POP 07a - My Declaration

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Baha'i's use the term "declaration" regarding their belief in and commitment to Baha'u'llah. Here I will tell you about the event that led to my declaration.

I had been aware of the Baha'i Faith for many years and had visited the Temple in Chicago a number of times.

Then, back in my native Kansas I saw an ad in the Sunday paper with a picture of the Temple and called out of curiosity that there were Baha'i's there.

At the local Baha'i's insistence I visited with the group that morning but told them I had no time to read a book. Their reply was:

    "God will give you time."

During next week a major Evangelical Crusade was planned for the City of Wichita. Everywhere one looked one saw banners that proclaimed -
    "Hear Haggai"
the evangelist.

The banners were in store windows, on car bumpers, on telephone poles, and on two big banners strung across the main street at both ends.

    "Hear Haggai"

On the radio, in the newspapers, everywhere one looked or heard - it was:
    "Hear Haggai"

The newspapers reported the week long event. Many thousands in attendance - the gigantic choir - the moving sermons.

Each evening a Baptist friend would come and ask me to go but I was too busy.

The final evening he came and insisted and insisted telling me that the night before over a hundred and fifty people and gone forward to be baptized, and that this was my last chance to -

    "Hear Haggai"

In consideration for my friend - I finally went with him. The coliseum was packed. The main floor which was the city basket ball court was filled with chairs.

At one end of the court was a stage with 150 robed members of the choir comprised of the joint choirs of a number of the cities churches.

Three of the four balconies surrounding three sides of the basket ball court were also filled with only some vacant seats in the fourth balcony. Thousands in attendance.

It looked something like a political convention with lettered signs held up on tall poles showing the seating location of each of the city's many churches.

    East Side Baptist, Rosedale Alliance, Central Bible Church, Broadway Church of God, "Hear Haggai"

The church with the largest percentage attendance was being given new hymnals for the church. The winning church had 300% in attendance. It was a large meeting.

The choir and congregation concluded a hymn and all sat down and Haggai rose to speak. Indeed a powerful sermon.

I still remember from the sermon how he pointed out the number of beneficial institutions of mankind that have been started because of the teaching of Christ.

There are hospitals, and schools, orphanages and relief organizations of all sorts. The list goes on into the tens - as he gave it, and the numbers of each in the tens of thousands or more.

What man, he asked, has ever done more to benefit mankind? One can look at all sorts of political organizations and political philosophies. Personal organizations, and personal philosophies but what has done more than the teaching of Christ to benefit mankind?

Then he pointed out. One is either for or against this movement that has so benefited mankind. One cannot say that they are neutral or indifferent - because they are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Many were the points that Haggai made of this sort.

I concluded that well it doesn't really do any harm in supporting Christ - and better this source of good than none.

When the altar call was given - no one went up although over a hundred and fifty had gone the night before. Even more were expected this night - but I guess the crowd had thought to beat the rush.

Several times Haggai paused the choir - and urged sinners to come forward. One time he gave an exhortation that those there would be standing on one side of the Pearly Gates and that husband, brother, sister, friend next to them would not be because they had not turned to them and offered to go forward with them.

My friend stood next to me like a statue of rock, but I must have dropped a shoulder or something because an usher came up from behind and asked if I would like to go forward.

    "Well, yes."

At the front I found myself and one other fellow who eventually came forward standing there looking up at the choir. Haggai finally stopped the music and looking down at this poor catch said -
    "Well, the Lord is looking for quality - not quantity".

He assigned to each of us two deacons (or guards as I called them) and told them to take us to an upper room where he would come shortly.

And so we marched out - I and my two guards leading, and the other fellow and his two guards trailing.

Up the broad cement and steel stairways behind the auditorium and into a team dressing room.

Red brick walls and wooden floors with windows two feet above one's head. Fold-down windows with opaque chicken wire-embedded glass. Hanging from the 15 ft ceiling down the middle of the 50 ft room five single light fixtures on stranded cord with green shades and 150 watt bulbs.

Except for one table - the otherwise unfurnished room had lining down the walls on each side a half dozen 7 ft benches with patches of white showing through peeling green paint worn out from a generation of showered athletes having been sitting upon them.

Being first through the door - my guards and I proceeded forward several benches and sat down with one guard on each side.

With a couple of benches in between my companion captive was also similarly seated. And thus we sat - in total silence none of our guards having every spoken a single word to either of us.

Through the thick walls of the fortress and away in the distance we could dimly hear the voices of thousands raised in praise to the Lord of the Ages.

And then - total silence as there must have been being offered upon them a final blessing.

And suddenly - a loud clamor and commotion as thousands rose from their seats and moved towards the exit.

Bit by bit, the clamor died away until again there was total silence. Wait. Wait. And then from the distance - thump, thump, thump growing louder - thuMP, tHUMP, THUMP, and the door burst open and in marched Haggai with twenty or more ministers behind him.

He stopped in front of the other prisoner, whose guards IMMEDIATELY split away from him and departed as the ministers formed a semi-circle around behind Haggai, who said -

    "Have you made your decision for Christ?"

      "Well, I was b..b..b.. baptized before - but it d..d..didn't take."

    "Having you been attending church?"

At this point one of the ministers said that the conversant had been attending his and stepped forward and put his hand on his shoulder and then with a glance over towards me - seeing that he did not know me, led the petitioner from the room.

Haggai then turned towards me. THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, and the semi-circle formed behind him. SUDDENLY my guards were GONE!

    "Have you made your decision for Christ?"

    "Well, I have one question that concerns me. May I ask it?"

    "Yes?"

    "Well, you see I have been attending this Buddhist Church in Chicago - and what I want to know is - 'Are my Buddhist friends ALL really going to go to hell?'"

At this point Haggai glances back over his shoulder and about a fourth of the ministers
    are standing there shaking there heads up and down -
and about a fourth of the ministers
    are standing there shaking there heads side to side-
and about a fourth of the ministers
    are standing there sort of shrugging-
and about a fourth of the ministers
    are standing there with blank expressions on their faces.
And Haggai says,
    "I tell you what I want you to do -" and he tells one of ministers to hand him from the table in the corner a copy of a pamphlet of the Gospel of St. John - (which I have to this day - over forty years afterwards,) and he says to me -
      "I want you to take this home,
      and each night and each morning
      read a chapter of it
      and get down on your knees
      and pray to God to show you His Will."

    And then he says,
      "And I want you to call me tomorrow at my motel
      and I will meet with you."

So, I did as he said. And the next morning, I called at his motel, and the operator said he had gone for breakfast - and when I called again - a little later she said that he had left - and so I never got to talk to him.

But, I did exactly as he said, and I want to testify to the efficacy of Christian prayer. Each evening and morning I read a chapter of the Gospel of St. John and each morning and evening I got down on my knees and I prayed to God to show me His Will.

A few nights later - I was asleep in my room - when a figure appeared through the darkened doorway.

    "Arise - and dress!"

    "Wha, wha, what?
    Who is that??"

    "Never mind!
    Arise and dress!"

I fumbled over and turned on the night stand lamp. There in the room stood another friend - from the Christian Science Church.

    "Uh, what's up doc? -
    It is after midnight!"

    "Get up and get dressed."
    "Why?"

    "Never mind - do it."

    "What should I wear?"

    "Those pants, that jersey,
    and a warm jacket."

Thus it was that I descended the stairs - in my good suit pants and non-matching garb, to find his new motorbike parked at the curb.

    "Come on -we'll go for a ride."

    "Neat. But no thanks,
    I have been on a motorcycle before
    and we had an accident."

(Same happened with my father, and one of my sons was nearly killed on one, and a friend's son is paralyzed - I do not care for them.)

But my friend insisted.

    "Okay, but just around to the all night restaurant
    on the other side of the block."

    "Well, okay."

We didn't make it. We were on a one way street. Putt, putt, putt, slowly up to the stop-light at the corner, waiting for it to turn green, which it does and a car on the four lane road ahead pulls up on the center lane and stops to wait at their now red light and we speed up to go across in front of it and turn - when a car load of drunks comes through on the curb lane and hits us.

I sail completely across the street -

    "Take this one first,"
someone is saying to the ambulance driver. A phrase which is repeated at the hospital.

I ask that a call be placed to my Christian Science Teacher, (I am what they call a class taught student) as they take me down to X-ray, for 14 breaks where the car had hit me -

    "Wrap it up - and I will take it home with me."
I tell the attendant. (The other fellow only had a broken shoulder bone.)

And so I ended back at my office - when my father shows up from our home 30 miles south - having heard about it on the radio. He arrived at the same time as one of the Baha'i's I had met.

My father and the Baha'i insisted that I accompany my father home, where my father summoned a local physician. Although there were three hospitals in the town the physician decided I should be sent back by ambulance to the city, where I was confined to a bed although I still declined surgery.

The next day the Baha'i came with a book.

    "See, I told you God would give you time to read."

I had never felt pain from the moment my CS Teacher was called, and all the bones set themselves and healed without surgery, although I was released a week later with a leg cast but the fellow in the next bed was REALLY sick - and there I was reading the Baha'i Book and in exaltation -
    "I Found It!" "At Last I Have Found IT!"
That alone could have killed him.

My favorite song became, Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy singing -

    "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life -
    at last I have found you!"
I played it over and over and over.

Each person's experience in their religion is a mystery. Each person finds the mystery of life and love in their own experiences. For some my experience may seem more story teller than story - but we all seek the mystery of life.

There are always deeper Truths and we can always grow deeper to God. Many are the paths and some may wonder how one can say that one path is better than another.

One never has the FINAL answer and all that one can do is compare what they have with what they are given the opportunity to examine. You have a box -- and I have a box. You KNOW that what is in your box is beautiful and wonderful. You just can't imagine that there can be anything better.

You say to me -

    "Look in my beautiful box."
And I LOOK and say,
    "Yes, that is WONDERFUL! -
    but what I have in my box, is more wonderful."

Unless you look in my box - you will never know. God is Infinite and His Creation is Infinite. If you live 10 million years - (and you will and many times that more) you will never begin to exhaust what you can learn about God and His Creation.

But, those who are haughty before God - and refuse to look in another box, will never know. They can progress but only within their box and as wonderful as that may be it is still confining and that is all that they will have from Eternity unto Eternity - while there is Infinitely more to God and His Creation.

What we are meant to gain and set in this life is our attitude of openness to the Holy Spirit - and not some limited amount of finite knowledge or dogma.

If there is good in all religions, one may ask - then what difference does it make which religion one chooses. The difference is that one must choose to do the Will of God - and they must always be open to making comparisons and choices as He leads us on the path.

Many a Christian, many a Mormon, has borne me their testimony. Because I lived in Provo, Utah and would always welcome the practicing Mormon Missionaries I am sure that I have had more Mormon Testimonies borne unto me than any other single individual on earth.

    "Before I leave - I want to bear you my testimony."

    "Oh, no, no -
    not that again -
    please!"

    "Nope, I am going to do it."

    "No, really, you don't have to do it."

    "Yes, I do."

    "Well, okay, I suppose so,
    if you have to."

And I am glad that they - and the many hundreds of other truly devout Christians that I have met - have a Testimony.

But I do wish - that they could also look into my box, and see then which they think it is the Will of God that they should choose.