My spiritual journey began when I was a very young child. I was raised by two wonderful parents who emigrated from Greece to the United States. Our home in Ohio was like the United Nations. My parents opened their home and hearts to people of all faiths and nationalities.
I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Christian Church. My father was a spiritual man and taught my brother, sister and me about the Holy Bible, and how to pray. He always told us to “ask God from all your heart what you feel.”
I attended church every Sunday, and sometimes when I looked at the people around me, I felt that something was missing. I had the thought, “God, why can’t we all have just one religion?”
I had spiritual dreams of Jesus Christ and Mary. My dreams felt so real. They made me feel truly connected to God.
I read the Bible, and was very curious that Jesus Christ kept telling of His return. He said that He would come like a thief in the night, with a new name, as the Prince of Peace, in the Name of His Father. I felt this was a mystery that would somehow soon be revealed.
With my soul yearning I prayed, “Father, I know you can hear me. Jesus and Mary, I have a lot of questions to ask you all! Did you come, Jesus? Where are you? Perhaps you returned and I missed you? I want to know if you came, please give me a sign! Would you please let me know?”
I had other prayers. I prayed to meet the right man for me to marry. “God! Will you please send me a man in my life that loves You first? Second, that he will treat me like a Princess, and would be a wonderful father to our children? That he would be as spiritual as I am, and would help me teach our children to be spiritual as well, so that I am not alone on this journey? Lastly, someone a bit more responsible than I am, too?”
It was important to my parents for me to meet and marry a nice Greek boy. I did meet a Greek boy, and he was nice at first, but when I saw what drinking alcohol did to him, I began to think, “Is this really the kind of husband I want, or father I would want for my children?” I had to let him go.
I owned a bridal and evening wear shop, and in the spring of 1998, I went to work for one of my suppliers at a fashion trade show at the Apparel Mart in Chicago, Illinois. Our booth was in a prominent location, and this handsome, graceful man kept walking by. My eyes were magnetically drawn to him every time he passed. My soul couldn’t help but jump, and I didn’t know why. I said to myself, “He is a true gentleman,” without even meeting him.
Finally, he introduced himself to me in a gentle voice. “Hello, my name is Diaa.” He was a fashion designer and artist and he showed me some of his work. “Wow!” I thought, “What God-given talent!”
After I returned to Ohio, Diaa called me just about every day from his home in Michigan. Later that summer I visited Greece and was gone for a month. While I was away I realized how much I missed him. During this time Diaa and my mom talked a lot on the phone and became best of friends.
We made plans to meet again in Chicago in October, at the next trade show. As I got to know him more, I fell in love with his soul, and I absolutely loved his manners, his gracefulness, and his kind heart towards me and my family.
Diaa and I talked everyday on the phone, and he drove from Michigan to see me just about every weekend. We discussed a lot of things regarding spirituality and life after death. He asked me a question that I had already pondered. “If someone told you that Christ returned, what would you say?” “I wouldn’t doubt it. Perhaps He did!” was my reply.
Diaa told me he was a member of the Baha’i Faith. I didn’t know what that was. “I’m asking you to learn about my religion, because it represents who I am as a human being. I love my religion and I will not change, and I’m not asking you to change either.”
In order for me to learn about his religion, Diaa suggested that I look up the Baha’is near my hometown. I met with a lovely couple, and we had the most amazing Bible study anyone could have. When they told me about Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, and that He is the Second Coming of Christ uniting all of the world’s religions under one God, I cried and cried.
Here was the answer to the mystery that I’d been trying to solve since I was a child!
On my birthday, a month and a half later, Diaa proposed. Along with my engagement ring, he gave me a Baha’i prayer book that he had inscribed, “All my Love, Diaa.” He was the man of my dreams.
Things got complicated, though, when we began planning our wedding. The priest from our church said he couldn’t marry us, that we would have to see the bishop in Pennsylvania.
Diaa told the bishop that we wanted to have a Greek Orthodox ceremony and a Baha’i ceremony together. The bishop said we couldn’t do that. The bishop told Diaa that the rules of the Greek Orthodox Church were for him to get baptized and convert.
Diaa said that if Jesus was in front of us at this moment, He would never insist that we get baptized with water, for the Fire of God was already inside our hearts, and our love for Christ was stronger than the bishop could ever know.
In response, the bishop was speechless! Then he tried to change the subject. Diaa and I just looked at each other and smiled.
I was so moved by how Diaa spoke to the bishop in a calm, humble voice, that I began to question the bishop’s power and authority. I started to realize that I might actually know more about the Bible than this bishop. I started thinking, “Am I doing this to please my parents, or myself?” Well, definitely not myself.
Then the bishop incorrectly told my parents that the Baha’is are a sect of Islam, and things got even more complicated. My parents told me I could not marry Diaa. I was devastated. I couldn’t understand how they could judge Diaa based on his religion. They had all kinds of friends, but they had a different standard for who their children could marry.
I was having a terrible time at home. I went to stay at a friend’s house to get away from all the screaming and shouting there.
Every evening Diaa and I spoke on the phone before we went to sleep. He asked me to recite a special Baha’i prayer for times of difficulty, the Tablet of Ahmad. So every night, at midnight — with Diaa in Michigan and me in Ohio — we recited this prayer together. I had so much faith, and I felt as if God was holding my hand through all of this.
Then one day my mom called me at my friend’s house, “I need to talk to you and Diaa.”
I came home and Diaa drove down from Michigan. My mother sat us down and told us that she had a dream. In her dream, God spoke to her in a loud, authoritative voice, “Niki, let Diaa marry Ellie, for they will be happy all of their lives!” Then she woke up.
My mother was heeding the dream and giving her consent for us to be married. It was a miracle! I believe the power of our prayers made this happen.
On May 16, 1999, we had a small Baha’i wedding in Canada. Diaa was a Canadian citizen. He had moved there at age 16 from his native Lebanon.
After we were married, I continued my investigation of the Baha’i Faith by reading a book called Thief in the Night by William Sears. While I was reading I felt that God was speaking directly to me, answering my questions and prayers. When I finished, I cried thinking of how blessed I truly felt at that moment!
A few months later, Diaa and I took a trip to visit the Baha’i House of Worship near Chicago. As we sat inside I prayed, “God! I’m here! If this is my mission on Earth, then please give me a sign!” I felt tears streaming down my face, and my soul felt a sense of peace, and I was overcome with a yearning to become a Baha’i, which I did.
All these years later, we have two beautiful and healthy children, Katia and Jad. Every day I thank God for this wonderful journey He’s given me. My life has been, and still is, one blessing after another!
Christ said: “I tell you, whatever you ask in Prayer, Believe as if you have it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) My prayers and dreams led me to the Baha’i Faith.