Philip Wood interview by Patricia Paccassi 3 Nov 2002, 19 Qudrat 159 B.E.
Becoming a Bahá’í – pg 1
Going Pioneering – pg 1-2-3
PW—The first inkling I got to go pioneering was the time I attended the U.S. National Convention in 1964. It was the first time I had been exposed to national administration and I was very much impressed with the convention and I could remember a Bahá’í named Banks, John Banks, from Texas talking about his desire to go pioneering and how important that was, and when I heard him I knew that is what I had to do, that I had to go pioneering.
I became a Bahá’í in May 1962 and this was probably while I was at this convention and this was April 21 of 1964 so I had been a Bahá’í a little over two years. At that time I had no idea how I was going to go, where I was going to go, or any real knowledge to what pioneering really meant. I was single. Karen was not with me that time in 1964. We didn’t get married until June 26, 1965. We went to Barbados in October 1967, so I had been married a little over two years to Karen when we went to Barbados.
Karen had been a Bahá’í a little less two years. Karen was not a Baha’í when we got married. I introduced her to one of the “premiere” teachers , and that woman began to teach her about the Faith. She became a Bahá’í in August 1965, just two months after we were married.
I did not get up on the stage at National Convention as a volunteer, if there was a call for volunteers, I don’t remember it. I just heard this gentleman’s presentation about pioneering and about what it meant to the Faith and how important it was. The call that I responded to is really one in my own heart and not necessarily to any appeal that anyone made for pioneering.
Karen knew I wanted to go pioneering even before we were married. I made that quite clear to her, that it was a very important part of what I wanted to do with my life. So she accepted that even before we were married. When we decided to go, Karen wrote to the, at the time, what was called the Foreign Goals Committee. There was a woman in charge of that Committee, Maurine Kraus. Karen wrote to her and we essentially said would go anywhere you would send us. We have no foreign language skills, and would therefore feel more comfortable in an area that spoke English.
They wrote back to us and said, “… we would like you to go either to the Bahamas or to Barbados”. We began exploring work opportunities in both of those places. I did not get a single answer to any of the queries I made in the Bahamas. And there were numerous queries. I did not get any answers to the queries I made in Barbados either. But we did get one positive response from the Ministry of Education in Barbados.
They responded to Karen’s inquiry about work. Since she was a qualified teacher they wrote back and said essentially “we may have something, can’t be definite, come and see us when you get here.”
No one else in my family was a Baha’i. I was the first Bahá’í in my family.
It was in the Spring of 1967 when we made the decision to pioneer. In fact I have an interesting letter, the first letter we sent to the Foreign Goals Committee they answered and said, “…enclosed is an application we would like you to fill out,…” and there was no enclosure. So that was our first effort at pioneering.
I think Karen called them and they sent the application which we filled out. But as soon as we really made the decision to go we started putting things in order. We had bought a house in February of the previous year. We put the house on the market and the house sold almost immediately. We made a bit of profit on the sale of the house. In addition to that Karen had an accident where somebody ran into her from behind and we got a payment of, I think was somewhere around $1200 from that accident.
So the money from the house and the money from the accident really allowed us to, first of all, pay off all our debts and to have a little bit left over to get us started in Barbados. I must have been 29, and Karen was three years younger.
We made our preparations. We either sold or gave away every possession we had except what would fit in three suitcases and one steamer trunk. We took the suitcases with us and we made arrangements to have the steamer trunk shipped by sea. We knew there would be some delay. But we figured in accounting for that delay that would give us time to get at least a place to stay in Barbados so that we could then we
could accommodate all the things that we had put in the steamer trunk. We cut out ties. We cut our ties. We said goodbye to my family, most of who thought we were crazy. We lived in Worcester, Massachusetts at the time and we drove to Boston and spent the night with Sam and Mimi McClelland. The next day, we had made arrangements that someone in Boston was to buy our car; they took our car and then Sam McClelland drove us to the Boston airport.
We went from Boston to Denver where we visited a little more than a week in Denver, with Karen’s mother and father. We went from Denver to the Bahá’í Congress in Chicago. This was in October of ’67, when Mr. Samandari was there and also they had the viewing of the photograph of Baha’u’llah at the House of Worship. We were able to participate in that Congress before arriving at our post in Barbados on 9 October 1967.