A few years ago, my husband and I embarked on a mission to share our faith with the people of Eastern Canada. We came to love and value many people we met, whether or not they had any interest in our particular brand of faith. One of these wonderful new friends was Blanche Moyaert. She seemed like the answer to any missionary’s prayer: she was full of faith, genuinely interested in our message, and willing to take time to discuss it. She attended an open house and concert we helped to present. We eventually understood that even though she had found and embraced a different faith than ours, she WAS genuinely interested in our message and in us as her brother and sister. We have continued our friendship on social media, and we’ve seen her do much good in the world by embracing the common bonds we share as people of faith.
I asked Blanche to answer some questions about her willingness and ability to open her arms and heart to everyone she encounters. I wish I could share every inspired word she offered, but here are some specific ideas for making and celebrating our friends of any faith and even those who profess none. The conclusion examines how her faith has defined her life and service.
Why do you take time to learn about and acknowledge other religions and their members?
I am happy when I am with people of Faith. I can feel the Holy Spirit moving in them. We recognize each other. I take time to learn about other religions because it broadens my understanding of life. Each religious group has a different focus on a certain aspect of spirituality, and the people reflect different attributes of God….
What are some core beliefs that you find in most or all religions you have encountered?
All the religions I have encountered believe in submission to a higher authority. They develop virtues by following this divine authority. A book or teacher or set of teachings direct the way to live a good life. One rule that seems to be in each is what we call the Golden Rule. (People should treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves). There is usually an aspect of charity or giving in the Faith. And always love. People of Faith are also concerned with justice, with reward and punishment. Most consider an afterlife.
What do you think is the most important task of those who have faith in a higher power?
The first task is to come to know God. We are made in the image of God. Our personal purpose is to acquire virtues. To do this we need to understand the attributes of God so that we can mirror them.
Secondly is to help bring others closer to also know God. We do this through love for all, creating unity and interacting with others. People of Faith are the force, the stimulus, the leaven to bring forward society, to build community, and advance civilization.
What suggestions would you give to other women who desire to broaden their understanding of the commonalities in religions?
I suggest to begin by reading other holy books. If she is familiar with her own holy writings, she will be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in the Words of God. Join interfaith groups where you can interact personally with people of other Faiths. Working together to a common purpose is a great way to really get to know others. Keep an eye out for public festivals, events, prayer meetings and other chances to participate with another faith community. These events are a way to make friends with others and find out what their faith really means to them. Accept any invitations that come your way to join with others, even if you feel a bit nervous or shy. Just remember that these other people are also God’s children, part of your family. People are always so happy to welcome you, that you have accepted them. Think of it as a big family reunion. And when someone comes to your door wanting to talk about God, invite them in and listen.
Blanche shared her own journey of faith. I wish there were time and space to share it, but here are her thoughts on how her faith has defined all her life and areas of service. Her words and choices struck a deep chord with me and align closely with many of our Big Ocean tenets.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been without it. My faith affected my sexual choices, limiting sex to marriage with one partner, faithfulness during marriage and chastity outside marriage. Following this law has also allowed me to have good friendships with men, as well as women.
My faith affected my choices on where to live, deciding to go where I could be of best service to God. Many times I chose in consultation with the entire family, and with Baha’i institutions, to move as a Baha’i pioneer, that is volunteer to settle in another locality with the intention of spreading the Baha’i teachings or supporting existing Baha’i communities. Now that I am retired I am living half the year here in Antwerp, Belgium, to help with the consolidation and community building.
My choices of work are based on my faith. Previously I had always said that a teacher was the last thing I wanted to do, mostly because it was one of the few careers expected of a girl. Education has become my calling. But not only as a school teacher. I also chose to have four children and as their primary educator teach them about God. Children are given in trust to return to God from whom they come. For this reason I did not put them in daycare but spent time with them at home until they went to school. I thank my husband for making it possible to do this.
My faith has helped me choose to avoid alcohol and drugs which has protected me from a lot of grief I have witnessed.
My faith has made me choose to take risks, depending on the protection of God. I have been able to expand my circle of friends to include people from many different places, different languages, cultures, faiths, political leanings. My faith has enriched my whole life experience. Despite the normal ups and downs, crises and victories, through contentment with the will of God, my faith has given me great joy.
Blanche’s life is the Golden Rule personified. May we step out of our own narrow definitions of faith and goodness and use her ideas to bless others and enrich our own lives by uniting with women of faith everywhere. One woman I know simply delivered a little treat and Christmas greeting to EVERY family on her street instead of those throughout the neighborhood who share her faith.
What have you done? What will you do going forward?
Written by Norma Hendrickson