Born Again In Saudi Arabia

“I left the Philippines in the year ’82. So actually I didn’t intend to go there (to Saudi Arabia) but now I have a family so I need to earn so that’s the reason I went out of the country, money reasons. So I went there to work in architectural design. That’s my job. And at the same time I am seeking the Lord….It’s a shock to me when I first came to Saudi because it’s a totally different culture. For me being in the world, I used to go to disco, I used to take drugs, I used to do immoral things, I used to go to movies. But in Saudi that is totally absent…So for me I thought, that’s no life in Saudi. I cannot live in Saudi. So within two weeks I planned to go back…But something happened. I still had the desire to know the Lord, to meet the Lord, to know more about him…Every night I used to read (the Bible). Sometimes I am high on drugs. I won’t miss a day, I won’t close my eyes at night till I read the scripture. So at the same time I am doing the worldly things…But in my heart I am seeking the Lord…But I made a decision. “Lord, you have a purpose, right? You have brought me here. And there’s no church in Saudi. It’s totally prohibited. But I learned something. There is a church allowed inside ARAMCO compound, that’s an American oil company, a big company. So the thing I learned is they are not allowed outsiders but if you have a friend they can sponsor you, you can get in there. So how could it be? So I just start praying, ‘Lord, send me someone that I could meet. Someone working in ARAMCO so they could sponsor me and I could go to church and worship you.”

I met Pastor Boyong Mesina in Muscat, Oman in the Arabian Peninsula. He is the pastor of a small but dedicated church of born again Christians. One of the original people in Portraits In Faith, Debby Telatovich, used to belong to Pastor Mesina’s church when she and her husband lived in Oman. I was welcomed with open arms into their community and various members helped me with meeting and interviewing people around Muscat that week. My first interview was with Pastor Mesina and his interview deeply touched me. He spoke of his own struggles with addiction and with his determination to meet someone in Saudi Arabia who could take him into one of the big American oil company compounds where he could attend church. When we went to make Pastor Mesina’s portrait, we were in the back courtyard of the church when I noticed a door covered with the famous Bible verse from First Corinthians: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” And I thought, yes, stand right there, this is the portrait meant for you.