Mexican Springs, N.M.
Baha’i since 1991
Before discovering the Baha’i Faith in the late ’80s, I was into drugs and alcohol and living a real trashy life. I had just started to try to get my life together.
I didn’t feel I could turn to Christianity, which is how I was raised. Actually, my family were “religion Gypsies”: We bounced around from Catholicism to Pentecostal to Baptist, etc. I didn’t connect with any of them.
Then I met Jo Ann, my future wife, in a jewelry store. We started dating. I guess she could see I was a nice guy when I wasn’t around substances. She was a member of the Baha’i Faith, which I had never heard of.
Jo Ann, an Anglo, answered my questions about the Faith. She suggested I also investigate the religion on my own, which I did for several years. I liked what I found and was relieved that no Bahai’s told me I was going to Hell.
I had been told by most Christians that if you weren’t “saved” in their beliefs, you were going to burn in Hell forever. For the Navajos, there is no such thing. Why would God create something so beautiful and have it sent to a place to burn?
When Jo Ann and I decided to get married we had planned to have a Baha’i and a Christian wedding. There was no problem arranging a Baha’i wedding, but no Christian ministers would marry us. One said that I was “saved,” but that Jo Ann was “in the dark” because she was a Baha’i.
This minister predicted that the best that we could ever have was a “gray” life together. Little did he know that after 23 years, we have a wonderful life filled with the light of Baha’u'llah.
Seven years after we married, I went with three Baha’is on a week-long retreat designed to enrich our understanding of the Baha’i Faith. My wife couldn’t attend. On the last day of the retreat, we had to put on a play. I was a bird with a broken wing. One of the Baha’is had to fix my wing. The first thing that came to mind was the prayer revealed to the Baha’is of the Western States:
O God! O God! This is a broken-winged bird and his flight is very slow—assist him so that he may fly toward the apex of prosperity and salvation, wing his way with the utmost joy and happiness throughout the illimitable space, raise his melody in Thy Supreme Name in all the regions, exhilarate the ears with this call, and brighten the eyes by beholding the signs of guidance.
O Lord! I am single, alone and lowly. For me there is no support save Thee, no helper except Thee and no sustainer beside Thee. Confirm me in Thy service, assist me with the cohorts of Thy angels, make me victorious in the promotion of Thy Word and suffer me to speak out Thy wisdom amongst Thy creatures. Verily, Thou art the helper of the weak and the defender of the little ones, and verily Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty and the Unconstrained.
I knew I was the broken-winged bird and that I was ready to become a Baha’i. I didn’t tell Jo Ann until two days later that I had joined the Faith. A few months later, my Uncle Wilsie, a Navajo code talker in World War II, became a Baha’i at the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, N.M.
Last year, at the commemoration of Abdu’l-Baha’s 1912 visit to Glenwood Springs in Colorado, my sister Victoria and her son Corey also became Baha’is. My sister said she couldn’t get this kind of love from any other religion.
Being a Baha’i has lit up my life. It has made me want to learn more about my culture, the Navajo. It turns out the Navajo culture and the Baha’i Faith share important similarities. Both emphasize being of service to others, treating people equally and being in harmony with the Creator.
Being a Baha’i has also made me more involved with family members. I attend traditional Navajo ceremonies to be of service to the hosting families. At the same time, I’m very involved with the Baha’i Faith.
I teach computer skills at our local elementary school and officiate at basketball, football and softball games. Becoming a Baha’i has helped me be more patient with people and be a better role model to the children at the school and to my children, Ty and Kyla.
Most of all, being a Baha’i has helped me understand why my life is important and that Baha’u'llah, along with my great-grandparents and grandparents, are watching over me and helping me share Baha’u'llah’s message.