I just received word that Henry Doplphin just passed away. He was a great man whom I adored. There are so many stories I’d like to tell you, but they wouldn’t do justice to his memory. The stories become so much more powerful after you have actually met the man. He was quiet and humble, and often amazed by the attitudes he encountered in the United States. Although he stood only 5 feet and a few inches tall, and was rather frail looking in his old age, the man was giant to me.
He was from Guyana in South America. His stories of the days he spent farming there, with his dear wife Sheila, raising their son Joe (my pilgrimage brother) whom he called “Junior”, always amazed me. He was a farmer, a mine manager, a coastal erosion expert, and most of all, a great judge of character and a believer in the human spirit. His cousels to me will remain forever in the treasury of my heart.
For the Baha’is out there, I will share one story:
Once when Henry was telling me about life in Guyana, he told me this.
The NSA of Guyana, on which Henry served for 20 years, was very concerned for the future of the Faith in their country. Political parties controlled everything. A person’s very employment was often predicated upon joining a particular party our another. Abandonment of a political party meant loss of income. So teaching was extremely difficult. Henry said the NSA consulted and decided to write a long letter to the Universal House of Justice explaining their situation and asking for advice. They sent a four page letter to Haifa and anxiously awaited a reply. Weeks passed. Then one day Henry received an excited call from the Secretary “An envelope has come from Haifa! We’re calling an emergency meeting to open it together.” They all gather expectantly as the secretary opened the much anticipated letter, carefully removed a single page, and read the words aloud (as the members held their breath).
To the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Guyana
Dear Baha’i Friends,
We have received and read the detailed letter your Assembly wrote regarding the situation in your country. We offer you this guidance taken from the words of the Beloved Guardian:
“Teach Ye The Cause of God”
With loving Baha’i Greetings, The Universal House of Justice
Henry told me they could not believe that was all the House would say. They checked the envelope for an additional page they might have missed. No, that was all. They had written four pages explaining their dire difficulties and yet the House responded only with “Teach Ye The Cause of God”!
They sat in stunned silence. Then, Henry told me, the wheels began to turn their heads. They realized that the House of Justice was guaranteeing them success! “What if”, Henry suggested to his fellow members, “we rent a small house in a certain town and deputize some young Baha’is to live their and teach the Faith, full-time, in that town for several months, with meetings and firesides everyday?”
They launched that plan and within a few years had achieved such success that an estimated 9-percent of the country’s population had embraced the Faith of Baha’u’llah and it had become the fourth world religion officially recognized by their new Government.
When Henry retired from the NSA in the early 1990’s (eventually to live near his doctor in the Washington DC area), The Universal House of Justice sent a letter praising Henry for his many years of service and crediting him with the teaching plan that ultimately won a great victory of expansion in Guyana. The memory of that letter brought tears of joy to Henry’s eyes.
Friends, in case you didn’t know, a Teaching Giant once lived among us disguised as a small, humble, black man from Guyana.
On my very best day of service, I still won’t feel qualified to carry his lunch for him. Nonetheless he will have every ounce of prayer I can offer on his behalf as will his beloved wife Sheila and son Joe and the whole Dolphin family.
Please join me.