As I exited the parking garage of the Watergate Hotel with my companion, I breathed a prayer. In a few yards I would be leaving Washington D.C. and entering Saudi Arabia. I prayed that God would do two things for us on this evening. First that He would guide our steps and open doors for us to speak of Him. Secondly, that we would not forget who we are and Whom we serve. That we would not let the glamor of a private embassy party, socializing with diplomats and rubbing shoulders with D.C. elite turn our heads. I prayed that God would remind me that I am His ambassador.
The Saudi embassy is an imposing building located very near the Kennedy Center and the White House. We passed through security, the officer checked that our names were on the list and we entered the embassy. This was not my first visit to the Saudi embassy. I have attended various dinners here in the past. The new king has ordered a makeover of the Saudi image. Gone are the tapestries, the pictures of Muslim pilgrimage sites and religious texts. In their place are photographs and art by Saudi women from a women’s university.
Everywhere you look, you see smiling officials in Western dress. The officials are very kind and welcoming. Before when I came, photography was prohibited inside the embassy. Now it is allowed and even encouraged. One of the officials was born in Saudi Arabia but grew up in New York City. He has a strong New York accent when he speaks. He jokes “I grew up in the Middle East. Midtown Manhattan, upper east side.”
The group of attendees is escorted to an adjoining room where we are shown a new film about Saudi Arabia. The film occasionally mentions Saudi Arabia’s past but mostly focuses on the present and future. Special mention is made of Saudi Arabia’s close relationship with Washington. The overwhelming emphasis is on the Kingdom’s desire to educate their citizens. According to the film, nearly 98% of Saudis are literate. Higher education is free and widespread. The film informs us that the Kingdom is making great strides toward bettering the treatment of women. The constant theme of the evening is “Modernization without Westernization.” Later in the evening, one of the diplomats informs us that the Saudi government fears following in the footsteps of the Iranian Shah. The Shah pushed too hard and too fast for changes and ended up being deposed. The Saudis are seeking gradual, incremental change over time to avoid that.
One of the largest changes announced is that Saudi Arabia is opening up to tourism for the first time ever. The legislation has been passed and now they are just working out the final details for how this will be implemented. The diplomats at the embassy were confident that they would be issuing their first tourist visas within three months!
Acts 2:11 “Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Please pray in the following ways for Arabians to hear of the wonderful works of God:
• What stood out to me as a follower of Jesus this evening was the great opportunity that is being missed by believers. Over 100,000 Saudis are currently studying in the United States alone. Perhaps we cannot go to Saudi Arabia but Saudis are coming to our towns and cities. We have a great open door just in reaching students.
• With the opening for travel that is coming please pray for believers who will be able and willing to enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Please pray that the Holy Spirit of God will protect them and guide them.
• With the growth of online communities and communication please pray that Saudis will come to Christ in that way as well.
• It is estimated that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has approximately 1-2 million believers living there. Please pray for them to be safe and to be encouraged in the Lord.
• Pray that God would open the eyes of believers in the rest of the world to the need in the Middle East. Please pray that soon people across the region would be once again rejoicing at hearing in their tongue the wonderful works of God.
–Written by a believer