Longtime believer rediscovers community, dives into service

Dorothy Smith (standing to the left of the nine-pointed star) and Baháís from several southern Missouri communities gather around the float they entered in the Lebanon, Missouri, Christmas parade. Photo courtesy of Michelle Schiefelbein

By Michelle Schiefelbein

If you look around Bahá’í communities you will find sweet spirits such as Dorothy Smith who could tell you so many stories of their lives in the Faith and of the modern-day miracles they have witnessed.

Dorothy is a kind, gentle, quiet lady in her 80s whom I met when she and her vivacious, energetic daughter Judith became reconnected with the Bahá’í communities of southern Missouri.

I started visiting them a few months ago and found two ladies who have been Bahá’ís a combined 99 years. Two ladies on fire with the love of Bahá’u’lláh who are the only believers in Laclede County.

Thanks to 800-22UNITE and at Judith’s behest, Dorothy had called to find Bahá’ís in her area.

Thanks to the institute process and their enthusiasm, we three women of various ages started a study circle with Ruhi Book 1, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit.

And thanks to her accumulated wisdom, Dorothy found opportunity in the announcement that the theme of this year’s Christmas parade in Lebanon, Missouri, would be “The Greatest Gift of Christmas.”

How did Dorothy present her idea that the Bahá’ís of Laclede County have a float in this parade? There would never be another opportunity like this, she said, because the greatest gift of Christmas is the Most Great Peace, of course!

So it began, and so Dorothy inspired us all. With chicken wire, ribbon, vines and fig tree leaves cut to exact specifications from a real fig tree on their country property, Judith and Dorothy designed the Bahá’í float.

They enlisted help from my dad and me in creating the decorations. The fig leaves were hand cut from green felt and Dorothy sewed wires into them so they were flexible.

Hours were spent weaving ribbons through chicken wire to create banners that said “The Most Great Peace” for both sides of the float, and looping hundreds of strands of yarn for fringe at the bottom.

We attached two-by-fours to the 10-foot trailer, ivy to a chicken-wire arch made with PVC pipe, and a sign Dorothy sewed for the back of the float that read “Micah 4:4.”

Then on a Saturday morning, as we prayed the angels would hold off the rain, we all decorated the float with the help of other Bahá’ís.

Then appeared more Bahá’ís, some who traveled as far as 70 miles to support the efforts of these two ladies who, once isolated, now felt as Judith put it to me “part of a community like I have never felt before.”

So, with the help 800-22UNITE, home visits, the institute process, Bluetooth technology and a song downloaded from the Internet — just to name a few of the modern miracles mentioned above — our little trailer proceeded down the parade route.

The verse from the Bible, Micah 4:4, rang out from our little boom box in song: “And every one 'neath their vine and fig tree, shall live in peace and unafraid ... and into plowshares turn their swords, nations shall learn war no more. ...”

Because of Dorothy and the unity and support of friends, our modest little float passed thousands of onlookers, some who shouted out how much they loved our float that said “The Most Great Peace.”

A float of peace spreading a new way, all from the inspiration of one of the longest-standing Bahá’ís alive.

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