“You must serve as my flag and wave it in both the East and the West.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said this to Lua Getsinger, when she visited Him as a member of the very first Baha’i pilgrimage from America to now Israel in 1898. Why use the word flag? Becuase the Persian word “lua” means “flag.”
Born November 1, 1871, Lua was the sixth of 10 children born to Ellen McBride and her husband Reuben D. Moore in Hume, New York. After schooling, family oral history has Lua going to Chicago in the later 1880s with visits to Flint Michigan. Lua chose dramatic arts training while in Chicago. Family oral history also had Lua attending the World Parliament of Religions of 1893 in Chicago during the World Columbian Exposition and, it is believed, there would have heard of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith.
Recognized as joining the Bahá’í religion on May 21, 1897, by her fervor she became a prominent disciple of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, who became the Leader of His Fathers religion after His passing. With an international reputation, she was named “Herald of the Covenant” and “Mother of the believers” by ʻAbdu’l-Bahá.
When the sháh of Persia (now Iran), paid a visit to Paris in 1902, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked her to convey a message to him. Asking him to cease the growing persecution of the Persia Bahá’ís. The Persian prime minister initially met with Lua, but Lua insisted on viewing the sháh in person. She personally handed him the message after her persistence paid off. The persecutions subsided, though it took some time.
But, she encountered difficulties with her reputation during a time when it was stigmatized for a woman to travel with a man other than her husband, which she did while taking part in promotional trips across the country as well as into Canada and Mexico. Lua truly personified the titles of “Herald of the Covenant” and “Mother of the believers.” Traveling throughtout the world specifically for the perposes of promoting the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith. As to her reputation. She was supported by the religious hierarchy, and her renown grew. She had a direct impact on a number of later religious leaders, including those in positions of authority.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá once requested that she take care of a sick friend for him because he was unable to visit. She enthusiastically consented, but when she got to the man’s house, she was worried that she could become sick because the home was nasty and odorous. She quickly returned to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with her worries. He instructed her to clean the man’s home if it was filthy. She had to give him food if he was hungry. She had to help him if he was sick. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá revealed he had frequently performed these actions for this person. By this He demonstrated compassion and kindness which served as an example for Lua.
As World War I started, Lua went to Egypt to aid injured soldiers. But her health took a hit.
When she fell unwell, several Bahá’s in Cairo took care of her. “I am confident we shall be learning lessons till the last day of our life,” she wrote in a letter to a friend. “This world is a school, from which we only graduate when we leave it.”
Lua died on May 2, 1916, at age 44. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, upon hearing the news, remained silent for a long time. Later, he was heard repeating, “What a loss.” He revealed a prayer for Lua, praising her humility and asking God to “Exalt her station, submerge her in the ocean of thy compassion and establish her in the midst of the Paradise of Immortality . . .” This prayer seems to parallel her life.
Thou knowest, O God, and art my witness that I have no desire in my heart save to attain Thy good pleasure, to be confirmed in servitude unto Thee, to consecrate myself in Thy service, in labour in Thy great vineyard and to sacrifice all in They path. Thou are the All-Knowing and the All-Seeing. I have no wish save to turn my steps, in my love for Thee, towards the mountains and the deserts to loudly proclaim the advent of Thy Kingdom, and to raise Thy call amidst all men. O God! Open Thou the way for this helpless one, grant Thou the remedy to this ailing one and bestow Thy healing upon this afflicted one. With burning heart and tearful eyes I supplicate Thee at They Threshold.
O God! I am prepared to endure any ordeal in Thy path and desire with all my heart and soul to meet any hardship.
O God! Protect me from tests. Thou knowest full well that I have turned away from all things and freed myself of all thoughts. I have no occupation save mention of Thee and no aspiration save serving Thee.