On the night of August 20th 1912, a man covered from head to foot with soot arrived at Green Acre hoping for an opportunity to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; his name was Fred Mortensen.
His story is an example of how a beautiful gem can be found in the least expected place. The first time Fred Mortensen heard about the Master was through his attorney, Albert Hall, when he was arrested for stealing a mailbox from a store. While in prison he learned how to read with the help of a Bahá’í book and a dictionary given to him by Mr. Hall.
Fred managed to escape from prison, becoming a fugitive for four years. Despite his fears of being arrested again, he decided to return to Minneapolis in order to visit Mr. Hall as he wished to learn more about the Bahá’í Faith.
When Fred Mortensen heard that the Master was in Green Acre and that He may return to the Holy Land without traveling to the western states, he decided to go to Green Acre so he could meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Fred did not have enough money to pay for the train tickets, so he took a mode of transport he described as: “I of necessity must hobo my way to Green Acre”. Trains at that time “ran on coal powder, coated with soot and grime, they were filthy outside of the travelers’ compartments”. It was also a very dangerous way of traveling, “riding under and on top of railway cars”.
At Green Acre, Fred had his wish come true — not only did he meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he remained there in His company for several days and afterwards accompanied Him for a week on His travels in the Boston area. He was also blessed in seeing the Master again when He traveled to Minneapolis.
He was transformed after his precious time with the Master. The site www.centenary.bahai.us states, “the degree of the change of character wrought in Fred Mortensen by the Word of God, is shown by the fact that when funds needed to be transferred to the Holy Land during the First World War, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá selected Fred Mortensen to be the courier”. After that life-changing meeting, Fred dedicated the rest of his life to the promotion of the Bahá’í Faith.
His story is a source of inspiration for all of us. It is a journey of courage that proves we can be reborn to a new life, no matter where we come from and what mistakes we may have made in the past, and that with God’s love we can overcome them and transform our lives.
A year after Fred met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he received a tablet from Him:
“ That trip of thine from Minneapolis to Green Acre will never be forgotten. Its mention will be recorded eternally in books and works of history. Therefore, be thou happy that, praise be God, thou hast an illumined heart, a living spirit, and art vivified with merciful breath”
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst by Earl Redman
– Photo from http://abdulbahawest.blogspot.ca/