During my Bahá’í life, I have had the honor of meeting (being in the presence of) several Hands, if you could actually call it that, and would like to share some of my experiences. The missed opportunities, the not fully understanding the functions of the Hands of the Cause of God, led me to be quiet and remaining in the background for the most part. On becoming a Bahá’í, which was the best decision I have ever made in my life, I was literally thrown into the deep end the day I declared. It was 10:45 am on the 21 April 1973. 44 years ago in just a few minutes from now (a whole nother story), and was elected as Secretary of the Bahá’í Group in Palmerston North that same evening. Throwing 18 bottles of bourbon down the kitchen sink, I went cold turkey and tried to heal myself from my own miseries. I took to secretarying like a duck to water, except in the drowning kind of way. I became too busy to be able to think of drinking, although that would not be the whole truth, given the fact that for the first 4 months, I would undergo extreme torment as I experienced the DT’s and drying out. I would plan to go to the pub and sneak out of meetings to do so, only to find that by the time I finished scheming and planning my escape, the pubs were closed. Typing up the minutes of the regular meetings kept me so busy that I didn’t have time for much else. I turned the minutes into hours you see. When the next meeting came, the believers would have to sit through the full meeting of last week. Hahaha. The hard part, of course, was that I took things so seriously back then. Having grown up with constant disapproval, proved to be a huge test for me in my new life. The laughter of the community over the weird spelling errors was at times just a little too much to bear. But bear it I did. Oh well, I had a long way to go. Sitting up into the wee small hours after each meeting typing the minutes, I would pour myself between the sheets at some God forsaken hour, just to be woken by the kids to go to school the next morning.
I deepened myself in the Writings with the friends, and read the books of Hand of the Cause William Sears, “Thief in the Night”, and of course “”Wine of Astonishment” and “Prisoner and the Kings” but I cannot ever remember reading any one of them all the way through to the last page. I cried, I laughed, and I only got up to where I seemed to be reading something I had already read in some other book, so the current book was set aside and was never completed.
My life was rather funny actually, as reading was not my number one activity. The only real reading I got to do, was the Minutes for 6 organizations, and reading them out at their next meetings. I did, however, read an odd book or two, if not completely. I read parts of books, like Gleanings, Baha’i World Faith, and it was while reading “Prisoner and the Kings” in the bath one day, that I was completely converted to the Faith. Naked as the day I was born, I was transported into the Heavenly Kingdom. It was the spiritual awakening that left me feeling like I was floating in the air, and it all happened in the bath on that day of days. I had by this time been a Bahá’í in my head, but not in my heart. Still what I did believe, was enough to make me throw away an old life. His precious book fell into the bath and I scrambled to towel it dry with tears rolling down my face. The pages dried slowly, me too, and ultimately the book has since disintegrated. My love of the Faith took on a new spirit that day, and I suddenly became on fire with this love.
It was around this time, that I told my spiritual father, Mac McLellan, that I wished I could tell the Universal House of Justice just how I was feeling. He said “do it” and gave me the address to write to. Yet I felt so unworthy. Yet a few days later, I sat down at my typewriter and poured my heart out to the Governing Body of the Bahá’í Faith, in Israel. I rushed to the Post Office to mail it before I could talk myself out of it. It would be a few weeks until I received an answer, and it was certainly one I was not expecting. According to my thinking, they would not have time for me. I was wrong. I received a most loving letter of acceptance into the Faith from them. In my letter, I had said thank you to them for being there, and other things too, but alas, now forgotten. Their letter arrived and I went to the mailbox and found an envelope with “Haifa” stamped on it. “Oh my God!” I exclaimed and ran inside. I rang every Bahá’í in the city and told them, “I’ve got a letter from God! I’ve got a letter from God!” I was so excited, and the last person I rang was Mac and Barb’s house. Barbara asked me “What does it say?” and I had to admit it had not crossed my mind to open it.
When I did, the very words changed me, and with my soul in tears, suddenly I became aware of just how important the Faith was.
Unfortunately, I did not truly understand the role of a Hand of the Cause, and barely understood that there were Hands for Protection, and Hands for Propagation. I never knew which ones were which. It never occurred to me to read about their lives, finding out about them as I went.
HAND OF THE CAUSE COLLIS FEATHERSTONE
I was present at many gatherings with Hand of the Cause of God, Harold [Collis] Featherstone, and found him to be a wonderful person, full of a love of the Faith, and always ready to help our New Zealand Bahá’í Community. There is no story to go with any of these events, unfortunately, as I never actually got to sit down with him and talk. He came to New Zealand many times. I learned since of course that He was born on 5 May 1913 in a place called Quorn in South Australia, and he passed away on 29 September 1990 in Kathmandu, Nepal. There were a few opportunities for me to have some kind of communication with him, but I always felt that I was unworthy to speak to them. Instead, I would sit back and let others have that contact. In fact, although I had come off alcohol, I was still what they call ‘dry drunking’ (a term well known to alcoholics) and was, of course, feeling sorry for myself. Sadly, there were many lost opportunities. I am sad that I never got close enough to chat with him. I was always worried about what people thought of me or my actions,
HAND OF THE CAUSE DR Rahmatu’llah Muhajir
Around 1975-6, another Hand of the Cause of God came to New Zealand. Hand of the Cause Dr. Muhajir arrived in New Zealand at the height of a storm that hit the country. Dr. Muhajir came to my home while visiting NZ, at a time when I was recovering from surgery I think. He spent a little bit of time with me, and I felt very honored. Possibly around 1976. Not sure of the exact date though. As Secretary, I found out about His arrival and not sure if his plane was diverted to Palmerston North because of the weather, or if the purpose for His visit was to come here anyway, for a holiday to see His family, which He did often. There are two stories related to my meeting Him though, and share it I will.
I was with Shirley Charters when we went to the airport to greet Him. His plane was delayed and so Shirley and I sat around the airport waiting. At one point, Shirley got an idea that we should do some teaching while we were waiting. There was a man in the corner of the room, leaning back against both walls. In front of him was a newspaper, held high up to his face. Shirley said to me, “watch this” and she walked over to him. I followed to see what was going to happen, and so I could hear what she said to him. As I closed in on the two, I heard her say, “Excuse me, young man, Have you heard of Bahá’u’lláh?” Well, I was surprised, for one because we could not see if he was indeed a ‘young man’ and by the words that she uttered. He too was surprised, and he very slowly lowered the newspaper to look straight into Shirley’s eyes. “No,” he replied. She stood her ground and said, “Well, young man, if you had been searching for the “Truth” you would have found Him by now.” I was stunned, to say the least, and she walked away. She didn’t repeat His Blessed Name so I was left wondering if he would even remember her words. I never forgot her words at all. We had been waiting for about 6 hours.
I have another wonderful story about Hand of the Cause Dr. Muhajir that I would like to share, but shall leave this for another time.
HAND OF THE CAUSE MR FAIZI
Hand of the Cause of God, Abu’l Qásim Faizí, I didn’t actually meet, but I attended a talk he gave at the National Office in Auckland many years ago. It was possible that it was during the first National Convention I ever went to, in 1973, and somewhere in my belongings, possibly in a box in the garage, I have a photograph of the event, which was held downstairs in the Baha’i National Office which was in or near the inner city of Auckland. There were many of the souls in attendance. I remember how the believers at that time sat spellbound as Mr. Faizi gave talks about the importance of teaching children.
It could just as easily been during the International Teaching Conference held between the 19-22 January 1977 at the Town Hall. Sir Robert Muldoon, the then Prime Minister of New Zealand opened the Conference if my memory serves me well. He wished us a very successful Conference and we all stood in respect during his arrival and departure from the stage. Mr. Faizi may have represented the Universal House of Justice at that Teaching Conference.
HAND OF THE CAUSE `AMITU’L-BAHÁ RUHIYYIH KHANUM
I met Hand of the Cause of God, `Amitu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum when She came to New Zealand at a Marae in Dunedin, but not sure of the actual date of that event. Possibly sometime in 1979. When I was living in the south island, I attended a meeting with her, and there was only one seat when I arrived somewhat late. Ruhiyyih Khanum invited me by beckoning me to come and sit next to her. During the course of the talk, I was unable to concentrate on her talk as I was in extreme pain from what was thought to be an ectopic pregnancy. She must have sensed that something was wrong, for she reached around to my back and started rubbing up and down my back, the pain eased and when I returned to Timaru, the doctor said that all was well. She always knew when women were pregnant. There are lots of little Ruhiyyih’s (named after her) in many different countries.
I had been told that I would die if I had another child, after major surgery back in 1971 and so I wrote a will and went ahead with it. I did not believe in having an abortion, so I was willing to die if need be, to be able to have a daughter. I did, and she was born normally. I named her Felicity Jane which means “Happiness is a gift of God.” She was certainly touched by a Hand.
Throughout my Bahá’í life, I have listened to as many Hands of the Cause as I could, mostly on cassette tapes, cds, and of course now on YouTube and have been truly inspired by Their talks. Each in their own way has created a passion within me to do heaps of teaching. The first of these was by Hand of the Cause William Sears, called “What is a Bahá’í?”