a channel of grace

dr. shapour javanmardi, October 24, 2005

To be a channel of God’s grace on earth, one must be humble. One must be ready to serve all of humanity without a trace of prejudice. One must have unshakeable faith in the power of divine assistance, and a strong, all-embracing love for all those who may cross one’s path.

Dr. Shapour Javanmardi, who “welcomed all… with matchless hospitality, whose devotion to the Cause was a constant inspiration to greater action, and whose ceaseless encouragement… strengthened and uplifted so many [in their] paths of service”, was indeed a channel of God’s grace to those he knew. Upon his passing in October 2005, the hearts of many opened up in warm and loving remembrance of a soul who had travelled the world to spread abroad the fragrance of God’s love:

“Having lived as a Bahá’í pioneer in Tunisia with his wife Mahin, he settled in Québec forty years ago (1966), and there he sustained the growth of the Bahá’í Faith. His efforts greatly contributed to the development of several nascent Bahá’í communities in Québec, including Victoriaville, Warwick, and Drummondville in the Centre-du-Québec region, as well as the community of Montréal.”

“He was the most loving, warm, and self-sacrificing man I’ve known. He was the grandfather of some very close friends of mine, but he was so kind to all that I often thought of him as my own grandfather.”

“Every time he welcomed me with his warm embrace, I returned home feeling that this was friendship, this was love, this was what it meant to be a Bahá’í.”

“His warmth, his all-embracing love, his passion and courage, and his capacity to encourage, inspire and rally the troops of the All-Beloved were unique and irreplaceable.”

“…we deeply lament the passing of a dear, long-time friend…”

“He was truly a fine man. Anyone who had met him should feel blessed.”

In remembrance of Dr. Javanmardi, I’ll share a story here that I’ve told and retold, about him and his wife, and how great was their faith in the power of God’s assistance.

The Javanmardis settled in the Montréal area in the 1960s, at a time when the Bahá’í community around the world was growing by leaps and bounds. It seemed as though everyone was curious to hear about this new message from God, a message based on unity, love, kindness, justice, and peace. In the interest of sharing this message with as many people as possible, Bahá’ís would often travel to new places, seeking out receptive souls who were waiting to hear.

Shapour Javanmardi and his wife Mahin were no exception. Whenever they had a moment to spare from helping to build and strengthen the Bahá’í community in their hometown, they buckled up for a drive into Québec’s heartland. They criss-crossed the countryside, rolling through villages and towns, stopping to speak with locals in the hopes of striking up a conversation. On one of these occasions, they had been driving around in this way for hours without much success. Tired, they began to consider turning back and heading home. But before heading back, they thought, they should at least stop somewhere and offer prayers. Maybe the prayers would attract divine confirmations and lead some pure soul towards them, towards the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.

glorious afternoon in victoSo they rounded the next curve and drove over the next hill, and spotted a good place to stop, in a small driveway in front of a farmhouse, surrounded by fields. There they stopped, pulled out prayer books and began to pray: For God’s guidance, for His assistance, and for the triumph of His Cause. Big prayers. Beautiful prayers. The kind that reach down into the core of your being and say, “This is it.” And finally, after a few more moments of reflection, they rolled back out of the driveway and turned back towards home.

Somehow, when humble and pure souls offer prayers to their Lord, He ends up answering those prayers in astonishing ways. And wouldn’t you know it, that driveway they pulled into belonged to a farmer and his wife who, many years later, became the first people in the region to declare their faith in Bahá’u’lláh, in the tiny village of Warwick. More of their family members became Bahá’ís, and soon enough, in the neighbouring town of Victoriaville, a Local Spiritual Assembly was formed, the first in the region. Although his wife had passed away by that time, Dr. Javanmardi, now a member of the Regional Bahá’í Council of Québec, came to visit the members of the Assembly, treating us to lunch and telling us all about this story, the story of how those prayers were finally answered. Fifteen years later, that same Spiritual Assembly still stands, and the community has grown in size and in maturity.

What is this, if not the evidence of Divine grace? Dr. Javanmardi, we miss your warmth and your presence among us, but we honour you and what you were enabled to achieve. May you always be richly blessed, in all the worlds of God.

The original post, dr. shapour javanmardi, is one of the most popular posts on doberman pizza. Quotes from doberman pizza, Jeunesse Bahá’íe, and service in zambia. Photo: La Presse, 26 october, 2005.

abdu’l-bahá’s visit to montreal

at the door of the shrine‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, arrived in the city of Montreal after an eleven-hour journey from Boston, on the night of August 30th, 1912. His business, far from any material pursuits, was to spread His Father’s message of universal peace, brotherhood and unity. Settling in to the home of Mr. William Sutherland Maxwell and Mrs. May Maxwell, nestled snugly onto the side of Mount Royal, he declared, “This is my home.” A hundred years later, this house is now regarded as a national Shrine, a grace conferred onto the Canadian Bahá’í community that stands unequalled among most of its sister communities worldwide. Montreal was the only Canadian city he visited during his 239-day-long journey, bestowing a priceless spiritual heritage to that city and to the country of Canada—and, at the same time, making an important and profound social statement.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá had ample reason to come to Montreal: the Maxwell family, with whom he had already been acquainted many years earlier and who would develop a unique and special relationship to the central figures of the Bahá’í Faith, had succeeded in raising up a small but active Bahá’í group there, and it was at their invitation that he made the long trek north from Boston rather than simply cutting across the west on his way to California. But beyond being a gracious visit to long-time friends, his visit to Montreal was also, in a way, an example to the early Canadian believers, many of whom came from Anglophone and Protestant backgrounds, and who carried with them, to varying degrees, the prejudices prevailing in society regarding the French Catholics of Quebec. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, known by the Bahá’ís as the Perfect Exemplar, was no stranger to making examples when there were lessons to be learned, especially when it came to social conventions. He it was who insisted on having Louis Gregory, a black American lawyer, sit next to him at the head of the table at a luncheon in Washington, D.C.—an unthinkable act in a society for which racial segregation was just another fact of life.

It can safely be said that racism is the most challenging issue confronting America, as was stated clearly in a 1991 statement by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of America, The Vision of Race Unity. Canada’s challenges, though slightly more nuanced, are perhaps just as serious. Broadly, it can be said that intercultural prejudice—a combination of racism, nationalistic sentiment and economic and religious prejudice—is Canada’s most challenging issue. This issue was directly raised by the Universal House of Justice in a message to the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, dated 5 September 1999. As in many parts of the world, the letter explained, Canada is “affected by various social divisions… In Canada’s case, such issues tend to be cultural in nature, particularly those separating peoples of Native and European origin or those between Canadian of French- and English-speaking backgrounds.” These issues, the Universal House of Justice affirmed, are rooted in “long-standing conflicts that weaken the country’s basic social fabric.” Continue reading

victoriaville in high-res satellite photos

du haut de la montagneyay! Google Maps (and Google Earth) finally added high-res satellite photos of my favourite place in the world: Victoriaville. now you can see the house where I lived, the Victoriaville Loblaws store where I worked, the SADC Arthabaska-Érable (where I also worked), the Tim Horton’s where I stopped after getting lost on my first day in Victoriaville, Mont Arthabaska and other fascinating places. If you add MetalToad’s Flickr KML feed, you can even view some of my flickr photos of Victoriaville in Google Earth.

back from sherbrooke / de retour de sherbrooke

so I travelled down to Sherbrooke this past weekend, to visit my friends – the Baha’i youth – and to welcome back Catherine and Geneviève, who’ve been serving in Gabon for the past eight months and a half. It was a treat and a pleasure to see every one of them – I truly enjoyed myself, and felt none of the anxiety I sometimes experience when I’m in social situations. I think I must truly love these youth. I’m certainly proud of their level of energy, their great love for each other, and their willingness to bend their efforts to fulfill the Plan of God for this Day. Remember the Canadian Baha’i National Convention, where Baha’i institutions announced their intention to establish 40-odd intensive programs of growth across Canada to help meet the goals of the current Five Year Plan given to us by the Universal House of Justice? Sherbrooke’s Baha’i community is among those targeted for growth. And to know the Baha’is who live there, you know they’re ready. The love and devotion expressed in that community is awesome. I just hope I can share a part of their path.

C’était avec une grande joie que j’ai pu me rendre à Sherbrooke cette fin de semaine pour célébrer le retour au Canada de Catherine et Geneviève, deux jeunes baha’ies de l’Estrie qui sont parties au Gabon pour presque neuf mois pour enseigner la Foi baha’ie et servir l’humanité. Il y avait plein de monde là pour fêter leur retour, y compris la famille, leurs amis du cégep et de l’université, et bien sûr une gang de jeunes baha’is. Et bien sûr il y avait plein de bouffe (du barbecue, sous une averse de pluie). On a beaucoup jasé, et puis bien sûr on a pris le temps de regarder tous leurs photos du Gabon en format diaporama, avec leurs commentaires. À la fin de la soirée, on est allé voir des films on s’est loué un X-box on a enlevé les tresses à Catherine et on s’est couché tard. Le lendemain, après un bon déjeûner, du bon jasage et un fracas au Pictionary, moi, David et Karine ont repris la route pour Ottawa.

Ça me fait remémorer mes années de service au Québec de revoir Cat et Gege, de les entendre raconter leurs histoires de bonheur et de malheur. Il y a quelque chose qui se passe quand on est pionnier pour sa Foi qui provoque un changement, non, une transformation profonde, et ce pour tous et chacun sans exception. Ça m’a vraiment touché d’être ramené à réfléchir sur cette transformation en l’observant dans les autres.

Cette transformation intérieure dans nous-mêmes provoque des changements externes, bien sûr – on devient plus à l’aise avec le service parce qu’on connaît ça. On comprend mieux ceux qui souffrent, qui se sentent seuls ou désespérés, parce qu’on a vécu ça. Et, du moins je l’espère, on comprend un peu mieux ce que ça veut dire d’aimer Dieu et de s’en remettre à Lui. Tous ceux qui songent à servir en tant que pionnier, et même ceux qui se demandent s’ils auront jamais la force ou la foi ou le détachement nécessaire pour une telle affaire, faites-moi confiance – allez-y, et mettez le doute à côté. Et ceux qui ne peuvent pas? Participez dans les programmes intensifs de croissance, joignez-vous à un cercle d’étude, ou, si vous êtes animateur, offrez-en un à votre cercle d’amis qui cherchent à connaître la foi baha’ie, ses écrits et ses principes. Chacun de nous peut laisser son empreinte et contribuer au Plan Divin.

C’est tout pour l’instant, mais gardez l’oeil ouvert pour des photos de la fin de semaine sur mon site flickr!

concours de pompiers

allez voir ça – à Victo ils ont eu un concours de pompiers d’à travers le Québec… ils ont plein de photos. voilà un autre article à propos des compétitions, et puis un autre au sujet du défilé mouillé… ça paraît peut-être bête de souligner tout ça mais bon… j’aime bien suivre les nouvelles de Victo… et puis au travail je suis entouré de femmes qui parlent très souvent de pompiers (qu’ils sont beaux ces pompiers!) alors ils vont bien aimer ça…

ah oui et pendant que tous le pompiers étaient occupés avec leurs olympiques, un bâtiment de ferme a brûlé jusqu’aux cendres… tous les bêtes qui s’y trouvaient sont présentement en route vers le McDo.

and just in case you didn’t understand all that, it was about a weekend-long firefighters’ skill contest in Victoriaville. aaaaaaaand while they were all busy competing, a barn burnt down and grilled a bunch of cows… trip to McDonald’s to celebrate, anyone?

histoires de chez nous / random tidbits and such

C’est de moins en moins souvent que je mets à jour mon site avec du matériel franco pour mes amis du Québec, et j’en suis désolé… mais par exemple, vous allez peut-être aimer ce qui suit – il s’agit de quelques histoires reliées aux baha’is du coin de Victo:

So here’s a few interesting things I’ve come upon lately…

Last but not least… sometimes we work all day at the office, rushing this way and that, and when we get home our brains are mush and we don’t have the energy to lift a finger. Likewise, sometimes we’re so run down by the anxious, frantic pace of life that we’re too tired to serve humanity or teach the world about the Baha’i Faith – and all we want to do is rest. And then we read something like this and we get back up off our butts and get real.