By Chris Cholas
Early in 1984 I made a brief travel teaching visit from my home on Puerto Rico’s Vieques Island to the nearby island of St. Kitts. I had enjoyed a teaching visit to St. Kitts once before, and since then St. Kitts and Nevis had attained full independence from British rule.
The Bahá’í friends in Basseterre, the new nation’s capital with a population of about 15,000, had arranged several evening meetings for me. During the daytime, they suggested that I take public transport and visit villages where Bahá’ís lived. I was encouraged to especially visit a Bahá’í in the village of Sandy Point.
So one beautiful January morning I arrived at Sandy Point. As I stepped off the bus, a couple of children immediately approached me. I told them the name of the Bahá’í who I wanted to see, and they asked me to follow them along a path to a humble house not far away. I asked for the Bahá’í and learned that he was known by his nickname, Conant. Apparently, Conant and a brother were both believers, but his brother was away and Conant was presently at work as the school watchman.
After visiting with members of the household, I went to the schoolyard where I found Conant sitting on a wall listening to a cricket match on the radio. Cricket’s popularity is widespread in the Caribbean, and Caribbean teams often complete well against other Commonwealth teams.
Conant expressed his pleasure to have a Bahá’í visitor and asked me if I could stay in Sandy Point until his shift finished so he could take me teaching. I agreed to meet him at the schoolyard in the early afternoon when his replacement arrived. I left Conant with his radio on and the cricket teams taking a tea break.
With a couple of hours to spare, I decided to tour Sandy Point and visit with people who might be out. With many people out, greeting and visiting them took no effort at all and soon I had an opportunity to teach the Faith to several women and their children in front of a house. Using a teaching book with photos attracted their full attention until two men approached the house from the road. The first man looked at me, then at the teaching book. Then, in a hostile voice he growled, “Bahá’í! It’s a trick!” The man gave me no chance to respond, as he pushed his way past the gathered women and children and disappeared into the house. The women quickly dispersed, followed by the children who hesitated before wandering off.
I was left with an open teaching book and the second man. The second man asked gently, “Are you a Bahá’í?”
Still baffled by the abrupt interruption that had just occurred, I cautiously answered, “Yes, I am.”
The young man, then, enthusiastically said, “A Bahá’í here named Conant has taught me about the Bahá’í teachings, and I like them very much.”
“Well,” I cheerfully replied, “I plan to see Conant in a while when he finishes his work.”
“Conant is a watchman at the school,” my new friend volunteered. Then looking at my teaching book, he asked, “What book do you have there?”
I showed him the book as he approvingly nodded with each explanation. Then I invited him to register as a Bahá’í if he believed that Bahá’u’lláh was the Messenger of God for this new age, and wanted to try to follow His Teachings.
My listener immediately said, “Yes, I would like to be a Bahá’í.” He filled out a card, and I gave him a small prayer book and introductory pamphlets.
It was almost time to meet Conant, so I invited my new friend to go with me. He thanked me, but indicated that he needed to go home, so we walked to his house, where I left him.
Conant was very pleased that one of his friends had become a Bahá’í. The next watchman had arrived for his twelve-hour shift, so Conant was off work until something like two in the morning for his own twelve-hour shift. I thought that Conant might be tired from being up for many hours, but he said that he wanted to take me to visit his friends. We stopped briefly at his house, so he could change clothes and have something to eat, and then we were off.
The first stop was to his next-door neighbor, a friendly woman with a broad smile. Conant greeted her by asking, “Have you made your decision yet?” I didn’t know what he meant, but I guessed that it had something to do with local, village business.
His neighbor asked, “What decision?”
“About the Bahá’í Faith,” Conant answered. “I have a Bahá’í teacher with me who can explain it to you so you’ll understand what it is.”
She readily invited us into her house, and I gave a brief presentation using the teaching book. She agreed with most of the teachings, but told us that she was active in her church and wasn’t ready to become a Bahá’í yet. She left the possibility open for future visits to learn more.
After conversing awhile longer with this pleasant lady, Conant and I took our leave and almost immediately met another one of Conant’s friends. Again Conant greeted the man with the question, “Have you made your decision yet?” And again he introduced me as a Bahá’í teacher, who could explain the Bahá’í Faith so that his friend could understand what it is. The man was in the middle of an errand, so I shared only the basic Message of the Faith emphasizing the station of Bahá’u’lláh as God’s new divine Messenger for all of mankind.
In this way we spent the remainder of the afternoon, and as sunset approached and I needed to catch a bus back to Basseterre, Conant and I reviewed the day’s results — six people had declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh and registered as members, and another dozen or so were “interested in learning more”. Conant then told me that he could not read nor write, and that he didn’t remember all of the history and teachings of the Faith, but he could give out Bahá’í pamphlets. He always told the people that they needed to make a decision about the Bahá’í Faith, and when the next Bahá’í teacher came to Sandy Point, he would bring the teacher by to explain the Faith and answer questions. I was amazed at this simple but profoundly effective teaching method, which had produced six new believers in one afternoon.
I wrote down my address for Conant before leaving, and I asked him if he had more pamphlets. He replied that his supply was almost empty, so I gave him a handful of pamphlets that I had in my shoulder bag for such a purpose.
Several weeks later, back in Vieques, Puerto Rico, a letter came from Conant, written by his friendly neighbor. He thanked me for my visit to his village, told me that all of the new believers were fine, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, he wanted to know how to get a couple of teaching books, like the one I had used in Sandy Point. The letter closed with “your Bahá’í friend” and was signed in his own scribbled handwriting, simply “Conant”
I sent him several teaching books and included a few notes of greetings to both the new believers and his neighbor. A month later my family and I moved from Vieques.
(Map of St. Kitt’s) https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-62.7227119,14z