Originally I came to Saudi Arabia to teach and help the people to bridge the gap between the modern western world and their ancient civilization. The studies adjusted surprisingly fast for the most part. But still, being in that Kingdom now for so long, I knew they lacked professionalism. And so, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I established the American Institute of Architects/ AIA in Saudi Arabia.
I could not establish a church to bring Christian ethics to that country, but I could teach Christian ethics in and professional organization. I did that easily because God had blessed me personally with the gift of organization and administration. “……………….but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer” per Psalm 66:19. To accomplish this, in itself, was already a sign of the Lord but the many things that happened were also signs from God. From the beginning I could sense the zeal of the Lord in this work. It all started in 1992 (1413 H of the Saudi calendar), after I had changed my American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) membership from the usual national to international status, that King Faisel University hosted a representative of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Knowing that our dean, Abdul-Aziz al-Saati, was a graduate of a US university and a former AIA associate member, Iquipped to him as why we do not bring an American architect’s association as the American Institute of Architects to Saudi Arabia. Why always the British? He soon agreed.
I wrote to the newly established international division, if we could establish an international chapter in Saudi, and, they said yes, and supplied me with a list of AIA members in KSA. In fact several Washington, DC AIA executive board members wrote letters of encouragement and advice. They gave me rules and protocols to be followed and provided workbooks and start-up information.
In fact, on Feb 22, 1994 ( 1414H Saudi calendar) the AIA’s Virgil Carter invited us to start an A I A chapter and I contacted all of the AIA members listed in Saudi and invited them to a first start- up meeting at the us military Desert Inn. I was a non-military member and I had a special pass, and could invite guests. It was a wonderful collision of secular and spiritual worlds. Of course the Mission Inn expected most to eat but many did not order anything. My very friendly, loyal and faithful Egyptian and Philippino waiters were very patient with my group.
About twenty came. One young Saudi came especially from Jeddah. He was contemplating starting a Jeddah section but soon told me, it would be too much work. Several American professional AIA members showed up including David Hatch, Michael Schuetz, and the fellow who later married Ayeshen, the KFU female Turkish department head of Architecture and several others. All agreed on the idea and committed to do what it takes to make it happen. We not only decided to collect dues, but also appointed the officers and agreed on a next meeting date. I used this same tactic when starting cell groups, churches and fellowships.
On March 6, 1994 I contacted Bill Brew who was then the US consul who also agreed to help get us established. Bill introduced us to the prince of the Eastern Province and suggested I contact Hassan Ali al Jabber’s and gave me his phone number and an introductory letter to the Governors office requesting permission to organize and meet. In Saudi Arabia Meetings of large groups are officially prohibited. That is, because the kingdom is for security reasons continuously under marshal law. But we overcame that obstacle after I talked to the Governor.
After our initial and agreeable meeting with Hassan, Mike wrote a letter to Prince Mohammed and we received an official letter from Prince Mohammed Bin Fahad Bin Abdulaziz on April 4, 1994. Hassan only asked that we request their permission for each and every meeting, especially if it involved female members so as to keep ourselves protected and safe because they could not always predict the behavior of the religious police who were known to raid these types of meetings. In fact because our meetings were so regular, advertised and orderly the hotel and his office waved this requirement. This was quite an exception coming from Hassan Ali Al-J. who was Prince Mohammed’s private administrator and diplomatic charge d’ affairs. And Bill the counsel general; a former lawyer was our keynote speaker at the First AIA/ AIG/ME meeting. Additionally, he participated in our formative board meetings.
Then we tried some thing unheard of in that country. Bill’s wife Sandra hosted women architects in the hopes of forming a female American Institute of Architects. Women are allowed to study architecture. They have at King Faisel University, just for woman, a large department in a specially secured building. There are women professors from Egypt and Turkey only. However if a male teacher is necessary, he must go in to a special room where there is a two-way mirror to teach.
He cannot see the women students but they can see him. Women can become architect but it is almost impossible for them to praxis their profession outside of there one family needs. It is a strange double standard world
The AIG/ME women’s issue was rather fatal. The Arabic female students wanted to be associate members but they where not allowed to join an organization with man. And so Christina with the wife of the council general, Mrs. Brew, and some ARAMCON female Architects formed a separate group especially for Saudi women, where the meetings were at the consulate. But soon it was too complicated for the ARAMCON’s to come to the meetings because they lived in Dhahran, the town which was especially built for their employees. There, the women could drive, but they could not drive outside to get to the consulate. So, they stopped coming. Then for the Saudi women, to stay out alone in the evening was a problem and there where all kinds of other ridiculous objections from their families. Finally the Saudi women stayed away. On the end there was only one woman left. And after discussions with the governor’s office and the hotel we decided to simply open our regular meetings to both men and women. But soon even she stopped attending because she was alone. She was the Bangladeshi wife of the Bangladeshi architect who owned also a Chinese restaurant.
Again, their poor attendance of the women was another example of a self-inflicted misunderstanding of what is actually possible, acceptable and beneficial in Saudi Arabia, one good news came from all this and that was our Jeddah office member hired a female architect who worked in his office.
Bill Brew told me privately, that this experiment with our new-formed group enhanced his experience in Saudi. While he was in the kingdom, Bill even invited us to hold our board meeting in his official consulate villa, and he provided special snacks, drinks and sometimes dinner. All prepared and served by his very fine staff often our meetings where preceded with cocktails and diner. This form of encouragement and support was beyond what any one of us would have expected and our board members were elated. He involved his wife and home in what we were doing. However the fact that women architects where also welcome in our organization was not well received by several of our Saudi AIA associate members.
Simultaneously, I contacted the Mr. Ansari of the Saudi Chamber of commerce about Saudi architect’s licenses and associations and learned that they were not adverse to us organizing and welcomed helping AIA get established.
When we were about to start our AIA chapter the deputy minister of the Dammam Chamber opened his library and gave us reprints of the ministerial resolutions governing associations and professional licensing. As a result we were able to speak intelligently to the office of Prince Mohammed and later to gain access to chamber facilities to meet and belong to the chamber as an association and official “AIA Provider of Continuing Education”. In Saudi Arabia, as in other places, it is not what you know but who you know; and, I had already dealt with Mr. Ansari years before to get the ministerial resolution which I presented to the U.P.M. gathering and a great relationship with Ansari’s brother. Also, as long as we had the Governor’s personal permission we did not need a special license to operate because the Governor’s permission was that license. Furthermore, it was an educational association in a not-for-profit status. Like Christina’s art exhibit in Riyadh in 1986, we were breaking ground and setting precedence in the kingdom. Several years later the Saudi Chamber even hosted and catered several of our meetings. The Holy Spirit’s favor covered every step and gave me what to speak and the path to follow.
Signs abounded in a kingdom that was rumored hostile to Americans and public gatherings, signs that encouraged persons of God to be bold and use God’s authority to carry out His will.
Even establishing bible study cell groups, Christian’s schools, praise and worship gatherings, disseminating bibles and Christian study books, and encouraging secular cultural and educational activities. In fact we were able to have the kingdom’s version of off Broadway theatre, concert orchestras, play shops, import orchestral ensembles, have choirs, etc.
Saudi Arabia was showing how it welcomes and desires to promote American metaphors. In a very subtle way I introduced Christian principles into business, which was rather new to Saudi natives. That is way the Holy Spirit was present in all I was doing. I was learning my role as a child of God’s royal family to be His ambassador. And, by Christ the Holy Spirit and I were providing the Saudi’s with a secular institutional model for peaceful relations with America. It was also apparent that the people to whom we were speaking were moderate Moslems interested in furthering secularism and a civilized Saudi Arabia society.
Thanks to the personal invitations and coordination by Dr. Abdulhamid Shalaby I had been regularly attending Engineering Society meetings in the Carlton Hotel, which had the correct size private meeting room and an open buffet directly outside. I knew the young boys who owned the hotel and had over the years given them free design advice.
I was so counting on this facility for our architect’s meetings. I thought if engineers could meet with such flexibility so can we. They had a speaker and were usually about one hundred. It was perfect.
But this was not to be, the hotel gave us a lot of trouble, on the very date that we planned and announced our first meeting, the hotel management decided to convert the meeting rooms into a “Mexican Restaurant”. However, since we already had sent out the invitations, we did hold our inauguration meeting at the Carlton Hotel on April 17 1994 but unfortunately in the ballroom, which was much too big. In addition the hotel had to get an exact count of guests because it wasn’t the combination meeting and open buffet as the other part of the hotel offered. We really did not know how many people would show up on our first official meeting. As it turned out over one hundred people showed up and about ninety-eight joined and became members of our association. This windfall of members forged our board into a confident strike force.
Prior to the first meeting and to meet our potential members needs we had organized a battery of greeters, sign up forms, and a procedure for giving out information, and collecting dues.
We rehearsed the strategy, tactics and logistics so that each person knew his role and was equipped to act decisively and swiftly so that we do not west time. Additionally we had great speakers, from the US consulate, Dr Jamel Akbar, R. Al-R. and other well known Architects. God really mead me use my gift of organization. Now everyone wanted to be part of God’s work. The harvest was rich and the interest was great. We had a lot of people but not a real nice place to meet.
My very dear friend AbdulHamid Shalaby, one of the professors of the KFU and a structural Engineer from Egypt, came to the rescue. He made arrangements with the father of one of his students, who was the manager of the Al-Ghosiabi hotel, a very exclusive place right near the Arabian Gulf. He welcomed our group and we changed our venue to that very fine Hotel. There we had perfect accommodations at a reasonable price.
In addition there where surprise benefits. We got free cakes on Christina’s or my birthdays, hand delivered to our door by either father or son, and a hotel discount card for great dinners in the hotel at half price, and half off on laundry. To us a unusual custom, but in Saudi Arabia at that time it was quit common for hotels to take on laundry for their good customers.
From the beginning we had the best talent, including the American, David Hatch, who volunteered to be our secretary and executed the complicated and specific correspondence with the AIA. British, John Sleep volunteered to program our financial management system including purchase for educational requisitions, member ship fees and accounts listings and much more. He did this all with a special computer program so that his successor at his company, Hani Al-Maimani was able to learn and use it till the year 2000. All was completely on the computer and automated. That was special, because computers where not jet as common as today. John Sleep, after he trained our Saudi Hani Al-Maimani left Saudi Arabia and returned to England. AIG/ME used every thing John established faithfully and gratefully. Hani Al-Maimani remained our treasurer, later became personal director for Schlumberger and then moved on to Dubai. Hani was originally from Jeddah and lived conveniently close to our apartment in Khobar.
Our friendly Philippino, Armando Uson did not exactly volunteer, most Orientals do not quit understand the principle of volunteering. He therefore got a little money for his service, but he helped to build our membership and contact lists to other Philippino architects.
Rene Caldeo and Shalaby coordinated various special outings while Saudi Arabia, Amran arranged for various speakers.
We even had Joseph Sanchez, an ARAMCO architect from Houston arrange to sell AIA black shirts he had made specially for as to sell at meetings. I met him when I was contract administrator at ARAMCO and I believed I knew him from Houston. American, Michael Schuetz was my AIG/ME vice president; Lebanese, Nejim alKhatib, married to a French girl and managed a company in Jeddah flew in from Jeddah for our meetings and then tried to help set up AIG/ME branch in Jeddah. American, Roger Taylor, an architect, was then ARAMCO fire safety specialist and second vice president. There was even a former student of mine Omran Omran who was there to help right at the beginning to form AIG/ME; his brother also helped in the first year. Later he became the new fantastic airport public relations representative and helped us organize tours for our group. Tours where an important part of our activities, sins there where still remnants of ottoman fortresses to few. Or we could study the ancient way of construction methods in some forgotten old town, but all that disappeared very fast; and with it the romance of the orient.
Of course we needed publicity and also we needed to educate the public that besides engineers there are architects, which build and especially design houses, a relative new concept in the kingdom.
Philippino, Jose, a journalist for the Arab News took us on and not only made sure there were announcements but he also wrote articles about our concerns and issues. He and I had some disagreements but then became great friends. He even brought his wife to our apartment to meet Christina. This does not often happen as men work and play together while their wives are seldom seen.
Many local design professionals and businessmen enrolled as members or associate members including Abdullah Sadat who owned SCADO, Saudi Consulting and Design Organization. I had originally met him in my capacity as ARAMCO’s Contractor Liaison, where he answered one of my objections explaining how it is necessary for every Saudi business to hedge its practice with several incomes to offset one or the others during economic slowdowns. How well did I know that! We always were friendly but he never chooses to use me as consultant. Instead he eventually employed a Lebanese architect as his director of design Roland Radd who was married to a French lady.
When I founded AIG/ME he brought the mayor of AlKhobar and others to become members of AIG/ME.In fact when I left the kingdom he and Garth Compton got Roland to volunteer to be AIG/ME’s president. Often he and I would often meet in the mayor’s office by accident, especially when I was trying to get my Igama transferred. Sadat sponsored the PMI, Project Management Institute, in which I had been educational chairman in Houston. And, secretly, my masseur’s only other client was Sadat who also opened his office to conduct some KFU classes where several of his employees and former students served on my board and AIG/ME committees. They would lecture my students on the company’s work and office procedures. It was one of the courses created for me by Ibrahim Al-Naimi to take advantage of my professional experience and contacts with all the local engineering and architectural offices in the Eastern Province. It was also in keeping with my own training and background where we made field trips. I also believed that doing this would greatly enable such offices and student to be able to find employment when graduation. I knew that most Saudi offices had an aversion to hiring Saudis and Saudis had an abysmal self esteem of there abilities and professional potential, in fact as a result of these efforts so many of my students are now employees, architects and managers of government, and private offices.
As in my own case growing up at my student’s age I did not have a clue about professional practices, architects and the business of building. So, I tried to give to them what I did not have. It worked! It may have contributed to one of the many reasons why the Arab faculty decided that I should not continue of their faculty.
ARAMCO was very influential in the Eastern Province and desired to get all-important goings on under its control. If we did, we would be allowed meeting places, wide and broad publicity and other privileges including being part of the employees “in-group” events, a very desirable fact for all non Americans thins it was a kind of status symbol to be able to rob shoulders with Americans. However, we decided not to seek ARAMCO’s support to become an “employee run group”.
No thanks! Having had been an ARAMCON I knew the strings attached and would lied us in to mediocrity and not to excellence as we had in mind. The decision was not to go there. And it turned out, the very fact that we quickly turned our back on ARAMCO’s endorsement and sponsorship gave us an edge with all of our private vendors, contractors and professional firms. They saw in us a true torch, “al Shoula” for the good of the profession without links and debt. Not even to the government.
It was a no-strings-attached organization, blessed by the royal family and operating within the rules and regulations of the kingdom. The Holy Spirit truly guided our path and gave us favor. In this way the local US Consulate endorsed and contributed to our success and so did the people at the AIA.
However, over one year of great success into this organization an AIA attorney suddenly decided that having a chapter in KSA was not appropriate. It appeared to us he did not like to further the advancements of Arabs. And, he forbids our continued use of the AIA name, etc. The gist of the AIA’s attorney’s objection was, as he put it, the AIA should serve its members and is not a missionary “do-gooder” organization. This flew in the face of those Washington A.I.A. board members that encouraged and promulgated our formation. It certainly did not bode well with several of our Saudi AIA associate members. However, an overwhelming number continued and helped us grow and develop. It was a cause worth supporting as a great experiment and worthwhile uplifting of the profession.
Yet we decided later to change our name to AIG/ME, which only spurned us onward and upward to become the kingdom’s very own international architectural organization promoting high professional ethics and standards for the architectural profession. Further more, this did not affect our status as a provider of A.I.A. continuing education and our affiliation continued. I made sure that this was printed on all our cards and literature and we established an A.I.A. section in the consulate’s library. I was persistent and would not let God’s work be foiled! Mike Schuetz worked hard to fill the shelves with A. I. A. Publications, Sweets Catalogs, continuing education modules, specialty research manuals and workbooks.
Out organization was truly international: since we were from many countries, but we followed strictly the ethics and teachings of the American Institute of Architects.
And, despite the American Institute of Architect’s lawyer the idea of having an international A.I.A. group caught on and we became internationally famous amongst all the other newly forming international chapters. On April 1996, the exact time of our thirtieth wedding anniversary, Russell Kuhn invited me to be the keynote speaker in Paris’’ Pompidou Center at the A.I.A.’s first “International Markets and Practice Committee”. Rashid Saad Al-Rashid one of Saudi’s foremost Architects accompanied and helped me network amongst the other American Institute of Architects members. Rashid was a friend and an AIA associate and member of AIG/ME. It was in Paris where I again met some of his cousins, who ware bankers. He invited Christina and me to meet his wife and children in his apartment. Seeing his Paris made us again aware how incredible wealthy Saudi Families really are. He had tried to hire me twice before I came to KSA from Houston. But really, I did never like the idea to work in Saudi. Only when God gave me no choice, I considered that move.
Rashid also invited my KFU students and the AIG/ME chapter to construction tours and final inspection of his magnificent ”Al-Rashid Mall” and to his beautiful twenty plus bedroom palace in Hofuf; the old trader town had a bazaar under a tent structures filled with spice and carpets . Over the years he helped me in many ways. He was often a speaker at the AIG/ME meetings. When we left Saudi he offered to buy several of Christina’s paintings. He did even try to intercede when I was ask to leave King Faisal University but even he found that the people he knew could not change things. At that time the Wahabbis began there pressure to get the Americans out of the country and everyone was scared especially the schools were pressured to send all non Saudi teachers home.
But Rashid remained my friend. Usually, he invited me to meet with him in his office to discuss AIA. Some times I’d meet in his friend’s home. They really joked and let their hair down, which is usually not done when a westerner is around .I could not really join the conversation since my Arabic is not good. I simply sat, ate, and relaxed. All the fellows owned their own well-known companies. It was great to be invited to Rashid’s inner circle. It was the same when we visited our good friend Ibrahim and Armeda Dooh where Christina and I spent many evenings with the Dooh’s in Riyadh.
After a year I noticed that both the numbers of AIA professional architects and associate members willing to facilitate AIG/ME had greatly diminished. They told me they stayed away because I give them so many jobs to do for which they really had no time. It was clear we needed a paid person who could do all the necessary duties of calling, taking minutes, completing the newsletter, collecting member ship fees, printing membership cards and certificates, simply to do all the necessary clerical jobs. It would ultimately take two persons: Zahid and Cisco. Zahid was a Pakistani national who was a secretary at KFU and, for a couple of years was already typing my manuscripts. Cisco was a secretary for Petrocon and recommended to me by Garth Compton whose wife is a Philippina and they knew Cisco socially.
Therefore, Cisco (Boy) De los Santos was AIG/ME’s secretary and Administrator from 1993 to 1996. Cisco was motivated by his extra earnings so long as Garth was able to get sponsors to foot the bill to pay his fee, cover meeting and printing expenses. The two worked together like soap and water and Cisco performed brilliantly as did Garth to feed his friend. The AIG/ME administration worked smoothly, and without the aggravation and angst of its formative year. Zahid matured above his typist clerk status to become a professional executive secretary and administrator.
Before we could revive our dwindling membership attendants, Mohammed and the Al-Ghosiabi hotel announced that they could no longer allow us to meet because our numbers were too small and often unreliable and so we eventually moved our meetings to the small nearby al Nimran Hotel, managed by a British Man. It was on Pepsi Street near my florist and on the way to the corniche so I knew it well. It was less than five minutes from my house. The food was excellent and so were the facilities. The size and price was right. Our meetings flourished in this place. Saudi Arabia’s professional population is inconsistent and varied, professionals come and go. So do the numbers of people ready, willing and able to join and be active.
On the heels of our success, others where encouraged to form international chapters in various fields emulating our example. Even some Saudis academics decided to spawn their own version of an architectural group. We always supported them in their efforts. Many of their members joined our group and vice versa.
We had many committees. The most successful were the speakers committee, under Professor Shalaby. He was very well known, respected and attracted important men to help us in our quest. Also the sponsors committee, which was chaired by Garth Compton, was helpful. Garth, a volunteer, worked hard to reach his goals, because he loved to get sponsors to pay for the printing, distribution of the newsletters and the cost of renting the place to meet. All the other functions were simply taken up by our paid administrator Cisco.
I worked on AIG/ME with uncompromising zeal. Aside from teaching, many weekly ministry meetings and writing several articles for learned- journals this effort occupied a great deal of our time. I was either on the phone, writing or meeting.
We published our first Newsletter May 1, 1994 by organizing a team of volunteers to edit, design, print and distribute the letter. Al-Yahya was one of the early computer and design volunteers with Roger Reyla as editor. We were flattered when later the British AIA chapter contacted us and announce that they copied our Newsletter’s design. The professionalism of our group became so respected that companies like (APICORP) ask us to jury their projects. They offered me $6,000 to fulfill that task but soon withdrew their invitation when they learned that I had a remote relationship with CRS Sirrene back in 1984. In any case they used the American Institute of Architects policies and procedures for forming and carrying our competition to select an architect to design their new headquarter building on the Cornish in Dammam.
Because our AIG/ME was blessed by the Holy Spirit, it became everything that church should be and since I made an effort to keep God in the picture, in respect to our Arab members, not Jesus, we all relished the love that God placed in us. It was the way we could share the love of God with impunity within the regulations of the kingdom. In other words without saying the name of Jesus I relentlessly thanked God and made God a part of every detail and activity. As they said “a hum d le Allah” and “an shal Alah”; so did I and in my spirit God was with us as his name is Emanuel.
I believe this is why many good Saudi were attracted to our meetings and membership, even a member of the Shoura Court. We were always respectful and welcomed Islam including prayer and fellowship. It was a good time!
The AIG/ME team was so precious. The friendship of Armando Uson, Roger Reyla, Rene Caldeo, Mike Schuetz, and so many others will always be highlights of my life. We were quite a team of loyal friends, helping each other spiritually and professionally. When I visit Rene’s offices I would pray with the employees in there drafting room. Rene would come to my office and home to discuss many professional and personal concerns. He, along with Roger Reyla, Armando, Cisco de los Santos and others were examples of been beneficiaries of AIG/ME, because it gave them the confidence which they not had before to develop as professionals. Rene Caldeo eventually left the Egyptian firm in which he was the chief architect to go on his own doing projects for Holiday Inn; not before he called me in to help with the crisis between his company and Armando. Armando was a Philippino architect who took charge of developing our membership lists on the computer. He evidently did so at the expense of his service to his employer.
Secretly, he did this with the hope of his employer terminating his contract so he could return to the Philippines to take a job with more money and in Indonesia where he could develop his own practice. He and I got very close and he gave me beautiful shirt for my birthday and we fellowshipped in Manila when I visited.
We, however where not always in harmony, therefore Roger relished the idea of doing service with people he was constantly bailing me out with one and another person who had their feathers ruffled by some thing some one said. No one liked to be called and asked how he was doing about the progress and accomplishments on any of there chosen committees. And yet our ability to serve was exactly what made the group so special.
So many comical things happened. As the case where, one Saudi Professor who transferred to KFU from Jeddah repeatedly telephoned and urging me to nominate him to be on the AIG/ME board. But we cold hardly convince him and more important prove to him that people such as Mike, Hani, myself, etc. were doing all of this without compensation. He finally excused himself and then started contacting me for other reasons having to do with his employment at the school.
Speaking of money, ABACORE’s building engineer, Mohammed, invited me to judge a competition for the design of their new building. Their existing residence was originally designed as a ziggurat by the Greek architect, Doxiades and an office building was to be built on the same site. I would have been paid $6,000 but at the last minute I received a letter canceling the invitation because of my former affiliation with “CRS”.
In fact, Mohammed, the building’s engineer, used the A.I.A. competition standards to formulate the rules of the competition and I had already gotten permission from the university to participate in the jury. I was never told why my affiliation with CRS disqualified me. It was additionally auspicious because it was not part of my standard resume but I added it believing it should rather enhance and not be a detriment. After all, I was not a direct hire of CRS, but they were only a team member and the managing partner of the International Associates consortium Mohammed was absolutely reticent!
We also had people who tried to belittle our enthusiasm and put a damper on our venture. Like Houston’s John Turner who taught at KFU always belittled what I was doing by saying that no groups can meet and I was violating some kind of rules.
Yes we had our share of detractors. One American architect employed by ARAMCO called us a “good ole boys” group and would not become a member because we were not an ARAMCO approved group. Never-the-less by the end of 1997 we had over 1500 names on our contact list and were mailing our newsletter to England, France, Hong Kong, USA and all over the Gulf.
We simply continued our work in faith that we help a country to reach its goal to be a contributing member of the world’s well being. Monthly, we gave lectures. Cisco collected and sent in the signed forms so that our members got their AIA continuing education unit (CEU) credits. We behaved well and our sponsors, such as Hemple Paints, Zemel, and Dow Chemicals remained faithful supporters.
Our AIA group set the standards and provided the universities and US and Saudi Chamber with important professional and product information including valuable AIA documents and literature. Because of the tireless efforts of Mike, the US consulate established a special section in its library for our AIG/ME books and source material, including Sweets Catalogs, which we bought and then donated.
Public speaking was not the strong suit for many that spoke from the podium in front of our assembled group. Most Saudis are not used to make speeches and English is there second language. Often what they said was published and certainly appreciated by our group. Often our meetings were like a scientific seminar. Our monthly speakers were the most notable Saudi architects, planners, and engineers. Their comments were published in our newsletter and local newspapers.
For our non-teaching practicing professionals this was a good time to present their work. Several of our speakers were reinvited and became members of AIG/ME such as Al-Suhaimi, Rashid, Zuhair Fayez, and Ziad Zaidan. There was a certain group of Saudi architects who completed their degrees in the USA and welcomed AIA. For them it was kind of an affirmation and reconciliation of a commitment they had made in the past. I knew we were serving a God’s great purpose and encouraging good will. Every Ramadan when I saw the Prince who gave us the permission to meet, he would welcome me with an embrace and the respectful kisses. I also believe his endorsement and our connections to the US embassy and consul contributed to their high regard. In the end it was our professional behavior and persistence they loved and admired.
Another of our illustrious speakers was Mr. Omar Radii who was the first architect to be registered in Saudi Arabia. It was in his Dammam office that he hosted my KFU students. Our members and speakers were key figures in the government and from prominent Saudi families such as architect Zuhair Fayez was very encouraging and a member of Shoura Council, which is the Saudi court. Zuhair, accompanied by multiple screens and slide projectors spoke several times at AIG/ME meetings. He headed a huge firm in Jeddah designing major royal family and government buildings. For Saudi Projacs, I was consultant reviewer for one of his designs in Jeddah.
Dr. Sami Angawi was also a well-known architect and member of the Saudi council for national dialog who spoke at our meetings many times. He lived in the US for several years and has spoken out about various political events including the Israeli’s assassination of new Hamas leader Abdulaziz Al-Rantissi.
Many from Mustafa Abdulquader al- Ansari’s family were my students, members of AIG/ME, and friends.
For example, Ali al-Ansari was the deputy minister of the Dammam chamber of commerce and brother of al-Ansari the General Manager of “Sunset Beach Resort”. I knew them both and very well. I dealt for many years with Sunset Beach as we visited and used their facilities. CDE was doing the design for the remodeling and expansion of the facility.
Many joined the AIA who never heard of the American Institute of Architects while others joined because it was made convenient and they liked to rub shoulders with Americans.
We had bonded and had a loyalty toward our purposes and each other’s welfare, even Zahid and especially, Mike who “hung-in” up to his final minutes in KSA. I recall him coming to my apartment to handover some documents; he was in his sweaty t-shirt in the midst of moving. Mike was a very tall and quiet mid-west type who could smile and be stern within minutes. He spent inordinate amounts of time with us socially, spiritually and with our AIG/ME members. We three were very close and trusted each other. The Holy Spirit used AIG/ME and King Faisal University to change the lives of many offices because AIG/ME provided opportunity to networking.
The formation, creation and evolution AIG/ME is a story of courage, valor and personal sacrifice on the part of a handful of individuals who truly believed that together we could do what alone we could not. It was a learning opportunity for disenfranchised expats to become nobler than highly paid grunts or meager money grabbing employees.
The entire effort did accomplish one very important objective, it gave many Saudi Architects a status amongst the professional since before only engineers where accepted as professionals. We had a special thing going. At every meeting I reminded everyone: “that together we can do what alone we cannot”. We amassed all of our newsletters and to every guest speaker and guest we gave a bound book of our newsletters.
The last version was titled: AIG/ME: Architect’s International Group of the Mid-East; AIA Continuing Education; “Six years prelude toward the future”. I believe God gave us an opportunity in AIG/ME to fulfill the great commission to: “Be merciful to those who doubt;snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” per Jude 22 and 23.
AIG/ME was near-perfect!
After many years of great educational progress our membership was noticeable declining. We began to realize the Saudis did not renew the contracts with Americans any more, and they left one by one. That was when the whole atmosphere changed. The influence of the Wahhabis became apparent. The western people felt the invisible pressure and stayed in their compounds. The Arabs stayed in their homes. Christina and I were aching to go home. Only the fact, that we had not yet a replacement for our mission and seminary, held us in that country.
One of the last to leave was Mike. Cisco and Hani where still around. When I announced my departure Garth was able to enlist the Lebanese architect, Roland Radd to take my position; and, I attended the meeting in which he was elected by the board.
Roland Radd formerly proclaimed his lack of interest in Americans but enjoying all the benefits of USA organizations and contracts for professional services. Over the years, when calling or visiting at his office he would tell me how little time he had for anything. On the end it was left to Hani Al-Maimani, Garth, and Cisco to really operate the organization. Garth Compton continued to work in ARAMCO.
They tried their best to keep the organization going. But the Wahhabis pressure on the Saudis, to go back to there old habits and shun every western influence and teaching, was to strong and,
It was over!
17. Out-Of–Kingdom Missions
In 1987, I came home for Christmas. I planed to return right after New Year. In Saudi several great positions’ offers were waiting for me, but I wanted to discuss the pros and cons first with Christina. To my surprise, to return to Saudi Arabia at that time was not the will of God. One call after the other came telling me “Barie stay home”. Why, what is happening? I was devastated. Christina had bought a small house in Florida far away from the maddening crowd where there was no business for an architect, so I thought but I was wrong. I met an architect in my church who said his firm needed some help, and soon I was busy managing the construction phase of school buildings in three counties in Florida. .
It became apparent God hat other plans for us. I was filled with the Holy Spirit, and to me, my orders were remarkably clear: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded”.
How, I wondered; where we lived there were so many churches, Christians was well taken care of.
Yet, God showed me, that this time I did not have to go “into the entire world and preach the good news to all creation” the need was right here in our community.
It happened because Christina had listened to God’s direction. We decided to retire in Florida and at that time I would design and build my own house. Christina had gone there to by a temporary vacation house until the time we stay there permanently.It turned out to my total shock she had bought a house in a gated community where the homes where “pre fabricated” manufactured homes. It was an unthinkable dead for me as an architect, and I told her so.
But said she had talked to many builders and realtors and none of them sounded honest. When she then, totally discouraged, prayed to God, she got the idea to look in the phonebook. She opened the yellow pages and there appeared a full page add, advertising a country club. Christina checked into it and all became very easy. She encountered neither “ifs nor puts” as usual. And so, she moved into the new little house very soon. When I came home ready to prove to her how silly she was and what wrong she had done; I could not do so. It was all really very pretty and practical, just what we needed. And, when I knew I could not return to Saudi Arabia.
I also found out what the Lord had in mind for me. It was simple, I was needed right there.
Dori Heidecker asked me, would I become the pastor for a Christian fellowship in our community. Being on fire for the Lord I agreed and in a short time our church was formed. For service we gathered at one of the clubhouse ballrooms. We went full speed ahead and since we where missionaries we encouraged our congregation to give to missions. When then Europe was freed from the yoke of communism we formed a mission called Leipzig Evangelical Ministerial Association. (LEMA).
Christina’s home was the eastern part of Germany in the city of Leipzig. There she had inherited an apartment house, which she planed to make in to a missions base.
While all our brothers and sisters here in America where happy to help her to bring back the Lords presence into her country the people in Leipzig were less then responsive. Our trips to Leipzig were more a matter of work to sort out Christina’s property, plant LEMA and visit her remaining friends and relatives, hoping that they may help her in her mission goals.
Christina had heard “Gods call” when the Berlin wall fell; and, filled with the Holy Spirit, and our prayers for revival, she flew to Leipzig. Miraculously, with the help of her friend Marga she found a small apartment for rent. This was unheard of at that time; they did not even have a good hotel at that time. The Bolsheviks had done there utmost to destroy the commerce and culture of that once famous city.
The area where Protestants had their birthplace God was practically unknown. She zealously met with every pastor, bishop and superintendent of every denomination, who ruled over empty churches, sharing God’s love and the possibility of evangelism in Leipzig and its’ surroundings.
She was hoping that what happened in the U.S.A. could happen in Leipzig. However, the clergymen and those who knew of God where convinced since they had been baptized as an infant it was enough and they saw no need for any thing further.
They could not see what it was they did not have. When she mentioned the Holy Spirit, she had to listen to every caveat, exception, and excuse, culture, tradition, and status quo you could imagine.
They unashamedly refused to open their doors to the Holy Spirit, for themselves or their small membership. Predictably, it was not to be by conversation and explanation but by deed.
They needed signs and wonders. For most of the time we stayed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Heinz Schubert who rented us their master bedroom. It was a modern nice two bedroom one-bath apartment but on the fifth floor, with no elevator, in the center of Leipzig. The location was ideal. The couple were born and raised as communists and atheists. Every day at every meal we prayed and told them that there was a God and that He loved them. They were not for or against God; they just had no idea who God was; they never heard of God and for them, we were His face.
On her fist visit to Leipzig, Christina had met Pastor Dieter Hemple, the head of Elim church and the area’s Pentecostal movement. Dieter visited us several times in the Schubert’s apartment and eventually invited me to speak before his congregation. Additionally, Dieter introduced me to his elders who visited us in the apartment where we were able to record there testimonies of life in Leipzig during the second world war, the forty years of Communist Russian occupation and the events just leading up to the fall of the wall and the regime of Eric Honniker.
These were epic testimonies and spiritual de-briefings which unburdened and comforted some very weary souls because they said:” My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Per Ps 119:50.
With God’s promises they too carried huge burdens for their country, city, family, church and themselves. The shame and humiliation they had suffered was only equaled by deception and deceit.
We had to remind them that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” per Rom 8:1.
Over a forty year period they had seen brother turns against brother and mother against child to inform and support the corrupt government. Yet, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” per 1 John 4:4. They witnessed the move of the Holy Spirit when before the Honniker regime fell thousands of Leipzigers thronged the churches and held candlelight vigils as the Communist military guards quietly stood by in awe, before the wall fall the people remembered God, as soon as they where free they did forsake him. Only very slowly, now there is an awakening.
Christina had composed a “track” in the German language, which she distributed, to the Schubert’s and Elim church. On occasions I preached at Pastor Dieter’s church, he provided a young German who had recently visited the US. He not only spoke English very well, he also was able to translate the bible verses to my sermon instantly.
It was only after many visits that dear Pastor Dieter, who hats actually a sizable congregation, joined the Pentecostal Assembly’s movement and visited us in Fort Myers. God had blessed him and his congregation greatly with a beautiful new church building. God blest his church, because of there steadfastness during the Nazi and communist times, and the pastors inspirit preaching, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Dieter confessed that now that his own spirit soared, could he help to bring revival back to Leipzig.
I was able to help them with the design of there beautiful new church on one of our visits.
God was changing Pastor Dieter and getting him ready to do another mighty work. The people of that church in Leipzig and its pastors had been through so much. I was so proud of Dieter!
For as long as I know Christina had prayed for a revival in Leipzig. And God blessed our travel to Germany and stay in that city, on till the time when the devil tried really hard to end it all. When we stayed the first time in a hotel in Leipzig, Christina became gravely ill and was taken to the hospital. It turned out she had vertigo. The devil wanted to push her of the way with God. She has to stay here for ad least a week, said the DR.
So, Pastor Dieter and all the others prayed. Believing on God’s mighty power, I packed up at night Christina, against the doctor’s orders, and we got in to the Audi rental car and left Leipzig. Within a few miles of the city her health suddenly recovered and she was perfectly well. We immediately called everyone and told about the miracle. We also thought that was a sign that God wanted us to stay in that aria, and so we made a special effort on our next visit to settle in Germany.
We prayed and asked God to show us His way to relocate, live and work to establish our physical presence. So we visited the old Bauhaus- school in Dessau and the
Kunst Academy in Halle. None of the schools could offer me a position since their budgets were now deteriorating due to the diminishing population and tax base. They wanted so much to have a United States of America licensed architect who knew their design and educational philosophy and I fit so well.
We looked in earnest for God to open an accommodation. Nothing! Christina finally had the title to her property and prior to that last visit ,I had designed and published a prospectus on the property using data we had gathered on a previous visit to the Leipzig planning and rehabilitation offices.
I sent this prospectus to as many as fifty real estate companies and builder in the area but the only reaction we got were offers to buy other available properties.
So we concluded that in Leipzig, where we encountered many hardened hearts as the kind Ezekiel encountered, when he was send to a country with rebellious people, we had to plant seeds and it was in God’s hands to do the rest. That was all.
That’s why when we visited Paris one architect offered to buy Christina’s property but this time Christina did not listen to the Lord; last minute Christina declined the offer, still believing that God may want to use this building in its decayed state as evidence of her father and God’s presence in Leipzig. But, alas the same government planning and renovations offices that we had visited several years before wrote her, demanding very costly renovations to secure the building to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare.
By now, God had sent me to mission again in Saudi Arabia. We could not possible support two missions. It was to late there where no buyers for the thousands of buildings ruined by the communistic regime, and Christina had to give title of the house to a realtor for 1$ to get away from the burden and costs the city had allotted on to here.
It became clear to me then and looking back on it now; God is using my talent of organization to do “missions impossible”. I have to organize and start a project and then leave. I do that in my many jobs especially for Gulf Oil, where I was manager for special projects. And now it became clear I do it for God.
I helped organize many churches in my first stay in Saudi Arabia then I came home and again I set up a church for a pastor to fallow. And after all was running smoothly and I was ordained by the Assembly of God, God send me back to Saudi Arabia, to set up ICI a missionary school, right under the eye of the devil.
Now being back in Saudi Arabia, I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the great commission using God’s gift of administration, I was compelled to edify and support our in-kingdom deacons, elders, workers and pastors. But also I found it was necessary to tell there countryman what they do in Saudi Arabia besides business.
So, whenever I traveled to India or the Philippines, I informed their church of what the Holy Spirit and they were doing in Saudi Arabia. I was perturbed to find that the churches in those countries where hardly aware that there was a “body” of Christ in Saudi
Also there home churches were totally unconcerned about their calling, the needs of neither their families nor the helps they needed in Saudi. I was disappointed that none of there home churches where mission minded. And so, it became my mission do go as often us I cold to these varies countries and teach the pastors the facts about there people in the kingdom and explain the help they need and deserve. I believed that when they went to Saudi Arabia their respective churches should prey for there one missionary so they may win souls and fulfill the great commission. Further, the Holy Spirit quickened me to tell all the pastors about our bible school, ICI and that everyone who arrives in Saudi is welcome to study with us. Thank God for the biblical precept:”it is not how its starts but how it finishes”. It is true for just about everything I did.
God used my zealous and wandering mind to lead me to a place where I could obey and do His will. I could only presume by then that some of what I did was His will because he assured me in “……….. That all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” per Rom 8: 28.
Our own out-of-Kingdom mission trips were possible because my KFU contract allowed for 170-paid non- work days/year including a 60-day summer breaks, 2-day weekends, 1—day Eid, 10-day Ramadan and several ten-day breaks between semesters. Because most of our ICI students came from either India or Philippines; and, because Christina had little or no recreation during these breaks, I decided it would be a very good use of the Lord’s resources and time to win souls in India, Philippines Paris, and Leipzig. The great commission says “all nations” and already our Saudi assignment included people from over fifty different nations to whom “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors,”.per2 Cor 5: 20
Before all the trips I would prepare and pray for a message. In my spirit I was feeding them with prayer and the word of God. However, when I actually preached God always gave me His words to speak. But this did not prevent me from noting so many passages and comments in my bible. By calling and faxing before we traveled, we were able to arrange for hotels, transportation, and an itinerary, which typically included alternating days of preaching and meetings with recreation and relaxing. This was all before emails and the Internet.
I was surprised to find, in India the Pentecostal church is not favored, the country does not permit evangelist to visit or migrate, and the Hindu leadership, generally persecute the church.
However, they welcomed a visiting architect and professor from Saudi Arabia. Once again my covering was not the Assembly of God church, which ordained me, but the worldly profession of architect God gave to me.
But not only Moslem ore Hindi countries persecute Christians, on our trip to Paris we learned that the Pentecostal church of the Assemblies of God had many of its members arrested and fined while several of their congregation’s children where taken into custody and put into foster homes, labeling them as a dangerous sect. Our Paris visit was to encourage this pastor and share his heavy burden.
Our first trip to India was in 1994 and initially encouraged and organized by Brother John Chandrasekhar whose hometown was Nazareth on the south most tip of the continent and brother Paul of Madras who arranged for us to visit his family who had moved in to a new home. Indians do quit well in Saudi Arabia, even so they work mostly only as shopkeepers and secretaries, it was an eye opener when I saw what beautiful villas they cold effort.
Our trip to India was not exactly a sight seen tour, we where interested on human relation and to encourage the Christian there to be stat fast in the coming adversities. And most of all we let them know that many of there one people actually function us missionaries in Saudi, a fact which is new to Indians.
We flew on Air India sitting right behind the pilot and being served personally by the Indian stewardess who treated us like royalty. It is only a short flight.
We arrived very late at night and where met by Brother James. He greeted us with two gigantic rives of flowers and hang them over our shoulders. They were beautiful and aromatic but very heavy. He knew every guard and clerk at the airport.
And so it was no problem to go quickly through customs. Several of the customs officers were related to our new friend.
He had arranged for a driver and car. It was an Indian mead car called Ambassador with rather hard seats. The driver and the car were waiting the moment we arrived to be with us day and night until we finally left for Kerala. I mean to say, that even at the hotel while we slept the driver slept in his car at the hotel, ready for any need we may have. The driver with his car did the same in Kerala.
Of course, the costs were on us, for airfare, hiring halls to preach, arranging for food services, and more. It is not customary for eastern countries to pay western missionaries. It is rather the other way around. We in there mind are rich Americans who have to pay them for the privilege to preach or teach.
In Madras, we were driven to the Savera hotel and to a suite of rooms facing the street. This was a good choice and we could observe so many things going on, including a major revolt that kept the army busy while dissidents blocked traffic with big trucks filled with young men. It was the wrong day to get assigned seats at the flight to Kerala, but I learned all about the Indian ways of organizing.
Even though I had already bought my ticket to travel form Madras to Kerala Brother James had to personally help get an assigned seat and a boarding pass. It took us many hours to first drive to one office where we had tea and talked to his friend in a office who had many books showing our flights, all completed entered line by line by hand. We finally were able to find our flight and get a receipt confirming the flight. We then drove to a completely different part of town where we visited the office that writes the seat number in another book and issues the boarding pass.
After several hours we did finally get the boarding pass and we were set to travel to Kerala via Bangalore. Having now made the flight twice I can tell you that in a small propjet the flight is typically turbulent with very rough landings and dramatic accelerations at take offs. We visited Trivandrum, Kowdiar, and Kerala. We met with Brother L. Sam in Trivandrum, Kowdiar, and Kerala. Brother P. M. Phillip had visited us in Saudi; he headed a bible college and was the Superintendent of Assemblies of God for the South of India. Unfortunately at the time of our visit he was not in town.
It was Brother Sam of Riyadh who had mead many arrangements for our trip in Kerala. He did make so many arrangements for us to meet various church officials, and provided his younger brother P.S. George to guide us and care for us, he and his wife where kind and loving people, he met us at the airport with Brother George Sastry.
PS George would travel by bus to and from his village every day to be with us. We stayed at the Kovalum Hotel. He arranged meetings in the hotel with the leaders of the Assemblies and special visits to various ministries and pastors. We even did a little checking in to Indian culture and architecture and we went with him and his little boy to the zoo.
With his help we purchase some nice local artifacts and he helped with the shipment. He had an excellent singing voice, which he demonstrated so well at one special prayer meeting we attended. There were many little children who sang English language praise and worship songs.
I learned that in India, because there are so many dialects, they invented a military common language, which is supposed to be spoken by every one. However, most prefer English language as the common language.
In Madras, our days were filled with James introducing us to his family, friends and many pastors. We visited his church pastor, a Nazarene and an elder who was an architect. He and his wife, also an architect, practiced out of there home. He took us to a very old church named after St. Thomas; claming that that is the spot where Thomas the decibel of our Lord Jesus had come to preach almost 2000 years ago. It was right on the Corniche, perhaps there with his Dow the decibel of Jesus had landed.
We noticed the many hand written notes by visitors placing their prayers for themselves and peace. All our friends made sure we visited some of the cities best hotels and private restaurants to enjoy really good Indian meals. Food is excellent, versatile and fresh.
We where shown both, the nicest and worst neighborhoods. We liked every thing and I hoped for the time God would call us to lead a groups of Christians on mission trips back to these places in India where Christianity was broad to, already by the first Christians, long before India was colonized.
On the few days or evenings when we had a bit time on our one we Christina rested and at the pool and I would make reconnaissance-walking tours of the neighborhood. I could then notice the chaotic traffic patterns. Often I spotted a whole family, father mother and two children sitting on one motorcycle in heavy traffic. They’re where dirt and filth, and braggers everywhere on the streets, including people defecating, children begging, and women sweeping the streets with handfuls of hey as brooms.
I discovered little shops that were delighted to see a tourist coming hoping to make a big sale. I did not see many tourists; I was the only non-Indian walking. After several such walks, the area became quit familiar and I could navigate easily. Our hotel was on a major boulevard lined with trees. Finding any shop to buy consumer goods was rare, the fact that this was a socialist run country bordering on communism was apparent. Nothing really worked right for the people and it appeared that the many Christian in the south of India where the most blessed people.
This first trip was where I spoke at churches nearly every day. After each service I got to the meaning of “thronging” as I was thronged by the congregations for prayer for every thing including lepers, children with disease, palsy, epilepsy, etc. Mothers would bring their husband and daughters for prayer; fathers would bring their sons. I always had an interpreter with me, but for personal prayer interpretation was not needed. The Holy Spirit led us to the right prayers when “…………………. the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” per Romans 8:26.
At one service a lady came screaming and fell on the floor in front of the altar. I called on the authority of Jesusand I could do what His decibels did when He …… gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” in Mat 10:1
I rebuked the demon and she recovered. Yet another lady muttered and disturbed the service, and later I was told she was the Jezebel of the congregation. I did not know until; that event what discerning evil spirits in the church actually meant.
A visit and meal followed every service with the pastor and his family. We had several such visits each day. Pastor Abraham Thomas, who had mead us at the airport in Jan 1995, was then the secretary of the Assemblies in the area and invited me to speak in his church in the rural area under a thatched roof. He had posters hanging all over the city for a Holy Spirit revival and there were people standing out side to hear my sermon.
Many people were saved and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and there were healings. He was with us at all our visits to India. Often he arranged for me to give seminaries for all the pastors at that aria. After that dinners where served on giant banana leaves. He also visited us in Florida.
In Kerala we found that the problem with setting up the ministry of ICI in South India is the government’s unwillingness to let ICI books being printed. The cost of shipping in the books was prohibitive and would make such a course way beyond anyone’s means. However, I was invited to preach to bible class students who were studying Behrens courses using ICI materials, which had come into the country many years ago.
Christina and I where always very welcomed in Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala, Kottayam, and Kovalum.
We often taped our conversations and preaching. In addition we visited the “Taj Garden Retreat” which may be used for a future gathering. It has a beautiful large lake, colonial first class hotel and a rural setting.
On our first trip to India we tried at the Ashore Hotel. We wanted to stay in a hotel, which only Indian used. We found out quickly way western tourists did not use that beautiful located hotel. Just outside our balcony were giant coconut trees, which were scaled, daily for there fruit.
Boys would climb up the trees very near our balcony to pick and toss the coconuts. We could walk to the beach through the forest of palm trees to arrive at the turbulent Indian Ocean where the waves were huge and the undercurrent strong. We felt attached to Saudi Arabia from this location since it is the same body of water as the Persian or Arabian Gulf. You could really understand the closeness of the two continents and the accessibility of the Arabian and Indian Peninsular.
The foot was great and the room small but nice. But there was no closet to hand ones close only shelves. Indians where close that do not need hanger’s they fold there garments and then put it on shelves. Also the bathroom had not really a top or shower to speak of, there where a barrel and a waterspout, no hot water and it was not cleaned for a long time.
We stayed for a while, because the Ashore hotel had a lovely outdoor dining facility, which had such nice service. And we could use their indoor facility for our meetings. After a while however we knew it was best and more hygienic to stay in a place suitable for tourists.
The Tourist hotel was on a cliff near pay. We could see the fisherman at night on their Dows, with their lanterns lid up, and drifting around. All you could see are the lights like fireflies. It was reminiscent of the night view we had of the Grand Canyon seeing imaginary sea and floating ships. I compared the Dows and there crews with those I knew form the Emirates and Taruk Island, which was not far from our Saudi home.
Fellowships and churches varied in being obscure to being bold, but pastors all shared how it is difficult for a Christian Indian to find work and good housing. I could only remind them of the vision of a grasshopper. They were awakened by this metaphor.
We realized India suffers similar to the Christians in Leipzig, whose demeanor was of an oppressed and underground-subverted people. It was the result of living under an extreme socialist or communist regime. I could only remind them of who they are in Christ and what He does in the face of adversities. The great commission included carrying burdens while giving, preaching and teaching new hope in the blood of Jesus.
The nights in this giant village called a city were storybook with burning torches, lights and ambling people everywhere. While Kovalum is called the paradise of South India it has an urban village which no tourist book nor will guide reveal. Yet it is the seed of the Indian village and city and is remarkably different from African, Chinese, Greek or Roman city planning. It was not designed and built by British colonist and therefore has its own distinctive architecture. We enjoyed visiting Kovalum and Trivandrum’s streets, hotels and shops including a local dentist to treat my toothache. He did a very good job!
Our drivers were Christians and very talkative. As drivers are, always driving on the opposite side of the road passing the driver in front, on trips from one city to another I concluded that there could not be angels in any other part of the world because all of God’s angels have to watch over the people in Kerala. The traffic is so disorganized and very heavy. The drivers constantly blow there horns, before, during and after passing; and, stay on the left to face oncoming vehicles who know that the oncoming driver will return back to his lane just before colliding. It is truly an act of faith driving in such a way. There are Cows lying in the middle of the road, there are people milling about. Bicycles, hors and buggies, carts pulled by an ox and there where many children running on the road.
In villages we passed, we saw children dressed in uniforms going to and from school. Many people walking along the country road, with out fear of the newsy rattling cars all around them. The roads between villages go right though the market of each of them. The road is not paved and in rainy time is muddy and slippery.
Other times in the day light on rural areas you can see women squatting on the sides of the road hammering on stones to be collected by trucks for use as gravel for construction. Other places you can see young boys polishing light bulbs in the street lamps. Every one is working at even the most obscure menial chore. Kerala is cleaner than Tamilnadu and Madras. It is more rural and less dense. It is criminal that the roads are not paved and cared for. There is so much corruption in all facets of government and industry that prevents public works projects from going forward with vigor.
Amongst the Christian community, Dr. N. C. George Sastry was a man of great accomplishment. He was the founder of a broadcasting station where he broadcasted daily and owned a building in which there is a Christian worship center. In this center was one room, which he invited us to stay at any time.
He also visited us in Fort Myers and we shared our time with him from the pulpit at First Assembly. The second time we visited Kerala; Sastry greeted us at the airport and arranged for our car and hotel.
Our friend’s father in Trivandrum, L Sam’s, was one of the founders of Assemblies of God in the area and served on the boards of most of the important Christian movements in South India. Each year he himself organized several large out door tent meetings and gladly organized meetings for ICI. He has written to us several times and was kind enough to invite us to his home. I remember it so well; His home is in a very nice area of government employees, low-rise semi-rural housing. He works for the government.
I can recall a young girl passing by the house as we were departing with a huge basket of hey on her head and a balanced yoke over her shoulders. She giggled as she saw us.
L. Sam is a one of the giants in the “persevering” Christian movement. He is doing what he can to foster ICI in his area. The meetings he organized were well attended, in buildings which he could rent at very low costs. He was able to invite and introduce us to many evangelist, pastors and teachers.
He invited us to attend a revival he had arranged in the largest park. There were over a hundred thousand people. An American preacher kept the crowds attention for many ours.
We all saw how so many will come to such gatherings for healings but much less too constant fellowship. However, the numbers of potential believers and fellowships are astronomical. I called India, my Banyan tree ministry because it so prolific. I later learned that the Banyan tree is a native to India.
India became our standard for all our trips and ministries. We could see how God gathers His people and returns them to Him. Once you have preached in India and know God’s call you want more. Our mission trips confirmed and quickened our spirit about our service in Saudi to the people we were there to serve. Compared to other places fulfilling the great commission in India is apparently fruitful and prolific.
The Christians from India, we met in Saudi Arabia, where them selves pioneers and have the gifts of the Holy Spirit for ministry. It is a dynamic phenomenon, the Holy Spirit adds of the underground church an extra dimension that is on the cutting edge of evangelism. It is where new works are making inroads and being created by God. We were so blessed to be in India and therefore prepared ourselves for future return visits.
In every city we have visited we have a network of meeting place, believers, and leaders who will continue to welcome and encourage us in God’s work. For us as creative believers this opportunity far outstrips any artistic and architectural endeavors. It is certainly different from our work in Leipzig.
Because of our mission’s clandestine nature, we hat no financial support. But on our repatriation visits to Florida between 1991 and 1996 we itinerated to various churches arranged by Pastor Betzer such as Miami Central Bible, Clewiston Evangel Assembly, West Palm Beach, Bartow First Assembly, Okeechobee Abundant Blessings, Boca Raton, Cape Coral, Abundant Life in Punta Gorde, Kingsway in Cape Coral, and Clearwater. When ever I spoke I got a love gift, which helped us to support our activities. Amongst the pastors to remain good friends from those visits were John Kordon, Charles Leigh and Jimmy Biggs and his wife. During these trips to Florida we’d speak on WSOR radio with Kate Bruington, Phil Whitelaw and Bill Simon, appealing to the Christian community to donate study books, bibles, and postage money. In this way the home church supported God’s wok in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to many of my officially business travels there were three other occasions when I missioned out side of Saudi Arabia to the Philippines. On the last time I went with Tawfiq, my boss. I always arranged to stay in Makati at the Intercontinental Hotel.
The fun was to bargain for special discounts for 10 nights with first class upgrades; or a special holiday package at the Intercon and the Shangri-La in Cebu; when I went with Tawfiq the company paid but I made sure we had the same first class rooms with all the upgrades. All of the Philippines are very “Americanized” with signs in English and nearly every one spoke English.
My first visit was dominated and hosted by Edith Reyla. Her husband had left Saudi and now was busy working in his new job, but Edith was there whenever I needed a person to help me. My friend a colleague from KFU, Felix Peronilla showed me the newest and most beautiful places of urban and architecturally significant. And sins he is a landscape architect, he showed me one of his project, the latest tourist development outside of Manila. It is a pretty place but to get there by car on the totally polluted and stuffed highway was a gruel experience.
That is way, because of the super congested traffic in Manila, I basically stayed in the hotel and called many pastors and Christian people to come and visit with me. I hat much to discuss with all of them. Many of our Christian brothers in Saudi came from a catholic background and we had baptized them in to the Holy Spirit. There families in the Philippines needed teaching and support from pastors and other Christians who did the theme. I also wanted to establish contact with the right pastors for our people who return home and for future visits.
Same of the pastors would pick me up from the hotel and take me to their church or fellowship for meetings, preaching
Thanks to Loy my friend from ARAMCO, I was able to meet many Assemblies officials who invited me to preach in Loy’s neighborhood church, main church, and Bethel bible school. I was also able to meet the head of the Baptist church and the bishop of the Christian Missionary Alliance and his family and, we became good friends. I was also able to meet the two sisters’ from the “Garbage Dump Ministry” and preach in their church on my second visit with Christina. Most of the people I met on this visit were very helpful on the next visits.
On my visit with Christina she was able to pray with the children and the sisters of several churches.
We visited Cebu and met sister Rose and her husband and prayed with them and discussed there interest in being the ICI director for Cebu. It was so much fun showing Christina the Philippines, the restaurants with the variety of great food, neighborhoods, and shopping malls in both Cebu and Makati. Christina and I flew by local plane between Manila and Cebu.
We saw “El Shadi”, the charismatic ministry of the Catholic Church in the park at night, and, at the Manila Shangri-La lobby there was an older gentleman who had an electronic organ that connected to the house sound system. He loved to sit with us and chat. Some times we listened to the singers on the balcony and their music. The lobbies of many of the hotels were design spectacular. They where filled with people the chopping centers and all restaurants are always full and very much alive in the Philippines.
It was at one of the visits that Vince Shalaby introduced me to Congressman Isadoro Alligada who later visited me in Saudi and who invited me to speak at an assembly of Christians in his congressional offices. His special interest was to protect the human rights of the millions of Philippines working in Saudi Arabia.
Ed Lapiz, my Christian brother I knew from Riyadh, had lost his job in Saudi because of his Christian activities. Today he has his own music and dance school in his own building in Makati.
His mission is, to go with his students to the tribal hinterlands and record tribal sounds, dances and music. Then he adds Christian words to their songs and presents the music anew to the tribes. He has great success bringing this had hunter tribes to the Lord.
One afternoon he showed us the Philippine’s famous hotel where McArthur’s signed the treaty and made his famous speech. For those who worked at the Manila Hotel in the years from 1935 to 1941. While he lived there, the mere mention of the name of Douglas MacArthur brings quick, warm tears of memory and affection to their eyes. General Douglas MacArthur, the hotel's most famous resident, was a hero to the Filipinos who knew and served him, then and now. MacArthur's first statement from Leyte, broadcast from a mobile radio set up just behind the beachhead line, was a proclamation to the Filipino people, which began: "I have returned..." There could be no doubt about the outpouring of love for their old friend and idol- the sort of emotion and respect Filipinos hold in their hearts for their own national heroes: Rizal, Aguilnaldo, Quezon... and MacArthur. Coins and postage stamps bore the likeness of General Douglas MacArthur, with the inscription: "Defender- Liberator."
Ed, Christina and I ate the most expensive fish restaurant I ever patronized with exotic colorful fish in tanks embedded in the walls. The waiters chow you the fish you selected and then they cooked it to your specification and with other special Chinese food. The restaurant was in Manila bay, near the Manila Hotel, US embassy and the ICI office.
Spending time with our Christian brothers and sisters in the Philippines meant the Holy Spirit presented us with proof and concrete evidence of His life and power. It built up slowly and repositioned us step by step.
In the Philippines born-again Christians were special people and the fastest growing religion in the country. The Holy Spirit was poured out over all the islands: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit of John 3:8.
The born again Christians were prolific and emulated by the main line Catholic Church, which had huge gatherings in a park where they praised and worshiped. In the Philippines there were many male and female offshore workers employed in the Gulf area. There were special spouse and rights support groups, not to mention help and support for those that are imprisoned or held with out salary.
The Christians in Mindanao were persecuted and Muslims that converted were killed Isadoro Allegada had invited me to speak about our underground church in Saudi at a gathering of his congressional ministry meeting. Before speaking I asked every one to assure me that they were Christians. I proceeded to preach the word and describe God’s work in Saudi Arabia.
At the close of the meeting I called those in the room that needed prayer to come forward. A beautiful young girl with long black hair came forward. She was being detained here in Manila because she did not have her visa. She was a Muslim from Mindanao. I asked her if she wanted her liberty and not to be enslaved. I read her Galatians 4 and 5 about the difference between Hagar and Sarah. She wept and asked to be free. She accepted the Lord Jesus and we renamed her Sarah. She asked for us to keep her here in this fellowship in Manila. She did not want to go back to be enslaved in Mindanao.
This whole event involving Sarah was a great sign from God!
“Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it”. (Mark 16: 20).
I cannot imagine any thing more adventurous, exciting, joyful, creatively challenging, interesting…….you name it, then our various missions all over the world. It’s great! I am blessed to obey the great commission. It’s the best, better than all the rest! It makes even my profession architecture boring and dull. Hey, that s just my opinion.
This was the point when the hostile side of Saudi Arabia tensely opposed the Holy Spirit and me. From 1995 to 1999, God’s zeal sustained me while the Holy Spirit helped me to overcome evil and won victories. Victories over conflicts between Saudi Arabia against the Holy Spirit highlighted by ending my contract with King Faisal University, transferring my Igama, round-ups and arrests all around me and worst of all the bombing of the Khobar Tower’s.
These were changing times with a confluence of attacks that were well matched with a confluence of God’s given gifts and supernatural zeal. However, no gift was greater than God’s abiding love and grace. Before being filled with the Holy Spirit my natural response to crisis was an intense and earnest effort to heal, complete, or solve some problem. I had to do something! After all I was an artist and educated professional. With the Holy Spirit my response has exponentially increased.
When King Faisal University notified me at the end of May of 1996 that they were not renewing my contract, by a letter on blue stationary in a matching envelope I retrieved from my mailbox, I was not surprised.
This crisis began when early in 1996 the behavior of the students and a small minority of the Saudi faculty exhibited strained relations between western non-Muslim and Saudi faculty.
Abdul Hamid’s untimely illness and subsequent death removed my last buffer against the hostile atmosphere in our university and soon I too was receiving warnings and unpleasant remarks.
During this time several American and American educated foreign nationals contracts were not renewed including John Turner, Felix Peronilla and Hasim Bakim. I still proceeded to vigorously pursue my teaching works including photographing my class and Saudi co- faculty. But in a few months my contract of five years with the university ended.
It came at a strange time. I just helped map the new president’s villa location and on the day I received the blue letter I was going with him to the French school’s concert.
Zahid Ahmed a Pakistani and former student of min when I was teaching in Pratt Institute in New York received his notice on the same day and we met on the street outside a mosque to discuss options. I assured him there was so much work to do that he would have no problem finding suitable alternative employment.
This was so true but he could not get his Igama transferred and finally left. The rule called for waiting a year, then reapplying and returning. But he did not return.
In a great display of social correctness, Zahid and I were invited to the usual end of year dinner party at the Al-Ghosiabi hotel where many of the faculty made acceptance speeches after receiving one or other plaques. Zahid and I also received plaques for our years of service and were also requested to say a few words. The faculty applauded and kind words were spoken by the president and other university dignitaries.
Several other universities were considering me but they too were having problem with westerners and soon all the governmental positions as well closed their doors. It seemed something much larger than simple procedures were involved. It would have been the perfect time to exit Saudi and go home, but God was not yet ready for us to leave.
In general, both at ARAMCO, King Faisal University and all government employers had to adhere to the policy of “Saudization” especially in light of the increasing unemployed Saudis and Wahhabi pressures and influence.
It was at this time that I did get sores on my entire body. Sores the doctors could not analyze nor find a cure.
Because I was in this precarious limbo I did not want to call too much attention to my illness nor its therapy. I sought the comforter promised by Jesus John 14: 16 “ And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither “know” him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you”.
So I trusted God’s wisdom, listened to the comforter and simply treated it my self with the information supplied by the local pharmacies.
” As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: ……………”.Isa 63:14.
On the Corniche I read the bible daily. Bat my soars kept spreading and I could envision it going to my face and neck. One day I awoke to some thing crawling on me.
I caught it. I looked under the bed and it was swarming with tiny bed bugs, which is a bug of temperate regions that infests especially beds and feeds on human blood. Because Luke 5:17 “………………. the power of the Lord was present to heal them”
Hallelujah! God had shown me the cause. In retrospect we can only surmise that someone from the building’s maintenance crew planted these.
I took my plastic bag of bugs to the pharmacy and the pharmacist knew exactly what bug it was and with what to treat me. So Murty my houseboy would have his chores ahead of him for many weeks to come. He had to scrub, wash and scour the beds and all sofas with flea and tick powder.
I had always instructed him to clean regularly under all the furniture. He now remembered these words and was very sorry that his negligence contributed to my suffering. But, Murty a former Hindu was already a member of our family and loved Jesus. He worked with the Holy Spirit to repair what had been done.
It was a testing time for us all. Very quickly the sores disappeared and so did the last remains of any one bug or there descendents. God has healed it all and the devil was a looser.
June 25, 1996 at approximately 9:50 p.m., a truck bomb exploded, throwing the force of more than 20,000 pounds of TNT against the concrete structure of one building of Khobar Towers. By the next day, the Air Force knew the worst. Nineteen Americans had died in the line of duty; most by flying glass. I had heart a bang but I cold not see any thing. And I did not expect that a bead thing could happen, I went to bed.
However, it was Christina’s phone call in the middle of the night that informed me of the event.
Following the Khobar Towers bombing by terrorist, Lt .Col. Cornthwaith requested I assemble a team of certified trauma counselors in the event of a second attack. I was able to locate one, who then knew others and then we had about four ladies on our team. We met at each others home putting together procedures, scope, and objectives. One lady lived in Dammam, another in UPM/ Dhahran and another in ARAMCO Dhahran. I contacted various personal officers of US contractor compounds and they invited us to special meetings. They had to deal with the trauma of there own compounds. Several families had children and were out of the USA for the first time in their lives and were terrified by the prospect of an attack on their compound and home.
Instead of giving thanks and praising the Lord for deliverance many made arrangements to leave Saudi Arabia while concrete barricades and fortifications were placed around the gates and walls of all US installations.
Psalm 18: 17” He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me”
Special US security teams were sent in to advise and re-organize the compounds. There was a real sense of an enemy who was trying to kill.
But exactly who was this enemy? We held several town hall meetings and private consultation were arranged by each of the ladies on our team. Because I wanted to present those in fear with God’s generosity and favor per I insisted on the name ABEL because Abel gave of his own faith and not only of duty and we wanted to inspire confidence in the people we were going to serve that they, as we, were “able/Abel” to overcome and be favored by God. In fact, we wanted to give new hope and stand on the promises of God. We also came up with words that formed a slogan that began with each letter in the name: A.B.E.L. fortunately, our preoccupation with the title and name was momentary. However, the people we serve really did like the name.
The news spread and “ABLE “team was called upon to help. However, with in a very short time the military relocated just outside of Riyadh to alKharj, the very desert where years before we had Christian “Singspiration” events.
Lt. Col Cornthwaith told me that our team’s file was kept with central command in Bahrain at the highest level for any further need. His favorite saying was “first time, shame on you, second time, and shame on me.” So they had no intention of putting our boys and girls at risk.
Jeannette Evans was one of our counselors. The love of God gave many peace and confidence to carry on the work for which they were called. This invents where reason enough for me to stay in the kingdom
By John 14: 26 “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you”
It was now high time for me to get a lasting position and steady work. I remembered Azmi Hadi, a former Palestinian national, whom I had known since 1983, when I worked for ARAMCO, as contract liaison to his company to monitor and visit.
I recall that at the exact moment I was terminated from ARAMCO in 1983, Azmi made me an offer to join his company. I had declined at that time. Yet when I again contacted CDE in 1997, Azmi remembered and immediately reinstated his offer.
He knew I had a transferable Igama, which was especially valuable, because it allowed me to stay in the country while changing jobs. This privilege was not given to everyone. Most people must leave the country after thirty days when their work contract ends. And then they must give back the Igama to the employer who is the owner of it.
However I owned my one Igama that was a document similar to the U.S. Green Card, but it lacked many of the rights the Saudis have with their Green Card in the USA.
Americans, for example, could not own a business, buy land, or own a house in Saudi Arabia. I was not free to travel throughout the country. Even with my special Igama, I had to surrender my American passport to my employer for so-called “safekeeping” and only hoped I could get it back when I wished to leave the Kingdom. The difference was that I had the freedom to change jobs when and as often as required.
So, I assumed I am all set. I got several offer to work for the government. They all knew me well and welcomed the opportunity to consider me for possible openings but in the end regretted that they could not make an offer and they would not say why.
I suspected some very bad hidden agenda is playing its part. What went on in Saudi was new and different. I also got offers from the private sector including Azmi of CDE.
Azmi’s offer was the most attractive since his office was a few blocks from the bin Jumah building. Again I saw in it the hand of God. He always made sure I have time enough to care for our mission I could be home at any time when I was needed.
Experiencing Gods care and the Holy Spirits presence at all time, was that changed my hope from a corruptible mortal world to eternal hope in an eternal kingdom? What was it that separated me from the familiar to the strange to find new metaphors in a new context? What was it that compelled and quickened me to stay? What was this urge? It was Zeal. God’s zeal!
“My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words” Psalm 119:139.
I had a passion to fulfill the great commission and devote my self with tireless diligence in its furtherance. I had a significant purpose, which could only be experienced by this work because of Psalm 69: 139. This was now the work, which made me authentic and real. I was alive in God’s reality and not man’s metaphors. It has been a feeling of strong eagerness in favor of Christ and His Holy Spirit.
I was imbued with a spiritual ardor and excessive fervor to right wrongs, defend the faith, win souls, preach, teach, plant and build God’s kingdom in Saudi, India, Leipzig, Philippines and the USA. Convinced that Jesus is coming soon .I did not want to be found idle and doing less than I could. I passionately desired to not only be known but be responsible to Jesus spending eternity doing His wonderful works in the kingdom.
Paul says in: 2 Corinthians 9:2 “For I know the forwardness of your mind, …………; and your zeal hath provoked very many” . Indeed I provoked many. It is what attracted and built our congregations and relations to Saudi sheiks and businessmen. In Christ, the Holy Spirit and I were very special! Knowing that I was a called instrument people wanted to be near what was in me. I believe many Muslims yearned for Christ and enjoyed our relationship. They saw the fruits and relished the gifts.
After leaving King Faisal University all was apparently going very well with my work in CDE. Only, there lured a problem with my Igama. Azmi and his government relation’s officer, Mohammed, were totally confident to transfer the Igama. We looked forward to starting work on the Lucent billion $ communications project. The Holy Spirit and I brought John Heindel the president of Lucent Technologies to CDE. John contacted me years ago at Al Foadia in Riyadh to ask me to carry out operations and maintenance work for his ATT compound in Riyadh. Since then we had become good friends. John was one of my Christian brothers and always very helpful. So, I was a big money maker for the company.
Suddenly, one morning Mohammed, the government relations’ official came with disturbing news.
He informed me that there is a law that someone initially contracted by the government, as in my case, is prohibited from finding non-government employment in the kingdom.
Left out of this proposition was the fact that I had previously been in the kingdom with a transferable Igama serving commerce. We knew before hand that this regulation did exist, but it did not apply to my case.
And Mohammed assured Azmi that he would easily overcome this requirement. Neither the management of CDE nor I realized how difficult this law was to overcome.
There was surely more to all of this than an immigration protocol.
Every large company employs a man like Mohammed. These men know all the legal problems and know to hum to go to solve it. They must have family and friends employed by the government so that they have a chance. These men are the caretakers of passports, visas, travel letters, and other legal matters and know how to bend or go around the law. This was the moment Mohammed had to get into action. For weeks Mohammed used all his contacts to get my Igama changed from KFU to CDE, but without success.
Finally he let my employer and I know that it was not possible to transfer the Igama, and that I now I would have to exit the kingdom. Mohammed was of course ashamed and sorry for his failure to perform.
Azmi was such a “laissez faire” businessman, but when he saw the situation was so complicated, he decided to avoid any appearance of impropriety and terminate my contract, leaving me high and dry. I was out on a limb without a salary and sponsor. I stayed in the kingdom illegally, but under the informal protection of AlFoadia my employer for whom I had worked in Riyadh years before. Laws in Saudi Arabia have a life of their own. They show up for no reason and disappear when convenient.
I usually knew how to handle that myself, but this time I got caught in a snare. All our efforts were without positive results. The fact was that when I left Saudi in 1988 I had a transferable commercial Igama. King Faisal University knew that besides teaching I was working as consultant for AlFoadia.
I could do that because I had a commercial Igama. KFU was glad that I had my own Igama because of that they did not have to provide one for me and that saved hundreds of riyals, but now they wanted to keep it. That was stealing in my book.
I had no choice I had to leave the country and hopefully after many months of waiting for a visa, which a new employer has to provide, I would finally return and resume my work, if the job was still available. The situation was totally out of the hands of man; and God only could find a way.
It was especially complicated for me as Christina was in Florida and was not allowed to return to help me to close ICI, which would interrupt the studies of my students. I would have to give up my apartment filled with Christian books, printing machine, furniture, and telephone lines, all of which had cost thousands of dollars to acquire.
Or, I could keep the apartment and continue to pay the rent, and hope that all would work out so that I could return in six months or a year. It was the zeal of the Holy Spirit, which defined my decision. By God’s zeal leaving was impossible. And it was sure not going to happen. I was spiritually certain we simply could not afford to leave.
Our mission was not sponsored by a church or organization. It was born and maintained by the Holy Spirit. We also never had time to solicit private sponsors when in Florida. We had faithful friends in the small church I founded, where we lived. They knew our needs and helped whenever they could, mostly with prayer and encouragement.
For security reasons, we could not publicly talk much about our mission. We could not appear on TV or speak on the radio when in the U.S. we could not mention Saudi Arabia.
At the time, doing so would jeopardize the jobs and lives of our brothers and sisters living in that hostile kingdom.
Today, after “nine eleven” and the kingdom’s attention focused on terrorists, and with new technologies, the service of Christians in that hostile country has changed. But at that time, we simply were on our own.
Even the few times I spoke at an AG church in Florida, I could not say where our mission really was. Only pastor Betzer, from First Assembly of God, truly understood our calling and helped. When I was down and out, he listened to God and helped get our first Dell Laptop computer, printer, and scanner. Because he knew those tools would make our mission much safer, more efficient, and economical. He also helped produce our Leipzig slide show and funded our ICI orientation trip to Irving, Texas. I really had only God to depend on.
The fact was that I was in a crisis. It was usually not so difficult to live in the Kingdom. I prayed for wisdom. I talked and prayed with my Christian groups. Even my friends at the American Businessmen’s Association could not understand how the Saudis could act that way.
At the end, we all sensed Saudi Arabia had reached a turning point. The enemy was rearing its terrible head.
This was a battle between God and evil in the “heavenlies”, well beyond any human ability to comprehend. Yet, per2 “Corinthians 1: 4 “Who “comforted” us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also “abounded” by Christ” being in the midst of this battle was itself a life changing experience and one where I had an perceptible closeness to Jesus.
While I was truckling to find a way out God was sure not to leave me but found a source of income in the form of consulting work that would take me to Jeddah.
When I went to Jeddah I called my British brother Barry Blakeslee. I know him and his wife Betty from Riyadh. I was looking forward to see both again.
I was contracted by “Saudi Projacs” as one of its consultants. I was assigned to review the building design work for the Ministry of Parliament designed by Zuhair Fayez who was already a member of AIG/ME and the Shoura council.
At another visit we were also the jurors of a banks competition project. I stayed at the Hotel Sofitel in Jeddah which had meetings rooms, health club including swimming pool, steam room. In this steam room I met a former UPM student now working for the very bank of the competition in Jeddah. I was really astonished when in the steam room a voice asked, am I the Barie Fez-Barringten who taught him architecture eight years earlier at University of Petroleum and Minerals. His question came as I was chatting away with one of my colleagues when something I said seemed familiar to this man. He now was a key executive with City Corp. Bank in charge of its design and construction division. I was glad to see a student of mine who fondly remembered me and now had become a good professional.
But right on my first trip I had already phoned Barry so he knew I was coming. I called him from the hotel and he picked me up with Betty sitting in the front sit. I kissed her on the check after entering the car. She smiled and answered slowly my questions. Barry filled me in on the Betty’s already advanced Parkinson’s disease, which had now deteriorated. Her body was immobile. Barry had to do everything.
When he was at work he had someone sitting with her. He told me he was already planning to go back to England where he could get the kind of care Betty needs.
When we reached our destination and he lifted and carried her into the villa I was undone. God was showing me His way of love. The great commission meant seeing salvation in the midst of adversity and letting God’s eyes guide us into His will.
At our destination, I met the young couple who was our host, an older brother and another young Indian couple. We sang and prayed in the spirit for a couple of hours. I wept in the spirit as I saw our dear sister Betty in repose on the sofa as the sound of our song and prayers flowed toward her. In her early stages, Barry and Betty were very active Christians and often had gatherings at their home and spent hours each day praising and worshiping God. She was so hopeful in the Lord’s ability to heal and now they both abided in faith.
We fellowshipped for a while, And Barry carried Betty back out to the car and drove me back to the hotel. The trip each way took a little under one hour to a very remote part of Jeddah. I remember because Barry and I are both very big, Betty used to call me “big” Barie.
I learned something from this visit, which will last me a lifetime. It showed me how the Lord is carrying our yoke.
And what Christian love and care actually looks like. Barry’s joy and compassion caring for his dear wife, was not a hard thing for Barry and never once the whole evening did he make the slightest gesture or remark of impatience or despair. His love and compassion flowed and exuded. He was in love with his dear Betty and nothing Satan would do could change this.
From the beginning in Riyadh Barry never believed in giving an inch to evil or the lies and deceptions of Satan. He preached this from the pulpit and lived this now “in” the world. This was one of the rare moments in my life to see and experience such deterioration in health, but receiving the loving care, given by Barry.
I also witnessed this with my Uncle Irving toward my Aunt Shirley who suffered from Alzheimer’s. He too, was very compassionate.
But, Barry having to do all of this, he had the care of a Christian minister of the gospel operating underground all these years. And then Betty in this condition was truly beyond a normal human strength. It demonstrated that Jesus is carrying the load.
Barry’s combined commitment to both serve the gospel and his wife with steadfast love was remarkable and a show of God’s earnest salvation. Earnest because it was only a token of what was in our future.
The Holy Spirit preserved Barry during the race and strengthens him to get the final goal. I was in the midst of an economic and fiscal crisis, while Betty and Barry where in a crisis of life and death. The peace I had with them both that evening assured our deliverance form the world’s punishments. Barry and Betty knew the zeal of the Lord.
It became apparent the Holy Spirit and I stood fighting a rising power that most people didn’t even knew exists.
Christina had suspected the rice of the Wahabbis all along. The English Arab news was filled with articles against the western way of live. Daly we had to listen to the harsh sound of the mullah’s voice preaching hate propaganda though the loudspeakers on the minarets of the mosques. We had two mosques right in our neighborhood. We knew times where changing.
We also know there is little hop of peace unless we accept the way of Allah. The Wahabbis believed there can be no coexistence. Negotiating to create peace was seen as a weakness that caused the Wahabbis only to fight harder.
Of course, The Holy Spirit and I could not let the Wahabbis win the battle.
I was working for my Lord, and I believed He needed me right there in the lions’ den and next to the third rail (New York City subway jargon).
If it was not for our mission, we would not be there any more. But God’s will was for us to stay for a while longer. The zeal of the Lord overwhelmed me with optimism, perseverance, confidence, tenacity and a super natural courage that only a young soldier knows in time of battle. The Holy Spirit and I had to solve the problem and he had to show me what to do.
I listened to Walter John Trowbridge who was the Resident Manger for DMJM (Daniel, Mann, Johnson, and Mendelbaum ) consulting services to the Saudi Military in Dhahran. As the contact pastor to the AG chaplaincy I knew the base and had seen the facilities being built over these many years. By listening to him he assisted and arranged Al-Muhaidib qualifies to bid on USA construction work. I was referred to him as my local contact person by the DMJM’s US personal office when I had applied for work as a contracts manager for their potential offer of over $100,000 salary.
I mused, wouldn’t that be nice? John knew the position and assured me that I would get the job. It was a “good-ol-boys” job invented as a payback to ex-military personal.
Eventually the person they thought I’d replace decided to renew his employment agreement and the job for me fell through.
I realized when this happened, the Lord clearly directed our way to return to the U.S.A., but just not jet. I had to fight a little longer. Leaving no stone unturned, I called all my friends including Rashid Al-Rashid, who interceded by requesting the officials at the University renew my contract. No go. I called Prince Naif’s office to get an exception. I contacted the chief of protocol at the office of Prince Mohammed of the Eastern Province. Ghazi Otaibi went with me personally to his cousin in Al Khobar to get my passport and I also spoke to the mayor of AlKhobar to get an exception. I spoke to my good friend Ibrahim Dooh and Ibrahim Zamil in Riyadh: nothing happened. And even Abdullah Dabbagh, who was often a dinner guest in our house when we lived in Riyadh, and who is now a top leader at the Government could not help. I called upon Zuhair Fayez, Aziz Al-Suhaimi, Ziad Zaidan, and so many others, and nothing, nothing, nothing. I was at the end, and that was when God showed me his power.
Per Mark 16: 20 “………………….. and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it”
Whenthe Lord finally put an end to man’s willfulness and Satan’s grip, He quickened me to contact the diplomatic quarter’s government office in Riyadh. They knew me because they had considered me seriously for a contract position in the recent past, but even their Saudi personnel manager could not help. I kept trying to reach the minister who knew me well, but he was on vacation.
Then just by chance an African national clerk answered my call, which to my surprise remembered me and knew that he had once before helped me coordinate meetings when I visited the Minister.
I explained my situation. And lo and behold I was astonished when he said yes he could help to transfer my Igama. He would get me a new Igama signed and sealed by the Prince Naïf himself. What? I could not believe my ears. He said that it would take a little money to pay fees for the services of the clerk in Prince Naif’s office and just a little time. I agreed to pay the $1500. Then I contacted Youseph Kahn to coordinate payments and get the letters and the Igama I needed. Then I asked Mohammed and Azmi to extend the deadline of my departure. The seconds, minutes and days I waited were spent on the corniche reading the bible about the life of my hero, David.
One night at a very late hour and after so many fax and phone calls, Mr. Kahn’s courier delivered the letter and the document to my door.
The Holy Spirit had again won the battle and gave the evidence of his presence and support of my life in Christ. By the work for Saudi Projacs God had provided me with nearly $3000. God had given to me windfall money to pay for all expanses. I could once again legally work for CDE. I had a new, transferable Igama to go full speed a head.
To get paid for work was high time. My bank accounts were being depleted and bills needed to be paid. The mission had to go on. But this was not all. Not working for months caused losses enough, yet there was more. My car’s engine needed to be replaced.
Always when I have car trouble, I go with my Bible in my hand to Thugba to Chris my Philippine car mechanic and his friends. These little genius boys can practically perform miracles. They fix carburetors by totally disassembling and then reassembling. They replace wiring in cars, and they can totally rebuild an engine. If they do not have a replacement for a broken part they make the part from scratch.
They can rewind a starter and solenoids and find the tiniest wire and screw on mud floors at 3:00 AM with only a black wired incandescent light above them.
All the boys in Thugba liked to see me coming, they where mostly Christians from the Philippines.
They never had a day off, to go to a Bible study or church service. They worked from early morning till late at night seven days a week. So they loved to hear me talk about Jesus Christ. I did that all the while I was waiting for them to fix my car. They worked under a corrugated metal roof, and it was hot.
The Saudi owner of the business, sitting in his easy chair could care less what we where talking about, but sometimes he liked to listen. Soon my Buick, the symbol of my independence, was in tiptop shape again. I loved that big old car which had carried us safely throughout the country until the day when I almost lost my life when the hood of my car was sabotaged so that the wind blew it up and blocked my view as I raced at 70 mph on the highway to Dammam.
Some one wanted me death, but when the hood loosened and crashed on my windshield I was able to stop my care quickly. The traffic was heavy but when I looked around all cars had stopped behind me at that six-lane highway and had formed a wall, waiting for me to reach slowly the exit ramp.
It was God’s supernatural zeal that kept me in Saudi Arabia. This zeal was the opposite of apathy and synonymous with passion; it was with zeal that I have lived and remembered life. For me life is zeal.
We can behave as though we have no soul and be apathetic and then we are dead and lifeless. I have lived with one or another form of passion all my life but the zeal of the Lord made me braver than the brave with a confidence and sureness given by our creator.
Some ascribed many of my behavioral patterns as compulsive and anxious. Alex Illich explained me as enthusiastic. Gerald Popiel observed that I was passionate. Roseanne explains that I was dedicated. A former female friend of my youth named Gloria announced that I was optimistic and somewhat “polyanic” My mother explained my behavior as impractical and inexperienced. Forrest witnessed my innocence and Barbara my manifesting lion. My friend Myer described me as emotional.
I personally see my self as passionately longing to suffer the experience of Jesus of what it takes to be reshaped and cleansed for my eternal life. I have chosen to act upon God’s zeal by experiencing passion. Suffering is really bearing and carrying. This is the reality of my life of faith. Not the pretense of the imagined but the actual involvement and personal contact. It is with this that I have lived and with this that I have written these remembrances of the various experiences. I have born and suffered. From carrying heavy boxes, cornices and drapery rods through the ice and snow, drilling in rock-hard concrete to the climbing of the Rockies and Alps.
Both have been the life I learned from Homer’s Odysseus: “Through experience man l earns” It is precisely this passion and ardor, which I needed to harness my handicap of being razed in the poor Bronx but to free my self through discipline and perseverance and then to attend Pratt and complete Yale. The zeal, which God has given me, has led me to Him through knowing the world. My visions and intuitions can lie, and I can filter out any knowledge that conflicts with my desires, but knowing God through prayer, scripture, good counsel and fellowship has been my best defense against myself.
To prevent self-deception and misdirected zeal, I have found no better corrective than the Gospels. “What Would Jesus Do” is not a good guide unless I knew Jesus well through the Gospel? Zeal has driven me to take the obviously right paths with vigor: patience, gentleness, and the pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, and prayer, and self-discipline, sacrifice and above all, selfless love.
Strangely, doubt and uncertainty have helped purify and direct my zeal by focusing on the one thing I knew for sure: “God is love”.
The more I research my facts about my life and analyze it’s’ aspects the more I come to realize that there are others who share my cosmopolitan, zeal and love of God in daily spiritual growth.
From where does the strength come? I have Jesus as my example when on His way to the cross He wept, prayed, feared and “obeyed” himself to “perfection”.
As Heb 5; 7 “ Who (Jesus) in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”.
However, it is His Holy Spirit, which He sent which quickens, reminds, and councils, authorizes, and endues with power. For example during the day I read the bible and at night when I slept I played the bible tapes spoken by Ephran Zimbalist Jr. starting from the old to the new testament every day and night from the moment I was filled with Holy Spirit in Bryan, Texas.
From about May 1996 to November 11, 1999 our life in KSA would be accompanied by drama, angst and closure.
The Holy Spirit and I would be engaged by the other side of Saudi’s persona. Mohammed Al-Awad once explained that in writing a literary work one must state a thesis and then go about to present its’ proof and conclude with the absolutes about the relevance and significance of the argument and applications of the facts.
From the beginning of striving to remain in KSA after KFU ‘s termination till departure The Holy Spirit was tested and proved over and over again its’ reality and presence. God asks me to test the word and I did. Only God could make these all things possible. After all it was not for one, neither two nor ten years but nearly a twenty-year period where the Saudi government, institutions and royal family invited me over and over again to be there man. The Holy Spirit gave me the chutzpah, knowledge, confidence and resources to provide what ever they needed. I was their hero who can be called upon to provide and then be discarded. But meanwhile they knew who gave me the ability and power because I never succumbed to Islam but lived and acted as a Christian in service “……………, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” per 1 John 4:4.
Our presence in Saudi Arabia gave us the opportunity to serve not only the Christians but the Moslems as well. We demonstrated daily, that those who are in Jesus Christ can do any thing.
And if all Christians have to leave the kingdom the Holy Spirit will leave too. And Saudi Arabia will again sink back into its past; where it had tried, with great sacrifices, to emerge.
19. “Chalas” and Exit-Only!
The Holy Spirit helped me to carry my mission to a satisfying end, navigating the hostile side of Saudi Arabia.
We had time to transfer our ICI seminary to a new worker in Christ. God gave us three more years in Saudi Arabia to do His work. During that time I had three more sponsors CDE, ARAMCO/RSAL & Al-Muhaidib who were the companies who sponsored me while accomplished my mission.
As always businessman in the Middle East are very forthcoming when they need some one. But when there is no need they let you go with ease. Azmi was no exception; even so, to get me he thought he had to promise me a lifetime position.
Azmi did not feel guilty when it came to reduce CDE’s overhead to replace two expensive British employees with me. Azmi designated me as Architect of record for several projects and used my résumé to qualify for ARAMCO contract renewal. When he completed ARAMCO qualification, several design projects and recruitment Azmi determined that I also was no longer needed.
Meanwhile, I brought in new work, which increased the company’s profits. I was able to renew contacts with many important contractors including, Bin laden, Bechtel, Flour, FE Basil, Saudi Parson, and Brown and Root; and, the Consolidated Contracting Company (CCC) which is a leading name in construction in the Middle East with a gross revenue of $1.8 billion a year.
Not only I but also many other true Christians are a great blessing to Saudi Arabia. They have every reason to respect and dignify Jesus Christ and America. Yet in these three years there were noticeable signs that Americans were being marginalized.
Once I started working for Azmi I learned that he is one of those Muslims who did not openly display reverence for God by conspicuous prayer in the office. He’d leave the office and return after prayer times.
Azmi was small, slender, and about seventy years of age with three children and a kind wife. He was cosmopolitan and devoted to business and his family. He preferred and often visited his office in Morocco. Because of my ministerial service I had to decline his generous offers to accompany him on several of his trips,
Azmi operated his company as a godfather in a typically larger-than-life fashion. Since there were no corporations in Saudi Arabia it is families that owned all the multi billion-dollar Saudi establishments. Saudis are still tribal in many ways and they trust no one other than their own family. They also cling closely to traditions and enforce them with strict rules. The enforcement of tribal rules became uncomfortably clear at the beginning of my first arrival in that dessert country. There was a rumor that a Saudi princess had fallen in love and entertained a relationship with a Palestinian student. Her behavior was considered degrading and contrary to the tradition of the royal family. So the decision was to publicly execute both of these young lovers. It is hard to believe that this actually happened in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Twentieth Century. After that, Saudi Arabia had no more contact with the Palestinians. Also there is one more problem; Palestine is not a nation which can issue visas or a passports.
It had no legal nation status. So Azmi and many other former Palestinians made their home and fortune in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
Azmi finally built his huge villa in a newly developed area of Al-Khobar. All Villas that the Saudis build are large enough to house the parents and the families of one or two sons. It is a practical custom.
The children can later easily care for their elders. The houses are huge, with a living, dining, and family room resembling the size and layout of a medium-sized hotel lobby. At my first visit in Azmi’s house, we men were sitting on the low ottomans in the public area, when his neighbor approached me to get my advice in the design and decoration of his new marble- mansion. One needs to know the customs of the Arabs in order to design a functional house, especially in Saudi Arabia. All dwellings have a family or women’s section and a public area for the male guests. Usually, the ground floor has an impressive entrance hall with a wide ornamental marble stairway to the second floor. On one side of the entrance is a lavish bathroom for men only with basins to wash their feet and hands before entering a huge opulently furnished room. The washing of feet and the body, called ablutions, is a Moslem religious and hygienic custom based upon their life in the dessert.
Every morning at CDE, when the coffee boy brought the strong sweet Turkish coffee, I visited with Azmi in his office to get his latest instructions and news. I became the architect of record for the Dhahran Academy, Saudi Japanese Pharmaceutical building, Dhahran US consulate, and I was the project manager for a museum for a member of the Royal family.
In addition, I received a fabulous Wireless Telephone Antenna contract from Lucent which was worth millions of dollars.When Azmi left on vacation, which was frequently, I was in charge of all his companies, including the clinic and the chicken and the egg farm. His brother was in charge of the company’s bank account and he had a Chinese national in charge of administration. Azmi appeared to be very generous. He encouraged me to travel, stay at five-star hotels, and eat at very expensive restaurants. I had an unlimited expense account, which I rarely used. My wife, Christina, was not in the kingdom during much of this period, and I had a mission to run, so I did not eat out nor did I travel. The one luxury I allowed myself was occasionally driving Azmi’s Jaguar that he lent to me when he was out of town.
Azmi was always fair to me but could be overly scrupulous with others such as my former friend, Roy who got tangled up in an unfortunate situation. Roy was one of the brothers with whom I fellowshipped in 1985 in Riyadh’s Desert Rose Inn for the Full Gospel Bible Men’s Fellowship International. (FGBMFI). At that time he worked for the Corps of Engineers and he arranged for us to use the facilities for our meetings. Later he worked as the contract administrator for Lear Seagler.
In 1997 when I was sitting in my CDE office in Al Khobar when I get a phone call from Roy who was in Oklahoma, Roy was then a recruiter for an employment agency. He saw an ad that Azmi and I had placed in the Engineering News Record for a “telecom engineering specialist”. He told me he had qualified candidates to fill the position. By this time in my career in the kingdom, I knew the way every company handled such things. If it came to specialists, they expected correct schooling, degrees, and licenses. What Roy told me did not sound right. I tried my best to discourage Roy’s urgings.
But Roy was persistent. Finally, Frank, the successful candidate, arrived and started working for our client—Saudi ARAMCO. Frank did his best to overcome his disappointment at the cockroach-invested and dirty apartment CDE had provided for him. Employers throughout the Arabic world are not always concerned about their employee’s living quarters and personal welfare. Frank did everything to overlook that other side of Saudi Arabia and got down to work. CDE’s client, ARAMCO was very pleased with Frank’s knowledge, and he adjusted very well to our offices.
One day, out of the blue, Azmi called me and announced that he had terminated Frank and was already processing his exit-only visa and airline ticket.
He said Frank’s credentials were both fraudulent and inadequate. Disaster! Of course, Azmi withheld Frank’s salary. And he did not pay for the airline tickets as promised. Roy’s fee as well, was forfeited by these events. Azmi asked me to draft a letter to Roy. Of course Roy called me at the office. He was angry and upset because he was counting on his commission. . He requested I assist Frank in his quest to get his fee. But the fact is that Frank’s qualifications did not meet the requirements, which were very carefully specified in the advertisement and by ARAMCO. In fact it was as much a loss to CDE because while no one works on an assignment CDE receives no income for that work from ARAMCO. In the meantime Azmi had found an Egyptian and several qualified and Jordanian political refugees who would work for half American salary. Well, I never again heard from Roy or Frank. Sadly, during the months to come there were many other casualties of our recruiting and hiring. Most of the causalities were Indians, Sri Lankens and Bangladeshis who were promised a job that did not materialize.
The reason being that the King and his royal family had streamlined the economy in the Kingdom and made an effort to employ more Saudis; all the businesses throughout the Kingdom were required to follow the royal family’s example, including CDE.
In the midst of my routines I would get unexpected visitors and phone calls. Tawfiq of Al-Muhaidib was one of them. Recommended by Elias, Tawfiq wanted to get to know me so he started by visiting me in my office. We discussed the possibility of joint venturing on ARAMCO projects. One time before he left he said that the next time I must visit him. That is what he really wanted. So I did and we got along very well. At that time I did not know what God had in mind when he got me together with Tawfiq.
Azmi’s only goal in life was that his children should take over the business as soon as possible so he would be free to travel. He treated his children like heirs to a throne. He gently fed and increased their responsibility. I was there as a backup. I did all I could to train and teach them. After all, I had a fond memory of Abdul Latif,Azmi’s oldest son from when he was a very young boy from the time I had first visited his father in the early eighties. Now he had become a man. He was married and because he was the older brother, he was destined to assume ownership and management of CDE. Abdul Latif had red hair and was very slim. He was a respectful and polite young man. He was able to speak fast, change subjects at an instant, and keep several phone calls and conversations going at one time.
He was a chain smoker and had a huge collection of cigarette lighters. He had been educated at Miami University, and was very adroit, well-traveled, quick, and had a very good sense of humor. We had a friendly relationship with Abdul Latif and his Saudi wife who had been a New York journalist.
In 1999 when Abdul Latif knew we were packing to move back to the U.S., he offered to keep Christina’s paintings on concession. He was to exhibit them in his showroom. Most of the paintings had been exhibited at Christina’s one-man show in Riyadh. The American Ambassador, Walter Cutler, had sponsored the show. She had great success in that show, and she was much envied by Saudi women, because she was the only woman to show her works in public The paintings were professionally framed and looked beautiful in our flat with there high ceilings, but in our small Florida house they would be too overwhelming. So, it made sense to let him sell them for us. He owned a large interior design store on Abdul Aziz Boulevard. We presume some of the paintings may have been sold by now but we have not received any part of the sale’s proceeds.
When I was still the manager for the company, I well realized that Abdulaziz and his father were not hiring the amount or the qualified people needed to carry out the work for the contracts they won.
They rather used my qualifications during negotiations with a client. Since the market was very competitive they would lower their bid, win the contract, and then later make up the difference by change orders. This was a prevalent practice of many Saudi companies including many of the ARAMCO GESC contractors including my former employer Al-Foadia where Mr. Jizawi and Mr. Kahn, demonstrated this way of doing business to me when I was still in Riyadh. I had even seen this done in the US with such companies as Parsons and other large A&E contactors. As a matter of fact it was one of the main themes in my book, Project Management Standards, contacted to publish back in 1981 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
The contracts were for design and construction engineering for Saudi Arabian, Japanese Pharmaceutical Company, SAJAPHCO, Dhahran Academy, a French and Saudi Company in Jeddah, etc. Abdul Latif attended all the work meetings and knew that his schedule and engineers were barely able to meet the requirements. The policy of the company was to operate as a business and to do what was expedient to make a profit doing as little as possible to meet the most minimum requirements of the agreement.
Abdul Latif was the one who could redeploy, hire or request other firms to complete the work.
Alaa had a good grasp of computers and managed the Jeddah office where the big problems and mishaps with contracts occurred. I knew that without high tech personal, CDE could not perform. I also knew too to stay out of the middle of this because I was not the solution to the any of these problems. I would simple broker and liaise. I kept in mind the strife and misery of Yousef Kahn and others I had known who suffered managing such work. In fact it was one of roles in ARAMCO, People’s Protective, and Gulf Oil to review and monitor such company’s request for additional funds to complete work. However, in my former role I had learned that to develop in kingdom professional companies and share the profits of oil revenues GESC Saudi companies were paid to correct the errors, omission and incompleteness of there design or construction work in the field. It was a modus operendi and ARAMCO’s policy. I got daily calls from the Jeddah clients, and the client’s associate engineers would also call and confide in me about the disastrous details of the problems. These were not ARAMCO contracts and performance with the terms of the contract was expected.
I simply arranged for meetings and reports to be drawn up by Alaa and presented them to Azmi for reconciliation. In certain cases Azmi surrendered fees and segments of work and considered phasing out the Jeddah office.
My office at CDE was on the fifth floor and my office windows faced our apartment. It was the paramount reason I choose CDE as my sponsor. I was aware it was God who had made it all happen. He knew that a job close by gives me more time for our mission and I went home for lunch break. Our services usually started about eight o’clock at night. It is hot in Saudi Arabia, and most laborers work from early morning till noon, and then again from four to eight. For me these flexible hours made it possible to handle two jobs: His and theirs.
For example, before I found our new Pilipino pastor to take over ICI we continued to contend with ICI operations outside of the Eastern Province with individuals such as Nirmal of India and Peter of South Africa. God had provided one brother who was ordained by the South African Church. He was attracted to this ministry and we gave him the original books and a set of masters to bring to Riyadh. He was the one who subscribed Peter D. T. Later on a business trip to South Africa I was to visit the home of the South African Church in Stellenbosch in the middle of Cape Town. It was a lovely place in the middle of the beautiful wine country.
Peter W. D. T. was a South African anesthesiologist working for King Khalid Specialty Hospital KKSH. Peter and Nirmal did not realize how concerned I was that our precious ICI material not falls into hands of some one who would not promote the benefits of the program. They however wanted Ebenezer G. to be named as the ICI coordinator to administer the tests and to coordinate ICI for Riyadh.
I too had wanted the same thing, but several years ago Ebenezer refused to take on the responsibility, and instead became the representative for another educational program, a program, which competed with ICI. Nirmal did not know that. We needed badly a totally devoted ICI director in Riyadh. And again the Holy Spirit made it possible.
Nirmal was transferred to Riyadh and became the personal director for the El-Seif group of companies; a company to which I had consulted. Nirmal lived at the residence at the El-Seif compound where he occupied the very modular home that my partner Mike Murray occupied after I left El-Seif. It was Nirmal’s heart’s desire to develop himself in Jesus. And God made Nirmal rather than Ebenezer to the ICI representative.
I was still working with Azmi, when one day, Daniel Tithe the head of the International School and Dhahran Academy called me.
This school was on the same “reservation” as the US consulate where we attended big parties, dances and celebrations, so I knew the campus very well. He was not exactly my friend, but I had to deal with him when he wanted to add several new building to his complex.
I was apprehensive about his potential behavior because on one occasion he had confiscated my tape recorder after I had recorded part of the proceedings at a conference with Mr. Anthony’s Arab/American group. For the sake of peace I did not make an issue out of it. Now that I was the chief American liaison to the academy for CDE, he looked to me for help, and I gave it to him.
I saved the Academy over a hundred thousand dollars in design and construction costs and over one year in building time by guiding him through the process. We later became friendlier and had several good dinners together. One was at Arabic restaurant where we had hot Lebanese Arabic bread, tabluli, humus, kebobs with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers, etc. At this time we prayed about his marriage and investment plans.
One morning out of the blue, Azmi called me to his office to thank me for the many things that I had done for CDE but due to the deteriorating economy he would not be renewing my contact.
He assured me that I would get a much higher paying job and that he would do everything he could to assist me. He wrote a fine “letter-of-no-objection” and a separate letter of commendation. He also paid for Christina to return to Saudi and gave me a time extension to allow for the transfer once I would find a new sponsor. The Ministry of Interior permitting a new potential sponsor to interview me for a potential contract and then accompany the Igama for transfer form the old to new sponsor required the letter of no objection.
The Holy Spirit and I had to face the new challenge with the same zeal we had before. I got for CDE a large tower engineering project with Lucent Technologies as a result for my long friendship with the president of Lucent who was a Christian and who gave me the contract to maintain his AT&T compound in Riyadh. Of course Lucent considered employing me in Riyadh but they too were losing there footing in the kingdom. I did not realize how significant was Lucent’s inability to contract me, meant at the time. Already, John Heindel was making trips to China and Lucent’s future was teetering.
With my help Azmi had already begun hiring Jordanian and Indian engineers and clerks. There salaries were less than $800 per month and going down.
At the theme time I got an offer to work for RSAL and the pay was duple what I got before. The economy in the United States of America was still depressed so I knew God will keep me here for a while. I had tried to ask our ICI and ministry brothers to pray for taking over the ICI administration but they were not ready and God had not called them. During this period Christina spent lots of time in America liaising with the church and remodeling and getting our house ready for our permanent stay.
During my job serge which ended with RSAL, I learned the economy was worse than in years past. Yes change was in the air.
Jet I got the offer from Frank X. Floyd of Resource Science Arabia Limited who had lived in Florida near us. Frank and I later became good friends after he made me the best offer at the highest salary I was to earn since ARAMCO.
With Frank I shared many hours of kindness and conversation. He loved his children and we both chatted about the lush green Florida. He and his wife, Christina and I saw them socially at consular functions. Sadly to say my friend was killed when terrorist bombed their compound.
God knew I would be faithful and rely upon His power and authority. He provided for all our needs from the time I left KFU till I started with RSAL.
The Holy Spirit resolved the crisis by changing our view from world to spirit. The Holy Spirit was evident in our service to church and creating both AIG/ME and ICI. The Holy Spirit manifests His rest and eminence over our circumstances. I left CDE.
And not long after I worked for RSAL. It was a much higher paying job but it was a job and not a position. I was not working with the owner of a company. I was working for another employee. I was assigned to work under a Sudanese American national Collins B. and assigned to share a cubical with an architect, David Raines. In our unit were people I knew before such Joe Sanchez, David Hatch, Myron Zembrowski and Garth Compton. The building I worked in was palatial with a five-story atrium and big cafeteria, which served subsidized lunch and breakfast. We had to work six days a week. I was well paid, but the job had regular ours it was very unusual for me. My projects included two warehouse renovations, office building and a hospital renovation.
After a while I realized we God gave me that job. I got to learn how to really design on a computer, computers now became very important. I learned how to write and surf the Internet on a computer with the patient and friendly help of David who was born ten years later than I on my birthday Dec 28.
I had not worked on a computer because I had people who did that for me. But God in his wisdom knew that I needed to get familiar with computers and so he gave me that job.
Holy Spirit planted me next to David who with great humor and some brotherly patience was there when I needed him. David had a figure honed as the son of a logger in Oregon. In Saudi Arabia he lifted weights every other night after work.
He invited me to a beach on the corniche where singles go. David Raines was not married but divorced and supporting two children. Finally he met a Scottish nurse named Mary and later they married. Since David was born on the born Dec 28 so we shared a birthday celebration. Because we were both architects David and I were subject to the same ridicule and abuse from Collins B.
Because I was older Mary thought of me as David’s boss. I was anything but that in this new environment at ARAMCO where I had so much to learn about computers and the building code, which I had not seen for so many years. David and the others were very helpful while David and I designed warehouses for one Greek client we had to take turns leading the projects and making reports. David knew all kinds of design shortcuts to make terrible buildings meet the code and achieve the programs purposes. Neither of our efforts was appreciated. We had monthly project meetings including two of the projects managed by a Greek American who did not like architects and especially American architects.
Because there was a big drop in oil prices many of the western staff was told their contracts would not be renewed. Garth was able to get reassigned helping with ARAMCO drawing files and along with many others Joe and David left the kingdom. Seeing all this good professionals leaving Saudi Arabia, mead me see the world is changing and perhaps we overstay our welcome. It was time to go home.
It was my signal to start preparing for departure so I again invited all the Christian group leaders to our house in several meetings to urge them to take over ICI. We volunteered to give them our completely furnished and equipped apartment, car, fax, copier and telephone, but none would respond.
But the time was not jet. In my workplace I mead a Korean Christian, named Kuan Kim at some point he simply asked if he could come to my house to learn the bible. Kim was new in this aria and so I helped him and his wife select an apartment, furniture and generally get settled. .
His wife Sunheh was the best Korean cook in the whole world. She also has a most beautiful soprano singing voice and is a very devoted Christian.
Kuan told me that there is a belief that the Koreans are one of the lost tribes of Israel. Sunheh was very strict with Kuan forbidding him to watch videos. They were Korean Baptist and had two children in college. Sunheh adjusted well to Saudi. After we left they had their own ministry. Kuan gave me several desert roses formed out of sand, which he and his friends extracted from beneath the desert floor. It is a natural phenomenon that happens because of the heat of the dessert sand.
Kuan and I loved to visit my secret island in the Gulf. We were able to meet with Ali Ibrahim Al-Darorah, the Tarot Island’s museum’s curator, author and preservationist.
When ever I go there I see that the old Turkish fortress is deteriorated quickly and the old buildings in the old section of town are in need of even more maintenance.
He introduced us to artist and really wise men. Kim and I took many photos. Since these people were Shiites they welcomed our visit. And shared there hopes and dreams for preserving the arts, poetry, and architecture of the special island.
I personally was crazy about the old Dows; this are fishing vessels, washed ashore and sitting in mud. I made so many photos and keep them for posterity.
I have had students and trainees who told me the island’s history and details, which I keep documented. I collected books, poems, and paintings. Ali was practically the only other artistic and creative person I ever met in Saudi Arabia aside from a few architects and designers. But he was special because his was not a business but a passion to preserve his culture and heritage.
He spent his own money to find, encourage, publish and distribute the books, brochures and booklets about the individual craftsman, artisans, artist, and great people of Tarot. With short but full beard, heavy body, thobe and overcoats he was very scholarly, old fashioned and sentimental, but a man of authority and purpose. Amongst the many regrets I have about leaving Saudi is not being able to further help and support his efforts.
Parenthetically, in the next two remaining years, except for general good will in the business community I saw little of the people I met during either CDE or ARAMCO contactors, Jubail manufacturers, or schools. As always I kept all those doors open but simply went on to the next assignment and carried out the work. My focus was always on carrying out the great commission for whomsoever the Lord commanded. I had no sense of loss or regrets only optimism and hope for the future to win more souls.
I usually had no time for anomie and all my life moved on from one to another career, profession, job, task, country, city and residence. Change was in God’s nature and my modus operendi.
The bin Jumah ministry, AIG/ME, ICI simultaneously continued throughout all of this tumult .We were a responsible family. Jesus Christ was steering and we were on His ship. I knew it would end well.
Saudi Arabia was changing most people believed the changes where do to the economic climate. None of us wanted to see the fact that beneath the surface of it all was the Wahabbis and the turmoil we could not jet see, preparing for worldwide terrorism. The leaders of Saudi, the gulf region, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan and Afghanistan were preoccupied and distracted.
Christina continued to fill our mission reports with many newspaper articles announcing the intentions of the Arabs and Muslims to evangelize and settle globally.
On the positive side, the economy and professional climate in the USA was greatly improving to the extent that when I worked in RSAL/Saudi ARAMCO people like Joe Sanchez, David Raines and Mike Schuetz got very good offers after circulating their resumes. Also the ability to communicate improved with the use of the now popular Internet.
Even in my last months at Al-Muhaidib I posted my resume just to test the market and got positive offers to interview in the USA including Fort Myers, Naples and Melbourne (which houses many of the A&E firms that serve NASA). Even when I arrived in the USA these companies kept in touch and even improved their offers.
But the Holy Spirit gave me subtle sign that soon the time is up. Strife, hostility and misunderstanding developed in my office. There was several work units headed by superintendents including one by Saleh Al-G. He was a student and asked me to edit his thesis for his Ph.D. which I did and then returned it to him while he was talking on the phone. Rather than disturb him I decided to leave it on his desk and signaled him accordingly to not intrude upon his privacy I stood at a distance and tossed it on his desk and left. The editing on my part was completely voluntary and not part of my work all done in an informal friendly request deserving a friendly response.
However, he complained to my supervisor, Collins B., a Sudanese, that I had tossed it on his desk and that I had shown disrespect.
Collins called me in to his office and with Saleh sitting next to me and Collins behind his desk proceeded to, not only tell me how wrong I was, but screamed at me at the top of his voice and said some very disrespectful things and about me and what we Americans are like.
He also made it very clear that I was on notice and a person of very low esteem for my behavior. I of course apologized and never uttered any thing about this event again. After this event, I did not talk very much to either Collins or Saleh. I know this job will not last long after I found another position and was settled, I had to contact Collins for some technical thing I needed and he invited me for lunch as if nothing ever happened. The Holy Spirit let me know the enemy was alive and well but the zeal of the Lord kept me focused on the continuity of ICI and listening to God’s will in all matters. This was another sign of underlying unrest in Saudi which we had not seen before.
Months later when my contract came up for renewal, my contract with all the other westerners were not renewed. Now I found that the Saudi Arabian economy had further deteriorated, to the extent that the offers I received would barely pay the rent.
I interviewed with companies that merely wanted to sponsor me while I acquired and executed the work.
The few that offered compensation proposed less than $1000/ month. I did contact one of my former Saudi ARAMCO consultants in Rahima. He offered me a job as a director of his company at a very low salary to live in a manufactured home in a barren labor camp.
Oh no, I thought I would not repeat the whole story all over again. I’d been there and done that. In his mind he was offering me his best as the chief estimator for his whole company. I decided that I had reached that line where losses exceed gains. Saudi could not effort any more western expertise. They had now to muddle along on there one.
In any case Christina’s health, she had problems with her hips we found out mach later, had sufficiently deteriorated so that walking on the corniche was very painful requiring therapeutic exercise. We prayed, God let us go home.
Knowing we will leave soon, in a board meeting with AIG/ME, I requested that Cisco take charge and others start to run the organization. Cisco saw a good business opportunity and a so did our sponsors, but we still could find no leader. With both ICI and AIG/ME God was not yet ready. He was yet to astonish me with several surprises. In fact the next series of events elevated the great commission to yet another level of evangelism and edification I could not have imagined.
The Holy Spirit showed me more about what obeying the great commission and being a priest of God really means in the kingdom.
Surprises come from the places, persons and circumstances you least expect. Long before in Riyadh’s RICF Arab group I met Elias Attara who greatly influenced the course of events in our ministry. He was an older Egyptian man who looked like a member of my father’s side of the family. He was always very well dressed and groomed. He had a pencil thin English mustache which mad him look very distinguished. I liked him immediately. He was like a familiar soul I had met long ago. While we were in the States, Elias would send us cards and letters. When I arrived in the kingdom the second time ,Abdul Hamid Shalaby brought me to a meeting of the professional engineers at the Carlton hotel on the corniche and while listening to someone speaking during the dinner I noticed a man several tables away who looked just like Elias. I had been fooled before seeing some man seemingly friendly with a familiar faces .I kept staring and looking away surely believing my mind would readjust its focus and deny what my eyes was telling me. The man smiled at me over and over and I to him.When the speaking ended we both ran to each other and hugged. It was Elias. Elias went home tot be with the Lord in mid 2008.
It was an amazing reunion, which held until he and Yolanda left for Egypt a year before we returned to the U. S. A. either alone or with Yolanda Elias visited us, every week. We’d also visit their apartment in Dammam in a high-rise building near Coffee cup circle, where hi lived with his son. Elias was a devout Coptic and his wife a Maroon. Our mission who embraced people of all different Christian background wars the right place for that couple. Elias had a sister who served as nun in France all her life and Yolanda had a brother who was a very well know concert pianist.
Yolanda was a very fine and reserved lady polite and kind, and, an especially good cock. Often she would bake cakes she knew pleased us all. Elias was very respectful and honorable he kissed his bible every time we ended our worship to give thanks to the word of God. I saw Elias the last time walking alone in the street as I drove off in the night leaving the Kim’s apartment in Khobar. Yolanda had left already for Egypt but Eliot had still to attend to some business.
Elias, an engineer and faithful member of the AIG/ME, his life could have been quit pleasant if it was not for the disastrous contract he had made with Prince M. Elias had provided engineering services to a major construction project where he agreed he would be paid in a lump sum on the completion of the project.
So Elias borrowed sums of money from sources in Egypt to live for two years, only to find that the prince will not pay him unless he became a Moslem.
Elias should have known better. But he believed the prince.
Elias went to court. This drew out over a period of many years of labor board, municipal and royal hearing s, letters and visits to the King. Finally after Yolanda returned to Egypt Elias money totally ran out and his son could no longer support him.
Elias returned to Egypt to face his creditors and the shame of failure and the humidity of being a pauper. However, this had encouraged Elias to pray and to build his faith. We all prayed with him for many years even so we expected the negative outcome, which Elias did not, went to face.
Elisa, now deceased still remains one of my heroes and I know that the love of God covered him and his family. I learned a lot from Elias about faith, love and patience. I learned that God watches us no matter how foolish, wise or mistaken we may be. In many ways Elias was a risk taker and tenacious warrior. If it were not for him and his brief job with Al-Muhaidib I would never have met Tawfiq, who became my last boss in
And these was, just before finalizing the details of my plans to depart Saudi, I field bat I had not found some one to continue my mission, but the anti American campaign continued, there where simply no jobs to get. At that time the Holy Spirit quickened me to call Tawfiq Al-Reshaid, the former boss of Elias.
This recall was linked to my idea for a kind informal relationship in exchange for an interim sponsorship while I closed the ICI operation. I thought of this because several companies I did not know made such an offer and I reasoned that if this were God’s will; let it be with a nice person I already knew such as Tawfiq. Tawfiq was tall, dark and handsome sporting an English – narrow mustashe. beginning at the middle of the upper lip the whiskers were very long and pulled to the side. He was Riyadh born and Iraqi educated Saudi, with two so ns and a daughter, and only one wife that I know of. He studied engineering in Iraq and had visited the USA with his family several years before we met.
So I called Tawfiq and invited him for dinner at the Al-Ghosiabi hotel. I just wanted to buy him dinner and hear God speaking. I believed that God was going to speak to me through him, even a nice and dignified farewell and perhaps a bit of mutually beneficial sponsorship before I left the kingdom.
I believed that “………God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” per2 Cor 9:8.
Before going I prayed as always for the Holy Spirit to intercede and inspire our conversation. I hoped that, in the midst of all the lower than low proposals and the depressing state of the economy God had a path and I should listen. I surely had ruled out all the others. I had not idea of what or why I was doing this. God was in control.
Tawfiq and I talked for a while I was telling him what I’d done to bring business to CDE and AlFoadia he said he’d like for me to try to do the same thing in his company. I was astonished and felt the zeal of the Lord surge. Eph 1: 19 “and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.
It seemed the Holy Spirit inspired us both with the idea that I might be able to do for Al-Muhaidib what I had done for others. So on the night before RSAL was scheduled to issue my exit-only visa Essam Al-Muhaidib, Tawfiq and I negotiated a contract and wrote the letter to RSAL transferring sponsorship. This was the “just-in-the right-time”work of God. Not too late and not too early. Just on time. Tawfiq and the Al-Muhaidib brothers were definitely people who heard and obeyed God.
They were part of the great commission yielding and supple to God’s quickening and suggestions. ………………..and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it per Mark 16: 20.
I’ll never forget the way Tawfiq then offered to pay the bill by credit card at the front desk of the hotel. I had a discount card and was ready to make the payment. I did show him this card, and how I would get the discount and he with no pride nor boasting convinced me that this would be a business expense and it was appropriate for him to pay.
Frank Floyd gave me only 48-hour deadline to exit me out of the kingdom. So time was of the essence. That is way Tawfiq arranged for the commercial price and terms interview with one of the brothers. Within a very few hours the chairman of the board, Suleiman Al-Muhaidib agreed and the next evening I was sitting before them to negotiate my salary and conditions. After very warm and friendly words he gave his price and the Holy Spirit told me to counter it with a very high figure to which they did not respond.
I then suggested we meet in the middle to which they were so happy and we all shook hands and congratulated each other.
With each event the Holy Spirit ministered peace and authority and established God’s presence. The negotiations were with in keeping of the perfect Arab trade. I had a figure, they had one, and then we met exactly half way between my high and their low. It was so excellent because we both wanted to make this new thing work. It certainly was one hundred percent over what my puny mind originally would settle. At that moment I was sure that God was steering me into something extraordinary.
We beat the clock and I was able to transfer my Igama on time, and begin work the next day. Yes, the cash flow was uninterrupted and I did not loose a day’s wages.
The following day I reported to Al-Muhaidib and after setting up my office next to Tawfiq, I began work. The first thing was to set up my computer and plan for our recruitment trip to the Philippines. God was about to exceed His supernatural event of finding our replacement when leaving the Christian Fellowship at Del Tura by bringing Jun and I together. I am reminded of how Jesus blinded Saul and led him to meet Ananias in Damascus. The two were given two different visions bringing them together for a mighty work.
To make a long story short, within a month Tawfiq and I were in the Philippines, and several months later, South Africa and then finally Atlanta, and San Francisco. He also prompted me to visit Houston to meet with the President of CONOCO to negotiate a joint venture. CONOCO was definitely interested.
Tawfiq was an old and trusted friend of the Al-Muhaidib family. He has always been a gentleman and very candid with me. So, from 1998 to 1999 I worked full time at Al-Muhaidib trading and contracting under Tawfiq Al-Reshaid. Tawfiq’s other partners were the brothers Suleiman, Essam and Emad Al-Muhaidib who where actually from a very wealthy family from southern Iraq, and hoped one day they might return home.
They were one of the kindest and most generous family I ever did business with in Saudi Arabia. Suleiman would call me personally to request my assistance with one or another negotiation for his piping company. Each brother was in charge of a region as Eastern, Western and Central. The office in which I worked was in one of the former home of the Al-Muhaidib family. Our offices were upstairs. Whenever the brothers visited, I sensed they were visiting the place of their childhood and I could see them as little boys.
During our days work various tea boys served us and Uni was our receptionist/secretary. He was a very intelligent boy useful in mach more important things then answering the phone. “Uni” was a hard working secretary from Bangladesh and our Pakistani deputy general manager.
There were estimators and managers on the ground floor who provided us with the technical assistance we required for purchasing, estimating and arranging for our business travels.
Members of the Al-Muhaidib family often visited me. The people had there homes in Austin Texas so they told my full of pride and doing business in Basra, Iraq. One of them explained to me the black market shipping being conducted from Dubai to Iraq, which was then still under Sadam Hussein, and the need to develop cooperative trade in preparation for the hopeful change of the regime in Iraq.
Sageer, P.A. M. was Purchasing and Services Manager for al-Muhaidib trading and contracting company. He was a Pakistani with a talent for computers and therefore a great help to me. And he had a complete understanding of the history and modus operandi of the company. His son was in the USA studying IT. Before leaving I gave him many of our video tapes and thanked him for the endless hours he spent buying, placing and organizing my office and its’ computer.
Tawfiq was younger then I by about 10 years. He smoked and always was a gentleman. The topics of discussion ranged from politics, personalities people; his favorite thyme was human behavior. We were constantly trying to assess our options and possible opportunities. When we traveled together on business it was first class.
While there were undercurrents of the sword brewing, God used the “word” in a world, which believes that the end justifies the means. However, I never hide the fact that I am a Christian and that the seditions I make where inspired from the teachings in the bible. They learned to me, Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the light. I believe that this family was typical of many Saudi Arabian families God is using in these end times who will say yes to Jesus and lead hoards of people to eternal life. I believe it is this very thing the Wahabbis want to destroy by might. The “sword” vs. the “word”.
God on the end will reap the harvest.
I was not particularly hired to go with Tawfiq on trips for business, but as it where God will was for me to travel. And so, he used Tawfiq for His purpose. Within hours of reporting for my first day in the office Tawfiq casually informed me of his already planned trip to the Philippines.
It was at that very moment that the Holy Spirit “pinged” me. I still did not know the half of it, but I did know that all my former trips to the Philippines were about to converge into God’s will. I was totally obsessed and convinced that I was Tawfiq’s answer to anything he could possibly want or need in the Philippines. Therefore, with boldness and confidence rooted in Holy Spirit’s reality, I explained in detail how it would be worth the company to have me arrange for every detail of his trip. Guess what? Tawfiq said if I could do that he wanted me to accompany him and arranged for two first class round trip tickets.
I was overwhelmed, astonished completely purposed by the Holy Spirit to once again minister the gospel in the Philippines. So all my misery and anguish having to take care of worldly need like securing an Igama were over now the good times are rolling, God had a special job for me to do. I was sure someone needed salvation in the Philippines and I was being sent to rescue that person.
Sageer was still setting up my computer, so by phone and fax I arranged to meet with many employment agencies and construction contracting companies. I also arranged to get excellent rates at the Intercontinental hotel with the girls at the desk who already knew me from previous visits.
I also set up a complete morning, noon and afternoon meeting schedules and agenda. Then I contacted many pastors, brothers and sisters to likewise arrange times for us to have our meals and meet. I also contacted several pastors in Saudi including Felix who prayerfully gave me a pastor whom his fellowship has been supporting. Felix explained that I should be sensitive with this pastor. Felix had someone immediately contact him and soon I had a positive reply and specific date. The pastor’s name was Jun.
This was the third and most important Holy Spirit trip to the Philippines of our whole Kingdom’s career. We flew for eleven delightful hours in first class on Philippines Airlines. Tawfiq needed to meet with employment agents in the hotel and offices to recruit new workers.
Tawfiq and I met with the biggest builders and developers of Manila and particularly Makati. On our last visit, Christina and I were able to tour the Arroyo Boulevard’s multi million dollar condominium buildings and see the wealth that has been pouring into Manila from Japan, Singapore and China. The Australians were at home in much business and so were the Germans. This country would be a wonderful place to live and minister the gospel. The Holy Spirit was quickening me to some new thing and I could do nothing but obey .The Holy Spirit made it all plausible and flowing.
It was Christmas season and all the Christmas lights were on and in the buildings. Emma our closest friend in Saudi was home for Christmas, made a special family party and we were able to pray with her and her family. Arturo was not in the Philippines at the time but her son in law was able to provide the transportation. The lobbies of the hotels and malls were so beautifully decorated.
One evening Tawfiq and I were escorted by one of Al-Muhaidib agents through town late at night and we were able to see the lights decorating so many of the streets and neighborhoods. I recall the Christmas lights on the house in Emma’s neighborhood. It reminded me of Christmas in our home in Florida
Wherever possible I meet privately before or after with my brothers and sisters I knew before, Tawfiq joined us often for prayer and consultation. Some of the agents knew me by reputation and others because they were referred by members of our fellowships; my network was deep, complex and far reaching. I was also able to meet with (FEBA) Far East Broadcasting and Remi, Lito, Isadoro, and many of our brothers and sisters from Saudi.
It was great to again see Remi N., formerly of Riyadh’s S. Ministry, now in Qatar who introduced me to his cousin Joel B. Noman. Joel handles broadcasting technical works for Far East Broadcasting Corporation of the Philippines located in Valenzuela, Metro Manila very far from Makati but near Assemblies of God Bible College and AG Manila Headquarters.
I also saw Ed Lapiz and he showed me full of pride a new painting by a local artist over his desk in his office. This was the trip when I was able to pray with a young married nurse in the hotel for her Catholic family and her new status as a born again sprit filled Christian. After long prayers, I was able to send her to the church and the pastor’s wife we had met on our last visit.
Tericita was the hotel nurse whose husband and family remained Catholic while she converted. Her dilemma was how to deal with the family in light of her new faith. When she heard that I was suffering from some irregularity, I later found that she had given me a large bowl of papayas delivered to my room.
Finally I also visited to see Felix’s friend Jun. Jun had a small church and he asked me to preach .He invited me for lunch and there he announced to me he was coming to Saudi. What? I was startled and concerned for him and his family when I preached to his full congregation I had met his wife and child.
In the taxi, on the way to the hotel he kept telling me he is coming to Saudi. I wondered way Jun, he has his church, and what will he do in Saudi? But it turned out he was quickened by the Holy Spirit and his response was to change both of our lives. Knowing our situation and the economy in Saudi I could not be encouraging. He was not asking my help but really announcing that God had called him to serve in our ministry in Saudi Arabia. I certainly knew how difficult the Saudi Arabia economy was at this time and what difficulty many had who were already in the kingdom. My company was looking only for laborers with specific skills which he did not have.
However, I promised him I would do what I could to help. After all, I was on a recruiting trip and he was a willing worker. Well, that evening I made his availability know to Tawfiq who startled me by an offer to employ him as a secretary to our company. I was dumb struck. What was he saying? The Holy Spirit was speaking and I was feebly trying to listen. So I called Jun and asked him for his resume. Well, after we returned to Saudi and Tawfiq saw the reality of our situation and reneged on his offer.
Jun began calling me every so often but I could not make an offer. I was skeptical and pessimistic about anyone’s motives and odd visions ministers have about evangelizing in Saudi Arabia.
This sober attitude came from nineteen years of mentoring, discipling and assisting new leaders using my already familiarities with the difficulties we had. I tried to avoid answering and felt awkward when Jun would call. He informed me that he was already visiting several existing Philippino groups and gathering people together from those groups. It all sounded like too much too soon. I even got emails from Jun and then one day it happened.
Jun called me again on the telephone but this time from Dammam telling me that he was here with a job except it does not pay very well, if at all. Jun was obeying the great co-mission per Mark 16: 20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” and Abba father was giving me a sign.
A month later I found out that his accommodation was auspiciously two blocks from our apartment just around the corner from our bakery. He could not effort a car and so God mead it easy for him. Awesome!
There was only one very big difference between Jun and many others. As me, Jun was an “ordained minister of the gospel” but he by the Central Luzon District Council of the Assemblies of God and now my appointed deputy of ICI in KSA.
He was a mature believer and committed to Christ. He too responded to the Holy Spirit and as time went by I saw him adapt to deal with Saudi Arabia. I realized now, had I not made the many other trips before I would not have been able to be of any value to Tawfiq and brazen enough to volunteer to arrange for everything for his mission. It was His and not my mission and Jun was to get a job no matter if Tawfiq had a real job or not. The reality was Gods and not the worlds. God used us as much as we depending on God and the Holy Spirit did give us the evidence of that God is living in His children. The confluence of Jun’s heart’s desire and the Holy Spirit’s plan for us to return to the US and Tawfiq’s need to find employees for Al-Muhaidib was all arranged by God. I am a great believer that much of God’s kingdom is confluent.
Jun told me that Felix was against him leaving his church in the Philippines and coming to Saudi Arabia. I could well agree with Felix but did not say so. Jun just did not listen to the world he listened to God.
We introduced him around and God adjusted him to KSA. After a while he started to help Murthy and soon announced that he was ready to manage all of ICI. We started by giving him the books, masters and copies. He had found a safe place to store all of this.
We gave him the names, lists and gathered all our leaders and students to meet Jun. We gave Jun a recording of the complete history of how ICI was started and vowed to liaise with ICI in the US to complete all transactions and communications. So by the time we began to mobilize for final departure Jun had all of ICI under his control.
Many months went by as Tawfiq and I traveled to South Africa in search of highly trained communications engineers, reasoning that we should be prepared for a possible offer by Lucent if they get the award of a major contract with the ministry of information. We visited Johannesburg and Cape Town. It was a nurse friend of Marys', David Raine’s girlfriend that told me her company was recruiting in South Africa to get qualified people at a fraction of the cost.
Additionally, the Al-Muhaidib’s were courting favor with the King through a member of there banking staff and Citi Corp. I was tasked with getting close to him. He suggested we attend a conference he organized at Georgetown University. So the family tasked their two brothers-in laws and me to attend for a week in DC where we stayed at the Willard Hotel. The food and the events were lavish and splendid. However,
I could hardly eat anything because I was recovering from the worst stomach virus I ever had in my life.
I did manage to meet the Lucent, ATT, and Bell lab executives, and rub shoulders with the representatives of top Saudi companies.
The three brothers Suleiman, Essam, and Emad Al-Muhaidib were the heirs of the father’s business. I was able to visit the newly completed, building which they called a villa, to me it looked like a palace, of Essam in the Eastern Province on the Corniche, for Eid and other festive occasions.
Emad and Suleiman would meet privately with me to ask my help with some negotiations with Kevin Tacker from Intercon. Kevin was then consultant to Citi Corp and member of the American University in Georgetown faculty. Kevin arranged a wonderful seminar in Georgetown for a Saudi delegation including my self. He visited our apartment in Khobar and helped setup our computer mailing list and he hosted us for diner at his home in George Town. The Al-Muhaidib believed Kevin’s relationship with the house of Saud could assist Al-Muhaidib group in some way.
Because we were interested in telecommunications, the US consulate invited Tawfiq and me to attend a week trip to Atlanta convention center, San Francisco and San Jose. In Atlanta we stayed at the Bulkhead Ritz Carlton and met with a well-known Lucent executive. All of our meetings were very well organized and we got the information and resources we needed.
We even received an offer from Deutsche Telecom to be there Saudi partner if we could get an operator’s license from the Royal family. Unfortunately Lucent did not get their contracts from the Saudi king and the Ministry of Communications decided to carry out the work in different ways.
It did not matter much to us, for Christina and I had already decided to return to the Florida. And The Holy Spirit led me to advise Al-Muhaidib that I would not renew our contract.
As for AIG/ME Cisco and Garth picked up the gantlet once they realized I had resigned my position with Al-Muhaidib, they invited me to a meeting where they voted for Roland Radd as president and I nominated Garth as his vice president. There plans were different from mine but I was so pleased at their interest and knew that if God wills they will succeed.
I know that God was pleased that the enemy did not triumph over me. God let the enemies chastise but never conquer while He blessed, saved and edified many Saudis.
For all the years my US passport, architect’s license and transferable Igama represented the liberty to bless my movements from one to another sponsor.
The Holy Spirit proved that He and not the kingdom controlled liberty. However, I believed they were tools I could use to prevent my enemies from taking away my opportunity to stay in the kingdom.
The transferable Igama had been a metaphor for affluence and potential economic freedom. It was the gift the Holy Spirit gave me at the very beginning to free me from the wiles of the opposition whose power could not deter the work of the Holy Spirit on me and my ability to win souls in the kingdom. If you were not looking you would not realize the Holy Spirit had touched, and changed the situation the fact is the Holy Spirit proved that He could win souls, build ministries, plant churches, change lives and bring hope to a captive kingdom with or without a transferable Igama. The Holy Spirit could do all of this within the protocols and respect to kingdoms laws.
The transferable Igama was a only an outward blessing of Christ’s propitiation of His life for our eternal life and our spiritual for fleshly life to fulfill Dt. 15:4 “ However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you”I had been a blessing to the Al-Muhaidib family and I was sure this inheritance was for the present and coming eternity.
And, fulfilled Christ’s command to be in but not of the world, what we inherited was spiritual and supernatural. For nearly twenty years the Holy Spirit and I possessed the land and now had a legacy for those that followed.
Before left Saudi I embraced Emad and shook his hand. I was embracing and shaking the hand of one of the wealthiest men in Saudi Arabia. God had granted me my desire, to let the Christian light shine to the wealthiest families in the world. It was not for me but for Christ, because I knew that Christ in me was infectious and confident that the Holy Spirit could change the direction many of this influential people will take in time to come. In fact it was similar to what Mar Pingol once prayed for me the blessings of Solomon, he responded when God asked him for one request he requested wisdom. I recounted that I had assisted Saudi persons, business owners, and whole families infuse Christ’s life into there plans, life style, and culture. God had used our marriage to show God’s divine providence and presence as a model for future generations.
God told me that for the moment our work was done in Saudi he had another plan for us back in the US. I did however tell Emad what the Holy Spirit inspired me to say and that was if I were to return it would be because you invited me.
To which Emad explained that when things open up he would be calling me back to either Saudi or to Basra as I was his contacting advisor and there would be no one else he would ask. It was fulfilling to hear this coming from an Al-Muhaidib, this vow was made before September 11 and I have not heard from them since. It was a good ending to an important period.
ICI had its new Saudi leader and would continue to build God’s kingdom. Many of my students were already leaders in key government and business positions; and, so many non-Saudis from over thirty countries were back home serving their family, churches, commerce and government. So what legacy would I leave of my own? The answer was none.
What ever the Holy Spirit and I did was vested in those Jesus saved to live the New Jerusalem. I had fulfilled His great commission. In Saudi Arabia as others would do likewise. Many would take what they learned back to there country of origin and I may never again hear from them. Now others would bring salvation to there families, friends, and neighbors. We had taught how to teach, preach and baptize in the name above all names and in a place set apart by God.
Before leaving our BinJuma apartment Murthy, Christina, and I conducted a fax and phone sale of our personal effects including our car. So, we had many visitors of all nationalities and economic strata including a Muslim who tried to persuade me to convert to Islam.
However the most poignant of all the last minute visitors was Mr. Jizawi. He came by alone and stayed for a very long time recounting our history and accomplishments, friendship and good times. He told us about his sons and family and his unfortunate situation in Dubai and hopes for a future visit in Florida. Prior to his visit he said he’d only stay for a few minutes so Christina did not prepare a meal. She was so embarrassed but served tea and cake. However, it was by his kindness we had Murthy all these years and a working telephone up till that day. His visit, ending our nearly twenty years our friendship was relaxed and unpretentious. At the door we embraced and said farewell. After 9/11 I have lost all contacts with my Saudi friends except Mr. Jizawi. I still get here and there a greeting card on Christmas and other occasions.
Abdul Latif the son of Azmi and family gave us a farewell dinner in there new Italian restaurant as he now had possession of many of Christina’s original paintings for display and sell in his shops.
Christina and I thanked God that the Holy Spirit shown His fruits and gifts, friends and strangers has become part of the family of God. Some are graduated from ICI and now are pastors, deacons, elders, evangelists or have with many others a new life and better jobs. The time was well spent.
The Holy Spirit made our last days in KSA elegant and fitting by being Al-Muhaidib’s guest in a first class room at the Dhahran International hotel with a rented beautiful new red Ford Crown Victoria. November 11,1999 (Sha’ban 1420H) When it was time to depart Winston, Murthy, Loy and several others simply drove our luggage across the parking areas we had crossed so many time before and then walk across to board the plane at the correct time. It was the same airport we had arrived nineteen years earlier on August 11, 1981. Only this time with us, were our dear loved ones such as Winston who could barely keep himself from weeping.
Günter Baer, who managed the hotel we stayed in the last nights, came to say good buy and I thanked him for his many years of hospitality and kindness. I remembered the many meetings of ARAMCO in the eighties, of the American Business Men’s Association and special German club dinners at his private residence.
This was about two years before the bombing of the World Trade Center but already there was anger expressed by some young people we met on a street corner at our building. We did not depart the way we came but with the dignity and authority of children of God who had a job well done. We had enough money saved in the bank to last for many months and I was certain God had a plan for us. In fact when we arrived in America God found employment with a government office so that we could save and vest in a pension plan after only six years to support us when I would no longer be working, During this time the Holy Spirit quickened me to write an autobiography, memoirs and finally a powerful work of the Holy Spirit.
Without His presenceI could not accomplish anything as I did because I was a "nobody" to the world but a "somebody" to the Holy Spirit. He enabled me that I should write down what I’ve witnessed to encourage people that the Holy Spirit can heal and empower. I have learned to love, fear, and obey.
God brought me back to the USA for a new beginning and opportunity to mature and grow in a new way. In Saudi the Holy Spirit showed that He is more powerful than governments, culture and whole societies. The Lord’s work and the signs that accompanied the work indeed confirmed the logos. Everyone who we had known had experienced the Holy Spirit’s expression in our lives
We boarded the plane for a final flight to Miami where our friends the Tatum’s were waiting to drive us through Alligator Alley home. And Life in the US began. We finally got in the house that was November 11, 1999. The only disappointment we had was with our church,
As a non- itinerating missionary I was very unusual because I was a tentmaker seeking prayer and fellowship with the United States of America, Indian, Philippino and German church. We hardly could do fundraising .As a matter of fact; the only fundraising we did was for books, bibles, and postage so that Christians outside of Saudi Arabia could sew their faith into this precious work of God. However, there were some elders who eventually resented our visits because God was providing the finances for our personal living needs through my job in Saudi and we were only accountable to the sectional, district and central presbyter of the AOG in Springfield. We were not an AG mission. Instead of lengthy itinerating and accumulating revenues our time was spent in the field. It was just different and when we returned to the United States of America no one on the board received and welcomed our return. Now many years later we still pray and watch for signs of change in the kingdom so that those airplane hangers, which store all the bibles, confiscated from the Christians will be opened and the bibles distributed. We are watching for signs and wonder the most reliable proof and test of the Holy Spirit is simply to pray with zeal with the word in the name above all names. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus ,Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus ,Jesus..
We pray for the continued growth of those fulfilling the great commission that Saudi Arabian sheiks lead their people to Christ’s salvation. I believe that Saudis can be responsible and change the course of their own history when they receive God’s promise and follow the sheiks.
Our Saudi Arabia hosts are free to call!
In Acts 2:38 Peter offers the way to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when he said: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
Ultimately, the proof is in your own changed life.
It was humbling to read all the great ways of ministry that God afforded for you all around the world. I was just googling my dad's name George Sastry and it poped up in your blog. Yes, I am the yongest son of Dr George Sastry from Trivandrum, Kerala with whom you visited in Kovalam. If God allows, I would love to sit with you and hear some of your adventures you had in India. Dad has gone to be with the Lord in 2007, and I have been provided the opportunity to take after the ministry in India. I am still working for the US Postal Service and resides in Pembroke Pines FL. My email address is email@example.com. Please drop me a line. Prayerfully, your younger brother in Christ. - paul george.