I was a very young boy when my family moved from Seremban to Kuala Lumpur, where we continued to be actively involved in activities. I have many fond memories of attending children’s classes and junior youth classes at the Baha’i Center in Setapak.
There is however one recollection of my Baha’i life that stands out that I would like to share. I had read about the majesty and greatness of the Local Spiritual Assembly, but here is a case I had personally witnessed of an Assembly executing its role and function as more than that of a loving father.
The Guardian writes about the Spiritual Assembly:
“…These bodies have the sacred obligation to help, advise, protect and guide the believers in every way within their power when appealed to — indeed they were established just for the purpose of keeping order and unity and obedience to the law of God amongst the believers.”
“You should go to them as a child would to its parents….”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 28, 1941: The Local Spiritual Assembly, compiled by the Universal House of Justice)
In 1995, I had just sat for my STPM (equivalent to GCE A Level) Examinations and was waiting for my results. Earlier in 1993 I had been to Kazakhstan after my SPM (equivalent to GCE O level) examinations, and ever since, my heart was set on going back. I had planned to return after my STPM exams, initially to offer my Year of Service for the Cause, with the hope of staying longer. During this time, while waiting for my exam results, I decided to work and try to save as much money as possible. This was, however, not easy and after a few months, I had only managed to save enough for the plane ticket.
One day, much to my surprise, I received a phone call from the Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuala Lumpur, inviting me to meet the Assembly at its next meeting. I have to admit that I was both nervous and surprised, as I was not sure what the Assembly wanted to talk to me about. So, on the day of the meeting I went to meet the Assembly and after saying a prayer, the Chairman said that the Assembly had heard of my plans to offer a Year of Service and was wondering what the Assembly could do to help! Imagine how I must have felt! Here was a youth, 19 years of age, with limited resources, unsure of what life had planned for him, being asked by the Assembly what they could do to assist him to fulfil his dream of offering a Year of Service! I left the meeting feeling overjoyed and confident – not only because the Assembly had agreed to give me a loan to cover the expenses for the first year, but also because the Assembly encouraged me to be steadfast in my plans and promised to assist me, as well as to enlist the help of the Continental Counsellor to help me with the visa and other bureaucratic details.
I share this story because it helped me understand what a Spiritual Assembly can be – both a loving parent and a catalyst to service. This Assembly was obviously and clearly close to the pulse of the community, aware of the dreams and aspirations of it’s individual members. It approached me without being asked, because they were aware, and obviously, because they cared. A young person may not be so confident to approach the Spiritual Assembly for help, but this Assembly did not wait to be approached.
I feel indebted to the Assembly not only for the very active approach it took in assisting and guiding me, but also for the material help I received. Without these, I would never have been able to embark on my Year of Service. It may seem a small act, after all, the service in that one year was of no special significance. But to this youth, this far-sighted, compassionate and caring act by a Spiritual Assembly changed his life!
This one simple meeting with the assembly further confirmed my respect, admiration and love for an institution divinely ordained by Baha’u’llah in His Most Holy Book.
“They must promote by every means in their power the material as well as the spiritual enlightenment of youth, the means for the education of children, institute, whenever possible, Baha’i educational institutions, organize and supervise their work and provide the best means for their progress and development…..
These rank among the most outstanding obligations of the members of every Spiritual Assembly….”
(From a letter dated 12 March 1923 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Baha’is of America, Australasia, France, Germany, British Isles, Italy, Japan and Switzerland, published in “Baha’i Administration: Selected Messages 1922-1932”, pp. 37-39)