I often look back and get tears in my eyes when I realize how, through the puzzle pieces of my life, God has lovingly and masterfully led me to my purpose on this planet.
My parents were political activists in California the 1960s and 70s. They instilled in me the need for justice, and to act and speak for what one believes in. Music was also a daily part of our lives. We sang at family gatherings and political events. When I was 14, my mother and I attended a concert of Andean music. The sound of the panpipes filled my soul and from that night on, I yearned to travel to Latin America and learn Spanish. Little did I know at the time that one of the musicians, Jorge Tapia, would one day become my husband.
Jorge’s family was from Chile, a country that was ripped apart by politics, greed, and power during the 1970s. His father was one of the “Desaparecidos”, the Disappeared—victims of political abduction.
His family lived in fear for months waiting and wondering whether he would come home.
A few years later Jorge and his family were able to come to the United States to begin life anew, in a setting far from their Chilean home. They set down new roots in San Jose, California, about an hour away from my own home.
Music and faith kept Jorge joyful and determined. He found friends to accompany him in his struggles, and music to pave the path for his soul’s expression.
When I was 19, I traveled to Ecuador through a university program, and after a month of being there, I learned that my cousin was visiting South America, too. “She is part of that religion, you know? The Bahá’í Faith,” said my aunt, calling from Michigan. No, I did not know about the Bahá’í Faith.
A few weeks later I visited the lush, green coasts of Ecuador to see my cousin, and meet some of her Baha’i friends. Here was a group of young people sharing their ideas and truly listening to one another. I felt something special in that room, a glimmer, a charge, a spirit I had never known before. Now I look back and know that in that moment, my heart was touched.
But my political, new-age upbringing held me back from embracing this religion. Later, back in California, I wove in and out of my spiritual search until divorce from my first husband led me to dive into the writings and search for the truth. For months I read, I prayed, and did what I could to understand the Baha’i Writings. At the suggestion of a dear friend, I signed up for a Ruhi 1 Course at Bosch Bahá’í School. Ruhi Study Circles are designed to introduce the principles of the Baha’i Faith through study of its writings.
The whole first day of the course was magical…the writings seeped into my soul like an injection of understanding, and the smiles of the people I met surrounded me like a gentle breeze. In the evening, a bunch of young people sat around a table at the bookstore, talking about Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Faith.
After witnessing so much laughter and smiles, and sparkling eyes, I suddenly realized I was already swimming in the depths of faith. Tears streamed down my face when I realized I was a Bahá’í and I believed, and had always believed, in Baha’u’llah. I was given a Baha’i prayer book signed by those dear friends who supported and held me through that magical night.
I began teaching Baha’i children’s classes, attending further Ruhi courses, and was elected to serve on my Local Spiritual Assembly, an elected body that administers the Baha’i Faith in the community. I worked hard, and found a happiness I had never known before.
At that time, I was playing in a community Andean ensemble, where Jorge and I had met and become friends. Two years later, the man whose music had stirred my soul when I was 14 became my husband. Music was our bond, and we played together in a number of ensembles and directed a children and youth ensemble of Latin American music.
Jorge’s Catholic faith still was strong, but he was not a church–goer. He accompanied me in Baha’i children’s classes, and played music for Bahá’í events. He would often help me set up and cook for gatherings and would join us for prayers. Jorge was always a beloved part of the community because of all he gave to everyone else with his laughter, delicious food and music.
In 2010 we traveled for the third time together to Jorge’s home country of Chile, where we were invited to dinner at the home of a Bahá’í family in his home-town. I was completely unprepared for the course the evening would take. Our dear host looked directly into Jorge’s eyes, and simply, joyfully laughed and said, “Ha! You already are a Bahá’í! You just don’t know it!” I was nervous. I had always prayed for Jorge’s happiness and for our unity, but I had never spoken to him as directly our host did!
Jorge didn’t say much, but happily accepted the invitation to return two days later for a devotional gathering. That evening, after sharing prayers, our delightful host said, “Please, stay for dinner! We often have a discussion after our devotional, and tonight we are going to talk about Bahá’í marriage.”
The conversation went on to many other subjects, too. Our host said, “Jorge, it seems you have had a great teacher in what it means to be a Bahá’í. Lydia has shown you the spirit of service and community, but she has not told you who Baha’u’llah is. On this night, I will tell you.”
Our dear host proceeded to tell story after story of the beloved founder of the Baha’i Faith. As we left, at nearly 3:00 a.m., Jorge said to me, “I feel as though I am at a bus stop, and the bus has just begun to leave. I need to get on that bus.” A year later, Jorge returned to that house in his home-town, and it was there that he fully embraced the Faith and became a Bahá’í.
Around this time the U.S. was in the midst of an economic crises and Jorge was laid off by the architectural firm he had been working for. For two years he struggled to find steady work. We almost lost our home and moved in with my mother.
Living in Chile had always been a dream for us. We wanted our children to experience that country and know their father’s family, and, as we faced challenge after challenge in our lives in California, it became clearer and clearer to us, that this lack of work was just one way God was showing us that we needed to find our way back to Chile. In January 2012, we moved to Talca, Chile, a town about three hours south of Santiago.
Our challenges continued. After six months, neither one of us had found work in Talca. Our money was running out and we faced the possibility of returning to California. We both felt the deep desire to stay in Chile and decided to open up our job search to include cities all over the country. We consulted. We chose a deadline. We prayed.
Three weeks later my husband was asked to join the team building the Baha’i Temple for South America in Chile and he moved to Santiago. Three months later, on the day of our decided deadline, we signed the rental contract for our new home.
Now, when I look out my window up at the rising mountains, I am reminded of the strength and power of Baha’u’llah and His Divine Plan, and I know I am on the path He has beautifully created for me. I look back at those puzzle pieces which have served as tests–tests to help me acquire the tools and the skills I needed to live and serve in this community. While we greatly miss our Californian family, especially our three older boys, Jorge’s children from his first marriage, we know we are in the right place.
We feel blessed beyond words to be where we are now, at the foothills of the Andes Mountains, protected under the shield of the chosen Temple site. Our family feels united as we all look forward with eagerness and joy to teach and share our faith and our music with Chile, home of the South American Baha’i Temple.
Lydia Mills and Jorge Tapia’s CD is entitled ”Acompáñame a Sevir.”
This post originally appeared on Bahai Faith | Baha’i Faith | United States Official Website.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of jlitoff.