we were all invited by the Supreme Body to this celebration and workshop in an inspiring, uplifting and loving Baha'i atmosphere. Many professional photos were taken of the event in action and a lot of the conference was videotaped.
The organization of this event went very smoothly and the venue was perfect.
The two representatives of the Universal House of Justice, Uransaikhan Baatar of Mongolia and Stephen Birkland of the United States, both of whom currently serve at the Baha'i World Center, really gave us what we needed most: a feeling of joy and great privilege in what we are doing to serve the Cause of God at this time in Baha'i history.
Counsellor Uransaikhan Baatar inspired us gently, sweetly, and dynamically with a vision of what the House of Justice wants us to do at this time. Counsellor Ann Boyles likewise was very encouraging and uplifting.
Counsellor Stephen Birkland told this story (as I recall it):
Well-known Baha'i, Mr. Azizi, whose resting-place is Vancouver had once told a story about his grandfather, who had a thriving business and a shop in Akka during the time that Baha'u'llah was in prison. One day 'Abdu'l-Baha came and told him that Baha'u'llah wanted him to go on a mission to Morocco. Mr. Azizi, said yes he would go, but requested first to go into Baha'u'llah's presence to receive His blessing. 'Abdu'l-Baha said that there was no time for that and that he should gather up whatever money he had and go right away. Being obedient, Mr. Azizi did what 'Abdu'l-Baha told him to do, and it wasn't till he was well into his trip that he realized that he hadn't even asked 'Abdu'l-Baha what his mission was. He worried and prayed fervently all the ay there that he be guided to know what he was supposed to do when he got to Morocco. When he got there he found that a well-known Baha'i had just been released from many years in prison and right away he knew that his mission was to bring him back to 'Abdu'l-Baha.
(end of story)
So Mr. Birkland said that it is often like that that we Baha'is have no idea what we are doing before we do it, but being obedient to Baha'u'llah and the Universal House of Justice, we start out on this new enterprise of intensive teaching, and it becomes more clear as we study, act and reflect.
Another similar example is told by Mr. Birkland in another story (in my own words):
A friend of Hand of the Cause, Mr. Khadem, accompanied him once to see the Guardian Shoghi Effendi in Haifa, Israel. The Guardian asked Mr. Khadem to go to Egypt to "spread the glad-tidings". As Mr. Khadem and his friend were on their way to Egypt, one of them said to the other, "What did Shoghi Effendi mean by 'glad-tidings'?" The other answered by saying, "I don't know. I thought that you knew." So they prayed fervently all the way there and when they got there, Mr. Khadem was asked to speak to the Baha'is. When he got up to speak he felt immediately inspired to say what was needed. (end of story)
So Mr. Birkland again emphasized that we Baha'is often don't know what we are doing at first, but out of obedience we do it and then it all becomes clear. This is true today more than ever. These stories brought a lot of laughter, as all related to being in this clueless state before we embark on carrying out the Plan of God for this day. I felt more than ever that it is clear that all we have to do is begin making the four core activities of the Plan the central focus of our actions and then persevere as we learn from each other's experiences.
Again, Mr. Birkland brought up the example of Martha Root, who had no idea what she would achieve as she embarked on her first travel-teaching trip overseas. She just knew that she had to be obedient to the Tablets of the Divine Plan that were just shared (about 1916) at an American Baha'i Convention. We are encouraged to follow her example as regards this new Plan (since 1996) of raising up human resources "to make giant strides towards" the "major aim of advancing the process of entry by troops".
As stated in other regional Baha'i conferences:
"Ms. Baatar's address focused on the importance of the Institute as an engine of growth, and how crucial it is to continually raise capacity in order to sustain activities. She encouraged participants to choose one path of service as a focus."
"Mr. Birkland stressed the importance of not being distracted and dismayed by the situation of the world as well as the importance of taking action despite feelings of inadequacy."
This was a great historical Baha'i conference one would not ever want to miss, or ever forget.
Courtesy of Joe Woods, here are the quotes that the UHJ representative and Counselor, Mr. Birkland, made use of in his presentation; or at least the one he gave in Toronto,
"If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God's all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one's cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter. Our intent is that all the friends should fix their gaze on the Supreme Horizon, and cling to that which hath been revealed in the Tablets. They should strictly avoid sedition, and refrain from treading the path of dissension and strife. They should champion their one true God, exalted be He, through the hosts of forbearance, of submission, of an upright character, of goodly deeds, and of the choicest and most refined words." (Baha'u'llah, Fire and Light, p. 10)
"Even or odd, thou shalt win the wager." The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth. In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry. Their affairs are at variance with the affairs of men. Gain is their lot, whatever the deal. To this testifieth every wise one with a discerning eye, and every fair-minded one with a hearing ear. (Baha'u'llah: Crisis and Victory, p 154)
"One cannot obtain the full force of the sunlight when it is cast on a flat mirror, but once the sun shineth upon a concave mirror, or on a lens that is convex, all its heat will be concentrated on a single point, and that one point will burn the hottest. Thus is it necessary to focus one's thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 111)
"Regarding your own condition: He strongly urges you not to dwell on yourself. Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá'u'lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea!" (Shoghi Effendi, 13 October, 1947, Unfolding Destiny, 447)
"The champion builders of Bahá'u'lláh's rising World Order must scale nobler heights of heroism as humanity plunges into greater depths of despair, degradation, dissension and distress. Let them forge ahead into the future serenely confident that the hour of their mightiest exertions and the supreme opportunity for their greatest exploits must coincide with the apocalyptic upheaval marking the lowest ebb in mankind's fast-declining fortunes." (Shoghi Effendi, November 3, 1948, Citadel of Faith, 58)
"Putting on the armor of His love, firmly buckling on the shield of His mighty Covenant, mounted on the steed of steadfastness, holding aloft the lance of the Word of the Lord of Hosts, and with unquestioning reliance on His promises as the best provision for their journey, let them set their faces towards those fields that still remain unexplored and direct their steps to those goals that are as yet unattained, assured that He Who has led them to achieve such triumphs, and to store up such prizes in His Kingdom, will continue to assist them in enriching their spiritual birthright to a degree that
no finite mind can imagine or human heart perceive." (Shoghi Effendi, From a letter dated April 1956; Messages to the Baha'i World, p. 102)