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Have you ever experienced a sudden conviction, a determination, that there is something you must do—that it isn’t even a choice?
Did you ever think that maybe this was God speaking to you? You didn’t hear a voice—you felt that voice. You just knew. No doubt. Conviction. It happened to me once, many years ago, so I was intrigued and impressed when I read an Arizona Republic article by Dianna M. Náñez about Sedona resident Joan Shannon, who managed to bring a family of refugees from Kosovo to Arizona.
Did Shannon know them already? No.
Did she know of them? No.
She simply saw a glimpse of them on a news clip and her heart (I believe it was God speaking to her) told her to help them. It wasn’t a suggestion, “Gee, Joan, you might consider helping this family.” It was more of a statement or an unspoken commandment: “Hey, Joan, this family needs help. Give it to them.”
Náñez writes: “The news clip was short. In a few seconds Joan had focused on something she couldn’t shake. One man. He was carrying a child and walking with an older woman. Joan stood for a minute thinking, then she called to her husband.
“’I saw this man carrying a boy, and I think I’m going to help them,’ she said.”
Her husband was understandably incredulous.
Shannon told Náñez he asked, “How are you going to do that? You don’t know who they are, you don’t know where they are.”
She simply replied, “Yeah, I know, I just got this feeling,’” she said. “I got this feeling that this is what I ought to do.”
This recalled to me the trip I made in 1993. Just 1 1/2 years after the fall of communism, I heard someone speak of the needs of the fledgling Baha’i community in Romania. I went home and told my husband, “I have to go to Romania.” It wasn’t a choice—I felt absolutely compelled.
I’d heard pleas for assistance before, from other areas of the world. I’d thought, “It would be nice to go, but …” There was always a “but …” Yet this time, even though I had no family there, no history to call me to that country, and didn’t know the language, I just knew God was telling me to go. So I did. My husband seemed to understand what had happened, and he graciously opted to join me.
To tell the truth, the Romanians gave me much more than anything I could possibly do for them. Their intelligence and spiritual depth, their ability to do so much with so little, their trust and patience, have had a lasting impact on how I view the world around me and how I relate to others.
That’s why I understand Joan Shannon and her actions, which, if one doesn’t believe in divine intervention, seem nothing short of amazing. Her tenacity was more than admirable. She struggled to find them. She had no names. She called many government agencies but felt ignored by them. Finally, Frank Hyland of the video department at CNN agreed to review footage of Kosovo refugees. Náñez quotes a previous Arizona Republic article in which Hyland said, “‘It was definitely a needle in a haystack. Frankly, I didn’t think she’d find them. They’re in the middle of nowhere. She’s in Arizona.'”
The writer advised that, “He’d almost given up when he spotted the man and his family.”
That was just one step. Learning his name, Lulzim Dulaku , and finding out where he was, took time. Shannon never gave up until the Dulaku family was found.
Hyland surmised, “I think that family had a guardian angel looking out for them.”
We don’t always recognize God’s hand in our lives. But if we read and meditate on God’s word, and if we pray to recognize and then be willing to follow God’s will, we open ourselves us to divine guidance. The Baha’i teachings point that out:
… the world of humanity is in need of the confirmations of the Holy Spirit. True distinction among mankind is through divine bestowals and receiving the intuitions of the Holy Spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 316.
It seems that Joan Shannon and also Lulzim Dulaku and his family received exactly that kind of intuition and confirmation.
We can all open ourselves to such blessings, to receive the grace of God, and to recognize when God speaks to us—by praying sincerely, studying the Holy Scriptures, and heeding the instructions of God:
To the orphans be ye kind fathers, and to the unfortunate a refuge and shelter. To the poor be a treasure of wealth, and to the sick a remedy and healing. Be a helper of every oppressed one, the protector of every destitute one, be ye ever mindful to serve any soul of mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 6, p. 134.