Sharing stories of faith brings history to life

December 20, 2019
Sharing stories of faith brings history to life

Stories about the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, and His early followers are inspirational in their own right. Many a celebration of the 200th anniversary of His birth, Oct. 29, featured such tales of faith, sacrifice and resilience. 

Retellings made the greatest mark, though, when they led to elevated conversations about their meaning for today.

Celebration reflects virtues children are learning

A metro Atlanta storytelling team interviews a young community member on camera about the lives and missions of the Bab and Baha’u’llah. Interviews of people ages 2 to 80 were edited into a video presentation for an Oct. 27 gathering. Photo courtesy of Nwandi Lawson

At a weekly children’s class in Decatur, Georgia, five youngsters studied two prayers of the Bab that are newly translated into English, and they shared a story about the childhood of that Messenger of God.

That provided a perfect opportunity to talk about all the Divine Messengers and how through Their lives and words we learn about God. They are like mirrors that reflect the sun. They are also guides Who light our way in life.

The children listed some of the qualities of these Messengers: love, kindness, truth, patience, justice and many more. Not coincidentally, these are virtues the class members have been learning about and striving to practice in their own lives.

For an activity, the youngsters decorated mason jars with paper tissue squares and added a candle. When the Bab was imprisoned because the government felt His teachings were a threat to its power, He was denied even a candle, the children learned. From that they considered how all of the Messengers of God suffered and were persecuted but Their Light continued to shine.

Paths to faith traced in stories of early believers

Chattanooga, Tennessee, Baha’is dramatized the stories of such historical figures as Mulla Husayn and Quddus in the context of their path to faith.

The celebration’s program was designed to show how those early believers arrived at the moment of commitment to a new and perilous cause.

As retold before the audience at the Chattanooga Baha’i Center, the life of Quddus was one of pure faith. He didn’t set out to recognize the Messenger through the answers to big questions. Rather, the spark of faith came when he saw how the Bab carried himself. 

Mulla Husayn, conversely, sought the One Who, without being asked, would deliver the definitive explanation of a surah from the Qur’an. His encounter with the Bab gave him that proof.

Many early believers were put to death for their faith, but the Chattanooga celebration didn’t dwell on that. Rather, attendees were encouraged to see their sacrifice in the light of how even today the followers of Baha’u’llah, Whose advent the Bab foretold, are working to attract millions to a vision for humanity, despite persecution in many lands.

History made meaningful through gesture

A Baha’i in a small village outside Rochester, New York, struggled to find an appropriate way to share the bicentenary with fellow residents. She wanted to show how the village’s rich history blended with that of the Baha’i Faith. But how? 

She had joined the Village Historical Society earlier in the year and offered to serve as a volunteer. Having not received a response to her offer, she called the society’s president the morning of the bicentenary.

The president informed the Baha’i that she was on her way to the village’s pioneer cemetery to rehearse a re-enactment of stories of early settlers. The Baha’i offered to come along as an observer and give feedback. That offer was accepted, and she was asked to take photos.

Wondering how to introduce the history of the Faith, the Baha’i laid eyes on a new book about the Bab she had just acquired but not yet read and knew that was the entrée. She inscribed the book and presented it as a gift that was gratefully accepted, opening the door to further collaboration between area Baha’is and village residents.

Inspiration comes in many forms

Strong storms threatened to wash out a bicentenary picnic in northern Delaware. But 14 people still gathered around a campfire, prayed and listened to a recording of stories about the Bab as narrated by the late William Sears, a well-loved Baha’i who served the Faith internationally.

In South Dekalb County, Georgia, Baha’is and friends gathered for devotions featuring the story of Zaynab, a fearless young woman and early follower of the Bab. They also studied the bicentenary message to the Baha’is of the world from the global governing council of the Baha’i Faith, and wrote essays centered on the themes of each paragraph.

A nine-day collective challenge to read and study “The Dawn-Breakers,” a book outlining the story of the Bab and early Bahai history, was one of several activities here surrounding the bicentenary. Photo courtesy of Irina Rahimi

Storytelling was integral to a celebration in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that also featured “good food, good music and good devotions.”

Speaking of food, a junior youth group in Carrboro, North Carolina, celebrated by coming together to make homemade pizza and to share stories about the Bab. At the gathering, the young people decided to donate money they had previously raised to a children’s hospital in honor of the bicentenary.

At a celebration in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, junior youths tell the story of the life of the Bab to children, near a painting of the house of the Bab created earlier by young people from Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Photo courtesy of Suzan Kalantar
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An Oct. 19 gathering at the Dallas Baha’i Center engaged about 65 people in craft activities inspired by the life of the Bab, dinner, a program of music and dramatic readings, and the film Dawn of the Light. Photo courtesy of Anne Perry
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