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Stephen and Irene Coles’ remote fenland farm is their own little piece of paradise. They have been married for almost twenty years and Stephen calls this the ‘second book’ of their life.

Stephen in particular is wedded to the fen landscape, having lived and worked here all his life. His dream was to buy a farm when he retired, and to return to his roots as a man of nature.

But some years ago, the sudden death of a much-loved friend caused Stephen and Irene to re-examine their plans for the future. They decided not to wait until they retired, but to put plans in place to fulfil their dream while they were still able to enjoy their life together.

 

They sold up their businesses and bought the farm they now live on. For Stephen this was a real homecoming as he had worked in the neighbouring fields with his family since he was a boy.

Stephen and Irene also wanted to breed animals as a retirement hobby. But there was a problem. Irene is allergic to most animals, so cats, dogs, horses, etc were not an option.

 

They were visiting a local village show one day when they spied some very exotic looking creatures … a group of Alpacas. They were both very taken with these charming animals and when they discovered that the Alpaca fleece is ‘hypoallergenic’ as well, the decision was made. They took the plunge and soon found themselves the owners of three pregnant females.

Stephen and Irene had to embark on a steep learning curve, as they had to rapidly educate themselves in all aspects of Alpaca health, welfare and maintenance. More than a decade later they have a thriving herd of twenty-five of these docile and charming creatures.

Neither Stephen nor Irene enjoyed school, as they are both severely dyslexic. This difficulty led to them both becoming very shy in adult life. Neither of them felt comfortable in crowds or surrounded by people who they didn’t know. But they both recognise that these difficulties have created a special bond between them. They understand each other, even when sometimes the rest of the world doesn’t seem to. But they enjoyed themselves nevertheless, with many interests in common, including a great love of Country and Western dancing.

Things seemed to be going well for them both in this busy, happy ‘second chapter’ of their lives, when Stephens knees deteriorated drastically leaving him unable to continue working. Always a busy and active person, he now had to spend months barely able to walk.  Irene had to work long hours to support them both at this time. Stephen found himself stuck indoors, in a remote location, with very little to do. He became very bored and quite lonely with only the TV for company.

One day, he was browsing on the internet when he came across an item about a discussion group in Ely. This discussion group was an initiative of the Baha’i faith. Stephen and Irene decided to attend … just for something to do. That was the start of a huge transformation in their lives.

Both Stephan and Irene’s eyes light up when they talk of the peace and contentment that the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh has brought to their lives.

That meeting changed our lives. ‘For the first time we walked into a group of strangers and felt welcomed and comfortable.’ These days Stephen and Irene’s lives are defined by the Baha’i faith.

As Irene says ‘Baha’i embraces people of all faiths. It is inclusive to all and respects the differences between us. With Baha’i, there is no hierarchy, each individual takes responsibility for their own deeds and lifestyle and is accountable only to God.  The thing is to be true to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, to be of service and always try to see the best in everyone. You can be a Jew, Christian, Muslim or any religion and Baha’i will offer you a friendly welcome.’

 The essence of Baha’i faith is as follows.

Throughout history, God has sent to humanity a series of divine Educators … known as Manifestations of God … whose teachings have provided the basis for the advancement of civilization. These manifestations have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these messengers, explained that the religions of the world come from the same source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God. Bahaís believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life.  That ‘the earth is one country and mankind its citizens’ Such a vision unfolds in the writings of Bahá’u’lláh.

You can discover more about the Baha’i faith by visiting
www.bahai.org.uk

Steven and Irene Coles

Keeping the Faith in the Fens