Thornton Chase, the First Western Baha'i, in his Study
Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmete, Used With Permission

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Hand of the Cause Who Dedicated Her Life To Making Shoghi Effendi Happy

During the Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha, He did not name any living Hands of the Cause of God, but elevated four believers posthumously to the rank of Hands of the Cause. (Baha'i World, Volume XIV, p. 446)  Shoghi Effendi followed this same pattern during the first 25 years of his Guardianship, designating ten believers posthumously as Hands of the Cause of God, including John Esslemont, Louis Gregory, Keith Ransom-Kehler, Siyyid Mustafa Rumi, and Martha Root.  He appointed the First Contingent of the Hands of the Cause in December, 1951.  This group included Amelia Collins.  However, he had actually appointed her several years earlier, though he did not then publicize her appointment.  She was the first living Hand appointed by Shoghi Effendi.

In 1947 he wrote to her:

“The high rank you now occupy, and which no Baha'i since the Master's passing has ever held in his own lifetime has been conferred solely in recognition of the manifold services you have already rendered, and is, by no means, intended to be a stimulus or encouragement in the path of service. Indeed the character of this latest and highly significant service you have rendered places you in the category of the Chosen Nine who, unlike the other Hands of the Cause, are to be associated directly and intimately with the cares and responsibilities of the Guardian of the Faith.  I feel truly proud of you, am drawn closer to you, and admire more deeply than ever before the spirit that animates
you. May the Beloved reward you both in this world and the next for your truly exemplary achievements. Gratefully and affectionately, Shoghi.”

(Milly, by the Hand of the Cause Abu'l-Qasim Faizi, p. 14. It has ISBN: 978-0-85398-074-2 and though it is out of print, it is a wonderful book, and you may be able to find it in a library or on the Internet)

Now let us look at this great Hand of the Cause of God, whose services to the Faith were towering.  Among her services, in random order:  She served as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States; as a member of the International Baha'i Council and as its Vice-President; as a Hand of the Cause of God, and as one of the Nine Hands in the Holy Land; as one of the Custodians of the Baha'i Faith; she purchased the land on Mount Carmel for the future Mashriqu'l-Adhkar; she gave Shoghi Effendi the funds for a magnificent gate at the Most Holy Shrine, which he designated the Collins Gate; she was entrusted by Shoghi Effendi with locks of Baha'u'llah's hair, which she brought to the United States National Convention, and placed in the National Baha'i Archives; she donated funds which enabled Shoghi Effendi to purchase sacred sites for the Faith in a number of countries around the world, including national Baha'i centers, temple sites, and endowments, as well as properties in the Holy Land itself; she served as one of Shoghi Effendi's secretaries; and she provided the funds for the Hands of the Cause to travel the world and raise up the National Spiritual Assemblies which elected the Universal House of Justice in 1963.  She was an intimate friend to Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum.

What led her to render such extraordinary services?  We can gain an insight, by knowing what verse in the Baha'i Writings was her lifetime guide.

Shoghi Effendi wrote to the Baha'is of Persia in 1923:

“How often the beloved Master was heard to say: Should each one of the friends take upon himself to carry out, in all its integrity and implications, only one of the teachings of the Faith, with devotion, detachment, constancy and perseverance and exemplify it in all his deeds and pursuits of life, the world would become another world and the face of the earth would mirror forth the splendours of the Abha Paradise.”

(From a letter dated 12 January 1923 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'ís of Persia, translated from the Persian; Compilation on Living the Baha'i Life, The Compilation of Compilations, Volume II, p. 1, paragraph 1266)  

In that passage, we see the value of dedicating ourselves utterly to carrying out even one of the divine teachings.

In the closing passages of His Will, Abdu'l-Baha writes lovingly of Shoghi Effendi:

“O ye the faithful loved ones of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá! It is incumbent upon you to take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi, the twig that hath branched from and the fruit given forth by the two hallowed and Divine Lote-Trees, that no dust of despondency and sorrow may stain his radiant nature, that day by day he may wax greater in happiness, in joy and spirituality, and may grow to become even as a fruitful tree.” (¶ 54, page 25)

This is the verse that was the life-song of the Hand of the Cause Amelia Collins. In his wonderful booklet about her, Mr. Faizi writes:

“Milly often said that she knew very little about the Writings, but loved to listen to the Tablets and prayers and to hear the stories of the early days of the Cause. 'Out of the immense treasury of all the Writings,' she said, 'I memorized one sentence and did my utmost to follow that one injunction. It served as a lamp of guidance, shedding light on the dark and obscure paths of my life. That phrase is from the Will and Testament of the Master, where He says that the friends should make Shoghi Effendi happy. Whatever step I took in my life, any vote cast in the Assemblies, any trip taken, even any thought, I would first ask myself whether my vote, words, trip or thought would make him happy. When I was sure, then I would take action without fear.'”

Of all the verses in the Texts!  Not one of the profound and soaring insights from the Manifestation; not one of His laws; not a verse that she needed to know the original Persian or Arabic to gain a deeper insight.  So simple, so obvious a verse.  She had such purity.

There is a charming story recounted by Mr. Faizi, concerning Mrs. Collins during her advanced years. This was during the ministry of the Hands of the Cause, when they were traveling the world to raise up the National Spiritual Assemblies that would in turn elect the Universal House of Justice.

Mr. Faizi recounts that one day she asked, “'Why am I alive? I am ill, weak and not able to travel and teach. What is the use of my life?' It was a winter's day when this conversation took place, in the office of the Hands of the Cause, where a small kerosene stove was burning. I said to her, 'Milly dear, isn't the weather very cold now?' 'Yes,' she replied. 'How is it that we can sit here, hold meetings, read letters, send messages to the Baha'i world, in such comfort and ease? It is because of that little stove that is burning. It doesn't say anything. Does it make speeches? Does it travel? Never! The stove burns as long as it has kerosene. It gives its heat to us very generously and in that
warmth we work. This is true of our physical comfort; then how much more do we need spiritual heat to give us energy and power to go on and carry the load to the year sixty-three, when we shall surrender all into the hands of the Supreme Body. Now dearest, you are our spiritual stove. You burn and we speak, write, travel.' A beautiful smile lighted her lovely face and she reached up her hands to me to signify that I should help her up
and accompany her, to her room.” (“Milly,” by A.Q. Faizi)

Few have attained the station of Amelia Collins.  Few have rendered such service to the Cause of God. 

 Amelia Collins at the grave of May Maxwell, near Buenos Aires, Argentina

Copyright © 2010 Baha'i National Archives, Wilmette, used with permission.

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1 comment:

  1. There is a story about a Japanese man who tended the gardens for the Master. When asked what he was most proud of the man said that he had sometimes made the Master smile