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TAGS: Abul-Qasim Faizi; Agnes Alexander; Ali Akbar Furutan; Amatul-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum; Clara Hyde Dunn; Collis Featherstone; Enoch Olinga; Hands of the Cause; Jalal Khazeh; John Robarts; Leroy Ioas; Rahmatullah Muhajir; Ugo Giachery; William Sears
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Hands of the Cause of God:
Personal Recollections

by Bill Washington

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Chapter 7

Enoch Olinga

My only personal memories of Enoch Olinga was a brief meeting in May 1958 when he passed through Australia on his way to New Zealand and Fiji – to meet with the people of the Pacific, both Bahá’ís and prominent people in the wider community. It was a visit of some importance for the future development of the Faith in the Pacific region.

It was my good fortune also to be in Sydney, briefly, at that time – I was in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and had come back to Sydney to arrange materials for the school that was being built in Port Vila, New Hebrides – a small school that the Guardian had proudly mentioned in his final Ridván message. I was staying with a Bahá’í family – Greta and Aubrey Lake – and as Greta had offered to take Enoch Olinga around Sydney to meet with some of the elderly friends who were unable to attend gatherings, it was my good fortune to be able to go along with them. At that time, Greta had been a solid Bahá’í for a number of years, member of many committees and, for a period, member of the National Spiritual Assembly. Aub had always been there, willing to help in any way possible, living the life of a Bahá’í but not having declared himself. He was a skilled cabinetmaker and had designed and built the double chairs that have been used in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the Antipodes in Sydney – two chairs built in one unit, so that they do not easily move about and make any disturbing noise.

As I recall on that day, Enoch Olinga and Aubrey sat together on the rear seat, and there was little space, as it was a rather small sedan. Between calls on the friends who were house-bound, as we drove around, Enoch and Aub talked together in the back and, glancing in the rear mirror a few times, I noticed they were sitting close together and holding hands, talking softly and giggling at each other. Whatever was actually said during that day remains undisclosed but I do know that Aub declared a few weeks later. Such was the inebriating effect of just being with Enoch Olinga. Ten years later Greta and Aub were able to pioneer to Western Samoa, where they served for five years.

Although my time with Enoch Olinga on that day and again several days later at the National headquarters in Paddington was short, I recall a characteristic that very strongly marked him: it was just impossible to pay him a compliment. Whenever one made any comment that was in any way complimentary, he seemed to have a genius for turning it around, passing it on to someone else or back to the speaker. It was as though, in his own mind, he just did not exist – such was his humility.

On that visit I had bought copies of God Passes By for three of the early believers in the New Hebrides and, to make the gift more special, had asked Mr Olinga to write some message in the books for them. He asked me whether they were declared Bahá’ís or not, and I had to tell him that two of them were but the third had not actually declared, although he was a Bahá’í in his life and association with the others. His father was, I understand, a pastor in the local church and David was concerned not to upset him, so he had not actually declared – and as time passed, he never did, although I regarded him as a believer. But it was important for Enoch Olinga, and I explained the situation for him.

Afterwards, when I read the inscriptions he had made in the books, I saw that two were the same – loving greetings from one of Bahá’u’lláh’s humble servants to another – but the third was a little more reserved; Enoch Olinga must have known and inscribed his greetings to meet the true needs of each one.

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