BORN AGAIN IN SAUDI ARABIA
“I left the Philippines in the year 1982. I didn’t intend to go to Saudi Arabia, but now I had a family. I needed to earn, so that’s the reason I went out of the country, money reasons. I went there to work in architectural design. That’s my job. And at the same time I was seeking the Lord.
It was 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 discos, 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 was high on drugs, but I wouldn’t miss a day, I wouldn’t close my eyes at night until I read the scripture. So at the same time I was doing the worldly things…but in my heart I was seeking the Lord. I made a decision. I said, ‘Lord, you have a purpose, right? You have brought me here. And there’s no church in Saudi.’ It was totally prohibited.
But I learned something. There was a church allowed inside the compound of an oil company, a big company. So the thing I learned is they do not allow outsiders but if you have a friend they can sponsor you; you can get in there. So how could it be? So I just started praying, ‘Lord, send me someone that I could meet. Someone working in that big company so they could sponsor me and I could go to church and worship You.’”
I met 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.
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. I noticed a door covered with the beautiful verses from Corinthians in the New Testament (“Love is patient, love is kind…”) and I thought, “Yes, stand right there, this is the portrait meant for you, Pastor Mesina.”