Collection 1

April 14, 2016

A Living Spirit: Thomas Breakwell

On a hot summer day in 1901, a young man named Thomas Breakwell walked the quiet streets of Paris, France, where he was visiting. The day was very still. Flowers did not nod in the gardens; there was no wind to make them dance. Leaves did not hum in the tall trees; there was no wind to make them sing.
Suddenly, Thomas felt the air begin to move. It rushed all around him, and the breeze seemed like a sweet voice saying "Christ has come again! Christ has come again!" The sound was so loving and happy that it made Thomas happy, too. He wondered if Christ really had come again, and when and where it might have happened.

The next day, Thomas went to see his friend, May Maxwell. May Maxwell was a Baha'i from America who went all over the world teaching the Baha'i Faith. She and Thomas had talked about God before, but she had not told him about the Baha'i Faith. When he spoke to her of the sound like a sweet voice in the wind that had said "Christ has come again! Christ has come again!", she told him that she was a Baha'i, and that Baha'is believe in Baha'u'llah, the Glory of God. Baha'u'llah, she said, had the same spirit as Christ, the Holy Spirit, and He was the One Who Christ promised would come. She also said that Baha'is must help all people to know and love Baha'u'llah, so that they will love each other and live in peace together.

As soon as May Maxwell had told Thomas about Baha'u'llah, he, too, became a Baha'i. He learned that Baha'u'llah's son, 'Abdu'l-Baha, the Servant of the Glory, lived in the great prison of 'Akka, and he wanted very much to see Him. He wrote 'Abdu'lBaha a letter:

"My Lord, I believe; forgive me. Thy servant, Thomas Break well. "

'Abdu'l-Baha said that Thomas could come to see Him, so Thomas and another young Baha'i named Herbert Hopper sailed on a ship to 'Akka. As they traveled across the deep sea, they looked with wonder upon the sky and the wide waters. All things seemed beautiful because the two men were filled with the love of God.

At the end of their journey, they came to 'Akka. Big stone walls enclosed the whole town. No one who lived in 'Akka could go beyond those walls. They were all like prisoners.

Thomas and Herbert were allowed to go into the prison through the gate in the high wall, to 'Abdu'l-Baha's house. In a large room, some Baha'is from the East sat talking. They wore long robes and had turbans on their heads. Herbert Hopper smiled and sat down with them, but Thomas sat down alone.

"Who are these people?" he asked himself. "What am I doing here?" He felt sad and sick. He was sick with doubt. He did not trust God. He did not remember that God loves everyone. His faith had weakened.

Suddenly a door opened, and Thomas saw a wonderful light. It looked as though the sun were rising in the room. Thomas jumped up and saw that the light was 'Abdu'lBaba's love for everyone, a love which came through Him from God. Thomas never doubted God's love again; he never lost his faith.

In 'Akka, Thomas had many talks with 'Abdu'l-Baha. One day, he told 'Abdu'l-Baha about his job in a cotton mill in the United States. Children also worked in that cotton mill. [1] They were too small and too weak to do heavy work, so many of them became sick. They did not have good food or clothes, and they could not go to school. Thomas was grieved about this because he was the boss of those children. He felt he was doing wrong, and asked 'Abdu'l-Baha to forgive him.

'Abdu'l-Baha told Thomas to quit the job, so Thomas followed the advice and did not go back to the cotton mill. Instead, he went back to France and lived in a poor part of Paris, which was far away from the other Baha'is. To see them, he had to walk until his legs and feet hurt, but he would not spend money to ride in a carriage. He wanted to save what little money he had for the Baha'i Fund.

Thomas Breakwell was the first Baha'i from the West to pay the Huququ'llah, which only the Persian Baha'is paid at that time. This is giving a set part of their money to a special Fund. Thomas gave so much money to the Huququ'llah that he had no money left for himself. But this did not worry him. He didn't even care whether he ate or not.

One day, May Maxwell was taking him in a horse-drawn bus to see some Baha'is, when he looked out the window and saw an old lady trying to push an apple cart up a hill. He jumped off the bus and helped her.

Thomas helped many people in his life. He believed that we are all God's children, and that God's children must help one another.

Thomas Breakwell did not live to be very old, but his life was long enough to gain great spiritual rewards. In his honor, 'Abdu'l-Baha revealed a beautiful tablet. In it, He said:

"Oh my beloved! Oh Breakwell! Thou hast become a star in the most exalted horizon, a lamp among the angels of heaven, a living spirit in the Supreme World, and art established upon the throne of immortality. "
(By Janet Homnik, illustrations by Betty DeAraujo; 'The Brilliant Star' magazine, November-December 1999)
[1] At that time the United States had no laws against child labor.