Doreen Mpofu

I was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe into a strong Christian family. Sunday was a very important day in the family because everybody had to dress up and go to church. My father was the pastor in the Apostolic Faith Church in Bulawayo. As children we sang in the Sunday school, and both my parents loved singing as well. As I was growing up I had a lot of unanswered questions about religion since there were some things which I did not understand. No satisfactory answers were given to me when I asked questions about certain religious issues. For instance, there was a song sung in the church for as long I can remember; I was then 16 going on 17. The words of the song said that Jesus would return in five years’ time. I asked my mother how long they had been singing this song and she replied that it was from before she was born. Her answer did not satisfy me and I was curious to know when the second coming of Christ would be, so I kept on searching! That was one just one of the confusing issues in my search!

It so happened that my brother-in-law came to visit and he had pinned on the lapel of his jacket the Bahá’í nine-pointed-star. I was attracted to this amazing piece of jewellery. I asked him where he got it from and he said it had been given to him when he had became a Bahá’í, a religion which he had just joined. I said that I had never heard of it and could he explain to me what it was all about. He told me a little about this faith and invited me to join some other Bahá’ís on the Wednesday evening when they were going to have a meeting. It turned out that for my brother-in-law and for some of the other Bahá’ís there it was going to be an important committee meeting so I was introduced to Mr John Robarts, the beloved Hand of the Cause, to look after me for that evening since he was not part of the group meeting. I had so many questions I wanted to ask him. He explained the concept of progressive revelation and from then on everything became crystal clear for me. After many sessions with him I declared my belief in Bahá’u’lláh. Oh my goodness! I was very lucky to have him as my spiritual father as of course he was able to provide answers to my unanswered questions. Also, I will never forget meeting the Hand of the Cause Mr William Sears whom I first met in Bulawayo, and then again at one of the Southern African conferences.

But then I had a problem as to how to tell my parents about my new-found religion. I was battling with my thoughts as to whom I was going tell first, my mum or my daddy. I plucked up courage and approached my daddy, prepared for whatever the outcome, very scared about how to go about it. I told my father I had found a religion which I liked very much. He asked me what it was and did the religion believe in God? I said yes it did. He said “Dollie (that was my childhood name), as long as your religion believes in God, I have no qualms about you”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was so happy to hear those words from a strong Christian pastor who had become very liberated in his beliefs. My mother was not so happy and wondered how my daddy could allow a girl to do what she wanted in their home.

Anyway all’s well that ends well. Both my parents soon realised that it was a good move for me and for them too. They became friends of the Bahá’ís until their last moments in this world. They both had Bahá’í prayers said at their funerals. One moment I will always remember is that when I went for a week’s deepening class in Harare, and eager to teach my mum about the Faith, she said I should be grateful that my father had allowed me to choose between the church and the Bahá’í Faith and that was enough! But that changed as the years went by. I like to think they are now Bahá’ís in the Abhá Kingdom, and this makes me happy and proud of them.

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I met John and Audrey Robarts in the years 1964-65 in Bulawayo, Matabeleland Region, when it was Rhodesia. At that time it was difficult to hold Baha’i meetings in what was then called the ‘White Suburbs’ and dangerous for the ‘whites’ to be in the black townships in the evenings.

I met quite a number of distinguished Baha’is and also Hands of the Cause of God, e.g. Mr Adelbert Mühlschlegel from Germany, Dr Rahmatu’lláh Muhájir, Mr Músá Banání and his daughter Violette Nakhjavani when they travelled in Africa, Mr Enoch Olinga and his wife in Kampala, and Mr Inayat Fananapazir. I also met Mr Hushmand Fateazam, who was a member of the Universal House of Justice, with his family when he came to visit his brother Shidan in Salisbury (then Rhodesia).

I met John and Audrey in Lagos, Nigeria where I attended the 50th anniversary of the passing of Bahíyyih Khánum and that was the last time I saw John before he passed away. At a later time Audrey visited me in my house in what was then Zimbabwe

I became a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Zimbabwe from 1968-1970 and was privileged to represent the National Assembly as a delegate for the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1973. I met Philip Hainsworth at the Pilgrim House and he told me that his son Michael was on his way to Zimbabwe and when I came back from Haifa I did meet Michael there. When later I met his mum, Lois, I told her about these family connections.

My brother-in-law, who told me about the Faith, was never active in the Cause but was very happy that I was I was one of those NSA members chosen to present the Peace Message to the President and to the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. We managed to give it to President Canaan Banana though we never had the opportunity to present it to the Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe as he was always busy or out of the country. However, we learnt that when he visited Belgium, one Baha’i was fortunate in being able to hand the Peace Message to him while he was doing a walk about!

In 1985 we went on pilgrimage. We were a group of six from Zimbabwe, including my husband. It was such a spiritual feeling and experience especially when we met with all the members of the Universal House of Justice. For me I was overpowered by their presence when the whole nine of them approached us. I can’t explain the feeling of power which fell over me when Mr Ali Nakhjavani came towards me and said that a couple of weeks previously there was a young girl from Africa who was on pilgrimage. He said that half of his heart was in Africa and he gave her the other to take back! I said to him that I had brought the other half back! When he was in London in 2013 attending the memorial of former member of the Universal House of Justice Mr Hushmand Fatheazam, I approached him and reminded him about the talk we had had about his half heart. He told me that he remembered that! I was so amazed because I thought he wouldn’t remember, but he did!

My husband and I have five children. I came to the UK in 1999 because of the unstable situation in Zimbabwe. Since then I have been living as a live-in carer in many and various places around the UK, such as London, Southampton, Glastonbury and Taunton. I love to sing and have often sung in various choirs, including a number of Bahá’í choirs.

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Doreen Mpofu

Somerset, November 2017

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