Since March 2013, a nucleus of friends have been serving in the Manurewa neighbourhood of Auckland cluster with a high level of intensity. After some years, the growing nucleus began to anticipate a point in time when they could partake of the bounty of Bahá’í pilgrimage together. The message of the Universal House of Justice dated 27 April 2017 regarding Bahá’í pilgrimage was a catalyst for the friends to take practical steps in this direction. Supported closely by their Auxiliary Board members, the friends approached pilgrimage as a “means whereby one ‘can experience that mystic love which constitutes the very core of every true religion’, can enable one to obtain ‘a clearer vision of the mission and significance of the Faith’, and can ‘greatly invigorate the friends and stimulate them to greater services and sacrifice.’”
After a period during which the outcomes of the 2017 bicentenary Festival were consolidated, these friends carried out a home visit campaign during March of 2018 to systematically assist large numbers of the friends in the neighbourhood to apply for pilgrimage. Some 75 friends from the neighbourhood expressed interest and were assisted to apply. Emphasis was placed on engaging entire families in pilgrimage and on helping families to make this commitment in consultation together. In March 2018 there were some 25 core activities in the neighbourhood with some 160 participants.
Following applications, the core group began a systematic process of preparation, placing equal emphasis on both practical and spiritual aspects. The pilgrim applicants were arranged into groups, each guided by an experienced tutor. Most aspects of preparation took place within each group, including the study of Ruhi Book 4, the viewing of Light to the World, the promotion of teaching efforts, ongoing home visits to family members, fundraising, passport and visa applications etc. Some weeks prior to pilgrimage, a weekend retreat was also arranged for all pilgrims to immerse themselves in the history of the Faith, to discuss practical aspects, and to reflect on the development of the community-building process. At the heart of the preparation process was the desire to extend and deepen community-building activity in the hope that any progress made could be offered to Bahá’u’lláh at His sacred threshold as an expression of love and gratitude
Despite significant challenges and setbacks, such as the friends possessing limited material means and facing significant forces of distraction and at times discouragement from friends and extended family members, the process of pilgrimage preparation served to accelerate and intensify teaching efforts and enabled the friends of Manurewa to surpass their goal of 60+ core activities with 300+ participants just ahead of pilgrimage. Of the 75 or so who initially applied, the core group of 41 friends from Manurewa neighbourhood who partook of the bounty of pilgrimage were all those who made a sincere and practical effort to participate. No soul who made an effort was turned away. Bahá’u’lláh’s confirmations surrounded and enabled every soul that made an effort in the lead up to pilgrimage to participate.
During pilgrimage the friends offered prayers of gratitude for such a bounty and beseeched Bahá’u’lláh to sustain and support them as they worked towards their next numerical goal of surpassing 85 core activities with 425 participants by the bicentenary of the birth of the Báb.
Upon returning from pilgrimage, a youth who has come into contact with the Faith in recent years, shared the following reflections:
How has pilgrimage brought you closer to Bahá’u’lláh and his teachings?
Walking two weeks in the reality of His Revelation strengthened my vision in united families, communities, countries and the human race. Transforming my vision and attitude towards every aspect of my life. I’m no longer driven by the financial benefits of my future decisions, I’m driven more by the needs of my community and how I can best contribute to the well-being of our societies. Learning in depth of all the sufferings and sacrifices that took place when establishing the foundation of the Bahá’í Faith in the early days of its existence, truly confirmed my faith with the idea that not one single challenge on earth is impossible to overcome, where there is true love for God and humanity. Attaining this insight has allowed me to become free of my deepest barriers and allowing me then to strengthened my hearts communion with Bahá’u’lláh.
What advice would you give others going on pilgrimage?
Embrace the spirit and the reality of the Revelation Bahá’u’lláh. Be present in every moment of every day. Listen to the stories of the life of Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Guardian of the Faith and pilgrimage talks given by the members of the International Teaching Centre. Take a note book and record as much of these stories and talks as you can. Reflect daily and capture every moment that moved your spirit, touching conversations and names of friends. Keep a list of prayers. Memorise as many prayers and songs as a group to gift✨ The Bahá’í World Centre really appreciates this nature of our community.
What future do you want for your family and for your community?
For us to live the reality of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation in unison, for the hearts of our families to find an independent connection with Bahá’u’lláh and/or His teachings. Because from this I have the utmost confidence that we will attain a united sense of purpose, enabling us then to develop the capacity to conquer our beings, detach our hearts from all the unfavourable desires of our lower nature and devote our existence to the well-being of our societies.
How will you contribute to this vision?
To strive with my utmost efforts to become and remain a stainless example of this reality and to connect the hearts of as many families to Bahá’u’lláh and/or His Teachings.