Roots of children's book at local Baha'i school
By George Jaksa
Davison Twp. - A children's book conceived and coordinated at the Louhelen Baha'i School in Davison Township has become the first of a series of nationally distributed children's books on the Baha'i faith.
The book relates the teaching of Baha'u'llah, spiritual leader of the Baha'is, in a series of artfully presented stories appealing to the youngest of readers through junior youth. It can be used for casual reading or to supplement a core curriculum for spiritual education courses.
Administrator Barbara Johnson said the Louhelen Baha'i School staff started working on the book more than a year ago with the idea of having it published as bedtime stories or for use in the core curriculum for spiritual education of children.
They had even gotten to the stage of seeking bids for local printing when the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States expressed interest in having it published under its own name rather than as a publication of Louhelen School or the national Baha'i Education Committee.
"They were so pleased with it that they asked if they could have it printed for national distribution," Johnson said.
So the hard-covered, 118-page glossy paper book was printed at the national headquarters in Wilmette, Ill., for November distribution.
Six of the 21 stories were written by Rick Johnson, husband of Johnson and co-administrator at the school.
The cover depicting a tree with fruits hanging from its branches along with a bird and its eggs in a nest also has a local connection.
The artist, David S. Ruhe, a physician who lives in Newburgh, N.Y., met his wife, Margaret, while they were students at Louhelen in the 1940s.
Johnson said Ruhe also will do the next two covers in the series that will total at least nine at the rate of two a year with the second due for publication in April.
The first book, with each story complemented with art work, tells the early history of Baha'u'llah and other central figures of the Baha'i faith in language that can be understood from young readers to adults. The inside cover has a map of the region where Baha'u'llah was born in Tihran, Iran, Nov. 12, 1817.
Baha'u'llah was among the followers of the Bab, founder of the Baha'i faith, who on May 23, 1844, declared himself the herald of a manifestation of God. After his martyrdom on July 9, 1850, Baha'u'llah became one of the most beloved and respected teachers of the Baha'i religion. The book follows his journey to his death on May 29, 1892. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Abdu'l-Baha.
The second series of the Baha'i books will cover the eras of the Bab and the third series, Abdu'l-Baha.
Baha'u'llah, who called himself "The Glory of God," declared the nature of religion as progressive revelation. His teachings also reaffirmed the covenant between God and man, emphasizing the oneness of mankind and strongly urging the elimination of all forms of prejudice and superstition. Science and religion also were seen as complementary and defined the social and political bases of world peace.
The Louhelen Baha'i School, located just south of Davison on M-15, was opened in August 1931 on farmland purchased the year before by L.W. Eggleston, a Detroit area automotive engineer, as a Baha'i summer school. In 1949, the buildings and surrounding land were deeded to the National Spiritual Assembly.
Over the years the school evolved to its present use as a retreat and conference center. It also is a national teacher training center for the Baha'i faith. Johnson said in January it will begin offering college credit for the training program in cooperation with Fort Hays (Kansas) State University.
George Jaksa covers religion. He can be reached at (810) 766-6332 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
©Copyright 2002, The Flint Journal