Friends, family, community

State of the Union / When Michel met Sophie

Michel and Sophie

An African Baha'i meets an American faithful who was always drawn by the call of faraway lands.

First sighting

Michel Nkouaga’s father, an engineer from the Cameroonian village Ebolowa, always liked detective novels. One day, in the library, he spotted a title that looked promising: “Thief in the Night.” He took it home, not realizing it was about the principles of the Baha’i faith, one of the world’s youngest major religions.

And, well, as his son, sitting at the Baha’i World Headquarters in Haifa several decades later, puts it, “That turned out to be a good read.”

Michel, 33, along with his four brothers and one sister, grew up following the teachings of the Bahá'u'lláh, considered by the faithful to be God’s latest messenger and the one who founded the religion in 1863 in Iran. Michel first came to Israel –where both Bahá'u'lláh and the Bab, the accepted forerunner of the faith, are buried – for a month-long visit in 2005.

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Green-Eyed Baptist Girl Marries Brown-Eyed Baha’i Boy, And They’re Living Happily Ever After

Jan Astani

This Sunday I’m speaking at a local spiritual center on how my husband and I have managed to successfully combine two cultures and two religions during our 20-year marriage. I smiled when I saw the write-up in the spiritual center’s newsletter about my talk and how it said that I’ve blended all our differences together to form a harmonious family. Just come to my house some morning as I’m trying to get two middle-school boys out the door to school, and you might re-think that adjective.

But for some reason, what we’ve got as a couple and as a family has worked during our 25-year history. So what makes it work?

I was raised as a Southern Baptist and became a Christian around 7 or 8. My husband, Faramarz, was raised as a Baha’i. My parents had their eyes on me marrying a nice, all-American Baptist boy. What they got instead was something much better – a wonderful, hard-working Persian gentleman who takes excellent care of their daughter and serves as a wonderful husband and terrific father.

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Finding and Sustaining a Successful Relationship

Finding romance isn’t easy, especially in the comparatively small Baha'i community. And once you do find that special someone, it takes work to make the relationship a success. But thanks to some digital entrepreneurs, finding love and holding onto it has gotten a little simpler.

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The eternal conversation

Louise, I went as fast as I could. You were drawing your final, heavy breaths, while I was drawing ancient, arcane syllogisms. This was our last chance to speak together in this life. We understood that all too well, and so I hurried, disentangled myself from logic and leapt across the ocean. Yet, in the end, we missed each other. I could not shake loose the tethers quickly enough, and your last smoky breath slipped away.

Humanity often ponders over her mortality, and she thinks she knows “all too well” the deep link between the material and the temporal. She doesn’t, not really. Aristotle and Einstein, though, they were individuals who did truly understand: time is matter. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains them best, writing, “This state of motion is said to be essential–that is, natural; it cannot be separated from beings because it is their essential requirement, as it is the essential requirement of fire to burn.”

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