Diane and Paul Profaska

Diane and Paul Profaska

O SON OF DUST!

Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet melody of My voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My Knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness.

Bahá’u’lláh (Hidden Words)

I was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire, the second eldest of five children, to parents of a Methodist background. At the age of 2½ we moved to Knaresborough where I attended my first primary school. When I was eight we moved to Harrogate where I continued my education and attended the local Methodist Sunday school. I became a girl guide and attended with great enthusiasm, gaining badges of merit and being in a Gang Show, Thoroughly Modern Milly in the Royal Hall. Many years later I was to return to Harrogate to attend Bahá’í Conferences in the early 1980s.

My maternal grandmother came to live with us when I was ten years old and she became a great spiritual influence on me, teaching me good moral behaviour and how to swim, among many other things. She was known to me as Nan, but she was also my spiritual mother. Just before she came to live with us she had been on a cruise around the Mediterranean and had disembarked in Haifa where she went as a tourist to see the Shrine of the Báb and the gardens surrounding it.

When at the age of twenty I became a Bahá’í and I told her that the Bahá’í World Centre was based on Mount Carmel, she became very animated and said that she had always wondered what the Shrine was and what it represented. I have always felt that Bahá’u’lláh had guided me to the Faith through Nan. She lived to be 94, and in her 80s told me she felt very comfortable with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh but felt too old to change her ways and to be of any use to the Faith. However, for many years she did attend Bahá’í family days held monthly in Falmouth and she became a great friend of Barbara Smith, a Bahá’í living in St. Austell, Cornwall. Barbara used to collect Nan from her home along with Pat Keeley, another Bahá’í living in St Austell at the time, and take them to other Bahá’í events as well. When Nan passed away she had a Christian/Bahá’í funeral service. To this day I feel she is supporting me from the Abhá Kingdom.

I first came across the Bahá’í Faith in Penzance in April 1978. At the time, I was half way through my general nurse training and living in the nurses’ home attached to the hospital. While working on my first medical ward at the age of eighteen or nineteen I first started to deal with death and dying, and began to reflect on the meaning of life and what life was all about. On my days off I used to wander down to the promenade in Penzance, looking out to sea, asking God for His guidance and explanation. I remember being very moved by my first patient that died of a severe stroke, and experiencing the serenity that came over her in the final hours of her life in this world, and yet when I laid her out, feeling a great sense of what you could only term as being at peace in the true sense of the word. This was the first time that I really felt that there must be a spiritual element to being human and that there must be a spiritual world.

Not long after this period of searching had begun, a male nurse, Paul Profaska, moved into the nurses’ home. He was very friendly, open spirited and different. We began to have meaningful conversations and I soon found out that he was a Bahá’í, a follower of Bahá’u’lláh, and that this religion I had never come across before was paramount to his everyday existence. Following very many long discussions with Paul on the meaning of life, going for walks and visiting Bahá’ís all over Cornwall and reading books such as Paris Talks, Portals to Freedom and The Administration of the Bahá’í Faith, I started to investigate more and more. Initially it was ‘Abdul-Bahá that attracted me and then eventually I started to look at Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. I fell in love with ‘Abdul-Bahá first, due to His gentle, wise, and loving ways. I felt that he was the wise grandfather I never had. He lived a life of service to others and I was really moved that this had started at the tender age of 9 in service to his Father Bahá’u’lláh who was imprisoned at that time for being a follower of The Báb and being a Bábi.

During this time of exploring my spiritual world, I met the renowned potter Bernard Leach, Trudy Scott, Graham and Susan Ward and their two sons, Gerald and Katherine Berreton, Barbara Anderson, Richard Matty, Lynn Toms and Pauline Bray, to name but a few of the Bahá’ís living in Cornwall at the end of the 1970s. Paul regularly took me with him to visit them all over Cornwall, and what fascinated me the most was the great variation in ages, yet they all shared a love of Bahá’u’lláh. They also had very varied backgrounds but one common interest, the Bahá’í Faith. I had never experienced this before, as it was my experience that people tended to mix with their own kind or peer group. The diversity yet the common ground they shared really spoke to me, as I had a traditional upbringing from a Yorkshire family and my dad’s take on life was that his home was his castle, and that your door was closed unless you invited people to visit. People never turned up in the way that these Bahá’ís seemed comfortable doing – in fact they seemingly welcomed every one with open arms at any time. Paul also took me to Plymouth where I met Mrs Mokhtari and her family; her daughter Ruhi became a great friend in later years. We also visited Newton Abbott where I met Bryan and Carole Huxtable who had moved from Cornwall to Devon, and who had a great influence on Paul becoming a Bahá’í.

The love of Bahá’u’lláh started to stir in my soul as I became more deepened in the teachings. Finally the turning point for my becoming a Bahá’í was when I went to Bristol with Paul to attend a talk given by Adib Taherzadeh, during which he started to use an analogy of the baby in the womb and the concept of this relating to our lives in this world, and carrying it further to the concept of the next world. In the same way that the baby in the womb is unaware of this world, we also as humans cannot comprehend what the spiritual world is like, but we have a sense of something greater than ourselves in this world and that there is a spiritual world beyond. This really was a eureka moment for me because it had been my first awakening to being a spiritual being in a human body that had started me out on my quest for the meaning of life. What Adib was describing really resonated with me. He spoke of many other things during his extended talk, but this had struck a real note with me to enable my soul to find what it was searching for. The meeting was very well-attended. At that time Adib was living in Ireland. Bahá’ís had come from all over the UK to hear him, and there were several hundred people packed into the hall. The love, warmth and kindness that emanated from all present, their different backgrounds, ethnic colours and radiant souls, made me realise we are ‘One People’ as Bahá’u’lláh teaches.

Quite soon after this meeting I decided to declare my belief in Bahá’u’lláh. This was in November 1979 as I was preparing to move from Penzance to Truro to start a new job as a trained nurse at City Hospital. Within days of my declaration I attended my first Nineteen Day Feast, having told no one of my intentions. You can imagine the surprise when I arrived; everyone was very pleased and shared their excitement at my becoming a Bahá’í. Unfortunately I cannot name all nine Carrick Assembly members but I do recall Richard Matty, Paul Profaska, Kath and Gerald Berreton and Barbara Anderson. I knew from that moment on, the goal for the rest of my life was to work towards becoming a Bahá’í in the true sense of the meaning and dedicate myself to becoming a devoted follower of Bahá’u’lláh.

In April 1980, just five months later, I was elected to the Carrick LSA, which was a real initiation into the administration of the Faith.

Also at this time I was offered a cancellation to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This was a major event in my life, which turned out to be a miracle in so many ways. I had no passport and I had never been abroad before, no money to travel with or buy an airline ticket, no annual leave booked (all leave allocations having been taken by my work colleagues), and only ten days’ notice from the Universal House of Justice to take up the offer of pilgrimage. Paul was booked to go on the same pilgrimage, so he dropped off my passport application at the Newport office and continued to Stansted Airport to board his flight, not knowing whether I would get a passport in time. It was just before Good Friday and the post might have been delayed. Paul’s mother, who hardly knew me, lent me £200 to help pay for the trip. My then Nursing Officer at work, Heather Harvey, on learning I had just become a Bahá’í and wished to go on pilgrimage said, “My dear child, I knew Bahá’ís when I lived in Wrexham. If one of your colleagues is willing to change their leave period with you, then go with my blessing”. A dear friend, Pam Morgan was indeed prepared to swap, so suddenly I was on my way. Richard Matty booked my hotel in Haifa and explained how to travel from Tel Aviv airport to Haifa. This was my first trip aboard and my first flight. I was on my own and only twenty. Everything that had happened leading up to that Easter weekend seemed miraculous. Before I knew it I was on a train, bound for Heathrow and my visit to the Holy Shrines and the presence of Bahá’u’lláh.

My heart was filled with joy when the plane landed at Ben Gurion airport and I disembarked at midnight, coming down the steps of the plane. All I could smell was the sweet fragrance of orange blossom. It had rained earlier that day, which was unusual for the time of year, but for me the warm air was a pure elixir of spiritual joy and expectation as I headed through the night in my taxi to Haifa. The next morning I set off early for the pilgrim house and to my amazement the very first person I saw as I turned the corner of the pilgrim house was dear Paul, smiling and very pleased that I had made this spiritual journey. Words are inadequate to express the different experiences I had in each of the three shrines. Spiritually I felt distant from the Báb in His Holy shrine, due I think to the fact that as a new Bahá’í I knew very little about His Station, but on entering the Shrine of ‘Abdul-Bahá I felt instantly that I was in a loving embrace. A few days later when I went to Bahji and entered the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, I was overwhelmed, humbled and tearful to be in His presence. He had suffered so much and yet has left us with so many Holy Writings to guide the salvation of all mankind. Teaching us to love and accept each other, to embrace our diversity and work together for unity, fairness and justice for all.

My pilgrimage was not only a spiritual confirmation for me in so many ways but it also turned out to be a life-changing one. Paul, who had been my spiritual mentor and friend for two years, proposed marriage to me after a very deep conversation in the grounds of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh. We dedicated ourselves to Bahá’u’lláh to set out in life together to serve Him and our fellow men.

We had the bounty of many evenings in the pilgrim house listening to the inspiring talks when Hand of the Cause Mr Furútan shared his experiences with us. He talked about the early believers in the Faith and his experiences growing up as a young Bahá’í. His pure spiritual radiance and sense of humour filled the pilgrim house and the hearts of all those present. To have the bounty of a Hand of the Cause addressing us and making us laugh enabled us all to be filled with our personal commitments to the Faith.

I returned home alone one day before the pilgrimage had finished due to the last minute booking of my flight. I headed to the Bahá’í Centre in Manchester to stay with Naomi Long who had previously pioneered to Cornwall and was then caretaker of the Centre. Two days later Paul arrived from Haifa and we set out on our first travelling teaching trip together to Durham. We stayed with a lovely Bahá’í family and visited local Bahá’ís to tell them about our pilgrimage and share the message that the Universal House of Justice had given us when we met with them. We also visited a friend of Paul’s who wasn’t a Bahá’í but had done her nurse training with him in Truro. She at that time was called Teresa Agar and had known Paul was a Bahá’í but up until us visiting her, had not given it any real thought. However, she became inspired and went with us to a fireside the next evening in Durham. After we had left she continued to visit the Bahá’ís and soon after declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh.

In Middlesbrough we met the local community and stayed with Ian Digby and family for a couple of nights. At first they thought we were married and we had an embarrassing moment when we had to explain that we needed separate bedrooms. I ended up in an attic bedroom and Paul slept elsewhere in the house. This was a cause of laughter for some years to come. We shared our experiences of pilgrimage and meeting the Universal House of Justice members. It wasn’t about their station as House members but it was all about being humble servants of Bahá’u’lláh. They wanted to know where we had come from and how the faith was progressing in our part of the world. They said that meeting the pilgrims brought them such joy and the assurance that Bahá’ís all over the world were doing their best to serve Bahá’u’lláh. Individually the members emanated radiance and acquiescence. Their humility left a lasting mark on me.

Being on pilgrimage also introduced me to all aspects of the history of the Faith, all of which as a new Bahá’í I had limited knowledge. Once back at home I proceeded to read Adib Taherzadeh’s four-volume The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh which enabled me to understand more deeply what the early Bábis and Bahá’ís went through and how totally devoted they were to The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

On returning to Cornwall I was elected to the Spiritual Assembly of Carrick and became very involved with setting up a monthly Cornish Bahá’í newsletter. Ron Collins, a Bahá’í living near Redruth at the time, was a professional signwriter. After I had collected all the news and arranged dates for Feasts and Holy days, Ron helped me set up the format and print each issue, which I would then post to all the Cornish Bahá’ís, with a copy or two to Devon. Bryan and Carole Huxtable were some of the recipients, they lived in Newton Abbott at the time and Paul and I often visited them.

In September 1980 Paul and I were married in Truro in a wonderful Bahá’í ceremony where everyone took part. The only Iranian family in the community, the Ma‘ani’s, attended our wedding. They lived in St. Austell, where their radiant spirits and loving family life were an example to us all. They were also the first Iranian family to live in Cornwall. Mr and Mrs Ma’ani and their five children had fled Iran in 1979 and had pioneered firstly to Newquay, and later, St. Austell. At the time of writing, there has only been one other local Iranian Bahá’í family, Mr. and Mrs. Mirzai and their two young children. Mrs Mirzai was the sister of Mrs Ma’ani; her family had come to the UK after having been long-term pioneers in Dubai. They brought a true sense of what spiritual energy was emanating from them as pioneers, living their lives through the teachings of the Faith.

Paul and I had our honeymoon camping on the Scilly Isles, during which we met up with a German Bahá’í, Gerald, holidaying on the islands, which was a lovely surprise. We had also known there was a Bahá’í family who had pioneered to Tresco, one of the smaller islands, and had arranged to meet them while there. They were Pam and Mick Coombe and their three children Justine, Alexis and Robert, who had pioneered from Devon. They showed us such warmth and hospitality and as the weather deteriorated to force nine gales and our little tent couldn’t cope with the power of the wind, they invited us to stay in their little cottage for the rest of our honeymoon. Up until the time of writing (2016) they have been the only Bahá’ís to pioneer to the Scillies. The whole Coombe family became great friends and Paul and I were to return to Tresco for the next 11 years, sometimes twice a year, to stay with them. We would say prayers together so that they might meet receptive souls and that their pioneering efforts might bear fruit. Paul would help Mick with decorating or tidying up as Mick worked long hours at the Island Hotel as Head Chef.

In 1981 Paul and I wrote to the then National Teaching Committee asking if we could pioneer abroad as we were both qualified nurses willing to serve Bahá’u’lláh in any way we could. Much to our surprise they wrote back saying that Bahá’ís were needed in Cornwall and staying there would be the right thing to do. In some ways over the years we feel we have remained in Cornwall when others have come and gone, and from time to time have reminded ourselves that we are pioneers in this remote part of England.

One of the most memorable events of my Bahá’í life unfolded in 1983 when we invited a few Bahá’ís from Yorkshire to come to Truro and help us with our teaching efforts. BBC Radio Cornwall had newly opened and we had managed to make contact with them to allow the Bahá’ís to talk about the Faith. This had been through Paul knowing Mike Lister and John Cousins who were Christian friends and co-managed the religious programme on a Sunday morning. The three members of the teaching team from Yorkshire were Vivien Clough, and Jim and Blaire, and thanks to them we had our first ever recording on air in Cornwall presenting the Faith. Unbeknown to us that same summer there had been a Youth Conference in Austria and to our complete amazement 15 Bahá’í youth travelled from there to Cornwall to meet up with Viv and Blaire and us to help with our teaching efforts. We had only expected a handful of youth and so when 15 arrived you can image the challenges of accommodating and feeding them. Luckily we had a mini bus at that time as we regularly took 12-year-old children to the local swimming pool as a service project, so we were able to ferry the Bahá’í youth to various firesides in Redruth, Penzance and Truro. It was a very exciting time and after they had left to return to their various localities such as Finland, Germany, Austria and England, our small bungalow in Truro felt very empty.

From 1980 to 1985 Paul and I attended the Mind Body Spirit Festival held annually in the Town Hall in Truro. Paul made a wonderful Bahá’í stand and display boards explaining the faith. We had good attendance and handed out leaflets and The Hidden Words or Bahá’í prayer books to those who were interested. At that time, we used the pamphlets produced by the Bahá’ís of Warwick Bookshop.

Around 1982 or ’83 I was asked by the then National Teaching Committee to travel around Cornwall and Devon and hand out the ‘Red Teaching Book’ folder that gave us the latest advice and tips on how to teach and present the Faith to others. This was a true privilege, and we travelled all over the two counties meeting with the friends and sharing the inspiring teaching guidelines.

In 1983 we set up Paul’s Bahá’í teaching stand at the Wellbeing Centre in Illogan, near Redruth, which was a great teaching opportunity where we met many people. One of them was Arthur Wetherelt, a true Cornishman whose heart was truly moved by the poster we had on our minibus, proclaiming ‘One people, One planet please’ – a Bahá’í slogan of the time, inspired by the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Arthur invited us to his home, for him to learn more about the Faith. At that time he was making wood-burning stoves. He lived in Redruth with his wife Drucilla and we spent many an evening talking about the Faith and saying prayers together. Coincidentally their new neighbours, Ken and Kena Bunton and their two sons Nathaniel and Jacob, were friends of ours. We started regular firesides in their home as they were new Bahá’ís, having declared a few months before through regular contact with us at our meditation group. Kena’s sister Margo Hartley had become a Bahá’í in Truro, having met the Faith through us and Martin Newman, a Bahá’í living in Truro for a short while. At those firesides we explored many issues of concern to Arthur and Ken, about the teachings of the Faith and their challenges. As they evolved spiritually, they could see the wisdom of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. In 1984 Arthur declared himself a Bahá’í and by the grace of God, Drucilla declared her belief in Bahá’u’lláh in 1989 after attending a Bahá’í summer school in Warminster.

The first summer school we attended was in Llandrindod Wells, in 1985. It was an extremely exciting year for the Faith, as the Universal House of Justice had produced a document called the ‘Peace Message’, designed to be given to all leaders of the world and people of importance so that they could use it as a blueprint for helping society with the challenges that we all face as people of one planet. The Universal House of Justice asked all the Bahá’ís of the world to go to their communities and hand out the ‘Peace Message’ to as many people as they could, dignitaries, VIPs, and people of note. Back home we handed out many copies to local MPs and members of local religious groups, and the Humanist community in Cornwall. It was a very exciting time, as the Peace Message laid out the Faith as a model for others to follow in order to help with the political and spiritual challenges of mankind.

The great peace towards which people of good will throughout the centuries have inclined their hearts, of which seers and poets for countless generations have expressed their vision, and for which from age to age the sacred scriptures of mankind have constantly held the promise, is now at long last within the reach of the nations. For the first time in history it is possible for everyone to view the entire planet, with all its myriad diversified peoples, in one perspective. World peace is not only possible but inevitable. It is the next stage in the evolution of this planet – in the words of one great thinker, “the planetization of mankind”. [Universal House of Justice, 1985]

In June 1986 our beloved son Jonathan was born and I have always felt that he was given to us as a peace child and a miracle from God. We had a Bahá’í naming-ceremony for him, and all the Cornish Bahá’ís attended to join us in prayers and celebration of this new life. Jonathan has grown into a loving man who has a great sense of the need for fairness and justice in the world. At the age of eighteen he went on a year of service to Australia and lived with the Adzadegan family, Kay, Wendy and Sara, in Stirling, near Adelaide. The family was responsible for running an audio-visual company and creating half-hourly programmes for one of the local TV stations, sometimes making short films about the Faith in connection with UNICEF etc. Jonathan travelled to the Bahá’í House of Worship in Sydney and had the bounty of looking around parts of the building not normally accessible to the general public. He also went on a teaching trip to visit an Aborigine community in the Outback where Afghan refugees were held in a detention centre. An independent director wanted to highlight to Australians the plight they were in. This was a real rite of passage year for Jonathan, who a year later returned to the UK prepared to attend university to take a degree in broadcasting.

We also started to develop a lasting and enduring deep friendship with Geoff and Michaela Smith who lived in West Cornwall, and we attended their wedding in 1985. They went on to have four children: Rosie, Jordan, Bonnie and Mica. Jonathan and the Smith children grew up together, and our two families continue to remain lasting and true spiritual friends through the bonds of Bahá’u’lláh. We spent many wonderful years together as our children grew up, constantly nurturing their development within the teachings of the Faith.

Throughout the 1990s we went to every spring school and summer school held in the South West and South Wales, embracing Warminster, Sidcot, Narberth and Carmarthen to name but a few, where we met with other Bahá’í friends and recharged our spiritual batteries in order to go back to Cornwall to continue spreading the teachings and love of Bahá’u’lláh. Also every Christmas for about 15 years we gathered with other Bahá’ís and friends at an outward-bound centre in Devon to get away from the materialism of Christmas and just enjoy each other’s company. This was all started by Jan and Hugh Fixsen, Bahá’í friends living in Oxfordshire. Other families and individuals joined: the Maunds, Richards, Symes, Rays, Kathy Hadfield, Ron and Thelma Batchelor, to name but a few. We said prayers together, played games, cooked, went on long walks, and just generally loved each other. As the children grew, they developed bonds of friendship that will last a lifetime. From 1998, as a family we started to attend the Bahá’í-inspired Arts Academy organised by Margaret Appa and Cecilia Smith, held at Sidcot, Somerset, and later at Wellington College, Berkshire. Without fail we were always spiritually nourished and inspired by these events.

In May 1999 Paul and I took Jonathan with us on a nine-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was just a month short of becoming 13. He gained a wonderful experience while in Israel as we had decided to show him the Holy places in Jerusalem before going to Haifa. We visited the sacred places of the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities in the old city of Jerusalem and walked the outer wall of the old city so he could get a sense of the faith traditions that had preceded Bahá’u’lláh. We also went to Masada and saw the sun rise over Jordan from the top of the mountain. When we came down we went to the Dead Sea and floated in the very salty waters. After these wonderful experiences we went to Haifa and started our Bahá’í pilgrimage, saying prayers in the Shrines of The Báb and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and later in the Shrine of Baháu’lláh at Bahji. We also visited all the other Bahá’í buildings and walked the terraces on Mount Carmel. Jonathan decided he didn’t want to wait until he was fifteen to declare his belief in Bahá’u’lláh, so on our return to Cornwall, we wrote to the NSA and they lovingly sent Jonathan a prayer book.

Throughout the 80s and 90s Paul and I attended the United Nations day of prayer held every other year and made contacts with many people of different faiths and walks of life, mainly through the commitment and dedication of Barbara Smith in St Austell and a member of the local branch of the United Nations Association. These events enabled the Bahá’ís of Cornwall to build up a network of friends and contacts. We served on the Spiritual Assembly of Carrick during those years and I was elected secretary for several years, which was an honour and privilege. Other members of the Local Spiritual Assembly were Kath and Gerald Berreton, Richard Matty, John and Muriel Gilbert, and Ken and Betty Goode.

In 2000 Paul, Jonathan, then 14, Rosie Smith, 12, and I went on a different sort of pilgrimage, an organised trip by Mrs Alaee to Turkey. We visited the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Edirne (Adrianople) which had the same spiritual presence of Bahá’u’lláh we had experienced in the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, and it felt we were in His loving embrace. We met with the Bahá’ís of Edirne one evening and they welcomed us with open arms, and shared their experiences of what it was like to be a Bahá’í in Turkey. We also visited the various mosques in which Bahá’u’lláh had prayed during His exile from Constantinople (Istanbul) to Adrianople.

After that pilgrimage I trained in Exeter as a Ruhi Book co-ordinator and brought this new inspired study book process to Cornwall. I ran four ‘Book Ones’ throughout the county and eventually Paul and I and other members of the Cornish Community completed Books 1 to 7, enabling us to be facilitators of the Ruhi process. Manijeh Smith, who had returned to the UK from pioneering in Zambia with her husband David and children Bayan and Holly, settled in Penzance and helped to facilitate the Cornish friends through Ruhi Books 3 to 7. They spent 7 years in Cornwall before moving to Cambridgeshire in 2013. When Paul and I completed Book 6 we prayed and meditated about what our own teaching plan might be for our area which is within the boundaries of St Agnes and Perranporth. After consultation we decided to offer a meditation course to people who might be interested in exploring their inner selves and developing their spiritual awareness. We advertised on local notice boards and to our amazement 30 people responded. We ran four courses over periods of seven to nine weeks and had good attendances, leading to participants asking about the Bahá’í Faith and some attending Holy day celebrations. Sadly none of them declared their belief in Bahá’u’lláh but they have become friends of the Faith over the years and still attend ongoing devotional or meditation groups. We have shared Bahá’í prayers and readings with them over the years and they have asked us to pray for them in times of bereavement, distress, or illness, not only for themselves but for extended families and friends. In 2006 Paul and I returned to Haifa for a 3-day pilgrimage, again organised by Mrs Alaee. During this visit I really felt the beating heart of the Faith.

The heart and foundation of the spiritual essence of the Faith felt tangible and very real to me. No matter how insignificant I am and how poor a Bahá’í, the Faith will grow and develop in spiritual strength around the world as humanity becomes more and more dysfunctional until it is forced to turn to God for answers, and the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh will start to be studied by the generality of mankind for its salvation.

Once back in Cornwall we took part for the last time in the interfaith event organised by the local UN group at Truro College. During the years following it was held in the Chapter House at Truro Cathedral. All the Cornish Bahá’ís played a big role in the setting up of the event, and the programmes were produced and printed by Paul. We can thank Barbara Smith for ensuring that these events have brought about the unity of the different Faith groups in Cornwall.

In 2008 Paul and I became chaplains for the Emergency Planning group created in readiness to deal with a possible major incident in Cornwall or around the coast. We would be called upon as Bahá’í representatives to help out and give spiritual comfort and support to those affected, gathered in temporary rescue centres. At about the same time we also became involved with the local Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske, in Truro, as Bahá’í representatives, to offers prayers and spiritual guidance to Bahá’ís in hospital or people of other Faiths who might welcome the offer of spiritual support in times of illness.

In 2013 I became a member of the local interfaith group Dor Kemmyn, set up by an Anglican priest Andrew Yates. I was elected to the executive committee along with Philomena Clifford, a Bahá’í from St Austell. We work closely with the educational arm of the interfaith group also supported by Michaela, Geoff and Mica Smith and Bev Bevington, in order to teach awareness of the Bahá’í Faith from primary school age children up to adults working in the health care profession or just people from every walk of life. For us Cornish Bahá’ís this has opened a wonderful door of proclamation to those otherwise we might not be able to meet. We are few in numbers but we try our best to become known and to share the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. There is also another arm in the Cornish interfaith group which is trying to erect a building open to all from faith or no faith groups, available for all to use to suit their individual needs, This is quite heaven-sent, I feel, as it’s along the lines of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings and the Universal House of Justice guidance that we should work with the wider community to develop peace and unity among mankind regardless of our background. My part in this has been to have the privilege to teach the Faith several times a year to college students, health care professionals and trainee chaplains in Cornwall.

Paul and I have always been humble servants and on my part not a very good example of a true Bahá’í but I strive with heart and soul to do my best, often failing and picking myself up again and carrying on. We have spent our married life together under the shelter of Bahá’u’lláh and we give back what we can by serving the community in which we live and work. We have had many experiences along the way and gained many true Bahá’í friends who have helped to influence and support us, including Rita and Viv Bartlett, Anne and Stephen Maund, Geoff and Michaela Smith, Ron and Thelma Batchelor, Barbara Smith, the late Jan Fixsen and too many more to name here. My love and heartfelt thanks to my dear husband who always manages a smile and a wise word and quotations he has memorised from the Writings to put things into perspective for me.

Our devotional and meditation groups over 35 years have brought many true friends into our lives. We have been privileged to host firesides and holy days in our home on many occasions and we have also had many many Bahá’í friends and other guests stay with us. Some have been especially wise souls, such as Counsellor Leo Neiderreitter from Austria, Betty Reed, who had served on the NSA of the British Isles, and David and Barbara Lewis. Over the years Christine and Rafi Abbas, Anne and Stephen Maund, Viv and Rita Bartlett have all visited our home in St. Agnes. In return we regularly used to visit Viv and Rita in South Wales, gaining inspiration from their spiritual insights. All these valiant souls bring a smile to my face, most of whom have moved on to the Abha Kingdom and who, I’m sure, are still supporting us.

Becoming a Bahá’í has brought such love and friendship into my life. I just thank God and beg His forgiveness, and thank Him for His mercy and loving kindness to this insignificant maidservant of Bahá’u’lláh. May I continue to serve Him through all the worlds of God.

“O handmaiden of God, peace must first be established among individuals, until it leadeth in the end to peace among the nations. Wherefore, O ye Bahá’ís, strive ye with all your might to create, through the power of the Word of God, genuine love, spiritual communion and durable bonds among individuals. This is your task. Abdu’l-Bahá

___________________

Diane Profaska

Cornwall, March 2016

Diane as a young woman

Diane as a young woman

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