David and Esther Tanyi
At just 25 years old, David Tanyi was the oldest of the five young Cameroonian Knights of Bahá’u’lláh – the four others were all under 21. Newly married, and forfeiting a job opportunity to go pioneering, he reached French Togoland in early 1954, and was named a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh together with Vivian Wesson and Mavis Nymon. David’s young wife Esther was only able to join him several months later together with their first son, born in his absence.
It was the start of 35 years of pioneering, during which Esther and David Tanyi experienced poverty, hunger and malnutrition, loneliness and xenophobia – but also the joy of teaching, and laying the foundations for Bahá'í communities in Togo, Benin and Ghana. 'My heart is as sweet as sugar,' wrote David Tanyi, 'to see that the Faith is now spreading here is a miracle indeed. I tell you sister there are many pure souls here . . .'
Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga, who taught the Bahá'í Faith to Esther and David Tanyi, described them as 'Adam and Eve of the Bahá'í Faith in Cameroon' because they were the first Cameroonian couple to accept the Faith, and the hospitality they offered in their home was instrumental in building the first Bahá'í community in that country.
All the young Bahá'ís who were named Knights of Bahá'u'lláh came from this community. Shoghi Effendi wrote to them: 'you are rendering historic service, and you are becoming the honour and glory of Africa.'