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Overview of Bahá'í history in South America, with autobiographical reflections of time in Chile in the 1940s.

The Beginnings of the Bahá'í Faith in Latin America:
Some Remembrances

by Artemus Lamb

San Salvador: VanOrman Enterprises, 1995
original written in Spanish.
English Revised and Amplified Edition

November 1995
First Printing
All rights reserved.

© Artemus Lamb 1995
San Salvador EL SALVADOR

Printed by
M L VanOrman Enterprises
1405 Killarney Drive
West Linn OR 97068
United States of America

Likewise, the continent of America is, in the eyes of the one true God, the land wherein the splendors of His light shall be revealed, where the mysteries of His Faith shall be unveiled, where the righteous will abide and the free assemble.
      (Tablets of the Divine Plan, pg 62)

The American continent gives signs and evidences of very great advancement; its future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far-reaching, and it will lead all nations spiritually.
      (Promulgation of Universal Peace, pg 104)

    Preface                                                            4
    I      The Tablets of the Divine Plan: 1916 to 1917                6
    II     The First Seven Year Plan: 1937 to 1944
              The Birth and Launching of the Plan                      9
              The All-America Convention: May 17-24, 1944             13
    III    The Interval Between The First and Second Seven 
                   Year Plan: 1944 to 1946
              My Departure for Chile                                  15
    IV     The Second Seven Year Plan: 1946 to 1953
              Birth and Launching of the Plan                         20
              Formation of two International Committees:
                   CEBMA & CEPSA                                      22
              First International Events in Latin America             22
              Transfer to Costa Rica                                  25
              Birth of Two National Spiritual (Regional) Assemblies:
                   Central and South America                          26
              Development of the National Spiritual Assembly of 
                   Central America                                    27
              Growth of the Faith in Costa Rica                       30
    V      The Ten Year World Crusade: 1953 to 1963
              The Birth and Launching of the Plan                     31
              The Institutions of the Learned                         34
              Transfer to El Salvador                                 36
              A New Phase:  Teaching in Rural Areas                   38
              Our Transfer to Guatemala                               39
              New Development of the Institution of the Rulers        44
              The Most Great Jubilee                                  45
    Epilogue                                                          47
         First Pioneers, Believers and Assemblies 
              in Each Country                                         50
         Pioneer Goals of the Ten Year World Crusade for 
              Central and South America                               53
         Reference                                                    54


For some time, Bahá'ís from both the U.S.A. and Latin America have been urging me to write about the beginnings of the Bahá'í Faith in Latin America and my experiences in the whole process. I resisted the idea, at first, because it seemed more urgent to devote time and energy to present activities, instead of the past. However, I began to realize that most present Bahá'ís knew little about how everything had happened, and little had been written about it. Numerous reports and statistics exist in English, especially in Bahá'í World and Bahá'í News, but no over-all account of the progressive important events, and practically nothing in Spanish, to my knowledge, except reports recently made by National Assemblies of their own country. And every day this information would be harder to remember and obtain.

It appears that of present living pioneers or ex-pioneers to these countries, I had lived here the longest, and that someone who had actually taken part in the process, could be better able to collect the information, and perhaps, just as important, describe and recreate the atmosphere surrounding the actual happenings. Suddenly events beyond my control forced me into relative inactivity, so, after many prayers, I decided that it was my responsibility. I must say that it has been of enormous pleasure and that I, myself, have learned a great deal.

The original book was in Spanish, published by EBILA in 1989, under the title of Remembranzas-Los Comienzos de la Fe Bahá'í en America Latina. It was written specifically for the benefit of Latin American Bahá'ís with material that seemed best suited to them. Later, at the suggestion of the Continental Board of Counselors, I translated it into English for the use of English-speaking pioneers; however, it has not been published, and really was not very suitable for them. This present effort contains all the historical material of the original book, but most of the deepening material has been eliminated, the Preface and Epilogue greatly changed, and new anecdotes and personal experiences added.

The objective never was to write a detailed history, country by country, and with many statistics, but rather to highlight the principal events from the beginning through the Ten Year World Crusade, plus anecdotes, personal experiences and impressions, in order to portray, albeit in a limited and humble way, more vividly, the picture. Obviously, it has not been possible, I am sorry to say, to relate the individual victories of the pioneers and the new Latin American believers. Hopefully, others will do this. My personal experiences in South America are mostly limited to the period of 1944-1949, when I was pioneering in Chile, but surely others will relate, and perhaps are already doing so, more details of that fascinating land.

My own involvement in Latin America during the First Seven Year Plan was only emotional and spiritual. I was in touch with some of the first pioneers, and, although before entering the Faith I had spent three summers in Europe and had made a seven-months trip around the world and knew practically nothing of Latin America, soon after becoming a Bahá'í, I began to feel strongly that my destiny was there. I entered the Faith in 1939 in Los Angeles, California, then moved to Beverly Hills with others to form the first Local Spiritual Assembly there; in 1941 to Salt Lake City, Utah, and in 1942 to Denver, Colorado, at the request of the National Teaching Committee, to restore the lost Local Spiritual Assembly. I had offered to go to Latin America, but the National Spiritual Assembly requested me to wait until the end of the First Seven Year Plan, to work in the Western States where, still in many of them, there were very few Bahá'ís. I was studying Spanish all this time in preparation; and, incidentally, my first teacher was the official translator of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City.

My heart strongly impels me to render grateful tribute to my beloved wife, Dee, not only in this enterprise, but also in all Bahá'í activities in which I have had a part since our marriage. No doubt it is difficult for any Bahá'í to fully estimate the degree of spiritual support and help, both directly and through prayer, of his or her spouse in respect to any successes one may have attained.

I also wish to express my sincere gratitude to Eunice Braun for editing the original English manuscript and providing some very useful data and guidance.

      Artemus Lamb



1916 to 1917

What was the original moving force and generating impulse behind the establishment of the Bahá'í Faith in Latin America? To appreciate this, it is essential to go back to the years 1916-1917, to the Tablets of the Divine Plan revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá. These Tablets, or letters, were directed to the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada, conferring on them the sacred mission of taking the Message of Bahá'u'lláh to all parts of the world, including the countries of Latin America and the Antilles. Subsequently, the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, pointed out that these Tablets constitute the Magna Carta -- a charter for the spiritual conquest of the globe.

It is interesting for us in the West to know that the first of these Tablets to be addressed jointly to the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada, April 8, 1916, concerned the opening of all the countries of the Americas to the Faith. It begins with these words:
To the Assemblies and Meetings of the believers of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful in the United States and Canada. Upon them be Bahá'u'lláh El-Abha.

He is God! 0 ye blessed souls:
I desire for you eternal success and prosperity and beg perfect confirmation for each one in the divine world. My hope for you is that each one of you may shine forth like unto the morning star from the horizon of the world and in this Garden of God become a blessed tree, producing everlasting fruits and results.

Then followed the naming of the various countries with special emphasis on certain peoples and areas as follows:
... the Republic of Mexico is very important. The majority of the inhabitants of that country are devoted Catholics. They are totally unaware of the reality of the Bible, the Gospel and the new divine teachings. They do not know that the basis of the religions of God is one and that the Holy Manifestations are like unto the Sun of Truth, rising from the different dawning-places. These souls are submerged in the sea of dogmas. If one breath of life be blown over them, great results will issue therefrom. But it is better for those who intend to go to Mexico to teach, to be familiar with the Spanish language. ...

Attach great importance to the indigenous population of America. For these souls may be likened unto the ancient inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula, who, prior to the Mission of Muhammad, were like unto savages. When the Light of Muhammad shone forth in their midst, however, they became so radiant as to illumine the world. Likewise, these Indians, should they be educated and guided, there can be no doubt that they will become so illumined as to enlighten the whole world. ...

All the above countries have importance, but especially the Republic of Panama, wherein the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans come together through the Panama Canal. It is a center for travel and passage from America to other continents of the world, and in the future it will gain most great importance. ...

Likewise the city of Bahìa, situated on the eastern shore of Brazil. Because it is some time that it has become known by this name, its efficacy will be most potent.

The Tablet terminates with these words:
Now is the time for you to divest yourselves of the garment of attachment to the world that perisheth, to be wholly severed from the physical world, become heavenly angels, and travel to these countries. I declare by Him, besides Whom there is none other God, that each one of you will become an Israfil of Life, and will blow the Breath of Life into souls of others.

Upon you be greeting and praise! (1)

The Tablets of the Divine Plan were revealed during 1916-17, fourteen in all. Five of the earliest Tablets were received in America, after which communication with the Holy Land was severed. At the end of World War I, the remaining Tablets were dispatched to America and all were unveiled at a ceremony held at Hotel McAlpin in New York City on April 26-30, 1919.



1937 to 1944

The Birth and Launching of the Plan

The Tablets of the Divine Plan remained almost inoperative with respect to Latin America for some twenty years. 'Abdu'l-Bahá left this world in 1921. Following this, the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada were submerged in the expansion of the Faith, and the development of its Institutions in their own countries, under the guidance of Shoghi Effendi. Later the Guardian explained that this development constituted an indispensable preliminary step for the subsequent launching of systematic plans that would set in motion the Divine Plan of the Master.

A few heroic souls arose to take the Divine Message to Latin America for the first time. The intrepid Martha Root, "that archetype of Bahá'í itinerant teachers," in the words of Shoghi Effendi, visited the important cities of South America in 1919, making many valuable contacts for the Faith. Leonora Holsapple Armstrong settled in Brazil in 1921. Mrs. Loulie Mathews, accompanied by her husband, made an extensive teaching trip to South America in 1935 at the suggestion of the Guardian and also visited Yucatan, Mexico, where she met a number of people interested in learning about the Faith. Mr. and Mrs. Stuart French also visited South America. Several teachers from the United States made teaching trips to Mexico even before 1916, including Mr. and Mrs. Frankland, Mark Tobey and Roy Wilhelm. Others went as a direct response to the unveiling of the Divine plan, such as Beatrice Irwin and Orcella Rexford. The dynamic teacher, Frances Stewart, traveled and gave lectures in many Central and South American countries, attracting a number of new contacts. A few North American Bahá'ís were already living in parts of Latin America: the Dodge family in Peru, and Mrs. Krug in Saó Paulo, Brazil. Although these isolated actions were only drops in the vast ocean, they were undoubtedly of more importance spiritually than we can imagine.

Then the Divine Clock marked the hour for the Divine Plan of the Master to be converted into reality. It began with the Guardian's cable of May 1 to the 1936 Annual Convention of the United States and Canada.
"Appeal to assembled delegates ponder historic appeal voiced by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Tablets of the Divine Plan.. Urge earnest deliberation with incoming National Assembly to insure its complete fulfillment. First century of Bahá'í Era drawing to a close. Humanity entering outer fringes most perilous stage its existence. Opportunities of present hour unimaginably precious. Would to God every State within American Republic and every Republic in American continent might ere termination of this glorious century embrace the light of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and establish structural basis of His World Order. (2)

This call fell like a bombshell upon the assembled delegates and visitors. One eyewitness stated:
The Convention was electrified. The American Bahá'ís were at first dazed and then galvanized into action by the sweeping demands of the message. To most of the people in the United States, the countries of South and Central America ... were unknown, romantic lands much more distant than the continent of Europe. Teaching in the United States and Canada seemed already to tax to the utmost our spiritual energies. How then could we succeed in establishing the Cause in every republic of the southern continent? (3)

But the "hour" had arrived! The Guardian cabled on May 19 for permanent pioneers to be established in all the countries of Latin America and the Antilles. The National Spiritual Assembly appointed the Inter-America Committee to take charge of preparations. Subsequently, Shoghi Effendi cabled the North American Convention of 1937, advising them to prolong their deliberations to permit the delegates and the National Assembly to consult on a "feasible Seven Year Plan" that would also include the completion of the outer structure of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois: the Mother Temple of the West. The First Seven Year Plan was launched!

In order to appreciate the magnitude of this Divine summons and its impact on the Bahá'ís, one must realize something of the conditions both within and outside the Faith in Latin America in that epoch. The concept of "pioneering," accepted universally today in the Bahá'í world as an integral aspect of Bahá'í life, was then completely new. Air transportation was little developed. Travelers usually went to Europe by boat and knew very little about travel and living conditions in Latin America. The thought of leaving one's home, work, family and friends to go to an unknown country with a different culture, language and customs, often without even knowing how one was going to earn a living, was not only new, but positively alarming.

Some valiant souls ventured out on teaching trips, though not yet ready to commit themselves as permanent pioneers. It was the Guardian, then as always, who came to the rescue with his long letter published as a book: The Advent of Divine Justice, which he directed to "The beloved of God and the handmaids of the Merciful throughout the United States and Canada." In this inspiring work, as timely today as it was then, Shoghi Effendi emphasized: "It should not, for one moment, be forgotten that Central and South America embrace no less than twenty independent nations, constituting approximately one third of the entire number of the world's sovereign states, and are destined to play an increasingly important part in the shaping of the world's future destiny." (4)

This was followed by a stirring call for the immediate departure of pioneers:
Let some, at this very moment, gird up the loins of their endeavor, flee their native towns, cities, and states, forsake their country, and, "putting their whole trust in God as the best provision for their journey," set their faces, and direct their steps towards those distant climes, those virgin fields, those unsurrendered cities, and bend their energies to capture the citadels of men's hearts -- hearts, which, as Bahá'u'lláh has written, "the hosts of Revelation and of utterance can subdue." (5)

The first contingent of pioneers departed in 1939 to establish themselves in different parts of Latin America and the Antilles, "putting all their trust in God as the best provision for their journey," as in the promise of Bahá'u'lláh: "They that have forsaken their country for the purpose of teaching Our Cause -- these shall the Faithful Spirit strengthen through its power. A company of Our chosen angels shall go forth with them, as bidden by Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Wise." (6)

The spiritual conquest of the Americas had begun!

Some interesting statistics: the first pioneers* in all the Latin American countries were single persons, except for Cuba, and the great majority were women. The only ones still living are John Eichenaur, Gayle Woolson and Cora Oliver, all living in the U.S.A.

* See the Appendix for a list of these Pioneers.
There is, in my view, a great difference in being a pioneer today in comparison with the period of the First and even Second Seven Year Plan. For one thing, in those days, the pioneer was often the only Bahá'í in a city or town, and, at the very beginning, in the entire country. There were no administrative bodies, and often no other Bahá'ís or even non-Bahá'ís, with whom to consult and receive encouragement and guidance, except for the Inter-America Committee and the Guardian, both far away. Generally, one had to make one's own decisions, resolve one's own problems and those of others, and fight one's own spiritual battles with whatever spiritual recourses one possessed. Many of the pioneers had very limited financial resources and had to live very sacrificially. Means of transportation and general living conditions were still quite elemental. On one hand, it constituted a cause of great tests and naturally there were those who could not pass them and returned to their homes. On the other hand , it was a great blessing, for it obligated a pioneer to dig more deeply into his or her own soul, pray more, develop more capacity and, above all, draw closer to Bahá'u'lláh and confide fully in Him. Personally, I will be eternally grateful for those days.

The other face of the coin is that the first pioneers were considered as special persons, viewed by the majority of Bahá'ís, and others as well, with sincere admiration for having had the courage, the faith and devotion to leave the security and comfort of their native country to go to an unknown place in the path of God. I remember, as a new Bahá'í, the great spiritual impact that I felt when I went with others to the dock in Los Angeles to meet Louise Caswell, one of the first pioneers to go out, now returning on her first visit back to the United States from her post in Panama. For many of us, she was the first pioneer from whom we heard, directly from her own lips, an account of her experiences in a foreign land: how she had begun her work, how she had found her first contact, who was the first Bahá'í, etc. How different from today!

Some fruits of the labors of the First Seven Year Plan were: the formation of Local Spiritual Assemblies in fourteen of the Republics of Latin America; the formation of Bahá'í Groups in the remaining Republics. Shoghi Effendi was elated over these victories, referring to them as "the marvelous progress achieved as a result of the operation of the first Seven Year Plan...." (7)

The first Local Spiritual Assembly in Latin America was formed in Mexico City in 1938. Mrs. Frances Stewart had spent some time teaching there in 1937, and had made contact with a group that believed that a new Manifestation was about to appear or was already here. The entire group became Bahá'ís and formed the first Assembly. Their "leader" was invited to the Annual Convention in the U.S.A. in 1940, if I remember correctly, and addressed the Convention, but later dropped out of the Faith. Bahìa, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina, elected the first Local Assemblies in South America in 1940. San José, Costa Rica was the first Local Spiritual Assembly to incorporate.*

All-America Convention: May 17-24, 1944

As a crowning point of the First Seven Year Plan, the Guardian announced to the Annual Convention in the United States of 1943, "the momentous decision to convene, in May, 1944, an All-America Centennial Convention comprising delegates to be separately elected by each State and Province in the North American continent, and to which every Republic of Latin America may send one representative." (8)

Those of us who had the bounty of attending the events connected with the commemoration of the Centenary of the Declaration of the Bab, as well as the All-American Convention which followed it, will never forget the truly awesome spirit of humility, gratitude, joy and unity felt there. On the night of the 22nd of May, we congregated under the dome of the Temple and listened as the prophetic words of the Báb to Mullá Husayn were read: "This night, this very hour will, in the days to come, be celebrated as one of the greatest and most significant of all the Festivals." I recall vividly even now, on looking around at the Bahá'ís of different races, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds, the sudden and profound sensation that we were really all "one soul in many bodies," that there were neither names or individual personalities -- rather only one transcendental, glorious, universal Spirit.

Among the Latin American representatives attending the Convention were: Edelberto Torres, Guatemala; Josefina Rodriquez, Colombia; Raul Contreras, Costa Rica; Eugenio Gines, Cuba; William Mitchel, Jamaica; Carlos Vergara, Mexico; Blanca Mejia, Nicaragua; Manuel Berges, Dominican Republic; Eduardo Gonzalez, Ecuador; Alfred Osborne, Panama; Esteban Canales, Chile.

Dreams have not ordinarily played a part in my life. However, one night during these stirring events, I had a dream that seemed so significant that I am including it here. As I interpret the dream, it describes symbolically and spiritually the critical battle of every human being in this earthly life.

I dreamed that leading up to each of the nine doors of the House of Worship was an inclined rail, which was vibrating violently. On each rail were persons struggling to climb up and enter the Temple. Some fell off almost immediately, others were ascending with great difficulty. Some had entered the Temple, a few of whom were helping weaker souls to ascend.
* See the Appendix for a list of the first Assembly in each country.
Because of difficulties with visas and transportation, a number of the Latin American representatives could not attend the Centennial Convention, so the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States invited them to a special conference held in Wilmette, July 9-15. According to those who attended, it was a highly moving experience with many diverse activities. It included visits to the Temple in Wilmette, interviews with the National Assembly, a visit to the city of Milwaukee at the invitation of the Bahá'í community there, and many other invitations from Bahá'ís in the Chicago area.

Those attending were: Salvador Tormo, Argentina; Clara Luz Montalvo, El Salvador; Isabel Tirada de Barrada, Peru; Dr. Manuel D. Berges, Dominican Republic; Angela Ochoa Velasquez, Honduras; Roque Centurion Miranda, Paraguay; Raymond Betts, Peru; Dr. Fernando Nova, Brazil; also Esteban Canales and Eduardo Gonzalez, who had remained in the U.S.



1944 to 1946

My Departure for Chile

After the completion of the First Seven Year Plan, there followed a two-year respite, pending the inauguration of the new Plan. In reality the work continued. Initial victories needed consolidation; Bahá'í literature was gradually translated and published in Spanish and Portuguese; new localities were opened; new pioneers went forth and some others returned home. It was at this time that I left the United States to pioneer in Latin America.

The Guardian had been sending letters and at least one cable to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, urging the sending of a pioneer to establish the Faith in Punta Arenas, Chile, at the tip of South America, as being the southernmost city, not only of the American Continent, but of the world. Marcia Stewart, the first pioneer to Chile, had visited Punta Arenas and written to me about it, and subsequently advised the Guardian and the U.S.A. National Assembly that the post was more suitable for a man. I was free at the moment with no particular obligations so, at the Inter-American Convention, I offered to go to Punta Arenas. What follows is related because of the interesting and rather mysterious spiritual points involved.

The Inter-America Committee joyfully accepted my offer, but a few days later I received a letter from the National Assembly saying that there were some serious problems in Ecuador and they wanted me to go there and then, maybe, go to Punta Arenas. I was stunned. What to do? My offer was to fill the special goal of the Guardian and I felt deeply in my heart that was what I was destined to do. After agonizing, praying and meditating for some days, I decided, in order for my mission to be successful, I must do what was right spiritually: obey the National Assembly, and leave all in the Hands of God.

My plan was to go forever, taking with me only my immediate needs and disposing of all else. It was during the Second World War, difficult to get a passport, and impossible to obtain air passage. Many assured me it could not be done, but I was convinced that being a special goal of the Guardian, somehow it would be possible. Through a cousin in Washington D.C., I procured a passport, then by chance (?) I saw an advertisement in a Los Angeles newspaper, (I was then living in Salt Lake City) that an Argentine boat, the Mar de la Plata, was making its last trip to Los Angeles and back. I rushed to Los Angeles, bought my ticket, and shortly was on my way.

On the third day, we arrived at Acapulco, Mexico, where we were to spend the day. I went ashore and, on returning at noon, saw that the beach was lined with hundreds of people. I asked someone what was happening and he pointed to the Mar de la Plata, which was in flames and sank some hours later with all my worldly belongings. What a strange feeling! Alone in a strange country, no possessions except the clothes I was wearing, my passport and a few travelers' cheques, not even a prayer book, no means of transportation or plans. My first reaction was that Bahá'u'lláh did not consider me worthy of this sacred mission.

Eventually, the steamship company got me a hotel room, with a Catholic priest as my roommate, and after some desperate prayers, I realized that it was only a test of my sincerity and determination.

The next day we were all sent to Mexico City by auto to await the final decision of the steamship company. The American Embassy told me that I could sleep on the floor of the apartment of an employee, which I gratefully accepted. It turned out that the employee kept a pet fox, which was not accustomed to visitors, and snarled at me every time I made a move. Eventually the Company returned to us the money for our tickets, but nothing for our lost possessions, and abandoned us. The American Embassy now told me, that due to the emergency, they would grant me a priority to fly to any place in South America. I cabled the Inter-America Committee recommending that I take advantage of this golden opportunity and fly directly to Santiago, Chile, by-passing Ecuador. They approved. I bought enough clothes to cover me and resumed my journey. Interestingly, after the first shock of losing all my THINGS, I felt a freedom and relief at not having to worry about and take care of a lot of material THINGS.

The airplane was a 2-motor DC-3 and took five days, stopping every night. I immediately fell in love with Santiago and the people and kept delaying departure for Punta Arenas, which was still some two weeks journey by boat. I found the Chileans extremely friendly, hospitable, intelligent, open-minded, energetic and of a relatively high cultural level. I noticed that even in walking along the street the people were reading, not just comic books, etc., but often historic and philosophical works. Also, they were very cosmopolitan, with much European influence. A small Bahá'í community existed in Santiago with a functioning Local Assembly consisting of the North American pioneer, a French archaeologist, an Englishman (member of the Chilean Air Corps) and his Irish wife, and five Chileans.

Early one morning, in a state between sleep and wakefulness, I felt the Guardian was asking me why I was not in Punta Arenas. I arose early, rushed downtown, and got passage for Punta Arenas in two days. The trip for the first few days is by open sea, then by inland water ways, sometimes so narrow that the boat could barely pass through, fog, icebergs and glaciers, one spot called the Grave Yard, where the hulls of numerous former vessels can be seen. The last five days, no sign of human life, except one tiny group of huts inhabited by aborigines, and where the passengers throw to them coats, sweaters and other bits of clothing. One feels literally that one is reaching and going off the end of the earth. We arrived October 2, 1944.

I had been writing the Guardian during these months, but he had not answered, which was unusual. I now advised him of my arrival at Punta Arenas, and immediately he answered, first in the words of his secretary: "He waited to get news of your work in Chile and Punta Arenas before replying to your previous letters..." Then in his own handwriting: "I am delighted that you have at last reached your goal and are wholeheartedly engaged in your noble pioneer work in that far distant land. You are, I assure you, often in my thoughts and prayers...." Then a special postscript: "He is sorry you lost your THINGS."*

How to interpret these rather mysterious events? My own feeling is that it was correct to put my own feeling aside, obey the National Spiritual Assembly, and put all in the Hands of God. Also, that the Guardian knew all along what was taking place and that I was going to arrive at my goal to fulfill his wishes, and it was his prayers that got me there. Perhaps in the next world I will really know? At least I got to my goal!

Marcia Steward was still in Punta Arenas and it was decided, with the approval of the Guardian, that she would return to Santiago, and a young Chilean Bahá'í, Esteban Canales, would come to help me, as my Spanish was still not fluent. Punta Arenas was also quite cosmopolitan, albeit still a bit primitive. Some Spanish families, a good number of British, a colony of Yugoslavs who were descendants of the survivors of a Yugoslav ship-wreck, an American Vice-Consul and a few other diplomats, temporarily a geophysical team from the U.S.A. in search of oil, and native Chileans. Punta Arenas, located on the Straits of Magellan, across from Tierra del Fuego, had been a former Chilean penal colony.

* Capital letters are the author's.

Teaching the Faith was not easy. Most of the population was there for material reasons. Neither the climate, the town nor the countryside were attractive, food was scarce, and entertainment totally lacking, except for one motion picture theater and two radio stations. After consultation and prayer, we decided to use radio as the people were almost always in their homes at night. We composed a weekly program entitled: "The City of Certitude," in which Esteban Canales and four friends, including the Director of the radio station, took part. The program soon became famous, with every one waiting to find out the meaning of the title, which was not divulged for many weeks.

At Naw Ruz, we sent a cable of greeting to the Guardian. On April 4, 1945, came a reply, which included the following words through his secretary: "You can be sure that his prayers will sustain you in your efforts to establish an Assembly there in April of this year." I thought Esteban was going to have a heart attack. There were still no Bahá'ís there except for ourselves, and we had not even thought of the possibility of an Assembly at Ridván. I tried to assure Esteban that when the Guardian said he was praying for something, all we had to do was make the necessary efforts. However, he remained very disturbed, and kept repeating: "But Artemus, it's impossible!"

Seven days later, we invited all our eight contacts, including the four participants in the radio program, to explain to them the situation, and ask who would like to become Bahá'ís. All eight accepted. The Guardian had his Assembly.

This time I thought for sure that Esteban was going to have a heart attack from joy, and now he kept repeating, "but Artemus, you told me." We cabled the Guardian and immediately received the following reply, "Loving appreciation. Greeting. Admiration. Delight. Gratitude. Fervent prayers. Shoghi Rabbani..."

The new Assembly began to function. Weekly "fireside" meetings were held, radio was continued, and all was going well. Then fell the blow. Five of the Assembly members departed on the same boat to return to their home towns of Santiago, Valparaiso and Valdivia. Through frantic prayers and teaching efforts, new souls were attracted, and the Assembly reinstated.

An incident occurred, not of real importance, but of interest, demonstrating the true feeling of many persons outside of the Faith. The Hotel Cosmos, where I was living, celebrated New Year's Eve with a very popular dinner-dance. As a means, almost any means, of maintaining contact with people, I reserved a table of eight for the party. To my surprise, the U.S. Vice Consul and the First Secretary of the British Legation asked if they and their wives could sit at my table so that they would not have to drink so much. As another means of contact, I had joined the British Club as a guest member. A pool tournament was held and it happened I had a pool table when young and I won the tournament. The prize was a bottle of Scotch whiskey which I returned to the Club, explaining that the Bahá'ís do not drink, and asking them to sell it and give the money to charity. These are not usual means for teaching the Faith, but I was not breaking any laws of the Faith, rather showing the difference, in a tactful manner, of Bahá'í conduct, and, in those first years in a strange country, the pioneer had to employ much ingenuity and initiative in devising means of meeting people and making friends in all circles. Many people have asked me, how can I stand to go to such and similar events without drinking? In all honesty, they are so boring that I sincerely sympathize with those who have nothing better to do. The U.S. Vice Consul, though he did not become a Bahá'í, at least then, called me his spiritual adviser and asked for my spiritual advice on certain problems, and also gave a dinner for a visiting Bahá'í from the States. Teaching the Faith takes many different directions.



1946 to 1953

Birth and Launching of the Plan

During the two-year "rest", after the termination of the First Seven Year Plan, the number of Local Spiritual Assemblies had been increased from fourteen to thirty-seven, of which three had obtained legal incorporation; and the number of localities in which Bahá'ís resided had been increased to almost a hundred. All this was due to the united efforts of the North American pioneers and the new Latin American believers.

The Guardian cabled the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States on February 25, 1946, for a "large, representative attendance at approaching Convention owing to momentous, historic decisions to be disclosed...." (9) Then, at Ridván 1946, the Guardian's message announcing the Second Seven Year Plan was read at the Convention.

Following are some excerpts:
The two-year respite, well-earned after the expenditure of such a colossal effort, covering such a tremendous range, during so dark a period, is now ended. The prosecutors of the Plan who in the course of six war-ridden years achieved such prodigies of service in the Western Hemisphere from Alaska to Magellanes are now collectively summoned to assume in the course of the peaceful years ahead still weightier responsibilities for the opening decade of the Second Century. The time is ripe, events are pressing. Hosts on high are sounding the signal for inauguration of second Seven Year Plan designed to culminate first Centennial of the year Nine marking the mystic birth of Bahá'u'lláh's prophetic mission in Siyah-Chal at Tihran.

A two-fold responsibility urgently calls the vanguard of the dawn-breakers of Bahá'u'lláh's Order, torch-bearers of world civilization, executors of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's mandate, to arise and simultaneously bring to fruition the tasks already undertaken and launch fresh enterprises beyond the borders of the Western Hemisphere.

The four principal objectives of the Plan outlined by the Guardian were:
1. ... consolidation of victories already won throughout the Americas, involving multiplication of Bahá'í centers, bolder proclamation of the Faith to the masses.

2. ... completion of the interior ornamentation of the holiest House of Worship in the Bahá'í world....

3. ... formation of three national Assemblies, pillars of the Universal House of Justice, in the Dominion of Canada, Central and South America.

4. ... initiation of systematic teaching activity in war-torn, spiritually famished European continent.... (10)

June 5, 1947, Shoghi Effendi released his historic message filled with encouragement and guidance. It was entitled "The Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour" and was directed to "The executors of the Divine Plan in the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada; their collaborators and companions throughout Central and South America; and their representatives in the continent of Europe." (11)

This comprehensive document of more than thirty published pages, delineated among other things, the enormous work to be done in the Americas and Europe, along with clear instructions on how to accomplish it. At the same time, the Guardian emphasized the special destiny of the American Continent, and of the United States and Canada, in particular. The following passages are of special interest to the Bahá'ís of Latin America:
In the far-flung Latin American field, where the first fruits of the Divine Plan, operating beyond the confines of the North American continent, have already been garnered in such abundance, the Latin American Bahá'í communities, from the Mexican border to the extremity of Chile, should bestir themselves for the collective, the historic and gigantic tasks that await them, and which must culminate, ere the expiration of the present Plan, in the formation of two national spiritual assemblies for Central and South America.(12)

No community since the inception of the hundred-year-old faith of Bahá'u'lláh, not even the community of the Most Great Name in the North American Continent, can boast of an evolution as rapid, a consolidation as sound, a multiplication of centers as swift, as those that marked the birth and rise of the community of His followers in Latin America. (13)

Formation of Two International Committees: CEBMA and CEPSA

In June, 1947, I transferred to Santiago with the approval of the Guardian, to be closer to the center of activities. The need for an international administrative body in South America to initiate and coordinate projects between countries became urgent. At this time, Shoghi Effendi called for the formation of two international teaching committees, one for South America and one for Central America: CEPSA and CEBMA, respectively.

The first members of CEPSA were: Walter Hammond, Rosy Vodanovic, Esteben Canales, Betty Rowe, and Artemus Lamb, all of Chile. The members of CEBMA were: Natalia Chavez, Honduras; Marcia Steward, Honduras; Oscar Castro, Costa Rica; Carlos Vergara, Mexico; Antonio Mora. CEPSA was centered in Santiago, Chile, and CEMBA in San José, Costa Rica. According to Bahá'í World Vol. XI: "To Artemus Lamb in the South, and Mrs. Marcia Steward in Central America was assigned the delicate and exacting task of helping these new committees to truly function."

Though the activities of these committees were limited due to the distances between countries, the scarcity of funds and the absence of National Spiritual Assemblies to help with organization, financing and execution of projects, it was nevertheless the beginning of international activities under the jurisdiction of an administrative body within the South and Central American territories.

Inter-regional teachers and special consultants were named to assist the new committees -- for Central America: Natalia Chavez, Sheila Rice-Wray and Sr. Octavio Illescas; for South America: Gayle Woolson, Gwenne Sholtis and Shirley Warde.

First International Events in Latin America

The All-American Teaching Conference, celebrated in Panama City, August 20-25, 1946, marked the first such events in this new development. It was sponsored by Mrs. Loulie Mathews, founder of the International Bahá'í School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, together with the Inter-America Committee, and aided by the Local Spiritual Assembly of Panama City. Bahá'ís attending this historic event represented ten Latin American countries, the pioneers, plus Mrs. Mathews and Mrs. Amelia Collins of the United States.

The first South American Bahá'í Congress was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November, 1946. Among those attending were: Centurion Miranda and Josephine Pla of Paraguay, Yvonne de Cuellar of Bolivia: Gambeta Roldan of Uruguay, Salvador Tormo of Argentina, Raul Villagran and Artemus Lamb of Chile, Valeria Nichols of the United States, and many others whose names have not been possible to verify.

A congress was also held in Mexico City in January, 1948, followed by the first international school sessions. Mrs. Mathews addressed the Congress on behalf of the Inter-America Committee and attended the sessions of the school.

The second South American Bahá'í Congress was celebrated in Santiago, Chile, in January, 1948, followed by a summer school. This outstanding event was organized and executed by CEPSA with the help of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Santiago. It was a resounding success, marked by an atmosphere of unity, love and service to Bahá'u'lláh. A private home was rented for the occasion, complete with furniture, bedding, dishes, and servants. Those attending included -- Argentina: Athos Costas, official delegate, and Oscar Aguirre; Brazil: Margot Worley, official delegate, Gaby Glieg and Dina Franca; Bolivia: Yvonne de Cuellar, official delegate; Peru: Mercedes Sanchez, official delegate; Uruguay: Gambeta Roldan, official delegate; Chile: Carlos Bulling, official delegate and Walter Hammond, Hugo Arteagabeitia, Esteben Canales, Artemus Lamb, Alejandro Reid, Rosy Vodanovic, and Betty Rowe.

The public events connected with the Congress, carried out with much success and excellent attendance, included: an inaugural reception in the Hotel de France; a public meeting in the Salon of Conferences of the leading newspaper, El Mercurio; and a closing session in the Salon of Conferences of the University of Chile. Also, an excursion was made to the seaports of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. Noticias Bahá'ís Sudamericanas commented on this event: "In reality, both the Congress and the Summer School offered a visible proof of the notable progress and growth reached by the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in South America during the past year, a growth not appreciated until this Congress."

The beloved Guardian, always closely in touch, sent the following cables on January 22, 1948:
Advise Congress concentrate effective means insure extension consolidation foundations forthcoming National Assembly. Urge redouble efforts teaching activities, stimulate pioneer work initiated native believers. Praying signal success. Deepest love. Shoghi.

Insure assistants congress loving prayers deepest appreciation eternal gratitude elevated spirit that animates you. Shoghi.

Just before the Congress in Buenos Aires, I made an unforgettable visit to Asunción, Paraguay, and was charmed with the friendly, warm, hospitable and spiritually-minded people. Centurion Miranda, a devoted and active Bahá'í and well-known actor, for whom all media doors were wide open, took me to all the radios and newspapers for well-publicized interviews.

An interesting sequel to the Congress in Buenos Aires: one attendant was a new Bahá'í from the isolated mountain village of Mogotes, Columbia. He had become a Bahá'í by correspondence, and had enrolled a number of others from there, but no outside Bahá'í had visited Mogotes, so it was decided that I should make a trip there. I flew to Bogota, then to Bucaramanga, and from there had to hire a car, as there was no public transportation. The Bahá'ís took me to a room they had rented for me, then we held a meeting. The next morning, I went out for a walk and everywhere I went, I was followed by a stream of curious children. I really felt like the Pied Piper! At that time (1947), it seems that no North American, and even very few strangers, had ever visited Mogotes. The next night, the Bahá'ís had arranged a public meeting to inform the "big ones" about the Faith. The attention was impressive and they told me later the "big ones" had liked it very much. To my surprise, the part they liked best, was the Bahá'í teaching on the Oneness of Mankind, which I had only included thinking that a talk on the Faith without it is not complete, but that these very isolated people would not appreciate it.

The following incident is an example of the amazing receptivity and initiative of the people of Chile. A non-Bahá'í friend in Santiago, on visiting Punta Arenas had become so impressed by the sincerity of the Bahá'ís that he procured for us an interview with an outstanding and popular weekly newspaper. The ensuing article, entitled "The New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh," was outstanding. To our astonishment and joy, we received 55 letters from different parts of the country expressing deep interest and begging more information. A number of new Bahá'ís, groups and Assemblies resulted from this article.

The Faith grew fast: Valdivia, Temuco, Mulchén, Arica, Antafogasta, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Concepción. The beloved Guardian wrote: "Your heart must rejoice over the work in Chile. He feels Chile may prove a winner and carry off the palm by establishing the first National Assembly in Latin America."

Transfer to Costa Rica

In 1949, I returned to the U.S.A. to look in Washington D.C. for employment in Latin America with some international agency to better my economic situation. Unexpectedly, I received the following cable from the Guardian: "Fervently praying renewal invaluable service Latin America. Loving appreciation. Shoghi Rabbani." Then a letter including the following sentence through his secretary: "He feels that by all means you should make every effort to get a job in Latin America, as your service there is not only very valuable, but infinitely of more value than elsewhere." Then some time later: "You are doing good work in Washington and he feels when the time comes, the door will open again for Latin America. Meanwhile continue serving there."

My efforts in Washington proved ineffective. Later I learned that I had been recommended for an important post, but two employees of the State Department in Chile had black-balled me, because of my Bahá'í activities there. Some drastic step had to be taken, but what? One night, as I ascended the stairs of the Bahá'í Center, there confronted me on the wall, in what seemed letters a foot high, the words of Bahá'u'lláh starting the sentence: "Should any man, in this Day, arise and with complete detachment...." The Guardian had already approved my going to Costa Rica, so off I went and almost immediately obtained a good job with the North American Costa Rican Cultural Center. This was December, 1950. In retrospect, I see clearly that the government job would not have been suitable for a Bahá'í pioneer.

These personal details are included to show how, in those early days, our beloved Guardian was with us at every moment, encouraging, guiding and making possible the seemingly impossible.

A number of the first contacts and Bahá'ís in Latin America had commenced metaphysical, philosophical or spiritualistic studies in their desire to get away from the traditional and orthodox systems. Many became devoted and active Bahá'ís, but others, on penetrating more deeply the Bahá'í Teachings, could not accept the true Station of Bahá'u'lláh and dropped away. Notwithstanding, these souls played a necessary part in breaking the ice of tradition and orthodoxy, and surely will receive their just recompense.

For the election of the Local Assembly of San José at Ridván, 1951, among the first to arrive were six young Bahá'ís of Theosophical background. When I started to explain the election procedure, they stopped me and said they had already decided who were to be the new members of the Assembly. I tried to explain tactfully that a universal procedure existed for Bahá'í elections, but they refused to listen, saying that they were leaving and would only return when their ideas were accepted. Sadly, they never returned.

We had some difficulties getting a quorum for the meetings of the new Assembly. Louise Caswell had transferred to Costa Rica from Panama, and usually she, two Costa Rican Bahá'ís and I could come together, so as a means of keeping the activities going, we would take actions, then I would visit the other members and obtain their vote. These were, of course, merely growing pains of a new global System.

Birth of Two National (Regional) Spiritual Assemblies: Central and South America

The moment so anxiously awaited had now arrived. The announcement by Shoghi Effendi of two international conventions to be held at Ridván, 1951, one in Panama City and the other in Lima, Peru, for the purpose of electing the two National Spiritual Assemblies, in reality regional assemblies. The territory of the first assembly was Mexico, Central America and the Antilles. The second was for South America. The National Spiritual Assembly of the United States as spiritual mother, in cooperation with CEBMA and CEPSA and the Local Assemblies of Panama City and Lima took charge of all arrangements, including the election of delegates from all of the countries involved.

As I had moved to Costa Rica in December, 1950, I had the privilege of attending the Panama Convention as a delegate. I will never forget the multiple impressions and reactions that I felt there. First, a great joy and excitement enveloped me at seeing such a congregation of Bahá'ís from many races and cultures, gathered for such an historic occasion. At the same time, my all too "human" and limited self caused me to experience some doubts. "I know," I thought, "that the Guardian is infallible; nevertheless, is not this action a bit premature? Where can nine Bahá'ís be found who are capable of directing and managing the affairs of a region so vast comprising such diverse and scattered peoples?" Then came the first meeting of the new Assembly with Mrs. Dorothy Baker as a representative of the U.S. National Assembly. Now I saw nine persons, not one with previous experience on a National Spiritual Assembly, but all anxious and capable at least of initiating the work. Throughout future years, step by step, this Divine Institution would develop.
As a new Bahá'í, I had been deeply impressed by the explanation of the Hand of the Cause, George Townshend, in his book, The Promise of All Ages, wherein he states that according to the Divine laws of creation, every living organism -- plant, animal, human being or even an astral body -- begins its life as a simple seed, gradually growing and unfolding the latent capacity within itself until, step by step, it arrives at the stage of maturity. As the Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, said concerning the building of the House of Worship in America: "Make a beginning and all will come right!"

Members of the two new Assemblies were: Central America: Raquel Francois de Constante of Panama, Cora Oliver of Panama, Louise Caswell of Honduras, Dr. David Escalante of El Salvador, Zeynada Jurado of Mexico, Natalia Chavez of Honduras, Elena Marsella of Dominican Republic, James Facey of Panama, and Artemus Lamb of Costa Rica; South America: Edmund Miessler of Brazil, Margot Worley of Brazil, Eve Nicklin of Peru, Gayle Woolson of Columbia, Esteban Canales of Paraguay, Mercedes Sanchez of Peru, Dr. Alexander Reid of Chile, Rangvald Taetz of Uruguay, and Manuel Vera of Peru. The next two years were devoted to the development of the new Assemblies: the appointment of committees; the establishment of two offices -- one in the City of Panama, the other in Lima, Peru; the establishment of two Funds; and the initiation of the multiple new activities now awaiting their efforts.

Development of the National Spiritual Assembly of Central America

The National Assembly of Central America decided to hold its meetings every three months in different parts of the territory, with its annual convention scheduled in different countries, also. At first, we felt like babes in the woods, trying to decide which were the most urgent and important tasks. Always, we had the help and guidance of the representatives of the National Assembly of the United States, Mrs. Dorothy Baker and Horace Holley, and especially our beloved Guardian who, like a loving, patient and wise father, was at all times apprised of our activities and problems, encouraging and counseling us and, when necessary, correcting us, with his letters and cables.

I maintain a file of copies of fifty letters from Shoghi Effendi written between the years 1949 to 1957, directed to the National Assembly and the Annual Convention of Central America and to other special gatherings and individuals in the area. On July 11, 1951, he imparted guidance to the new National Assembly concerning the first step we should take:
He feels that your Assembly must now, at the very beginning of your work, devote its energy primarily to laying a solid and abiding foundation for the future. What does this imply? First and foremost establishing harmony, love and understanding amongst the Bahá'ís under its jurisdiction. When the friends are united in the love of God, all problems, differences of race, nationality, origins are dissolved in the crucible of Bahá'í brotherhood.

The following year, in our anxiety to hasten the functioning of the Local Assemblies, our chairman traveled through the territory to instruct the officers of the Local assemblies on their respective duties. Immediately, there came a loving warning from the Guardian that this was premature and it would be better to teach Bahá'í administration in this area in a more "palatable" manner.

Another early counsel, June 19, 1953, referred to our News Bulletin, which followed basically the form of Bahá'í News of the United States. His advice through his secretary was:
The Guardian encourages the various National Assemblies to show initiative and originality in minor matters, while adhering to uniformity in major matters. He therefore feels your Assembly is capable of developing its own News Letter, along the lines best suited to the needs of the various countries under your jurisdiction.

On other occasions, the Guardian emphasized "diversity in secondary matters, and uniformity in fundamental matters," differentiating between "matters of procedure and matters of administrative principles," emphasizing diversity in the former and uniformity in the latter. Secondary matters can be adapted to the environment, but we must never change basic administrative principles or act contrary to them in our desire to teach Administration in a more "palatable" manner.

An interesting incident occurred in a country with a political crisis. The Assembly was meeting late one night in a hotel room. Suddenly, the door burst open and two men sprang into the room with pistols raised, saying: "Hands up!" It turned out that someone had reported a meeting of conspirators and the intruders were members of the Secret Police. We were able to convince them of our innocence and they departed with Bahá'í pamphlets in their pockets.

I received a very useful lesson from the Guardian when I had the bounty, in 1953, of making my pilgrimage to the World Center -- a lesson I hope I will never forget. I was seated directly opposite the Guardian during supper. One night, he spoke of his cables, which he had sent to our Assembly or to the Bahá'í world. He quoted one by one from some of these cables with their respective dates. Each time, directing his attention directly to me, he asked: "You remember, don't you?" Of course, I did not remember all those cables, but when I returned to Costa Rica, I studied each cable that arrived from the Guardian to the point of practically memorizing each word. We still do not appreciate sufficiently, I believe, the priceless bounty of having the infallible guidance, first of the Guardian, and now from the Universal House of Justice, in this "day that shall not be followed by night."

While in Haifa, another incident took place demonstrating once more the constant and powerful spiritual influence of the Guardian. From Haifa, I was going to Los Angeles, California, to treat a serious family problem which, seemingly, would force me to leave my pioneering activities indefinitely, to my deep sadness. As we were taking leave of the Guardian, he turned to me and unexpectedly asked me about my plans. Completely surprised by the question, as he had not asked the other pilgrims about their plans, and I had not informed him of my problem, I found myself answering that I was returning to Costa Rica. The Guardian rubbed his hands with evident pleasure and said: "Splendid. Magnificent. Splendid. Magnificent." On arrival two days later at the airport in Los Angeles, the problem was resolved in a completely unforeseen manner, and a week later I returned to Costa Rica. As the beloved Hand of the Cause, Mr. Khadem, used to say: "The Guardian knows everything!"

Many of the members of the new National Spiritual Assembly, were usually rather new in the Faith and so, naturally, still with ideas and habits of the old world order. Two examples, not of real importance, but typical, come to mind.

The Chairman presented to the Assembly a new cable from the Guardian, and expressed very clearly his opinion concerning it. A consultation followed in which the majority had a different opinion which the Chairman immediately accepted. One member with experience in other organizations in which the chairman or president always makes the final decision, could not get over his surprise at the sincere acceptance of the Bahá'í Chairman of a different opinion.

In a different meeting in which the consultation was on what budget should be requested of the World Center for the coming year, a new member, a very successful business executive, stated that we should, of course, ask for twice as much as we wanted, and was not really convinced when it was explained that the relations between Bahá'í Institutions were on a basis of honesty and trust.

A very agreeable Latin American flavor was enjoyed for several years by the presence on the Assembly of Cuban poet, Alberto Cabrera, who tried to bring a new poem to each meeting.

Growth of the Faith in Costa Rica

Immediately, after the Convention in Panama, Ruth Moffet, an outstanding Bahá'í teacher and lecturer from the United States, came to Costa Rica and gave a series of lectures in San José, in the Tala Inn, where the Nicaraguan owners were friends of the Bahá'ís. During the seminar, Ruth fell and broke her arm, but steadfastly refused to rest even for one day. The seminar was highly successful and resulted in numerous new Bahá'ís.

Louise Caswell left for Honduras, then new pioneers arrived: Alan Pringle from Canada in 1952 to Escazú; Dora Worth and Mollie Young, mother of the writer, in 1954 to Alajuela; Valeria Lamb Nichols and her husband, Hayden, to Escazú; Emma Lawrence to Limón; all from the U.S.A. Then Rosu Vodanovic, one of the first Bahá'ís in Punta Arenas, Chile, replaced Mrs. Young in Alajuela, and Esteban Canales, also from Chile, went to San José. The Faith spread rapidly in Limón, Escazú, Alajuela, Heredia, Golfito, the Bribri area in Talamanca, and also Quepos, where a group of refugees from Nicaragua had settled.

The National (Regional) Spiritual Assembly held one of its early Annual Conventions in San José. Reservations were made for the Delegates in a Pensión, and it was carefully explained to the owner, that they were coming from all parts of Central America and the Caribbean Islands. "The first to arrive was Mathew Bullock, a very distinguished Bahá'í from Boston -- but he was Black. The owner informed me forcefully that he could not stay there. I reminded him that he knew that the Delegates were coming from many different countries, but he became very aggressive, shouting: "Do you want peace or war?" So we had to rush to make other arrangements. To add a note: the owner was not Costa Rican.

In December, 1954, the First International Summer School for all the area of Mexico, Central America and the Antilles, was held in Escazú, under the auspices of the new Regional Spiritual Assembly. Those attending included: Sheila Rice-Wray of Rep. Dominicana, Louise Nelson of Honduras, Juan Alberto Cabrera of Cuba, Randolph Fitz Henley of Jamaica, Marjorie Stee and Amanda Mena of El Salvador, and from Costa Rica: Jenny Taylor, Dora Worth, Valeria Nichols, Ruth Fendell, Antonio Monje, Esteban Canales, Fernando Umaya and Señora, and Artemus Lamb.



1953 to 1963

The Birth and Launching of the Plan

October, 1952, marked the beginning of the Centenary Year of the Birth of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh in the prison of Siyah-Chal. On November 30, 1951, Shoghi Effendi convoked four International Teaching Conferences, as part of the celebration of this "Holy Year." The first of these was scheduled for Kampala, Uganda (Africa), February 12-18, 1953; the second to be held in Chicago, Illinois (U.S.A.) at Ridván; the third in Stockholm, Sweden, July 21-26; and the fourth in New Delhi, India, October 7-15. Then, on October 8, 1951, Shoghi Effendi electrified the Bahá'í world by announcing the launching at Ridván, 1953, of the Ten Year World Crusade, utilizing the forthcoming conferences as rallying points to set the vast processes in motion. Following is an extract from this dramatic call:
Feel hour propitious to proclaim to the entire Bahá'í world the projected launching on the occasion of the convocation of the approaching Intercontinental Conferences on the four continents of the globe the fate-laden, soul-stirring, decade-long, world-embracing Spiritual Crusade involving the simultaneous initiation of twelve national Ten Year Plans and the concerted participation of all National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'í world aiming at the immediate extension of Bahá'u'lláh's spiritual dominion as well as the eventual establishment of the structure of His administrative order in all remaining Sovereign States, Principal Dependencies comprising Principalities, Sultanates, Emirates, Shaykhdoms, Protectorates, Trust Territories, and Crown Colonies scattered over the surface of the entire planet. The entire body of the avowed supporters of Bahá'u'lláh's all-conquering Faith are now summoned to achieve in a single decade feats eclipsing in totality the achievements which in the course of eleven preceding decades illumined the annals of Bahá'í pioneering. (14)

The All-America Conference held in Chicago and Wilmette, April 29 to May 5, 1953, designated by the Guardian as "the most distinguished of the four Intercontinental Teaching Conferences" (15) was attended by twelve Hands of the Cause, including Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, as representative of the Guardian, and by approximately 2400 Bahá'ís from thirty-three countries, including nineteen Latin American Republics. It was in this Conference that Rúhiyyih Khánum recounted that the Guardian had said that Bahá'ís should go to foreign lands and "leave their bones." As a result, a number of elderly people did just that, including my dear Mother at the age of 85.

The Guardian made the following challenging call to this Conference:
It is incumbent upon the members of the American Bahá'í Community, the chief executors of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Divine Plan, the members of the Canadian Bahá'í Community acting as their allies, the members of the Latin American Bahá'í Communities in their capacity as associates in the execution of this Plan, to brace themselves and initiate, in addition to the responsibilities they have assumed, and will assume, in other continents of the globe, an intercontinental campaign designed to carry a stage further the glorious work already inaugurated throughout the Western Hemisphere. (16)

This great Crusade was the first global Plan, not only encompassing the whole world, but also involving the entire Bahá'í world community in its operation. Here is how the Guardian himself describes the essence of the Crusade:
Let there be no mistake. The avowed, the primary aim of this Spiritual Crusade is none other than the conquest of the citadels of men's hearts. The theater of its operations is the entire planet. Its duration a whole decade. Its commencement synchronizes with the centenary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh's Mission. (17)

Each one of the twelve National Spiritual Assemblies entrusted with the execution of the Plan, was given its own goals, including the new National Spiritual Assemblies of Central America and South America, which now took their rightful place in the Bahá'í world, alongside their sister Assemblies in other parts of the world.

Among the goals for Latin America were: the purchase of property for future construction of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in Panama; the formation of a National Spiritual Assembly in each of the twenty Latin American Republics, under the aegis of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, in collaboration with the two existing National Spiritual Assemblies of Latin America.

The magnitude and diversity of the goals for Central America seemed unimaginably difficult for our humble capabilities. One of our goals was to send pioneers to three places in Asia: Gilbert and Ellis Islands, the Marshall Islands, and Tuamotu Archipelago, and the Guardian stipulated that the pioneers for the virgin areas must leave for their posts during the first year of the Crusade. At the time, we did not know where these three places were located, much less able to identify Bahá'ís ready and capable of settling there. As so often happens with us mortals, we do not comprehend the invincible power of the Cause of God. The posts were filled: the Tuamotu Archipelago by Jean Savin from Paris, France (I do not remember how he got in touch with us); Gilbert and Ellis Islands by the Secretary of our National Assembly, Elena Marsella Fernie and her new husband, Roy; and a little later, the Marshall Islands by Marcia Steward (Atwater), who had transferred from Chile to Honduras.

Another goal that gave us concern was that of acquiring in each Republic a site for a future Mashriqu'l-Adhkár, a national endowment and a national Hazíratu'l-Quds. We had only eight thousand dollars at our disposition; one thousand each for the endowment and for the Temple site, and six thousand for the National Center. The endowment was relatively simple, because it consisted of a property anywhere in the country as an investment in real estate. The Temple site must be in or near the capital and, although difficult, did not seem an impossible goal. However, the national Hazírat'l-Quds was to be a building in the capital, adequate for the national office and, temporarily, for the Local Spiritual Assembly. Finding an appropriate place was far from easy -- nevertheless, the goals were won in all the countries, although at times it was clearly apparent it was only through Divine aid. The most fascinating case was as follows:

The Hand of the Cause of God, Dorothy Baker, in her role as liaison between the National Assembly of the United States and the National Assembly of Central America, Mexico and the Antilles, had spent a good deal of time in Central America and had many intimate friends among the Bahá'ís. After her passing in January, 1954, a number of Bahá'í in these countries had deeply moving dreams about her. Shortly after this, our Assembly sent me to Honduras to look for a suitable National Center. Upon arriving in Tegucigalpa, the capital, a Bahá'í came to my hotel to see me. She had formerly been very active in the Faith but was now inactive. She greeted me and emotionally informed me that Dorothy had come to her recently in a dream and told her that Artemus Lamb was coming soon to Honduras on an important mission and she should help me. Through her help we found a suitable Center.

The Institutions of the Learned

Prior to the election of the Universal House of Justice, no Hands of the Cause lived in Central or South America. After the appointment by the Guardian of the first contingent of Hands in 1951, the Hands living in North America looked after Latin America.

When the Universal House of Justice was elected in 1963, they initiated a process of assigning different areas of the five continents to the various Hands of the Cause. Zikrullah Khadem transferred his residence to the United States and took charge of serving Central America, Mexico and the Antilles. Jalal Khazeh settled in Brazil, where he remained until 1968. In 1964, Dr. Ugo Giachery settled in La Jolla, California, taking over from Mr. Khadem Central America, Mexico and the Antilles. All of Latin America received the bounty of visits of numerous Hands from other parts of the world, especially on the occasion of the formation of the National Spiritual Assemblies in each country in 1961: Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, Dorothy Baker, Rahmatu'lláh Muhájir, Horace Holley, Herman Grossman, William Sears, Collis Featherstone, Abu'l-Qasim Faizi, Enoch Olinga, Paul Haney, Ali-Muhammad Varqá, and John Robarts.

What loving memories we harbor of the privilege of being in the presence of these souls -- so selfless, loving, wise, sanctified, and, at the same time, so humble and human. How many spiritual victories, both individual and of the Faith are owing to the counsels, the wisdom and loving support of the Hands of the Cause. Some precious anecdotes come to mind:

When we were living in Guatemala, Collis Featherstone paid an official visit. The same day, William Sears arrived unexpectedly and told us that he was exhausted and wanted to remain incognito. There was a public meeting that night at which Mr. Featherstone was to speak. Shortly before starting, Mr. Sears appeared, saying that he could not stay away. The master of ceremonies told us later, that the spiritual power was so great, owing to the presence of two Hands of the Cause, that he could hardly function. After the meeting, as some of us were going in the elevator to Mr. Sears' room in the hotel, one of the passengers repeated the number of each floor. Mr. Sears, with his irrepressible sense of humor, said: We're going to make him National Treasurer. He knows how to count.

On Mr. Khadem's first visit to Central America, he visited the Indian village of Chichicastenango, Guatemala, where a Bahá'í Institute had been established, and where he visited some of the new Bahá'ís. Later, one of them, an outstanding leader of the region, said quite emotionally that he just liked to look at Mr. Khadem's beautiful face.

An unforgettable visit was that of Mr. Faizi, during which an international conference was held in El Salvador. Still today, when I think of his deeply moving talk on the moth and the all-consuming Flame of the Candle, and ending with the entrance of the believer (the moth) in the Siyah-Chal and the Presence of Bahá'u'lláh, so realistically portrayed by a sweep of the hand of Mr. Faizi, I am actually moved to tears again, as most of us were that night. During that same visit, Louise Caswell, Edith Mclaren and I had a conversation with him on the fascinating, and mysterious subject of fate, predestination and free-will. Some one asked him if we were there because of free-will or fate. After some thought, his answer was: "probably a combination of both."

The following two incidents took place after our transfer to Yucatan, Mexico, in September, 1964, which is beyond the scope of this book, but I cannot refrain from including them here.

The first occurred in Yucatan, Mexico. Hand of the Cause Dr. Muhájir came to the Martha Root Institute, in Muna, where we were living. Hardly had he arrived, when he asked my wife, Dee, to record some Bahá'í songs to take with him on a trip he, a Mayan Bahá'í, Celestino Sima, and I were to take the next day to the neighboring Territory of Quintana Roo. On arriving at our first goal, we had to park the car on the highway and walk about 5 kilometers through the jungle to a Mayan village. After the meeting, Dr. Muhájir stayed in the school to spend the night, and Don Celestino and I took our hammocks to an empty hut on a nearby hill. We had agreed to leave at six o'clock the next morning to traverse the jungle in the daylight. About 3:30 a.m., I was awakened by some music, a feminine voice singing Bahá'í songs. I could not at first think where I was. Then I thought: "but, that is Dee's voice. Where am I?" Then the voice of Dr. Muhájir: "Mr. Lamb. We're leaving." Then I realized that he had used the recorded cassette to awaken us. Of course, we left. Fortunately, there was a moon!

As to the second, I cannot leave this theme without referring especially to Dr. Giachery, who spent so many years in this area. At an annual convention in Mexico, Dr. Giachery gave a very moving talk on "love." When he finished, Roberto Canul, a Mayan Bahá'í, who had been the first of his race to serve as home-front pioneer to Quintana Roo, became so touched that he went forward, tears streaming down his face, to embrace Dr. Giachery. Roberto was quite short, and Dr. Giachery was quite tall, so that Roberto's arms encircled Dr. Giachery's waist, and there he remained while others shook Dr. Giachery's hand or embraced him, above the head of Roberto.

As to the Auxiliary Boards, in 1954, the Hands of the Cause of each of the five continents appointed an Auxiliary Board of nine members for Propagation. The resident member for the Central American area was Esteban Canales, then in Costa Rica, and for South America, Margot Worley of Brazil, and Gayle Woolson, then living in Colombia. The following, all from the U.S.A., were named "members for the U.S.A. and Interamerican members:" Katherine McLaughlin, William de Forge, Sarah Pereira, Florence Mayberry, and Margery McCormick.

Transfer to El Salvador

In March, 1956, the Regional Assembly sent me to El Salvador to establish an Assembly in Santa Ana, the second city of the country. There was then only one Local Assembly, in the Capital, San Salvador. With the indefatigable aid of Mercedes (Menchi) Vides, one of the only two Bahá'ís in Santa Ana, the Assembly was elected. It seemed the Assembly would not function without special help, and the two pioneers in San Salvador -- Margaret Mills and Marjorie Stee -- were busy with their own problems, so I returned to Costa Rica to liquidate my small importing business, and returned in June to Santa Ana to settle.

I established an English Academy as the best way of earning a living and still have free time to teach the Faith. It was so successful that I needed help, so I cabled the Western Hemisphere Teaching Committee for a young couple with a university degree to come and live with me and work in the Academy. Just such a couple, newly-married and wondering what to do with their lives -- Quentin (Tim) and Jeanne Farrand -- were available. They arrived Sept 14, on the eve of Independence Day, which is celebrated with much fervor. The next morning, at dawn, the celebrations started -- church bells, cannons, rockets, soldiers marching -- and about 7 a.m., the Farrands emerged from their room, rather pallid and agitated, saying, "It's a revolution, isn't it?" They are still in El Salvador.

The director of one of the radio stations came one day to ask me if I would give a weekly program with the title of Rainbow of Peace. The following Sunday, the first talk was broadcast. Dear Menchi Vides gathered her friends and neighbors in front of her house to hear it. The main theme was the urgent need for the abolition of all religious prejudice and the acceptance of the basic oneness of the different world religions, as one of the most important steps toward world peace. Two days later, the director of the radio station came to tell me that the Church had ordered the cancellation of the program.

Next, the Church published and widely distributed a pamphlet entitled The Enemies of God and Humanity, directed against the Bahá'ís, Evangelical sects, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and, as I recall, several other groups. Interestingly, the Bahá'ís were named the most, appearing on practically every page: "Bahá'í", "Bahá'u'lláh", or "'Abdu'l-Bahá."

When we teach children, we never know really how much they understand and remember. We would often be astonished. The following little incident demonstrates the vital importance of teaching even the most little ones. In our weekly children's class, we were studying anecdotes from the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.. One day, there was a picture in the newspaper of the Pope riding in a carriage and, according to the caption, with gold ornamented shoes. At the next class, the daughter of Menche Vides, about 5 years of age, asked why the Pope had gold shoes, and when 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in the United States, he had given his trousers to a poor man? "Out of the mouth of babes...."

Margaret Mills transferred to Sonsonate, Marcia Steward came from Honduras, and teaching was started in other towns, including Ahuachapan where the Farrands transferred. In May, 1958, Dora (Dee) Worth came to Santa Ana and in August, we were married. About 75 friends were invited to the wedding and reception, and around 150 came, curious to see what a Bahá'í wedding was like. After the reception, several men, like in Punta Arenas, expressed their relief at not having to drink. In December, the Second International Summer School was held in Hotel del Lago, on the shore of beautiful Lago de Coatepeque. Visitors from other countries included: Harold Neff, Louise Caswell and Edith McLaren from Guatemala; George Haley and Robert Ancker from Honduras; Pablo Perez from Cuba, pioneering then in Nicaragua; and George Gabb and Cora Oliver from Belize.

The English Academy was flourishing, but suddenly the students began dropping away. We paid no attention at first, but more and more disappeared and with no explanation. Finally, I asked one student what was happening. She replied that they thought we knew, that the priests were warning the people to stay away from the Academy, that they were facing excommunication if they studied with us. She said even one priest in his sermons, is asking the people if they prefer going to Heaven speaking Spanish, or to Hell speaking English? We weathered the storm, but with a much reduced number of students.

While in Santa Ana, there occurred another demonstration of the all-pervading spiritual influence of the Guardian. I became seriously ill with a mysterious fever and seemingly was not recovering. Marcia Steward came for supper one night and, perceiving my condition, put in my hand a lock of hair of the Guardian, which she carried. Almost immediately, I felt in my hand an energy or force, which then traveled up my arm and finally through my entire body. Less than an hour later, I got up and joined the others for supper, and within a few days, I was completely recovered.

A New Phase: Teaching in Rural Areas

The majority of the first Bahá'ís enrolled in the Faith had come from the cities, usually the capital of the country. The pioneers almost automatically settled in the capital city, because of its being the most known and offering the most material advantages; also, in Latin America, the capital of each country is the center and axis of political, commercial, intellectual, cultural and even religious life.

It was still possible, even in the capital cities, to find a number of persons who were open intellectually and spiritually and to make contact with them. Generally, one could enter a city and easily obtain an interview with the director of the principle newspaper and radio station, obtain free publicity, and even secure the names and addresses of people with a spiritual interest. A number of the first contacts were made and Bahá'ís found in this way.

With the passage of the years, it has been interesting, but distressing, to witness how the environment of the cities has been changing, becoming visibly more and more closed, materialistic and commercialized, and, as a consequence, making it more difficult to teach the Faith. Obviously, a change of tactics was in order -- and that is what occurred.

In "The Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour" (published in Citadel of Faith), the Guardian pleaded for special attention at this juncture (1947) to be paid to the "various Indian tribes, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Latin Republics," quoting the prophetic words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá concerning them in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. During the following years, he reminded us at various times of the importance of teaching the "original inhabitants of the Americas." Nevertheless, not very much had been accomplished in this respect, at least in Central America and Mexico.

During the first years of the World Crusade, reports of the conversions in Africa began to come through -- first a hundred new believers, then two hundred, three hundred. In that period, when conversions were usually individually one by one, the entrance into the Faith of hundreds was something totally new: mass conversion. Then news began to arrive of the conversion of large numbers of the precious "campesinos" in Bolivia, and the Guardian began to increase his insistence on teaching the indigenous groups. For example, on May 26, 1957, he sent a letter through his secretary to the new National Spiritual Assemblies of Latin America, referring to the Tablets of the Divine Plan of the Master with respect to the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas. He wrote in part: "He feels that we cannot delay longer in our response to the pleas of the Master, because the conditions in the world require the fulfillment of His request." This letter was followed by three more to the National Spiritual Assembly of Central America, the last communications received from him, treating exclusively the same theme. Why are we always so slow in obeying?

Thus a new phase in the development of the Faith was initiated. The teachers began to go to the villages and the country, and the pioneers settled more and more outside of the large cities. I recall clearly the strong impact this had on us. My wife and I concentrated our efforts in searching out everything we could find on how to teach the rural and indigenous people, especially the talks of the Hand of the Cause, Dr. Muhájir, for we had heard that he was especially accomplished in this field. The reality was that we, like the majority of the Bahá'ís, had no experience in this type of activity and did not know how to begin. Soon we discovered that it was much easier to teach outside of the large cities and the enrollment of new Bahá'ís was more rapid. Then, doubts began to form: "Many of the new Bahá'ís are inactive and really do not understand the Faith." "Why form Spiritual Assemblies that do not function?" Etc.

The Hand of the Cause, Rúhiyyih Khánum gave two exceedingly interesting answers to these questions in a conference in Panama. Regarding the first question, she presented her analogy of the "cream" and "milk." To obtain cream, you need to have much milk -- that is, to have a number of capable, active, knowledgeable Bahá'ís, you need to have a large number of Bahá'ís. The corollary is, that since it is generally impossible to intensely deepen all the "milk," it is indispensable to select and carefully train the "cream," so that they, in turn, can help to deepen the "milk."

With respect to Local Assemblies that do not function, she explained that she had asked the Guardian about it and he had answered there is a mystery in it -- that the very act of forming a new Spiritual Assembly, the foundation of the New World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, has a spiritual impact that is difficult for us to appreciate. Nevertheless, we should make every possible effort to help the Assemblies to function.

Our Transfer to Guatemala

In 1959, due to circumstances beyond our control, we were obliged, suddenly and unexpectedly, to leave El Salvador, so we transferred to the neighboring country of Guatemala. We established ourselves in the National Bahá'i Center in Guatemala City and got teaching jobs in a bilingual private school.

It was decided, as an experiment, to hold a special public meeting in the Bahá'í Center once a month, to which a non-Bahá'í would be invited to give the talk, always, of course, on an appropriate topic, and which turned out to be highly successful. One of the guest speakers was a Jewish rabbi who was also Director of a private Israelite school. On starting his talk he said, quite emotionally and with tears in his eyes, that he had been in Guatemala twelve years and this was the first time that any one had asked him to talk about his religion. Another speaker was a well-known lawyer, who was head of the Esperanto Society of Guatemala and who brought his entire group with him. Through these meetings, many persons otherwise inaccessible, learned of the Faith and became sincere friends (and some Bahá'ís) and we Bahá'ís received an interesting education. Generally, the speaker brought others with him or her.

The soul of Guatemala is the indigenous population, which is still the majority, but reaching them was not easy. For one thing, they are divided into some 23 groups, each with its own dialect and often its own typical vestment, and many of the adults, especially the women, speak but little Spanish. In addition, they have been continually discriminated against and persecuted, and, as a result, are very cautious and distrustful of all "ladinos" and foreigners. As a means of starting more contact with them, a Bahá'í Institute had been recently established in the well-known indigenous village of Chichicastenango, in the charge of Jenny Taylor from Costa Rica, and Alberto Landau from Panama, who had come to supervise the construction of the buildings. The purpose was to provide free elementary medical help, give children's classes and other cultural activities.

Some months after our arrival, the Guatemalan Indigenous Institute invited representatives of similar institutions and indigenous groups from all the Americas to a Congress. Dee and I had made friends with the Director of the Institute and were invited to attend as representatives of the Bahá'í Faith, the only religion to be represented. The first day, we met the Assistant Director, José Trinidad Gramajo, and gave him the book, The Renewal of Civilización. The next morning, he greeted us and said accusingly: "I read that book almost all night, and you have changed my entire way of thinking!" He soon became an outstanding Bahá'í.. During the Congress, many speeches were given and papers read, the majority quite intellectual, complicated and abstract, much analysis, but very few practical suggestions. When it came the turn of the representative of the Kuna Tribe, from the San Blas Islands of Panama, his opening words were: "Gentlemen. Here I am. I am your problem. What are you going to do with me?"

The Kunas are a very interesting people. They still maintain their own social organization, headed by a "sahela" ("chief") and practically govern themselves, although they are part of the Republic of Panama. On a visit to the island of Ustupo, the seat of government for all the San Blas Islands, we were walking one night by their government building where a large number of people were meeting, and we heard the sahela chanting in a very solemn and rather haunting manner. It seems that one of the responsibilities of the sahela is to inform and teach his people, in this manner, the ancient traditions and laws of their people. It was most impressive. I also remember that we slept in hammocks, not like the wide ones in Yucatán and some other places where one can sleep diagonally, but so narrow that I was afraid to move the whole night for fear of falling out. There are many Kuna Bahá'ís. A great deal of the first teaching was done by Alan and Ruth Pringle.

At the beginning, there were, to my knowledge, no pioneers from Irán, at least in Central America, and it was my understanding that the Guardian had said it was still premature. In 1960, as I recall, the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Hand informed us that a medical doctor from Irán wished to come to Guatemala, and would we please try to get the necessary residency and working papers for him. In Central America all persons from the Middle East were classified as "Turks" and it was very difficult to get even tourist visas for them, much less residency and working papers. Very complicated arrangements had to be made even for the visit of a few days of any Hand of the Cause from Irán. We said many prayers, and through the invaluable help of an influential lawyer friend, procured the necessary documents, and Dr. (his name has escaped me) came to Guatemala. Many of these countries have a special Board of Doctors, which decides if a foreign doctor can practice or not, and the Board denied this permission, so our dear Iranian friend could not stay. However, this shows again the importance of having influential non-Bahá'í friends.

Guatemala was traversing a critical political period, and the government had declared several times a curfew and martial law, which forbade a meeting of more than four people without a permit. As a firm policy, we insisted upon a sincere and faithful obedience of all these laws and to keep the authorities informed of our activities. Some time later, a man entered the Center and asked us many questions. We suspected he was not an ordinary seeker, so I went to the head of the Secret Police, whom we knew slightly. He was very friendly and assured me that we had always conformed to the laws and kept the authorities informed of our activities, and that he would see that we were not bothered. How wise are our Teachings on being faithful and obedient to the government and not to meddle in political affairs!

Two interesting and amusing incidents occurred in the town of Retaluhue, where an Assembly was to be formed. The plan was for Louise Caswell to start proceedings and to organize two public lectures for me for the following week-end. For the first, on "The Spiritual Resolution of the Economic Problem," she hired the theatre for Saturday afternoon. To my surprise, the theatre was practically filled, so afterward I asked Louise what she had done to get so many people. She answered that in the invitations she had added a sub-title: "Come to the theatre and have Mr. Lamb resolve your economic problems." I fear that no one's immediate economic problems got solved that day. The meeting that night was in a residential section in a hall the sides of which, as often is the case in tropical areas, were enclosed only with screening. Time came to open the talk, but there was no public inside, but we could sense people outside. We waited awhile, then I said to Louise: "We are going ahead with the meeting, just as if there were people here." She presented me, and I gave the talk. It was a strange experience, but at the end, three young ladies entered and two of them soon entered the Faith. As the old saying goes: "There is more than one way to skin a cat." We must be flexible.

On another trip to Retaluhue, we were visiting a new Bahá'í and his family. An Evangelical pastor entered and, almost immediately, took out his Bible and rapidly read a number of passages, without uttering a word of his own. I remarked, as tactfully as possible, that it was very interesting, but what, in his own words, did these passages mean? He seemed quite annoyed and left.

In January, 1962, we moved to Cobán, in the rather isolated Department of Alta Verapaz. This area was filled with Indian villages, but there were no Bahá'ís. We decided to establish a dry cleaning business with the dual purpose of increasing our modest income and avoiding the appearance of being missionaries. A non-Bahá'í friend in the Capital helped us plan our equipment and permitted me to learn "spotting" in his plant, an engineer Evangelical friend in Cobán gave us technical advice, and Rafael Garcia, well-known Bahá'í from El Salvador, came for a few days to help us get started.

We started to study Ketchi, the dialect spoken there. Then, through the father of a young Bahá'í in the Capital, who was a sort of unofficial "cacique" in the region of Tactic, about 20 kilometers from Cobán, we established personal contact with a large group of leading "indigenas," who unfortunately spoke Pocomchi. We felt incapable of learning simultaneously two dialects, so we gave up our study of Ketchi. We invited them for lunch at our house in Cobán, and as we had learned that their favorite food was tortillas with salt, frijoles, and coffee, also with salt, that is what we gave them, so they would feel at home. They were delighted and told us: "Now you can come to visit us, for you eat the same things we do."

This contact flourished. They called a meeting in Chimolón, to acquaint others with the Faith, about 75 men and women, the women huddled apart in the corner. At the finish, they served food in our honor in the form of hunks of cold pork fat, I think uncooked. We knew we could not refuse it, and saying the Greatest Name, managed to keep it down, but were quite ill for several days. A group of them were accustomed to come weekly to Cobán on business and we reserved an empty room in our house for them. An all-indigenous Assembly was established in Chimolón and new believers in other villages, including Tactic, Tamahú and Pasmolón, where the school teacher and his wife entered the Faith. Interestingly enough, the "cacique" who helped us so sincerely and efficiently never entered the Faith. This seems to happen quite often, however we need influential friends at this stage, as we have been told, and it is highly important to make them. Undoubtedly, they will receive their just recompense. Speaking personally, many victories undoubtedly would not have been possible without the aid of such non-Bahá'í friends.

In Cobán, activities started also. We started calling on a small list of persons given to us by a friend in the Capital, including Professor Oscar Sierra, former Director of the Instituto del Norte and member of Congress, and he and his family became the first Bahá'ís. Don Oscar had, of course, many influential friends. Being a deeply sincere and wise person, he asked me, while still investigating the Faith, if I thought he would lose these friends, if he became a Bahá'í.. I told him, yes, I thought he would lose some of them, but he would make many new and better friends. He became very thoughtful, and a few weeks later, entered the Faith with his family.

The Local Assembly of Cobán was elected, and with the aid of the new Bahá'ís, teaching was carried on in the Ketchi villages around Cobán, including Chamelco, San Cristobal and San Pedro de Carchá.. Don Oscar had a weekly regional newspaper, which became an organ of publicity for the Faith.

Another example of the importance of teaching the children: the eight year old son of a Bahá'í family attended, with a little friend, an Evangelical meeting. The preacher kept insisting, as is the custom, that Christ was the only Saviour of all times. Finally, the boy said rather disdainfully to his friend: that man is ignorant -- he has never heard of Progressive Revelation.

An incident, both amusing but also, for me at least, touching, occurred which I wish to share, although it is of a personal nature. For a time, I had been feeling uneasy and restless. I had almost always been in the midst of activities, not just local, but national and international, and I was now feeling that I was not of sufficient service to the Faith. Then (this was spring of 1963), my wife went to the London World Congress, and I was left alone and feeling quite miserable and very sorry for myself. Suddenly, a telegram arrived. It was from Hand of the Cause, Mr. Khadem, who was now in the U.S. and whose territory included Central America, and the telegram was appointing me Auxiliary Board member for Panama, Central America, Mexico and the Antilles. My problems were solved! I laid down on my bed to think. I happened to glance up at the picture of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the wall, (the "smiling" picture and my favorite) and He winked at me. This is not imagination. It happened, as if He were telling me: "Look at you. All that worry and unhappiness. And for what?" I have had other extremely moving, and sometimes also amusing, experiences with that picture, as other Bahá'ís undoubtedly have had. Did He not tell us that He would always be with us? Unfortunately, He is not always smiling at me.

A sad aftermath. In 1964 the Hand of the Cause, Dr. Giachery, who was now in charge of Mexico, Central America and the Antilles, asked me if we would like to transfer to Yucatán, Mexico, to organize the teaching work there, as the Mayans were proving to be extremely receptive. We decided the work would go faster there and left Cobán. We learned later, that a high government official of Tamahú had called dear Pedrito, the first Bahá'í of Chimolón and whose house was their Center, to his office, and told him that because of becoming a Bahá'í, soldiers would come to his house some day, tie his hands behind his back, and take him to the prison in the Capital. Fortunately, this threat was never carried out, but the teaching work did not continue going forward.

New Development of the Institution of the Rulers

Another important step in the development of the administrative institutions took place at Ridván of 1957, with the convocation of four simultaneous conventions to elect four new National Spiritual Assemblies, to replace the two existing ones, of Mexico, Central America, the Antilles, and South America. A Hand of the Cause of God was present at each convention, as the personal representative of the Guardian, bringing his message that called for four subsidiary Six Year Plans. A representative of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States acted as a chairman of the conventions, until the permanent convention officials were elected. The conventions were as follows:
  • Mexico and the Republics of Central America, in Panama City.
  • The Greater Antilles, in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • The Republics of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, in Lima, Peru.
  • The Republics of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Then, the long awaited step of the convocation of nineteen national conventions, each to elect an independent National Spiritual Assembly, was taken at Ridván, 1961. A Hand of the Cause in the Holy Land and a representative of one of the four former National Spiritual Assemblies participated in each convention. The new National Assemblies were:

  • Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama (Mexico and Central America).
  • Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia,
    Brazil, Venezuela, and Ecuador (South America).
  • Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Haiti (Antilles).
  • Alaska (North America)

Countries not ready yet, were elected later, sometimes in conjunction with neighboring countries.

I cannot refrain from relating another example of the ever present sense of humor of Hand of the Cause, William Sears. At the above Convention in El Salvador, at which Mr. Sears attended as representative of the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, I also attended as representative of the Regional Assembly of Central America. We were staying in the Hotel Astor, in San Salvador, which had a long corridor leading to our rooms. The day had been a long one and Bill was tired, and as we were walking down the corridor that night to our rooms, I got quite a bit ahead of him. "Slow down a little, Artemus," he said, "you are going to win this heat in any event."

Incidentally, the Guardian permitted El Salvador to elect its National Spiritual Assembly with only three Local Spiritual Assemblies: San Salvador, Santa Ana, and Ahuachapán. Now, it is one of the strongest countries in Central America.

The Most Great Jubilee

The World Spiritual Crusade, conceived and inaugurated by the Guardian, terminated at Ridván, 1963. Although Shoghi Effendi had left this world at the midway point, the Bahá'ís of the world, under the guidance and direction of the Hands of the Cause of God, the "Chief Stewards" of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth, carried out, with constant determination and devotion, the goals established by the Guardian, bringing the Crusade to a glorious and total victory.

As we all know, the first International Convention was held in Haifa, on April 21, 1963, for the historic election of the Universal House of Justice. This was followed by the historic first Bahá'í World Congress in London, attended by some 7000 Bahá'ís from all parts of the globe, including many from Latin America, and opened by the following message of the Universal House of Justice:
On this glorious occasion, the celebration of the Most Great Jubilee, we raise our grateful thanks to Bahá'u'lláh for all His bounties showered upon the friends throughout the world. This historic moment marks at one and the same time the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy*, the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of the Promised One of all ages, the termination of the first epoch of the Divine Plan of 'Abdu'l-Bahá designed to establish the Faith of God in all the world, and the successful conclusion of our beloved Guardian's world encircling Crusade.... (18)

*Referring to "the spread of the Faith over the face of the earth." (19)


In reviewing, retrospectively, the principal events and my own experiences connected with the beginnings and evolution of the Faith in Latin America, several points, partially perceived before, now become much clearer. Following are noted the outstanding ones:

1. Undoubtedly it is impossible for us mortals to appreciate and describe adequately the role of the Guardian in the whole process: the conceiving of the Plans, inspiring the pioneers to arise and leave, the guidance of the executors of the Plans, his continuous, loving guidance and encouragement of the first pioneers and administrative institutions. Often, we had no one else from whom to receive guidance and we always received it. Undoubtedly, many pioneers would not have stayed at their posts, or even left their homes, without his constant, loving encouragement and urging. When the administrative institutions were formed, particularly the Regional (National) Assemblies, they would have been lost in confusion without the Guardian's continual letters and cables. There is no adequate way to describe his mysterious and all-pervading influence.

In my own case, I was always conscious of the Guardian's loving guidance and encouragement, but I only realize now, after reviewing the events of those years, the true magnitude of his influence on my own decisions and actions. If I have dwelt in this book on these experiences, it has been because the picture would not be complete otherwise.

2. The importance and indispensability of the Bahá'í Administrative Institutions to canalize, coordinate and consolidate the efforts of the pioneers and new believers, plus the emphasis which the Guardian continually placed upon them, constantly referring to the Administrative Order as the "structural basis of His World Order," "the institutions of the Administrative Order," etc. On launching the First Seven Year Plan, he explained that it had been necessary to delay carrying out the Divine Plan to permit the evolution of the administrative institutions -- "the agencies for the proper and systematic execution of the Divine Plan." It became so clear during those first years, how it would have been completely impossible for a relatively small band of volunteers, with limited financial resources, still rather preliminary knowledge of the Faith, and little or no training for the task, to come to strange lands, win many converts and establish permanent Bahá'í Communities, without the Administrative Order and its Institutions through which to work. As the Guardian so eloquently expressed it: "The moment had now arrived for that undying, world-vitalizing Spirit that was born in Shiraz, that had been rekindled in Tihran, that had been fanned into flame in Baghdad and Adrianople, that had been carried to the West, and was now illuminating the fringes of five continents, to incarnate itself in institutions designed to canalize its outspreading energies and stimulate its growth." (20) And to think that this is happening, and will continue to happen; all over the world, ending finally with the establishment of God's Kingdom!

3. The importance of making influential friends, including in governmental circles, if possible. This is especially important in countries in which the Faith is not well-known yet. They can open many otherwise closed doors, introduce you to new people, and help with protection in emergencies. They may not become Bahá'ís now, or ever. When the Faith becomes stronger and well-known, it will be easier for these people to cross the strong class barriers existing in many countries and openly enter the Faith.

4. Pioneering: "the prince of all goodly deeds and the ornament of every goodly act." (21) Notwithstanding the vital importance of the Administrative Order and its Institutions and the all-inclusive and all-pervading role of the beloved Guardian, unless individuals, no matter how humble and inexperienced, had not arisen and come to these countries, very little would have happened. As the Universal of Justice pointed out, in their letter of October 1, 1969, to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies: "Authority and direction flow from Assemblies, while the power to carry out the tasks resides primarily with the entire body of believers." It is reported that the Guardian remarked on several occasions: "If I had the instruments, what couldn't I do!" All of us are those instruments, if we make ourselves available.

Of course, there are tests, sacrifices, "culture-shock," sometimes having to learn a new language, but life anywhere on earth has its difficulties, and, as Bahá'ís, we understand that spiritual growth is impossible without some suffering. As the beloved Guardian said: "We should not, however, forget that an essential characteristic of this world is hardship and tribulation, and that it is by overcoming them that we achieve our moral and spiritual development." (22) What more glorious way of suffering and sacrificing a little, than helping directly in establishing the foundations of the Kingdom of God on earth! A universal law of creation is that we are all different flowers in the Garden of Humanity, and for the work of the world, and of the Faith, this is necessary. Every Bahá'í cannot be, and should not be, a foreign pioneer and might not be happy or successful in that field of service. On the other hand, for many pioneers, including this humble servant, "normal" life becomes dull and unsatisfying compared to pioneer life. For one thing, the active pioneer feels, and is, much closer to and a more integral part of, the total life and activities of the Faith, and usually has the opportunity to learn and fulfill new roles often not available at home. Also, although this is not and should not be the "supreme objective," the chance and challenge of entering a new culture, making new friends, and adjusting to and making good in the new home. Perhaps it can be summed up by saying that one feels more alive, more useful and more directly responsible for the Faith.

Really, it all depends on the basic motive of the pioneer. Bahá'u'lláh promised the help of "a company of Our chosen angels" and wonderful "blessings" for "those that have forsaken their country for the purpose of teaching Our Cause," but He added: "Whoso ariseth to teach Our Cause, must detach himself from all earthly things, and regard, at all times, the triumph of Our Faith as his supreme objective." (23) If one stands firm and active, and always with "the triumph of Our Cause" as his or her "supreme objective," all difficulties are overcome, indescribable spiritual blessings come, and, perhaps more important than anything else, the inner satisfaction of having, no matter how humbly, stayed to the end and done one's best.

5. In the Guardian's historic message, "The Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour, dated June 5, 1947, he directed a dramatic challenge to "the eager, the warmhearted, the spiritually-minded members of the Latin American communities," of which probably most present Latin American Bahá'ís, and pioneers, have no knowledge, and surely should have. It is as follows: this privileged, this youngest, this dynamic and highly promising member of the organic Bahá'í World Community, I feel moved, before I dismiss this aspect of my theme, to direct this general appeal to rise to the heights of the glorious opportunity which destiny is unfolding before its members. Theirs is the opportunity, if they but seize it, to adorn the opening pages of the annals of the second Bahá'í century with a tale of deeds approaching in valor those with which their Persian brethren have illuminated the opening years of the first, and comparable with the exploits more recently achieved by their North American fellow-believers and which have shed such luster on the closing decade of that same century. (24)



(There are included here only the first resident teachers and pioneers, not the short but important visits of traveling teachers.)

Mexico and Central America

1937 -- First believer: Sra. Maria del Refugio Ochoa (Mexico D.F.)
1935-44 -- Series of travel and resident teachers and pioneers
1938 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Mexico D.F.

1939-40 -- First pioneer: Gerard Sluter
1945 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Guatemala City

El Salvador
1939 -- First believer: Sr. Luis 0. Perez (San Salvador)
1939 -- First pioneer: John Eichenauer
1942 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: San Salvador

1939-40 -- First believer: Sra. Angela Ochoa Velazquez (Tegucigalpa)
1939 -- First pioneer: Antonio Rocca
1942 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Tegucigalpa

1940 -- First believer: Srta. Blanca Mejia (Managua)
1939 -- First pioneer: Mathew Kazab
1946 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Managua

Costa Rica
1940 -- First pioneer: Gayle Woolson and Amalia Ford
1941 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: San José

1939 -- First believer: Joseph Wantauk (Balboa, Canal Zone)
1939 -- First pioneer: Mrs. Louise Caswell and Mrs. Cora Oliver
1945 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Panama City

The Antilles

1940 -- First believer: Sr. Perfecto Toledo (La Habaña)
1940 -- First pioneer: Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Marangella
1942 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: La Habaña

Dominican Republic
1939-42 -- First believer: Sra. Maria Teresa Marten de Lopez
1938 -- First pioneer: Margaret Lentz
1945 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Ciudad Trujillo

Puerto Rico
1940 -- First Pioneer: Rouhiyyah Jones and Katherine Didier
1943 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: San Juan

South America

1938 -- First pioneer: Priscilla Rhodes
1945 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Caracas

1940 -- First pioneer: Gerard Sluter
1943 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Bogotá

1940 -- First pioneer: John Stearns
1943 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Quito

1941 -- First pioneer: Eve Nicklin
1944 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Lima

1940 -- First believer: Madame Yvonne de Cuellar
1940 -- First pioneer: Eleanor Smith Adler
1940 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: La Paz

1940 -- First Pioneer: Marcia Steward Atwater
1941 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Santiago
1937-40 -- Series of travel teachers
1940 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Buenos Aires

1940 -- First pioneer: Wilfrid Barton
1842 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Montevideo

1940 -- First Pioneer: Elizabeth Cheney
1944 -- Formation of first Local Assembly

1921 -- First pioneer: Leonora Holsapple Armstrong
1940 -- Formation of first Local Assembly: Bahia



Baháma Is.
Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Curwing (b2)

Mr. and Mrs.A. Mathusen (b2)
Cora Oliver (a1), Shirley Warde (a1)
Dutch Antilles
Mathew Bullock (b1)

John & Margery Kellberg (b2)
Margarita Is.
Katherine Meyer (a1)
Gilbert & Ellice Is.
Roy & Elena Fernie (a2)
Marshall Is.
Marcia Steward Atwater (a1)
Tuamotu Archipelago
Jean Savin (France) (d1)


British Guiana
Malcolm King (a1)
Chiloe Is.
Sra. Z. de Palacio (c1)
Dutch Guiana
Robert & Elinor Wolf (b2)
French Guiana
Eberhard Friedland (b1)
Galapagos Is.
Gayle Woolson (a1)
Juan Fernando Is.
Mr. & Mrs. Salvador Tormo (c2)
Leeward Is.
Ben & Gladys Weeden (b1)

Mr. & Mrs. Charles Dayton (b2)

David Schreiber (b1)

Ede Renmder (b1)
Windward Is.
Esther Evans (b1),

Lilian Middleniad (b1)
Cook Is.
Edith Danielson (b1)

Dulcie Dive (Australia)(d1)

Total Knights of Bahá'u'lláh: 32. Origin: (a) 8 foreign pioneers already serving in Latin America, (b) 19 from the U.S.A., (c) 3 Latin American Bahá'ís, (d) 2 from other countries.


1. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan: Revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í, Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1993, 8 April 1916 Tablet.

2. Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America. 1932-1946, Bahá'í Publishing Committee, Wilmette, Ill., 1947, p. 6.

3. Garreta Busey, from article entitled "Uniting the Americas," published in The Bahá'í World, Vol. IX. 1940-1944, Bahá'í Publishing Committee, Wilmette, Ill., 1945, p. 187.

4. Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1971, p. 49.

5. Ibid., p. 49-50.

6. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1976, CLVII.

7. Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith: Messages to America, 1947-1957, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1980, p. 13.

8. Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America. 1932-1946, p. 60.

9. Ibid., p. 86.

10. Ibid., p 87-88.

11. Shoghi Effendi, "The Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour," published in Citadel of Faith: Messaages to America, 1947-1957, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1965, p 4.

12. Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith: Messages to America, 1947-1957, 1980, p. 12.

13. Ibid., p. 13.

14. Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, 1950-1957, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1971, p. 41.

15. Ibid., p. 142.

16. Ibid., p. 144.

17. Ibid., p. 152-153.

18. Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance: Messages 1963-1968, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1970, p. 1.

19. Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India, 1988, No. 1414.

20. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1987, p.324.

21. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Ill., 1976, CLVII.

22. Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India, 1972, p. 4.

23. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CLVII.

24. Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 19.
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