Chehreh Goodwin

I was born a fourth generation Bahá’í, in a Bahá’í-run and well known hospital (Missaghyeh) in Tehran. As the fourth child in the large Towfigh family, I spent my childhood and first half of my teenage years, with many of my closest relatives and cousins that I loved dearly. I have fond memories of them all, as well as our large and unforgettable Bahá’í community in Shemran (Tehran).

It’s interesting however to mention here, that from my mother’s side, her maternal grandfather was the first in our family to believe in Bahá’u’lláh, at the turn of the twentieth century.  Mirza Musa Motaheddeh as a young man from Kashan, was a great lover of his new-found Faith, so much so that he ultimately gave his life and became a martyr in the Province of Lahijan, on a teaching trip. His heartbroken family later received a beautiful and very touching letter from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, accompanied by a prayer revealed by Him. Both of these are very precious items and important to our family, for without this great man, who knows if our family would ever have embraced the Faith!

On my father’s side however, it was his paternal grandfather, Mulla Hagh Nazar who embraced the Faith first. He was very well known in Kashan and was a Rabbi. During the First World War he met Mr Samandari and other Bahá’í’s by chance. Soon afterwards, he embraced the new Faith. Before long he even managed to travel to Haifa with his wife Sara Khánum and met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  To tell the full story of my ancestors and their association with the Faith would be lengthy, and would be a separate tale.

Just like many other Bahá’í children of my generation living in Tehran, from an early age we all attended Bahá’í children’s classes (Dars-e-Akhlagh) every Friday morning. All the classes were very well organised by the NSA (National Spiritual Assembly) of Iran. There were books for every age group, which included teachings of the Faith, virtues, and many prayers to memorise and learn to chant. Our teachers were all well trained, so loving and kind toward all of us children. However it was as if we had two different lives, one within the Bahá’í community, and another outside our Faith. Schooling for example, could be very challenging at times, especially when our teachers found out we were Bahá’ís.  They could make life somewhat difficult if they wished. For example, at the end of the term, before finishing for the long summer break, they would announce that you had failed your exams. This meant that basically your summer holiday was completely over and you had to take all the tests again. If you failed again, you had to repeat the whole year, watching your friends moving on while you were left behind.

Chehreh at her family home in Tehran (1965)

I was just five years old in 1963 when there was great excitement in the Bahá’í community. Our family and some of the friends kept talking about an approaching amazing Bahá’í World Congress to be held in London.  After holding consultations, my mum and some of our relatives decided to attend. Of course I didn’t understand the significance of this, as I was too young at the time, but learned afterwards that the Muslim clergyman in Iran found out about this great occasion. They conspired to put a lot of pressure on the government to make it difficult for the Bahá’ís to obtain visas to leave the country.  It was for this reason that many of the friends, including my mother, had to take an indirect route to London, to attend this historic and unforgettable gathering. I’ll never forget the excitement on my mum’s return back home with all her news and amazing photos of a place that looked to us, as if it was out of this world. So many people from all over the planet, gathered together in one place, and they were all Bahá’ís!! I remember the pictures of Rúhíyyih Khánum. She looked angel-like, so beautiful, and in my own, childish mind, I wondered if I would ever meet her, or whether she would one day travel to Iran to meet our Bahá’í community!

In the mid-sixties my parents went on their first Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On their return, we witnessed the incredible slide show that my father had very proudly put together. All the photos of Paradise on Earth. Once again I wondered if I would ever, like my parents who were devoted to the Faith, be able to go on Pilgrimage and return home with such a shining face and excitement.

The eventful Seventies:——— (Departure from our beloved Iran)

As I grow older I would see how my father, such a hard-working man, always running around making sure his family and others were well provided for, and himself taking part in all the Bahá’í meetings, including those of the LSA (Local Spiritual Assembly). My mother also held many women’s group gatherings, deepenings and children’s classes in our home. My parents did their absolute best to be good examples to us and others.

In the late sixties and early seventies we were getting many Bahá’í speakers visiting Tehran, giving talks and encouraging the friends to leave Iran and pioneer to other lands. There were warnings that imminently and rapidly some things might change in Iran, and that this was the time to act. Friends were told that later they would want to pioneer but by then they might not be able to leave the country. The consequences of all these talks and warnings were hard to see or to imagine at that time as many people had good businesses and were hard at work getting on with their everyday lives. Earlier though, my second eldest brother had been sent to Germany for a better education, and in 1972 my eldest brother had been sent to England to study. By the early seventies many of our close family and relatives had left Iran to pioneer to Europe, Canada or America. I could see at this time how my mother also was very much in favour of leaving Iran for a much better education for me, my sister and our younger brother too, so in the summer of 1973 after much consultation among my parents and family, we also left our homeland for a visit to England. We went to see what everything was like in Europe and whether it would be possible for us to move to start a new life out of Iran and take a pioneering post. I never thought I would want to return to Iran.

I was a teenager and so excited at the idea of travelling in an aeroplane for the first time in my life. I looked forward to telling my friends, family and cousins about it afterwards, but my father had other thoughts in mind. He booked us on a bus! I just couldn’t believe it, and felt somewhat ashamed. However, as it happens, it was an amazing journey. It took my parents, my oldest sister Elahe, my younger brother Aref and me, a week to travel from Tehran to Hamburg, where my second eldest brother Sama, was already living and studying. Our incredible journey was full of beautiful and sometimes dangerous moments which I will never forget. For example, when we were travelling high on the mountains going towards Ankara, the old road was rough and very very narrow. Suddenly our driver turned the radio off and asked everyone to be quiet as we were going through a hazardous and very dangerous road. We all looked out of the window, and all we could see was a sheer drop down the mountain with some wrecked cars and buses at the bottom of the valley. I was sure we were going to die on that day! Everyone on the coach started to pray hard, and held on to each other so tight, until gradually, after a few hours, we were out of danger and emerged from those terrible mountains alive.

After Turkey we travelled through, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria and finally Germany. It took us a week to get to our destination. Some of the beautiful scenery was breathtaking, and we observed lots of incredible and amazing places we had never seen before and never thought existed. Our stay in Germany was brief, after which we travelled to France and then across the English Channel by hovercraft, ending up in London to meet up with my eldest brother Abbas. Everything for us was new and amazing. We couldn’t help ourselves staring at the people, how they behaved, and how they dressed, until eventually mum and dad told us off.  After a few memorable days in London and consultations with the NSA of the UK, our family made a decision to move up north and settle down in Durham, as there were many Bahá’ís already in London and other big cities and we realised that it would be great if we could pioneer northwards.

In Durham we managed to rent a temporary small place by a railway bridge. A dear Bahá’í friend, Trevor Finch, came to live with us for a while. We tried to learn some English from him, and became lifelong friends. Many decades later at a conference in London he produced a small prayer book that my dear father had hand-written in Persian and had given to him all those years ago; this was so amazing, it brought tears to our eyes. Very soon we managed to meet up with a few other lovely and dear local Baha’i’s such as Margaret Gosden and her young family, Oliver Christopherson and his lovely family, and the older couples Jim and Dorothy Clouston, David and Dot Neave, and John and Kathleen Coates.

We also met Peter and Samira Smith, Samira being the only other Persian in that area at the time, who helped us so much and taught us many do’s and don’ts. We will be always grateful to her. Eventually we managed to move to a better place, the small village of Newton Hall outside Durham, and helped to form the LSA of Durham. At this time my father was anxious to get back to Iran, to see about his work and business. He came back to the UK for a visit every few months. My younger brother Aref started in the local school whilst myself, my sister and my mother went to a local college to learn English. Except for Aref, we found the English language very difficult and challenging, as the method of teaching at the local college was rather old-fashioned with lots of grammar that we didn’t really need at the time. After two years, our language was still not so good. It was at this time that I went to a local high school for three months. In those days I was the only foreigner in the whole school, which compelled me to speak and learn English quickly. Everyone, including the teachers, were very curious about who I was, where I had come from, and then, where was Iran or Persia?

Chehreh with her parents (Rahmat and Bahin) in Newton Hall, Durham (1974)

By this time our family had decided to settle down in Durham for good, and stay put in the north of England. I was always interested in Art and had learnt enough English to then attend art and design- related courses in our local college. Our experience of people around us and all the neighbours was very good. They were so kind and helpful towards us and sometimes even invited us to their homes. Likewise we asked them over for Persian food, which they absolutely loved. Soon they learnt that we were Bahá’ís, but unfortunately didn’t show much interest. In the college the teachers and principals were very kind too, and helped us foreigners as much as possible so that we could get through many exams and tests. However, some of the younger students who were my age, did not like the idea of my being in their class. For some odd reason, two girls in particular did everything in their power to make my life as hard as they possibly could. One memorable afternoon at the end of the day, when our teacher had left the room for a short time, these girls came around to where I was sitting and started beating me up and trying to strangle me. When they heard that the teacher was returning, they very quickly went back to their seats and acted as if nothing has happened. The action of these ignorant girls really upset me.  I couldn’t understand the reason behind it but I decided to stand up for myself and do something about it rather than tell my parents. The next morning I went to the office of the principal of the Art Department. He could not believe it until I showed him some of my bruises and the markings around my neck. I was really thinking of my dad, who had been working so hard to pay for our education and provide college fees from back in Tehran, and I was missing him so very much. The two girls were given a severe telling off, and the good news was that for the following year and a half they left me alone and I managed to get on with my own work. As it happened, at the end of the course I passed with great results that stunned the teachers, but the two girls completely failed the course and they didn’t know what to do with themselves. We have a well known saying in Persian that says, “God’s stick doesn’t have a sound”.

In the summer of 1975, with my family I attended my very first Bahá’í summer school since we had left Iran, held at Scraptoft College of Education in Leicester. I will never forget this amazing school because on the first week and for the first time, we had the great bounty of meeting the Hand of the Cause of God Mr Paul Haney. Then in the second week, we were blessed with meeting Hands of the Cause Mr Furútan, Mr Faizi and Dr Muhajir. I also made so many new and long lasting Bahá’í friends such as Zarin Hainsworth, Mahnoush Sabeti, and so many many others.

In the following summer our family took part in one of the International Teaching Conferences held in Paris. At this magnificent gathering one of my old wishes came true, and I saw with my own eyes, on the stage, Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum. She spoke in English, French and Farsi. I was completely mesmerised by her. In that wonderful conference, Hands of the Cause of God, Mr John Robarts, Dr Varqa, Dr Muhajir, Mr Khadem and Mr Featherstone were present and gave incredible, moving talks about teaching and pioneering.

In the same year I left home and my family in Durham for the first time, as I was accepted by Farnham College of Art, Surrey, to study Interior Design for the following four years. Though it was really hard to leave home, I was fortunate to become a member of a new Baha’i family who were so exciting and so welcoming and kind. My new friends included Carolyn and Bibhas Neogi, Lindsay John Moffat, the Badii family, Guitty and Frank Bonner and many others.

In the winter of 1977 I joined a youth group from the UK and had the privilege of going on our very first 9 day Bahá’í Pilgrimage to the Holy Land with my eldest brother and my sister. I was so happy and excited, I could not believe that at last I was going on an aeroplane for the very first time in my life. Moreover, together with many other youth, I would be visiting the Holy places that I had been dreaming about for so many years, since I was a small child. I think I was numb most of the time, and I felt like my feet never touched the ground.

The following year, in the summer of 1978 with my brother Abbas, I attended the unforgettable youth conference in Nottingham. So much happened in this gathering, and little did I know that it would change my life for ever.

Youth Conference in Nottingham where Chehreh and Andrew first met (1978)

It was at this conference that my brother introduced me to the new friend he had met the previous year at the Bahá’í summer school in Inverness. His name was Andrew Goodwin. As I shook his hand, something came over me. It was love at first sight, on the spot. Andrew though, does not recall that moment as he was busy preparing to take part in a play on the stage, The Education of Henry Halifax. He was still trying to learn his lines and was panicking somewhat, so much so that in the middle of the performance he managed to break the chair that he was sitting on, which made everyone laugh so hard. Our paths didn’t cross again for another four years, which I will come to later.

For many Persian Bahá’ís and other Iranians, 1979 and the years that followed were very hard and have become unforgettable times. In February of that year, what had been predicted so many years before, came about. Unbelievably, the Islamic Revolution happened very quickly in our beloved Iran, with so many consequences, changing the life of all Persians, both within and outside of the country.

Fortunately, at this particular time my father was visiting us in England. He was a well known man in Tehran. Only God knows what would have happened to him if he had been there at that time. Just like many of our friends and relatives, we too lost so many of the material possessions we had worked for, so much so that we found ourselves in a very difficult and challenging position, especially for my parents at that point in their lives. To make matters worse, our colleges would not re-register us, as they feared that our tuition fees would not be paid on time.

Despite everything, in 1980 I managed to finish my course in Interior Design at Farnham College and I would like to mention that I am for ever grateful to Adam Thorne, who assisted me so much when it came to writing my thesis. I returned home to Durham and was sad to find my poor parents completely heartbroken, not because of the loss of everything we had ever owned back in Tehran, but for a far more important reason, that of hearing almost every day the traumatic news of our beloved Bahá’í friends being persecuted, killed, being imprisoned or going missing.

The Eighties were full on……….

My parents at this point, in order to make ends meet, had opened a small restaurant outside Newcastle that they named the Carmel Café House. They had no experience of running their new business. On my return from Farnham, I could see how hard they were working, and they were in need of help, so my brother Aref and I started to assist them as much as we could, to get the restaurant off the ground, so that we could have some income to live on.

Before long I received a letter from the Home Office telling me that since I wasn’t a student anymore, I should either leave the UK within two weeks, or become a refugee. Given my situation I had no option but to become a refugee. The NSA were a great help to me as well as many other individuals and families who were unable to go back to Iran, given the rather grim turmoil back in our homeland.

By now many other Persian Bahá’ís had moved up to the north east of England and they became our closest friends and companions. Families such as the: Ahmadis, Ashkans, Derakhshanis, Aminis, Davarpanahs, the Dalvand family, Ferdowsians, Anvaris, Nurgostars, and many others.

In early 1982 I met Andrew again at a mutual friend’s wedding, that of Ken and Venus Carew, and then once more at the incredible International Bahá’í Conference in Ireland commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Bahiyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf.

At this time Andrew had been asked to work in the Middle East (Qatar) and moved there in August. I don’t know how, but before he left I found myself on the back of his motorbike, and during a teaching trip to Skye I accepted his proposal of marriage. Before long we managed to get permission from our parents when he came back home for a brief visit. We only ever had one evening out together, to an Indian restaurant in Inverness, before we decided to get married.  Once it was arranged, Andrew managed to get some more leave and return back to the UK. We got engaged one weekend and were married a week later, on 18th-19th December 1982. We had our register office wedding on the Saturday morning and a small Bahá’í wedding in the evening. Then on the Sunday we had a very big wedding party. Funnily enough, there were some people there whom we didn’t know, but they had invited themselves to witness a Bahá’í wedding.

I followed Andrew to Qatar in the new year, not knowing exactly what to expect or what I’d be doing there. After nine hours without food or drink, and much confusion at Doha’s airport since I was travelling on my UK-issued refugee travel documents, just a few minutes before my threatened deportation the British Embassy eventually issued me with a full British passport so that I could enter the country. This was all due to Andrew’s hard work and running around for hours on end between the Qatari immigration offices, the airport immigration manager and the British Embassy.

We lived in the city of Dukhan, over an hour’s drive from the capital, Doha, in a camp in the middle of the desert, with many other expats from different parts of the world. Soon I met many of the unforgettable and wonderful members of the large Bahá’í community in Doha. I fell in love with them, and with the Arabic language, especially when the prayers were chanted at the Feasts and Holy Days. For me it was such a precious time to be there and to hear so many amazing, interesting, and sometimes unbelievable stories from these friends. Many had, at the call of the beloved Guardian during the ten year crusade, left their homeland and pioneered to different parts of the Arab and Middle Eastern countries.

We lived there for three years. Every day was an adventure and often something unexpected would happen. For example, one hot summer’s day during the month of Ramadan, our car broke down in the middle of the desert and we were stuck there. We walked for hours and hours to find help. We had a little water with us but you can’t drink in front of a Muslim during Ramadan, since the consequence could be imprisonment. Eventually we arrived at a place at sunset where some faithfuls were breaking their fast. An Arab man came out from his house, wondering what on earth we were doing there! In broken Arabic we managed to explain that our car had sunk into the sand. He then disappeared into his house but came back with his car keys and told us to go and get help. We were so amazed at this man’s generosity as he basically saved our lives. We were not only tired and exhausted, but sun-burned too as we were unprepared and had no protection from the hot sun. When I was back sitting in the car, I realised how lucky we had been as the desert can be a very dangerous place. However, by the grace of God we had come out of it alive and lived to tell the tale.

The Bahá’í community of Qatar were so welcoming, kind and generous. They are true examples of living a Bahá’í life. Some of the friends such as the Rezvanis, Jaberis, Ruhanis, Talabis, Yeganehs, Rahimis, Mogharabins, Ferdowsians, Akhlaghs, Bahjis, Sioushancias…….. and many more wonderful families.

Andrew and I made a plan to travel around the world before starting a family so at the start of 1983 we set off for two months, beginning in Europe and continued travelling westwards to America, Asia, and back to Qatar. We had nineteen flights all together, sometimes staying with families, otherwise in hotels, but always checking on the local Bahá’ís. When we met them we exchanged news, and shared activities. This was the highlight of our unforgettable trip. In the middle of our travels we found ourselves in Chicago and paid our very first visit to the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette. It was as if we were dreaming. The entire place had a tremendous atmosphere and was very spiritual. On the last leg of our long travel we had the bounty of visiting India. My lovely aunt Mahin Parnian and her husband were custodians of the Bahá’í Centre in Delhi. We managed to stay with them and also visit the ongoing construction of the “Lotus Temple”, the Bahá’í House of Worship in Bahapur. We were so lucky as we met the architect Mr Fariborz Sahba there. He was hard at work, trying to overcome the many challenges involved in creating that unique structure in that part of the world. Although the construction of the Temple was still in its early stages, nevertheless it looked so majestic, so beautiful, and full of light. What I experienced there was a feeling that I will never forget.

In the summer of that year of 1983 we had a phone call from my parents informing us about the terrible and very sad news of the martyrdom of the ten women in Shiraz. I remember thinking, how this can be? Is this news really true? Especially when I had a few years earlier met one of them, Shirin, the daughter of our closest friends Mr and Mrs Dalvand back in Newcastle. Shirin came to settle down with her family in the north east of England, and I remember asking her why she needed to go back to Iran as the situation there was very difficult and dangerous. She said that she had to go back to collect her degree from the university, and after that she would return to join her family. I spoke to Shirin’s parents on the phone from Qatar. I didn’t really know exactly what to say but I found them so steadfast in the Faith and completely trusting in the will of God.

In early 1985 our lovely first child Sam was born in Newcastle. We took him back to Qatar for a few more months before Andrew’s work there was to finish early in the following year. Whilst we were there, I spent a lot of time teaching art to some of the women in our camp. Many were somewhat bored in the middle of the desert as you can imagine.  At that time there were no computers or Internet, and we women had to somehow busy ourselves during the day. One thing I managed to achieve against all the odds and despite many challenges, was holding an art exhibition with one of my students in the popular Ramada hotel in Doha. It was incredibly successful. Many of the Bahá’í friends and local people supported me. I managed to sell all of my paintings. Overnight we became famous as we had many radio, television and press interviews. I guess this was the start of my life-long passion and interest in teaching art, to help the hundreds of people who have come to my classes over the several decades since then.

Early in 1986 we left Qatar to return to Scotland with very heavy hearts, as we had by then such a love and strong bond with our Bahá’í friends in Qatar. It was rather difficult to leave, but all the wonderful memories of our time in Qatar is something that we will treasure forever and their love and kindness will never be forgotten. We have been fortunate to be able to return for visits several times over the years and always value the warm friendship and hospitality we receive each time.

On our return to the UK, we stopped over in Cyprus to visit some old friends, Mehran and Nooshin Nakhjavani. After a couple of days it was suggested that there was a good chance and opportunity for us to go on a three day visit to the Holy Shrines at the Bahá’í World Centre. We hadn’t thought of this possibility, but jumped at the chance. We faxed our request from Mehran’s office and our permission for a visit came very quickly, on the same day. So with our ten month old baby son, we set out on the short flight to Israel. On our arrival at Tel Aviv airport, at the foot of the aircraft steps Andrew was taken into a small van that was waiting nearby for questioning by guards.  Somehow they knew that we had been living in an Arab country. However as soon as they realised we were Bahá’ís and had an invitation from the Bahá’í World Centre to visit, the door of the van opened, he was released, and we were free to carry on our journey to Haifa. During our visit to the World Centre and Shrines we had the great bounty of meeting the Hand of the Cause Mr Furútan. We were able to spend lots of time with him and have memories we will treasure for ever.

On our return in January 1986 we arrived in Aberdeen, as Andrew’s next job was to be in the north east of Scotland. We settled down in the small village of Newmachar. As always it was our intention to live in a goal area to help with the teaching work of the Faith. At the beginning, and very unexpectedly, we experienced some hostile behaviour from some of our neighbours. We found out shortly after, that they did not like to have an Englishman as a neighbour. About a decade elapsed before they softened up and realised we were not bad people after all. We lived there for over ten years and managed to form an LSA in the Gordon District. The following year, in early 1987, we were blessed again, this time with a most beautiful and perfect little baby girl, Mai, making our family complete and whole.

By the end of the eighties, together with other members of the Bahá’í community we started much- needed children’s classes. With the help of other friends, we formed a school in the name of Dr John. E. Esslemont. This school was very well organised. We not only had several classes for the children, each with dedicated teachers, but we also had weekly deepening sessions for adults. The Gordon District area was vast but everyone in the community wanted the school to work for the benefit of both children and adults, so in support we all made the trip every week of the term and it continued for a very successful eighteen years.

In the second half of the 1980s, our much loved Aberdeen Summer Schools were born.  Many of the friends will remember the Bahá’íland gatherings, which went on for over twenty wonderful years. In these schools we had great and special speakers, amazing children’s classes and incredible entertainment and games. Friends came from all over the world, and we even had some declarations during the school years.

In the early nineties we made a trip to Australia to visit my second eldest brother Sama and his family for Naw-Rúz. They lived in the Gold Coast and we travelled all around the east of Australia together. We were blessed to visit the Bahá’í Temple in Sydney. It was the first time for our children to visit a Bahá’í House of Worship. They both found it quite amazing and very spiritual.

Just like many of the friends around the world, in November of the Holy Year, 1992, Andrew and I took part in the second Bahá’í World Congress. It was an incredible experience for us, the like of which we may never see again in our lifetime. Some 30,000 Bahá’ís congregated at the Javits Centre in New York and we were all inspired by the many dramatic, artistic and moving presentations, and met up with relatives and friends from all over the world.

Chehreh and Andrew with their children Sam and Mai, Aberdeenshire (1996)

In the years that followed, because of our children’s education, we moved to another village in Aberdeenshire called Alford, about 25 miles west of Aberdeen. We had but a few Bahá’í friends where we were living, but as it was still in the Gordon District, the LSA was maintained for a few years, until the Assembly boundary changes were made and the Assembly ceased to exist.

In 1997, with some of the other friends, Andrew and I had the bounty of being appointed to the very first Training Institute for Scotland. At the beginning we weren’t sure what it was all about, or what we had to do, but after a short time with the help and guidance of the Universal House of Justice, we gradually learned, and before long produced some wonderful training programmes and lesson plans for the community; this was before the Ruhi books were recommended for use.

In 2002 our son Sam completed his secondary-school education and decided to take a year out before going on to further studies. After looking around for options, we found a project in The Gambia run by the NSA there that taught computer skills to the community.  Sam worked there for six months and for the rest of the year he went to Macau to work in a school that taught English, run by our old friend Gordon Kerr. It was such an amazing experience for him as a very young man. Both places were very different from his normal life at home and they gave him life experiences that he will never forget.

In 2005 both our children were at university. Sam was studying animation in Edinburgh, and Mai, Optometry in Glasgow. It was at this time that yet again Andrew’s work took us abroad, this time to Baku in Azerbaijan.  We went for a short visit at first and met Mr Ramazan Asgarli, the secretary of the NSA. In Baku we met up with some of the other local friends at their very large Bahá’í Centre. At the beginning I wasn’t sure if I could go and live there, as it looked as if we had gone back in time, and I couldn’t imagine myself as part of their community. I thought language would be a big barrier as most people spoke ether Russian or Azeri. Besides, I was doing very well at home in Aberdeenshire with my art classes, having over a hundred students each week across the various community centres where I worked.  However in the end we sold our lovely home in Alford and moved to Baku. Andrew’s contract was for three years, but we stayed only for two, due to some complications with his employers at BP (British Petroleum).

Yet again we had some incredible and memorable times in Azerbaijan, as every day was an experience to remember for the rest of our days, and it would take far too long to cover everything. However I will just mention a few highlights from our time there. The Bahá’í friends were very dedicated, obedient, kind and generous. Before long, I started with art classes, a women’s group, and visiting some orphans every week. Together with Andrew we tutored Ruhi books using several languages as not everyone spoke English well. We had to have books in English, Russian, Azeri and Farsi to ensure all our participants understood everything well. We also established an English club for the local friends to help improve their English, and to hold devotional meetings and firesides. These regular events became very popular and it was wonderful to be able to support our community so much. In 2006 we had the great bounty of Mr and Mrs Nakhjavani and their family visiting Baku, where Mr Nakhjavani had been born. We spent many unforgettable days together, and listened to so many really wonderful talks from them both. Their visit truly uplifted the whole community and was a unifying topic of conversation for a long time afterwards. In the summer of 2007 our son Sam married a beautiful and amazing girl, Nawgole Badee, and we had the joy of uniting with her family to help to start the building of their “fortress of well-being and salvation”.

Mr and Mrs Nakhjavani with Chehreh and Andrew in Baku (2007)

In early 2007 we returned to the north east of Scotland once again and as our core activities are the same the world over, we were able to work together with the local Bahá’í friends around us, supporting the various community building activities, hosting many meetings and tutoring many Ruhi books. We also travelled together, visiting and supporting the friends in the Scottish Islands.

The most memorable event for me in 2009 was becoming a grandmother on the birth of our very first incredible granddaughter Kara, Sam and Nawgole’s first baby. In the summer of the following year, 2010, after her graduation our daughter Mai travelled to India to serve at the Lotus Temple in Delhi. It was an amazing and tremendous experience for her.

In 2011 we were blessed again with our second lovely granddaughter Lana, a sister for Kara. So much love, so much warmth, such incredible and blissful feelings.

In May of 2012 we travelled to Lisburn in Northern Island for the marriage of our beautiful, incredible and talented daughter Mai to the very hardworking and great man Navid Gornall. It was an amazing occasion, bringing many friends and family together in such unforgettable times.

To bring my story to an end though, after leaving my homeland as a teenager some forty four years ago, I can’t help missing my large and wonderful family, who are scattered all over the world, the sound of the deep and incredible Persian music, the smell of flowers in the springtime in the streets of Tehran, the whole experience and celebration of Naw-Rúz, the shining coins from adults and grandparents, the sound of cuckoos in the long, hot summer days as we were trying to have afternoon naps, visiting the most colourful markets of Tehran, and the amazing and unique Persian art and calligraphy.

However, after all these years, I feel so incredibly blessed and very fortunate to find myself here in the north east of Scotland. Together with Andrew I have travelled a lot, met so many of the friends around the world, served in many different and exciting communities, and brought up two fantastic, wonderful children, of whom we are so proud as they are both serving the Faith in many different capacities in the UK. I have also been so lucky to be able to visit the Holy Land many times and have met many of the Hands of the Cause of God in different parts of the world. I hosted dearest Mr Hofman at our home, met Mr Bernard Leach many years ago, when he instilled in me the love of pottery, met dearest Mr Adib Taherzadeh, Professor Bushrui and Mr Nakhjavani and his family and so many other wonderful Bahá’í friends at many Bahá’í conferences and summer schools.

Currently Andrew and I are both much involved and busy with the core activities in our small Aberdeenshire community and planning for the Twin Holy Days celebration for this year.


 Chehreh Goodwin

Aberdeenshire, February 2017