One of the most poignant stories we have about the Funds tells of how the land for the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (House of Worship) of India was bought. The Guardian had given his approval for the purchase of a piece of land on the outskirts of Delhi which was composed of one large plot and four much smaller ones, amounting to a total of about twenty-two and a half acres. This was in 1953 when there were not many Bahá’ís in that part of the world and the sum of Rs.(Indian Rupees) 140,289 (CAD $28,000, as of 1960’s exchange rate), which was needed for the purchase of the five plots, was a considerable amount of money. The National Spiritual Assembly allotted a portion of this sum to each area under its jurisdiction, and the members set out to visit the friends in different places, explain to them the importance of the Temple, and encourage them to contribute towards the purchase of the land. Two of the members of the Assembly arrived one day at the modest restaurant of Ardishír Rustampúr in Hyderabad. Ardishír had left his native village in Iran when he was only ten years old, to seek his fortune in India. Besides the clothes he wore at the time, he had the equivalent of $1.00 in his pocket and a few pieces of dry bread. He arrived in Bombay after a difficult journey and, as he was a Zoroastrian himself, he found a job in the restaurant of a Zoroastrian from Iran. He worked hard and saved every Paise (700 Paise = $1) he earned, dreaming of the day when he could have a restaurant of his own. Many years later, he finally managed to open a modest restaurant in Hyderabad, where he also learned about the Bahá’í Faith. Ardishír lost his heart to Bahá’u’lláh and longed to serve Him with an ardour as fervent as he had felt when he yearned for a business of his own.
So this was the man at whose place the two members of the National Assembly found themselves in Hyderabad. From them Ardishír came to know about the land that was to be bought for the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (House of Worship) and the amount of money needed. Then he asked his guests to wait for him while he went to attend to an urgent matter. When he came back he placed before them his entire capital—in cash. He had drawn from his bank all the money he had saved in his life, plus whatever cash he had in his till which he had not yet counted. The total amount was Rs. (Indian Rupees) 100,190. The two visitors were astounded by this extraordinary response to their appeal. Their discreet inquiries revealed that Ardishír had not kept a single rupee for himself. “How will you manage your business?” they asked. “This money is not mine”, Ardishír replied. ” It was given to me by Bahá’u’lláh and I have been keeping it in trust. I am happy I can give it back to Him now. If it pleases Him, He will again give me what I need.” It was useless to argue with him, but his two friends begged him to keep at least Rs. 190 for his immediate needs. The magnanimous gift of Rs. (Indian Rupees) 100,000 paid for the total cost of the first, and by far the largest, of the five plots of land for the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (House of Worship). Only a little over Rs. (Indian Rupees) 40,000 was now needed for the other four plots. Ardishír had seen the opportunity of a lifetime and had seized it without the least hesitation. It seemed as though he had struggled and saved all these years to be able to lay a worthy offering at the feet of his Lord. And this is why the name of Ardishír Rustampúr will continue to inspire all who hear of how the land for the Temple in India was bought.
There lived a Bahá’í in the Holy Land who was very poor and did not know what to do about it. One day, when he was visiting `Abdú’l-Bahá, he told the Master of his sad plight and asked what he should do. `Abdú’l-Bahá told him to go and contribute something for the Funds. The man came away down-hearted. “I have no money,” he thought to himself, “and the Master tells me to give to the Funds. Is it possible that I did not make myself clear to Him?” A whole month went by and the poor man was worse off than ever before. He could not find a job and his last few coins had been spent. Again he went to `Abdú’l-Bahá. “Dear Master,” he said, “I am completely destitute of the bare necessities of life, and I cannot endure it any longer. What am I to do?” “I have already told you”, was `Abdú’l-Bahá’s reply. The man went home in great sorrow. He wept and prayed aloud, calling for Divine mercy. `Abdú’l-Bahá had told him to give to the Funds, and he had nothing to give. Then he looked round his room. There were still a few of his possessions left. He took them to the market, sold them and gave the money to the Funds. When he came back, he found two men waiting for him at the door. “We have been searching for you for the past month”, they said, “and today we finally found out where you live. Someone mentioned your name because we are looking for an honest man to work for us. We have a very good job to offer you.” “May God forgive me”, thought the man to himself. “I should have listened to `Abdú’l-Bahá one month ago.”
The beautiful Houses of Worship which Bahá’ís have erected around the world bring together followers of different religions to pray in unity and pay homage to the One Creator of all mankind. In the serene and peaceful atmosphere of these Temples selections are read from the Holy Scriptures of the world and the listener becomes acquainted with the guidance God has sent throughout the ages. The dross of prejudice against those of other Faiths is removed from the hearts of the sincere, and a bond of understanding unites them with the rest of the human race. Many of those who have felt the blessings emanating from the Houses of Worship are yet unaware of the love and sacrifice with which Bahá’ís have raised these precious buildings to offer them as gifts to their fellow men. The following story is one of hundreds of examples of their self-sacrifice:
`Abdú’l-Bahá encouraged Bahá’ís all over the world to send donations for the construction of the House of Worship in Wilmette. At that time the Bahá’í community in Poona, India, was made up of a few families who were far from being rich. When they received `Abdú’l-Bahá’s message, they decided they would gather whatever donations they could at each Nineteen Day Feast. Although the amount given was not much, the Local Spiritual Assembly realized the sacrifice with which the friends were collecting money for the Temple. At one time it decided to ask each person who made a contribution how he or she had managed to save that money. This, we know, is not in keeping with Bahá’í principles as no one should be informed of what others give to Bahá’í Funds, nor is anyone to be questioned as to where the money comes from. In the early days of the Faith, however, many Bahá’ís, coming from different backgrounds, were not quite familiar with Bahá’í procedure and sometimes acted in a manner which seems strange to us today. The Bahá’ís of Poona, moreover, were like a close family. They were aware that most of them were quite poor, and did not consider it improper to ask each other about money matters. In any case, their story is worth telling. At a Nineteen Day Feast, when everyone gave something for that beautiful Temple being built far away in Wilmette, each told the others how he had been able to give his donation. Three of the stories were exceptionally touching. One contribution came from an old man who gave ten annas.” Each morning “, he explained, ” I have a cup of tea and a piece of bread for breakfast. It costs me ten annas. Tomorrow, I shall go without breakfast.” The second donation was six annas. It came from a woman who said, “You all know how ill my husband is. Because we cannot afford to buy a full bottle of the pills his doctor has prescribed, I buy two pills for him every day. These cost six annas. This evening, as I was preparing to come to the Nineteen Day Feast, my husband said to me, ‘ I want you to give the six annas you have put aside to buy my pills for tomorrow to the Temple Fund.’ He would listen to no argument and assured me he would not take the medicine if I bought it.” The third donation was quite a considerable amount — ten rupees. Everyone was amazed, especially as it came from one of the poorest among them. “How can you ever afford to give so much?” they asked. “Well”, said the man shyly, “every winter, when the nights get cold, I buy a few empty gunny bags from a grocer and stitch them together to make myself a covering. Last winter I suffered so much from the cold that I decided I would save every anna I could this year and buy myself a proper blanket. Now that I have managed to save the ten rupees I need for the blanket, I realize that the building of the Temple is more important. I can put up with old gunny bags for another winter.”
At the time when a House of Worship, or Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, was being constructed in Wilmette, in the United States, there were not many Bahá’ís in America and, although the rest of the Bahá’ís in the world helped with donations, there was always a scarcity of funds. Once, at a rather critical period, when the work at the Temple was coming to a standstill because of lack of money, the American National Spiritual Assembly appealed to the Bahá’ís of their community for sacrificial contributions. The response of the friends was such that the crisis was met and the building of the Temple continued. Among those who gave all they had was an elderly lady—a pure soul with a generous heart, but destitute of worldly belongings. She had been saving for some time and had managed to set aside a sum of money for her own burial. When the appeal came for donations to the Temple Fund, and she realized the urgency of the situation, she decided to give half the money she had saved to the House of Worship. After some time, when funds were still lacking for the completion of the Temple, she gave the other half, saying she could be buried in the free cemetery reserved for the destitute and did not need a stone to mark her grave. This is not the end of the story. When the Guardian of the Cause raised the call for pioneers and asked the believers to take the healing Message of Bahá’u’lláh to people who had not heard of the Bahá’í Faith, this dear lady, who was then almost ninety, a cripple in a wheelchair, went pioneering to Libya with a young cou-ple who were going to settle in Tripoli. She said she wanted to bury her bones there for the sake of the Cause of God. She died in Libya shortly after her arrival, having won the admiration of the entire Bahá’í world for her heroic deed. A loving group of Bahá’í friends from different nationalities gave her a dignified burial and said prayers at her grave. The Guardian of the Cause named her a martyr, and had a beautiful monument erected over her resting-place. He said people who hear her story in the future will pour out their resources and they will arise to pioneer—people who never knew she existed. Her name was Ella Bailey.