by Jack McLean
During this past July, I was fortunate enough to have been able to offer my services for the entire month of July to the Bahá’í communities of Great Britain and France. I had been a semi-regular travel-teacher in England during the 1990’s but I had not returned to France in some 34 years, where during the late 1960’s, I had studied at the Sorbonne. In England, my offer was forwarded to the “Travel Teaching Service”, relayed and picked up by a very energetic and devoted servant of the Cause, Raewyn Blomfield of Epsom, County Surrey, a town located about 40 minutes by rail south of London. (No relation to the famous Lady Blomfield). My travel-teaching circuit was preceded by a paper entitled “Shoghi Effendi’s Concept of History” which I delivered at the combined Irfán-ABS Conference held at the University of London.
Raewyn and her family of four young adults offered me hospitality. It was Raewyn who voluntarily prepared my complete itinerary during my stay in Epsom. Her dedication to teaching the Faith was inspiring on a continent that, with few exceptions, is sunk deep in a torpid secular materialism and is slow to respond to the life-giving teachings of a new world faith. My activities consisted of firesides, deepenings, one public meeting, making friends with neighbours, two of whom were born-again Christians, and a lively and spontaneous BBC radio interview with Mr. John Radford at the Brighton Studios, a program that was listened to by some100,000 people. I also visited with the Bahá’ís in Epsom and had the pleasure of attending the Martyrdom of the Báb with them. While my activities centred in and around Epsom, they included a well-attended fireside in Wimbledon where I spoke on the Search for Truth. (No time to play tennis, however).
In mid-July I headed south for France, taking the ferry in a five-hour crossing from Portsmouth to LeHavre. The French NSA had assigned Mrs. Solange Issakhany, a Bahá’í of Brazilian origin, to plan an itinerary. Solange told me they wanted to “profiter au maximum” (to take full advantage) of my visit. They were true to their word. In France I was really put through my paces, taking the TGV, train de grande vitesse, (fast train), which rolls along at 300 kms. per hour in the straightaway, to three points of the compass: Normandy in the North, the Côte d’Azur in the South and Brittany in the West. I visited 8 different towns and cities: Rouen, Gournay, Marseille, Nice, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, Vannes and, of course, Paris. Meeting old friends in the City of Lights was a real boon.
I scarcely had time to open my suitcase before I was off to the next destination and another talk. Paris was a luxury since it afforded a two and half-day visit at the end of my stay. The talks and deepenings were both formal and informal and included such topics as La Spiritualité dans l’Occident (Spirituality in the West) at the Bahá’í Centre in Lyon, an evening organised by the youth, and deepenings on the life and work of Shoghi Effendi in Paris and elsewhere. In Brittany (Vannes), I met up again with an extraordinarily dedicated teacher of the Faith, Guyonne David, a woman now in her 80’s, who can rightly be called the “mother of Brittany”, since a good number of the Bahá’ís in that region were brought into the Faith by Guyonne, including two former nuns whom I met!
I had 3 radio interviews in France, one in Paris at Radio 19, and two in Clermont-Ferrand. Both stations were hosted by Bahá’ís. The highlight of my stay in Paris was the visit to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s apartment at 4 avenue des Camoëns, in the Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower, now owned by the French NSA, and designated by the Universal House of Justice as a holy site, in which the Master gave most of the Paris Talks during his 3 month stay in that city (1911-1912).
Friends! Wherever you travel for our beloved Faith, you will be warmly greeted by the local Bahá’ís who, like us, need encouragement and stimulation from the friends abroad to inspire them to carry on with their work in the Cause. You will be richly rewarded for your efforts by the wonderful souls you will meet on the way and happy knowing that you have arisen to meet the call for travel-teachers everywhere.
- Lovingly yours,