Lua Getsinger is a household name among Baha’is. She was among the first Western Baha’is to visit Abdu’l Baha and when he met her said to her “I have given you the power to speak and have loosened your tongue” and indeed she was to go on to become a great teacher of the Baha’i Faith. She travelled to India to support the teaching work there. When Abdu’l Baha was in America he entrusted her with travelling to California ahead of him to arrange his speaking engagements. She was sent by him to deliver a message to the Shah of Persia who was visiting Paris, to implore him to end the persecution of the Baha’is. For seven months she lived in Akka, serving as an English teacher there.
Among the well-known stories about her is the following:
Lua Getsinger, one of the early Baha’is of America, tells of an experience she had in Akka. She had made the pilgrimage to the prison-city to see ‘Abdu’l-Baha. One day He said to her that He was too busy today to call upon a friend of His who was very poor and sick. He wished Lua to go in His place. He told her to take food to the sick man and care for him as He had been doing.
Lua learned the address and immediately went to do as ‘Abdu’l-Baha had asked. She felt proud that ‘Abdu’l-Baha had trusted her with some of His own work. But soon she returned to ‘Abdu’l-Baha in a state of excitement. “Master,” she exclaimed, “You sent me to a very terrible place! I almost fainted from the awful smell, the dirty rooms, the degrading condition of that man and his house. I left quickly before I could catch some terrible disease.” Sadly and sternly, ‘Abdu’l-Baha gazed at her. If she wanted to serve God, He told her, she would have to serve her fellow man, because in every person she should see the image and likeness of God. Then He told her to go back to the man’s house. If the house was dirty, she should clean it. If the man was dirty, she should bathe him. If he was hungry, she should feed him. He asked her not to come back until all of this was done. ‘Abdu’l-Baha has done these things many times for this man, and he told Lua Getsinger that she should be able to do them once. This is how ‘Abdu’l-Baha taught Lua to serve her fellow man.[from Lua Getsinger, Herald of the Covenant]
In 1915 she was in Akka and World War 1 had already begun. The war was approaching with concern that America would soon join the war, an American gunboat had even arrived in the Bay of Haifa. Abdu’l Baha decided to send Lua back to America. He sent her home via Egypt and Europe. Something of the conditions of the time are illuminated by a letter Lua wrote at the time.
I arrived in Port Said so tired and exhausted that I could do nothing but talk to the friends . . . Praise be to God! when I left He (‘Abdu’l-Bahá) was in good health, though surrounded by difficulties and dangers which I am powerless to describe. “What He has not done for Syria! Such suffering as was manifest on all sides can scarcely be believed. People were coming day and night begging and weeping at His gate. He became the sole comfort and hope of the people whether they are believers or unbelievers. [from Lua Getsinger Herald of the Covenant]
From Port Said, Lua travelled on to Cairo, but fell ill there. She was cared for by the Baha’is but her illness stayed with her, often confining her to bed. Despite this, she continued her work of teaching the Baha’i Faith, becoming a centre of attraction. About a month before her illness brought about her passing, she wrote the following in a letter.
Little by little I am seeing all the reasons why many things are as they are, and the lessons I have to learn thereby. I am sure that until the last day of our lives, we will be learning lessons, for this world is a school, from which we graduate only when we leave it. [Star of the West, Volume VII, No. 19]
Her passing was a cause of great grief. She was buried in Cairo. Sometime later she and Mirza Abu’l Fadl were laid to rest next to each other, when the Egyptian authorities compelled the removal of Baha’i remains from Muslim cemeteries.
Annie Reneau, The Shining Lamp: Lua Getsinger 1871 – 1916
Amine de Mille, Lua Getsinger: Herald of the Covenant
(This article is the 140th in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)