Bill Hyman is a dedicated Baha’i who has been serving his community in American Samoa for decades. He has been tirelessly promoting the teachings of the Baha’i Faith in all avenues of the media and most recently this includes the release of a book that combines his profound love for the Bible and some personal anecdotes. The book is cleverly titled South-southwest of Pago Pago: A Bible Lover’s Guide to the Baha’i Faith and Bill graciously agreed to tell us about it. Here’s our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in London, England in 1938, and left, at the age of 18, to work overseas for Cable and Wireless Ltd, a communications company, serving in Barbados, Brazil, Trinidad, Jamaica and Belize. I emigrated from Jamaica to Canada and first heard of the Baha’i Faith when serving in Hawaii for a Canadian communications company. I already believed in the Baha’i principles so I was not particularly impressed. My teacher was a converted Methodist minister. I had the view that if this prophet was as important as my teacher was trying to tell me He was, I would have heard about Him long ago. My first wedding was in Hawaii at the Honolulu Baha’i Center though neither my wife nor I were Baha’is at the time. We wanted a religious ceremony and considered ourselves more Baha’i than anything else. I took my bride back to Canada but the marriage did not last long and the resulting trauma made me look back at the Faith again. I needed a stable platform. After more firesides and study I decided to become a Baha’i, partially to check it out from the inside. Both my first wife and I became Baha’is after our divorce, and our second spouses were Baha’is.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?
I was a nominal Christian who hardly ever read the Bible although I still became a Sunday school teacher. My view was that I may not believe everything I am teaching these kids but it is positive and should help them to progress on a good path. I sometimes wonder how many ministers feel the same way. I met my second wife, Jane, at a fireside I was giving when I used to teach hippies in N. Plainfield, New Jersey. One couple were devil worshipers, but became ardent Baha’is. Jane was brought by Baha’i match-makers. We started teaching as a team at Baha’i gatherings and realized that we wanted to pioneer. We decided to marry and pioneer to Western Samoa, to fill a 9 Year Plan goal for the USA for two English speaking pioneers to settle there. I used the Bible a lot to teach in Samoa and came to know it and love it far more than when I was a Christian. I firmly believed then, as I do now, that knowledge of the Bible is very important if we want to teach Christians. I was very pleased with other efforts to teach Baha’is Christian subjects and was influenced a lot by Dr. Young’s seminar, which I have led 3 times.
I believe we should be straightforward, honest and audacious when teaching. Our Writings tell us this. We are also told to teach with wisdom. I consider that the epitome of wisdom is learning how audacious to be. It means we may make some mistakes but we learn from them.
I have been involved with producing press articles, radio programs and television programs for many years and I thought they would help others to teach the Faith, so I decided to compile these articles into a book. The title is South-southwest of Pago Pago – a Bible Lover’s Guide to the Baha’i Faith. It was partly a play on South of Pago Pago, an old black and white movie, but my house is seven miles south-southwest of Pago Pago, in the village of Vaitogi, in American Samoa. We lost our visas to stay in Western Samoa, after I wrote an article, not mentioning the Baha’i Faith, entitled “Could Christ Have Already Returned?” The article is one of the chapters in my book. We moved to American Samoa, which, although a different country, has the same National Spiritual Assembly. I have been producing radio programs for local consumption for over 30 years and 15 years ago I decided to build a low power TV station the main purpose being for Baha’i proclamation. I had to sell the station due to my financial condition but still have control of one of its four digital channels. It is a commercial channel. Income is generated by re-transmitting live sports, giving just enough to cover Baha’i proclamation, without any Baha’i financial support.
My wife, Jane, died 5 years ago and is buried behind my house. My grave is prepared next to hers, and as I will soon be 82, it may soon be put to good use.
Baha’i Blog: I’m very sorry to hear of your wife’s passing.
When it comes to the book, who is your target audience?
My biggest joy as a Baha’i is teaching other Baha’is so my book is largely aimed at them as it covers many questions they will be asked about the Baha’i Faith. I have also included several personal stories before I became a Baha’i which I have posted on internet forums with good feed-back, so I am hoping that if anyone investigating the Baha’i Faith picks up this book that they will patiently consider the theological essays while on their way to the next personal story.
Baha’i Blog: What was the process like to put this book together?
I already had transcripts from producing newspaper articles and over the air programs so the book went together quite easily. I tried as much as possible to get the personal stories lined up with the theological essays but as they are separate aspects of my life this was not always possible. I decided to self publish the book through Amazon, and went through a Baha’i review process. The first reviewer decided he did not know enough about the Bible to complete the review. I incorporated all the suggestions of the second reviewer.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Bill, for taking the time to share this with us.
You can purchase South-southwest from Pago Pago here on Amazon.