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.

temps d’espérance

igloo inspectionVivement le temps des fêtes! Cette semaine il a fait très froid (vers les -15 à -20 degrés C) et on voit partout les signes d’un Noël blanc: des belles plaines enneigées, et des glaçons qui pendent du bord des toits. Bien que ma famille n’a plus l’habitude de fêter avec un arbre de Noël ni avec des cadeaux, on a fêté quand même en partageant l’esprit de la saison. La semaine dernière, on a aidé un groupe de pré-jeunes dans notre quartier avec un projet de service ayant un thème de Noël. Avec notre aide, le groupe s’est arrangé pour cuire et décorer des beaux biscuits de Noël, qu’on a par la suite distribué parmi leurs voisins avec des cartes de Noël qu’ils ont dessiné eux-mêmes. Le but, au-delà de partager l’esprit des fêtes, c’était de démontrer l’esprit d’amitié et de fraternité avec les gens du voisinage, et de partager de l’espoir—le thème du livret que le groupe est en train d’étudier ensemble.
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vacationing in victoriaville

it’s not Cancun or the Dominican Republic, but I’m taking a short little vacation visiting my good friends Geneviève and Craig in Victoriaville, my old pioneer post. This place is amazing. Many of the locals are on vacation, so the neighbourhood is very quiet. Gen and Craig live in the foothills of a mountain, which means they can go outside and be greeted every day with a breath of fresh mountain air. Their water’s also pretty good – there’s a humble little “spring” not too far from their home that gives clean, fresh water… through a metal pipe stuck in the face of the mountain, no less. There’s a lovely river not very far where they tend to bring all their visitors to skip stones or, if it’s a particularly hot day, to swim. And my favourite – it’s only a quick drive up to the top of the mountain, where they can see all the way to the St. Lawrence River. I love this place. Whenever I return here, I’m reminded of the following quote from the book Baha’u’llah and the New Era: “Baha’u’llah loved the beauty and verdure of the country. One day He passed the remark: ‘I have not gazed on verdure for nine years. The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies.’

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 a sweet weekend

glorious afternoon in victorandom update time. I peaced out for the Thanksgiving weekend (yup, Canadian Thanksgiving) and went to Victoriaville to visit Craig and Geneviève, two terribly good friends of mine from back when I went on a year of service there in 2002. it was great to get back together with them. we hung around, took care of their kids, and had some of our good old prayer sessions like back in the day. theirs is a musical family, so there was sweet harmony and soft chanting melody. I spent some of my time on the train ride to Drummondville studying parts of the long obligatory prayer—in an effort to finally memorize the whole thing—and said prayers on the bus from Drummondville to Victoriaville. It was sweet to have all that time to pray. it really took me far outside of the harried and somewhat obsessive-compulsive mental state I’d been cultivating for the past little while back in Ottawa. just quiet and honest reflection. on the train ride back from Drummondville, I got through two more chapters of The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh by Adib Taherzadeh. Deeply touching and at times heart-rending book to read—reading about the all crushing sorrows inflicted upon Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by the early Covenant-breakers is almost too much to take in one sitting. And I haven’t even gotten to the part about Shoghi Effendi yet. Anyway, I digress.

the weekend was an oddly productive one. I paid visits to and/or called up several other Baha’is in Victoriaville, and even stopped in to the Marché public to buy two bags of fresh local cranberries—which, in addition to the 2 kg bag of cranberries I ordered at work, should make some fine cranberry jam. I’ll blog the resulting jam session once it happens, with some recipes. hmm, I’m having cranberry flashbacks here.

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?