Alvin: I was a broken-winged bird

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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.

Alvin, son Ty, daughter Kyla and wife Jo Ann

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.

Our families are the only Baha’is in Mexican Springs. Lately, we have been having prayer gatherings and study circles with Baha’is, some who live as far as 60 miles away.

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.

If someone is feeling sad, there’s a Baha’i prayer for that. If someone is hurting or in pain, there are prayers to nurture them through that pain. There are prayers for everything.

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.


17 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    thank you for sharing your story. I loved it! it made me remember why i decided to become Baha’i. Gracias!

  2. Erica Spencer-VanDever

    I enjoyed reading this story. It gave me encouragement in so many ways. Erica Spencer-VanDever Youth Program Coordinator NABI

  3. Anonymous

    I agree with our Christian friend. Christ was the “only way”. So was Moses, Budha,Chrishna, Mohamad, and Baha’u'llah. If we study the scriptures of other religions we find similar claim and statement, Because it was God who spoke through them all. God loves all humanity for all time, and therefore, He never left us alone without His guidance and a path to know Him. With that knowledge I can say that I am also a Christian, Jew, Moslem, and a Baha’i. Blessing

  4. Anonymous

    Peace Bill…and thanks for your comment.

    I was just having this very type of conversation with my son. If we take the Christian view of salvation then most of the world (being non-Christian) is doomed to burn in hell.

    I cannot accept that God would allow his children to go to hell for belief or non-belief.

  5. Anonymous

    I watched a video that stated heaven is being near God and hell is being distant from God. How is that different than hell or heaven in Christianity?

  6. Chris Dobbins

    I loved hearing your story. The idea of the Saved and the Sinners has been done away with in the Bahai Faith. All are the recipients of Gods Love. The fact that you could hang around Bahai’s for years and not be made to feel ‘less than’ because you weren’t a Bahai, warms my heart. My husband is not a seeker, but he is a friend of the Faith and is always treated with respect. He recently accompanied me on my Pilgrimage. The joy you feel shows in your letter. Thank you for sharing. Much Bahai’ Love, Chris Dobbins

  7. Katlin

    Anonymous, you are right that the Baha’i writings conceptualize Heaven and Hell as nearness to and remoteness from God.

    Of Heaven, Baha’u'llah says “As to Paradise: It is a reality and there can be no doubt about it, and now in this world it is realized through love of Me and My good-pleasure.”

    Of Hell, ‘Abdu’l-Baha says “[T]here is no fiercer Hell, no more fiery abyss, than to possess a character that is evil and unsound; no more darksome pit nor loathsome torment than to show forth qualities which deserve to be condemned.”

    In the Baha’i Writings, the meanings of Heaven and Hell are often applied as they relates to the progress of the soul over time, in addition to its state at the moment of transition to the next world. This is slightly different in that Christianity tends to focus primarily on the status of the soul at the moment of death.

    Unfortunately, the love and charity that illumined Christian faith has in many places (though not everywhere) been eclipsed by the same self-righteousness and judgmentalism for which Christ criticized the Pharisees, which is why so many people have experienced such unmerciful threats of hell from Christians.

    This is also why religion is continually renewed, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha explains:

    “[T]he religions of God have been made manifest, one following the other, and each one of them fulfilled its due function, revived mankind, and provided education and enlightenment. They freed the people from the darkness of the world of nature and ushered them into the brightness of the Kingdom. As each succeeding Faith and Law became revealed it remained for some centuries a richly fruitful tree and to it was committed the happiness of humankind. However, as the centuries rolled by, it aged, it flourished no more and put forth no fruit, wherefore was it then made young again.
    The religion of God is one religion, but it must ever be renewed. Moses, for example, was sent forth to man and He established a Law, and the Children of Israel, through that Mosaic Law, were delivered out of their ignorance and came into the light; they were lifted up from their abjectness and attained to a glory that fadeth not. Still, as the long years wore on, that radiance passed by, that splendour set, that bright day turned to night; and once that night grew triply dark, the star of the Messiah dawned, so that again a glory lit the world.
    Our meaning is this: the religion of God is one, and it is the educator of humankind, but still, it needs must be made new. When thou dost plant a tree, its height increaseth day by day. It putteth forth blossoms and leaves and luscious fruits. But after a long time, it doth grow old, yielding no fruitage any more. Then doth the Husbandman of Truth take up the seed from that same tree, and plant it in a pure soil; and lo, there standeth the first tree, even as it was before.”

  8. Alvin, Gracias por compatir tu experiencia, soy Bahais de Chile

  9. Konstantin

    Thanks. Love from Siberia.

  10. Charlotte Todd

    Beautiful Story! Thank you so much for sharing.

  11. Edward L. Jones

    I never really knew your story, Alvin. This is Ed Jones who used to be on the Rez.

  12. Nancee

    The quote by Abdu’l Baha was so beautiful and clear as to the purpose of progressive revelation. Thank you for posting it.

  13. Barbara

    Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to it. i feel like a bird with 2 Broken wings. I am sad and lonly. i cry every night, but I know without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to God. I need help,but i will keep praying.

  14. A thinking believer.

    The way he words the part about the tree, soil, and seed is a bad analogy…the words “pure soil” together is an oxymoron. Soil is either rich in nutrients or it is deprived and in need of replenishment. Furthermore, a tree will continue to flourish and yield fruit so long as it (its soil) is nourished, but if it no longer bears fruit the tree can still provide shade, clean the air we breathe, and stabilize the surrounding soil and ground from erosion. I understand and can appreciate what he is trying to say, but he uses a sexist analogy to rely his message. His analogy is sexist in that it implies a tree (much like a woman after her child-bearing years) should be abandoned to die. He implies that a male, rather than nourishing the original relationship (soil and tree/wife and family) so it continues to flourish, he implies to neglect nourishment of the original tree and its soil (marriage and wife after child-bearing years) to no longer flourish. Even if a tree no longer bears fruit it still cleans the air, provides shade, and stabilizes the ground with its deeply grow roots to stop soil erosion. His analogy is sexist and selfishly male self-serving…so that “he” can plant his old seed in, “pure soil”, (just like men for centuries have neglected their wife(s) and families only to selfishly and repeatedly mate or marry a new young female (and plant his old seed with her young, “pure soil”, usually and wrongfully stealing the resources(money and valuables) of the original tree(marriage with children) to fund the planting of his older seed into yet another new, young female, “pure soil”. This is referred to as Serial Monogamy, where (usually always) men marry and divorce repeatedly and father children just to abandon them for the next young fertile soil. Why does Abdu’l Baha need to use terminology like, “the Husbandman of Truth”? The last paragraph is very sexist of the Baha’i Faith. Abdu’l Baha was very sexist in his analogy of the purpose of progressive revelation. I implore you to think, people, don’t be fooled by beautiful words, instead, really think about history and whether he’s repeating it rather than improving human life and correcting the wrongs of the past and present. Does the Baha’i Faith openly welcome the idea and reality of women receiving divine revelation of Baha’I faith? Or, is the Baha’i faith just as oppressive towards women as other religions/faiths, written and re-written by all male religious leaders who purposely keep women from true religious/faith equality? True equality among men and women fully transcends into religion and faith, not just education, employment, and politics. Only then will there actually be world peace.

  15. Leonard

    Thank you Alvin,
    Your story is inspiring. You are a channel for God’s Love to flow to others.

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