“She Elevates my Soul”: Friendship on Georgina Island

Mandana Sabet has been visiting Indigenous communities in Canada and Greenland since she arrived in Canada decades ago. Alongside Bahá’í friends in Newmarket and Georgina, in the York North Cluster, Mandana has been building relationships with families living on the Georgina Island reserve for some time. She recalls a friend calling her to say there was a woman on the island named Delores, who wanted to know about the Bahá’í Faith. “We made arrangements, and I went.”

When Mandana went to visit Delores, she brought something special to share with her about the history of the Faith in her own community. 

“I had this photo of my mother. Many years ago I brought my mother to the reserve and she met Barbara Charles, who was the only Bahá’í on the reserve. I brought it because I wanted to tell Delores about Barbara Charles, a Bahá’í from her own community. But when I shared the photo with Delores, I realized that Barbara was actually her mother! As soon as she saw the picture, she started to cry. She said: ‘Our mothers connected us together.’ Our friendship was immediately strengthened.” 

Later, Mandana realized that Delores had reached out to a mutual friend “because she came to a point in her life that she wanted to know about the Bahá’í Faith, as she knew that her mother was part of this Faith.” 

Mandana and Delores continued to visit each other over several months. “I invited her to my house, and she started coming on a weekly basis to visit with me. Tremendous love and friendship formed between us, and at the beginning there were always prayers and sharing the Writings.” Delores would sometimes share these books with her own family, including her son, who also drummed at one of the Bicentenary celebrations.

In addition to praying and reading the Bahá’í writings, the two friends talked about the value of Delores’s community and culture. “She could see how much I was learning from her. Truly she is a spiritual giant.”

Mandana describes Delores’ spiritual practice with admiration: When asked what she feels she has learned from Delores, Mandana shared. 

“She wakes up every morning at early dawn and she takes time and really prays for the animals, for the earth, with nature. Her spiritual connection with the Creator. There’s a lot of suffering, but also her sincerity and her true desire to help others is very palpable. That humility also is so present, it’s mind boggling and I really admire her.” 

When they visit together, “she comes at 10am and then leaves at 2pm, four or five hours pass and it was like five minutes to me. She elevates my soul, she truly does.”

Mandana and Delores have continued to learn from each other for over a year, ”We were both sharing.” Delores began to connect with Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Mandana continued to learn more about the Anishinaabe culture on Georgina Island. “She invited me to the reserve one day [for] a moon ceremony and we celebrated the moon with a fire outdoors and also said Bahá’í prayers. It was so unbelievably beautiful.” 

A painting of the full moon
A painting created by Mandana Sabet, after sharing in the Moon Ceremony on Georgina Island

Throughout the pandemic, praying together and celebrating Holy Days have been a source of strength for both of them. Mandana says, “It was the power of the prayers and my mother and her mother that helped us both.” They continued to have profound conversations, “It’s just been such amazing spiritual conferences that we’ve been having.”

“Then this spring, she asked me herself, she said ‘How do you become a Bahá’í?’ I told her the process, I said, ‘As long as you believe in Bahá’u’lláh, you’re a Bahá’í, but of course we can register you at the National.’ She said ‘I want to become a Bahá’í.’”

Manada also shares that:

 “No matter what kind of teaching we do, what matters is the tremendous love that we feel for the other person and respecting their background and culture. I read that once Adib Taherzadeh was describing how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was teaching and that He listened to the person so attentively as though He was learning from them, this is what it was like for me, I was really learning from her.”[1] 

In addition to studying books about the Faith together, Mandana and Delores have begun studying the courses of the Institute. Mandana frames it as “I’m studying Ruhi Book 1 from her right now.” Always in these spaces, they ensure that the spiritual atmosphere is there, always starting with prayers, and even studying prayers.

Her reflections mirror more recent guidance from the Universal House of Justice that states:

 “all activity begins with this simple strand of love. It is the vital thread from which is woven a pattern of patient and concentrated effort, cycle after cycle, to introduce children, youth, and adults to spiritual ideas; to foster a feeling for worship through gatherings for prayer and devotion; to stimulate conversations that illuminate understanding…”[2]

[1] Adib Taherzadeh. The Child of the Covenant: A Study Guide to the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Oxford: George Ronald, 2000

[2] Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2015

Get in touch with the neighbourhood team in this story, or share your own learning with Ontario Baha’i here.

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