February 22, 2012

The amazing story of how Hand of the Cause Roy Wilhelm became a Baha’i

Roy's mother was a Baha’i, one of the earliest believers in the United States. But Roy, though tolerant of his mother's beliefs, couldn't see himself fitting into the Baha’i pattern. He was satisfied with his life-style. He was financially secure, a respected entrepreneur. So he pursued life as he had done for years. You might say he was a creature of habit. Every work day Roy would get up at the same time, wear dark conservative suits, buy the Herald Tribune from the same newstand, and take the same train to Wall Street. When he returned home in the afternoon, he would take the same train, and stop off at the same flower shop to buy his mother flowers. Upon arriving home, he would regularly go to his room, remove his suit coat, replacing it with a dinner-jacket, sit on his bed to remove his shoes and put on slippers.

One day that pattern was altered, but what happened was purely involuntary. He was sitting on his bed, changing his shoes, when his room was suddenly transformed. The walls were whitewashed, and there was a divan. Standing next to Roy was a majestic figure with a long black beard, dressed in what appeared to be an oriental gown. The figure approached Roy, taking off His ring and placing it on Roy's finger and removing Roy's ring and placing it on His finger.

Roy was riveted to the bed, too startled to feel fear, so awed that he couldn't utter a word. When whatever had developed before him faded away, he tried to analyze what had happened, but he was baffled. This practical man was not prone to psychic experiences. Visions were things he heard his mother's friends talk about; and he secretly felt that half of them were less than mentally balanced.

Roy didn't tell anyone about the experience. Certainly not his friends, because they would most certainly consider him crazy; and had he related the incident to his mother, she would resume her campaign to draw him into the Baha’i Faith. But eventually he shared his secret, despite the fact that he had planned never to reveal it. A power greater than him unlocked his heart.

When Roy's mother received word that she could go to the Holy Land to see 'Abdu'l-Baha, she asked if her son would escort her. It didn't take much to persuade him to go along, because he didn't want his mother travelling alone to a strange and dangerous place halfway around the world. Seeing the Master in 1907 was difficult, because he was still a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire.

So when they reached the Haifa area, they had to be smuggled into the Master's house at night, lest the enemies of the Faith and the Covenant-breakers spotted the Wilhelms. When 'Abdu'l-Baha saw Roy, He approached him with outstretched arms and hugged him so hard that Roy thought several of his ribs had been cracked. The very proper and Victorian Roy had never been hugged by a man before. It happened so swiftly that he didn't have time to retreat from the Master's embrace. Besides, the hug convinced him that he was most welcome, and whatever reservations he had about the safety and sanity of the place vanished.

Upon the urging of the Master, Roy went to 'Akka and Bahji. Before reaching Bahji, the carriage he was riding in stopped at the Garden of Ridvan. There, one of the Persians led him to a small white house where Baha’u’llah had stayed whenever He visited the Garden. As he entered, he sensed that he had been there before. It was the same room in which that extraordinary figure exchanged rings with him. Roy jumped back, retreating quickly to the garden, shaken. He could no longer hide the secret; he felt a strong urge to share this experience with 'Abdu'l-Bahh - nobody else.

'You had a spiritual experience,' the Master told Roy. 'Baha’u’llah had wedded you to His Faith.'

From that day on Mr. Roy C. Wilhelm was a Baha'i, never entertaining even the thought of divorcing himself from the Faith… Steadfastness and firmness in the Covenant seemed to be reflected in almost everything Roy did. The Faith was the primary force in his life. He knew what Baha’u’llah represented to the world; without Him there was death. And he understood 'Abdu'l-Baha’s relationship to the Blessed Beauty. What the Master said was what Baha’u’llah would say. When 'Abdu'l-Baha asked Roy to do something, he did it without hesitation. And the Master knew how strong Roy's faith was. That's why he was often called upon to do what most other believers weren't mature enough to do.
(Nathan Rutstein, ‘He Loved and Served, The Story of Curtis Kelsey’, pp. 24-27)