Shining Lamp: Lua Getsinger (1871-1916)

Lua Getsinger slipped away from her friends at a picnic in New Jersey, U.S., and headed to the nearby woods. She took off her shoes and stockings, found some poison ivy, and walked right through it—in her bare feet!

Her legs were so swollen the next day, she couldn’t walk. Her goal, however unusual, was accomplished. It was June 1912, and the picnic had been hosted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—Bahá’u’lláh’s son and leader of the Bahá’í Faith at the time. Lua had accompanied him on much of his journey across the U.S., but now he had asked her to go to California on her own to help teach the Bahá’í Faith there.

Though she wanted to do as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wished, she couldn’t bear to leave the intense joy of his presence. She hoped that her itchy ailment would enable her to stay with him a little longer. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, amused by her antics, gave her an apple and a pomegranate to eat. She recovered that day and soon headed west. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in California that fall, she had arranged many speaking engagements for him. She said his words left people’s hearts “studded with precious gems.”

 

Finding Her Faith

Lua was born in 1871 in New York. From childhood, she was passionate and had a strong will. She was well-spoken, with a beautiful singing voice and a flair for the dramatic. She would stay after school to ask teachers questions.

When she was about 20, Lua went to Chicago to study theater. It was there that she began taking classes about the Bahá’í Faith. In 1897, she joined the Faith. Soon after, she married Dr. Edward Getsinger, who also became a Bahá’í.

 

Meeting the Master

In 1898, Lua and Edward were among the first Western pilgrims to visit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in what is now Israel. When she met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whom Bahá’ís often called the Master, Lua ran to him, fell to his feet, and cried with joy. That night, she was “so infinitely happy” she couldn’t sleep. She wrote to a friend, “The Face of the Master—is gloriously beautiful—His eyes read one’s very soul—still they are full of divine love and fairly melt one’s heart!”

Lua visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá many times over the years. He told her, “The love of God burning in your heart is manifest upon your face and it gives us joy to look upon you.” He called her “Livá,” which means “Banner.” Later, in a room with a view of Bahjí where Bahá’u’lláh was buried, Lua would sing the hymn, “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” As her lovely voice rose and fell, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would gaze out the window, moved to tears.   

 

Eloquence and Service

‘Abdu’l-Bahá told Lua she had the gift of eloquence. She always spoke from the heart during the many talks she gave about the Bahá’í Faith. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá once said, “You will never see Lua speaking with dry eyes.”

In 1902, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked her deliver a message to the sháh, or king, of Persia (now Iran) during his visit to Paris, imploring him to stop the increasing persecution of the Bahá’ís of Persia. At first, Lua met with the Persian prime minister, but she insisted on seeing the sháh in person. Her persistence paid off, and she delivered the message into his hands herself. Though it took some time, the persecutions eased.

Lua returned to Israel, spending about a year teaching English in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s household. One day, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked her to care for a sick friend whom he was unable to visit. She joyfully agreed, but when she arrived at the man’s house it was filthy and smelly, and she was afraid she’d catch a disease. She rushed back to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with her concerns. He told her that if the man’s house was dirty, she must clean it. If he was hungry, she must feed him. If he was sick, she must aid him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá looked at her sadly and said he had done these things for this friend many times. Lua learned from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example of compassion.

 

Life Lessons

Lua visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Egypt in 1913. She then spent about a year traveling in India and sharing the Bahá’í Faith with many, including a prince. She returned to Israel in 1915.

World War I had begun, and Lua traveled to Egypt, where she helped wounded soldiers. However, her health suffered.

Some Bahá’ís in Cairo took care of her when she became very ill. She wrote to a friend, “I am sure until the last day of our lives we will be learning lessons, for this world is a school, from which we graduate only 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 . . .”

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