The last month of my life was effectively spent learning about the history of the early Baha’is in North America. Granted, I missed reading the relevant history for the celebration of the centennial of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to America by a year. But better late than never.
The Baha’i Faith has an exciting history across all parts of the world. I grew up on tales of the heroic Babis, Baha’u’llah’s life and exiles and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s journeys. But somehow my religious historical education didn’t spend a lot of time outside of the Middle East.
So when I sat down a few weeks ago with Robert Stockman’s The Baha’i Faith in America: Volume I, I became engrossed in a few stories I wasn’t as familiar with.
And here is what I came away with: these guys had a lot of faith.
At the end of the 1800’s in the wake of Baha’u’llah’s passing, the Baha’i Faith had just reached America. At that time not many writings were translated into English. Those interested in the new Eastern religion were catching whispers of it here and there, and had to ferret information out of the teachers that were few and far between.
And yet, the early faith in America survived the blows they were dealt and thrived to lay the foundation of the Baha’i Faith and the administrative order. Eighteen years after Thornton Chase, who is regarded as the first Baha’i in America, learned about the faith, the Master* himself came to the states to lay the cornerstone figuratively and literally.
In an April 1930 letter to an individual believer regarding the German Baha’is, Shoghi Effendi said, “There is always an important difference between friends and tested friends. No matter how precious the first type may be, the future of the Cause rests upon the latter.”
The Baha’i Faith in America was founded by tested, faithful, steadfast friends. In the beginning of this new year, we can all strive to be more like them.
*’Abdu’l-Baha is also known as the “the Master” to Baha’is. The title was given to him as a child by Baha’u’llah.