Project Conversion

Project Conversion

Attending Baha’i Study Circle: A Trip Down Memory Lane

My phone rang around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, just as I had finished washing a sink full of dishes. I looked at the caller I.D. and smiled. I tapped the “answer” button and said, “Allah’u’Abha!”

It was my Baha’i Mentor from February of 2011, Dr. McCormick. She still gets tickled by the fact that I remember the Baha’i greeting.

“Allah’u’Abha Andrew, how are you?”

“Oh I’m hanging in there. What can I do for you?”

“Well, I know you’re busy these days, but we’re having Study Circle tonight and I wondered if you’d like to attend?”

I stopped drying a plate. “Did you say ‘we’?”

“Yes! There are a few people coming over who are investigating and I thought who better to help me than my old student.”

Frankly, she had me at Allah’u’Abha.

Study Circle with my Baha'i Mentor during Project Conversion

A little bit of back story.

Dr. McCormick was a proverbial needle in a haystack. According to the Baha’i locator feature on the American Baha’i website, she was the only registered Baha’i in my small town of Lumberton. She existed in isolation, so when I contacted her last year about Project Conversion, she was elated that she’d have a Baha’i family of her own, even if for only a month.

We met weekly in her home for Study Circles, times of study and devotion with Baha’i texts and those of other faiths. Our time together was fantastic, however short lived. I eventually had to leave the Baha’i Faith for my next month on the journey and thus Dr. McCormick was left alone once more.

Yet destiny had other plans.

Upon sharing my experience with the Baha’i Faith with my Intro to Religion class at the local community college, a young woman expressed interest in the faith and converted soon after. Dr. McCormick now enjoyed a small Baha’i family of her own, however the new convert moved out of state a few months later.

Fast forward a little over a year later. Now, Dr. McCormick is hosting a Study Circle with six people. I couldn’t be happier, for my Baha’i Mentor was no longer in isolation.

As is her tradition, she prepared a meal for the group. Persian rice with chicken, bread rolls, fruit, and salad were passed around the table. I sat and listed to the stories of these spiritual explorers as I fingered a set of prayer beads a Baha’i man from Maine gifted to me in February of last year. Folks from various backgrounds all searching for meaning and truth.

“So Andrew,” the woman next to me asked, “How long have you been a Baha’i?”

Dr. McCormick and I traded glances.

I smiled, “This time? Only for the last half hour.”

She winced. “What do you mean by ‘this time’?”

Dr. McCormick and I explained our time together during Project Conversion and suddenly my statement became clear.

“I always said that Andrew should come back to us because we had the shortest month in February,” Dr. McCormick quipped.

Once we finished dinner, Dr. McCormick poured black tea into small, glass cups. The earthy scent, laced with a hint of orange transported me back in time to when our Study Circles were merely a study line because it was only the two of us. Now Dr. McCormick shared her faith with a proper group.

When one of the visitors asked about the major qualities of the faith, Dr. McCormick, surprisingly, deferred to me. I was once again explaining the faith to an interested soul. It was happening again: I had slipped on the garments of another religion.

And it felt as naturally as breathing.

That’s twice it’s happened this week. First with Bethany and her interest in Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), and now with Baha’i. In both cases it felt as though my own sense of identity became transparent and I assumed the form of another. Like an octopus which morphs according to its surroundings, my inner color and contour shifted with my environment.

It will happen again, in another 45 minutes, when I attend weekly Mass at my local Catholic church.

What does this make me? Confused, searching, a charlatan, amorphous, a fraud?

Each is entitled to their own opinion, but I like what my wife had to say:

“I think you’re just open to interpretation.”

Jai Vita.

Comments read comments(13)
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posted June 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm


I’ll do my best! Send me an email at when you arrive and I will alert Dr. McCormick that you are in town.



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posted June 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Hi there, I will be visiting Lumberton in a few days and will be there for a couple weeks. I would love to connect with any Baha’i’s there and would really love if you could connect me with Dr. McCormick!! Thank you so much. ~ Rene

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Ryan Hauck

posted May 28, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Perhaps! I would enjoy that :)

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posted May 23, 2012 at 12:50 am


Very cool. Perhaps we’ll run into one another sometime : )


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Ryan Hauck

posted May 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I live in the Charleston, SC area these days. I get up to Florence once or twice a year; my mom, grandmother, and aunt all live there, as does my wife’s entire immediate family and most of her extended family. {They’re “native” to the area, whereas my family migrated there during the 70’s and 80’s.)

(Sorry for the long lag time between responses, btw. I keep forgetting this comment thread is here.)

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posted May 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm


That is just crazy. Where are you now? How often do you visit?


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Ryan Hauck

posted May 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Andrew – yup! We were practically next door neighbors. :) Matter of fact for a few years, I’d pass through Lumberton every other weekend on the way to my Dad’s house.

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posted May 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm


Doing my best.


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posted May 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Your openness to various religions is just that. OPENNESS in a very big way. :)

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posted May 18, 2012 at 3:58 am


Thank you for sharing your interactions. Greetings with a smile always make someone’s day. I’m sure your Muslim friend indeed offered du’ah for you.


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posted May 18, 2012 at 3:56 am


Florence! Oh man what a small world!


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posted May 18, 2012 at 1:41 am

eeek!! I recognize those red Ruhi books! I made it through the first one when I lived in WV, now I moved to MD there is a huge community and we are working on the second book. I love the Baha’i faith, and it speaks to me more than any other but I’m still learning. I figure I’ll know when the ‘right’ time to declare is, if it ever is.
Today I went for a walk and said Salaam aleykum to an African man in a thobe who was walking with prayer beads and qur’an verses. When he caught up later he asked if I was Muslim (enter awkward conversation about how I was Muslim in college and am not now) and asked if he could say a du’ah for me. It was beautiful, but my friend didn’t know what was going on and was a little weirded out. My weirded out meter is pretty high when it comes to religious stuff and I thought it was sweet that he would say a du’ah for me and not lecture me about apostasy!
Keep up the great work and most of all LEARNING. If I ‘gave up’ my search for faith, I would have missed out all of the knowledge about Islam, Arabic, the Baha’i faith, Iranian culture and language that I’ve learned…what a loss that would have been.

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Ryan Hauck

posted May 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I love this. Especially the part about Persian food and tea…mmm, suddenly I’m starving for some baghali polo. :)

Also, this is only slightly apropos but I grew up in Florence, so maybe an hour from Lumberton. Florence has (or at least had, when I was growing up) a very robust Baha’i community. Unfortunately I don’t know Dr. McCormick personally…but knowing how the Baha’i community works I guarantee you I know someone who does!

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