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Foreign Policy Analysis
Finding Purpose and a Path of Service – A Rich Tapestry

Finding Purpose and a Path of Service – A Rich Tapestry

My name is Abigail Phillips. I’m going to be serving
in the Baha’i World Center in the libraries and archives department. The first time I ever heard
of the Baha’i faith was spring semester 2016. I was walking through the campus center and saw the booth that
the Baha’i Club had set up and there were pamphlets for
the spiritual reading devotionals that the club had hosted I read some and thought
“Wow! This is really, really interesting.” – This idea had been floating around, right? Because I work at a university.
There’s 7,000 students. None of them were Baha’i but it’s
such a wonderful population right? And so we were thinking,
“Well, how do we serve this community?” Fall semester comes around. First meeting.
There were 10 students that came. It was very encouraging that
there was so much interest. – I was like, “Hey, I want to be part of a organization.” “I want to make new friends.” So I found the Bahá’í Club. I would say that this Baha’i club has
given me a new way of thinking how religion works together
and what they believe in. How it affects everyone in their daily life. – When I went to the first meeting I remember thinking,
“Wow, they really do practice what they say.” When I saw that everyone at the
Baha’i Club was different religions – The president was Protestant Christian,
the Vice President was Baptist, the secretary was Catholic,
and the media officer was Methodist. – The first day I came to the first meeting
we read different kind of, you know prayer belonging to different religions.
From Buddhist, Christian, Muslim faith. – It was almost like meeting an old friend.
I think the Baha’i faith connects people in a sense that when you have
that common understanding It’s almost as if you’ve
always known each other. – At the same time I started going to
Catholic Church again. I was raised Catholic and it was almost
at the same time that I decided along with their friend from volleyball
to get confirmed in the Catholic faith. My grandfather died
during this fall semester and this was the first death
that really affected me. My mother called and she said,
“Come. He’s dying.” I asked my boss for time off, caught a
bus and headed home. I just had my work clothes and my purse. And in my purse the
only book I had and the only one I read the whole way to Texas was a book
“Eternal Soul” by ‘Abdul-Bahá, a book I had picked up at the university’s
bicentenary celebration . I will never forget the impact
of the first passage in that book. After completing “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit”
intensively in Fort Smith in November 2017, I really wanted to do
book two, “Arising to Serve.” The community in Fort Smith was really supportive and
I was able to complete the book in December 2017. Funny story – in my book two intensive, all the participants
and the tutor too, also were old and white. It touched me when they talked about
participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade but I thought, “They’re all old and
Oh Snap! – the faith is going to die off.” “It must have been popping in the 60s and 70s
but now they’re talking about the importance of youth “and I’m the only one. I better do something.” – So then a regional development facilitator moves into town. And it was lovely having someone to come into Fort Smith who had a lot of experience. Not only with the Institute process but in just the overall functioning
of the administration of the Faith. It’s much more than any of us
honestly had in this area. So when she arrived and in the
talking and in the visiting, we connected with the Institute
Campaign that was going on in Plano. – In the first to Ruhi books there had been all this talk about the power of
youth and I was actually seeing it. Seeing young people with so much insight. Also all the youth at the campaign were so open to my experiences as a Catholic. They wanted to know about my religious
beliefs in a non-judgmental way. So it was in spring break 2018 that I declared in College Station Texas at the community’s Feast. When I got home after Feast I told mom I was a Baha’i. She said, “What about your Catholic youth group?” I formed a bowl with my hands and said, “This is my Catholicism that I love.” and then I used my arms to show a big bowl encompassing my small bowl and
I said that this was my Baha’i faith. I wanted her to understand that being Baha’i is
an extension of my Catholic beliefs, not a rejection of them. And she understood. – The youth said, “Sandy, are you going back in June?” and I said, “I will if you guys want to go.” So we took another five or six back in June. And that’s when most of them did book three and four. – With this, my second experience
at an institute campaign, I was excited to see the diversity. At my first campaign, back in winter 2017 I was like, “They say this religion is diverse
but this is mostly Persians.” At the end of the winter campaign
one of my friends did give me the background on why so many Iranians
had settled in this area of Texas. So I did leave understanding why there wasn’t that much diversity there. But in the summer 2018 campaign there were youth from Texas and Oklahoma and Arkansas and Louisiana. It was so diverse. We found out that there was a community in Houston that really wanted a homefront pioneer. We initially were like, “Let’s keep her here!” “Let’s keep her here!” But we knew that we didn’t have the growth yet happening in this
community to give her the experience that she needed in this path of service that you know that she was embarking upon. We just didn’t have it. So we talked with the auxilary board member for the Houston area. Bahá’ís and people from the wider community
are the ones who have power of action. They are the ones who can serve. No institution can do this. So to release
this power of action in individuals, I feel is one of the most important and sacred parts of the of the service of
the Auxiliary Board member. – While serving in Nottingham, I was
gonna be exposed to different races so one of my roommates were Iranian
and another roommate was white. and I had never lived with anyone that
wasn’t of my own race and so having patience to understand different
cultures and different backgrounds and that there’s really no such thing as common sense. We all come from different walks of life
and so we all have different expectations or different understandings
of how things should be done. And so serving with people of different
races really helped me to understand, “Okay, we needed to create unity
in our own home so that “whenever we bring people in
from the wider community “they see us in harmony.” – So in her year of service in Houston, she’s acquired some wonderful experience. So she came back to Fort Smith
to share that with us because we’re in the process of
finding a focus neighborhood. – I heard one of the opportunities
you can do to serve God was in the Baha’i World Center. And you can serve in the Archive department either like in photography or manuscripting and stuff and I was like, “Wowl you can like do that as like a religious volunteer?” – And Abigail had been telling me,
“Oh, you know I love archives. I love history.” And I said, “Oh you have to talk to to Lorraine.” “She worked at the World Center
in the Archives Department.” – They emailed me and they were like, “We’ve come
to a conclusion about your application.” Tell me I got invited to serve in the
Baha’i World Center for 30 months in the Libraries and Archives Department. And I felt like I was dreaming.
Like I felt like it wasn’t … It was a privilege I didn’t deserve. – She called – she FaceTimed and she’s like, “Guess what!”
I said, “What’s going on!” Because I could tell there was something. She had her eyes were all teary. And she said she got the letter –
the invitation to do her service in Haifa. so it was like … Of course. – Still a little bittersweet you know,
gonna miss her a little bit but um… You know, it’s such an amazing opportunity. – You know it’s not how long you’re a Baha’i, really. It’s the connection you
make with Baha’u’llah and hers was very fast and very steadfast and very connected and so This was really the next step for her so we were excited and
happy and sad and all of those emotions
all at the same time. – Two and a half years … We’ll have a hard time recognizing her when she gets back I think she’s gonna be… she’s gonna grow in ways that we can’t even imagine. – I’m excited to give back. That’s what I’m thinking now. The Baha’is helped me in my
lowest time spiritually. They helped me find myself spiritually. And I’m looking forward to helping others.

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