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It was 1963, and I was in the Navy serving as a clerk-typist (Yeoman) in the Captain’s Office aboard the U.S.S. Hancock (CVA-19), an aircraft carrier then in drydock at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco.
I lived the life of a typical sailor, getting drunk with my shipmates and doing several of the other things sailors do in port. But I began to feel ashamed of how I was living, so I got myself a Bible and opened it randomly and jammed my finger inside to see if I could find some guidance. Next to my finger it read: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
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My drinking buddies saw me with the Bible and began to mock me, calling me “Padre.”
When the ship got out of dry dock we sailed for Hawai’i. One night, off the coast of one of the islands, I went out on deck. A beautiful full moon shone across the ocean waters. With no ongoing flight operations I had a catwalk all to myself. I wasn’t much for praying, but I looked up at the moon and sincerely said aloud, “I’m knocking, I’m knocking.” I felt foolish. The moon continued to shine down on me and nothing happened. What did I think was going to happen?
It wasn’t until some months later that that my midnight prayer would take on new meaning for me.
About nine days later we were tied up at Pearl Harbor. The man in charge of our office asked me, “How would you like to be stationed in Hawai’i? Wow! “Yes!” was my immediate response. He said, “Well I just got word that a typist is needed at Fleet Headquarters. Of course, they must hold a Top Secret Clearance, and you have a Top Secret Clearance.” He handed me a paper, “If you can get your gear packed and get cleared with all the places on this check list in the next two hours you’ve got it.”
Not long after bunking at Pearl Harbor I met a fellow Navy man, Charles Shadrack White. We became friends, and eventually Charles invited me to go to a Baha’i meeting. I said, “That sounds like some kind of religion. I want nothing to do with religion.” He said, “Miss Hawai’i will be at the meeting; I’ll introduce you, she’s a friend of mine.” That was enough for me! Miss Hawai’i! Wow.
I went with Charles to that Friday evening Baha’i fireside – an informal introduction to the Baha’i Faith – but Miss Hawai’i didn’t show. Worse, I got into a disagreement with the Baha’i speaker, Maury Willows. I asked so many questions that he stopped me and said, “I don’t know what it is you believe in, ‘The Great Petunia’ or what. But I’ll tell you this; if you go back to your barracks tonight and get into a serious state of prayer and ask if what you heard was the truth … you’ll get your answer.”
Being the smart aleck I was I thought to myself, “Yeah, I’ll do just that and come back here and tell you in front of everyone that NOTHING HAPPENED!”
I was wrong. Not long after the fireside I was back at the barracks with a room full of guys asleep in their bunks. I couldn’t say my prayer out loud, so I silently asked the emptiness. Instantly I felt carried up through veils of light. Every fiber of my body vibrated with ecstasy! I saw no one, I heard no one, but knew in my heart-of-hearts that this “Baha’i thing” was God’s truth. I was stunned by this realization.
But still, my skeptical mind nagged me. The speaker had mentioned “Holy Books” from various Faiths I knew nothing about: The Bhagavad Gita, The Zend Avesta, The Qur’an, etc. Could these books speak with the same voice I encountered in the Bible? I decided to find out.
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So I went to the Honolulu Public Library and read the English translations of these books. Time and again I came across phrases expressing the exact same thoughts and teachings I found in my Bible. I realized, gradually, that to my amazement all religions come from the same Source and proclaim the same essential message, as this passage from Baha’u’llah’s Book of Certitude attests:
… it is evident to thee that the Bearers of the trust of God are made manifest unto the peoples of the earth as the Exponents of a new Cause and the Bearers of a new Message. Inasmuch as these Birds of the Celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they therefore are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness. …
If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith.
Now what do I do?
After my own independent investigation of the truth, I decided to go all in and declare myself a Baha’i. As I read the various books of Baha’u’llah I became more deeply confirmed in my new Faith. On October 31, 1963, I enrolled as a Baha’i at the Baha’i Center in Honolulu.
Since that day I have lived and taught the Baha’i Faith to people in Africa and Europe, visited 29 countries, taught at seven universities on three continents, have been blessed with three remarkable children and am married to the same wonderful woman I exchanged vows with in 1964.
Here’s my advice to anyone who wants to know the truth: read the holy books of various Faiths, go to Baha’i firesides, then pray and ask if Baha’u’llah is God’s messenger for today.
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