A Travellerspoint blog

Saudi Arabia

ECUMENICAL WORSHIP Aboard the Silver Whisper

March 27, 2022

sunny 72 °F

HYMN: Come thou almighty king

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray. Gracious God, you have assured us of your never-failing love through your Son Jesus who poured himself out for us in his life and in his death. Give us grace so to live that we may show forth your love to all the world, filled with faith and hope in him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 34

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

I will glory in the LORD;
let the humble hear and rejoice.

Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;
let us exalt his Name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me out of all my terror.

Look upon him and be radiant,
and let not your faces be ashamed.

I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,
and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are they who trust in him! (1-8)

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” (15:11-32)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

You know the story of the prodigal son, the boy who asks for his inheritance early and then squanders it on loose living. You know about him - this younger brother who leaves home and goes to a far country with no real intention of ever coming back. He is the sinner who wastes his life tending pigs, which was not something a good Jewish boy would do, and ends up eating pig slop until he discovers that the swine had a better deal than he did.

You know about him because you have been a prodigal too. Have you not wasted your inheritance, wasted opportunities set before you? I have. Have you not spent your talents, your integrity, your money on unworthy things? Harry has. Harry is a young man who worked hard in college, so hard that he thinks he has the right to find himself, to travel, to take some time off. He has spent all the money that he got for graduation and he is living with, living off, a woman he met on his way. This month he called home and asked for a loan.

You know the story of the prodigal son’s father, the one who never forgets his ungrateful rebellious child even for an hour, the one who gazes down the road in the impossible hope that the far country really isn’t so far away after all, until one day he sees him. One day he catches a glimpse of his skinny dirty child straggling home and before the prodigal has uttered a word, the father races out and kisses his face and embraces him with laughter and tears that don't need any words to say, “I love you son, welcome home.” Emily knows that story. Emily was married to George for fifteen years when George met another woman. When George left her for a trial separation, Emily kept hoping that he would come to his senses. And one day George did just that, and Emily embraced him and through her tears she said it, “I love you, George, welcome home.” I asked Emily if they ever talk about George’s affair. “Yes, she said, “because George needs to explain and apologize, but I don’t really want to know about it. All that matters is that he is home.”

In the Gospel story, the prodigal son was home; that was all that mattered. His father doesn’t do what any other father under heaven would have been inclined to do. He doesn’t say, “I hope you learned a lesson,” or “I told you so,” or “I hope you find some way to make this up to your mother.” He says instead, “Quickly, quickly bring the best for this boy who has returned. Bring him the best robe and some shoes and kill the fatted calf for we must celebrate.” The generous prodigality of the father is even greater than the foolish prodigality of the son. Nothing is too much. Look at the images of restoration! The father runs to the son, embraces him, kisses him; he gives him clothing and a ring as a sign of the son’s restored status, shoes to show that he was a member of the family, because slaves didn't wear shoes and guests took them off. He kills the calf and makes merry because what was lost has been found.

You know the story of the older brother, the one who hears the sounds of rejoicing and refuses to go inside to see what the commotion is all about. He must have known; he is not blind, but he calls the slaves and lets it be known that he will have no part of it. “Your brother has come home,” they tell him, and the older son is so consumed by his envy and his pride that he stays in the fields and refuses to join the feast. Have you not been the older brother? I have. I have seen “older brothers” in our church. Andy and Hal were seminary classmates together and then they were both curates waiting to have their own parishes. Andy’s turn almost came first. Andy was the first choice of the search committee, but when a committee member called Hal to check references, Hal wasn’t very enthusiastic. Oh, Hal didn’t lie, he just suggested that Andy’s obvious skills might not stand up well in the long haul. If Hal were going to get stuck out in the back field, he didn't want to go to an installation party where they might serve fatted calf.

But God bids all of us jealous older brothers and sisters to come to the party anyway, because the fatted calf is for everybody. When the older son pouts in the back field, the father takes the initiative to invite him in. The father’s words are an exact parallel of the words he speaks to the prodigal son because both sons have been in a far country. While the younger son is recklessly carousing, the older son is so lost in his rules and his envy and his insecurity that he forgets what it means to be home. He forgets that love is never diminished if it is shared. He forgets that he has had his father’s love his whole life long and never appreciated it. There is some of the older son in each of us. We get jealous when somebody else gets an undeserved break.

The title of this parable is not in the Bible. It is not God but we human beings who call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the son who wasted his inheritance. The parable should really be called the Parable of the Prodigal Father, the father who was also wasteful, recklessly extravagant, profuse in giving what he had, spending it on a son who didn't deserve any of it, but who was loved anyway. Jesus told us this story to tell us that this is what God is like, prodigal in love, always waiting for us, ready to embrace us and cook a feast to celebrate our arrival.

Jesus is the way the Father runs out and looks for us. Jesus is the one who comes from home to bring us back home. Jesus is the one who went into the pigsty of this world where he ended up on a cross so that we might wear the family ring and the finest robe and eat the fatted calf.

Every time we spend our love and every time we decide to live with hope and trust God’s promises, every time we share what we have because we know that there IS enough to go around, God says to us the same thing that the prodigal father says to both his sons: “let us celebrate and rejoice, let us eat and be merry; what is lost has been found, for my child has come home.”

The Prayers

Let us pray. Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of all the nations in the ways of justice and concord; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. Sustain the people of Ukraine as their land is ravaged and bless those who would seek peace with wisdom and insight. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Give us a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We ask your blessing upon the crew and staff of the Silver Whisper, and we commend our families and those we love into your care. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your saving presence. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Summing up all the prayers of our hearts, we pray in the words Jesus taught us
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

Life is short and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind….and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.

HYMN: There's a wideness in God's mercy.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Usher: Andrea Ryan

Time of next service to be announced.

Posted by HopeEakins 11:28 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (1)


via Yanbu

sunny 75 °F


We docked at Yanbu and quickly departed for Medina. Our bus travelled along beside the Aramco refinery that is so large (miles and miles of installations) that we couldn’t see the site where the Yemenis attacked last week. Everything is immense here. And everything is under construction. We were amazed to see a sign in English on one construction supplier saying ABB, the corporation our son Will works for.

The three hour trip to Medina was almost filled with an enthusiastic non-stop recounting of Islam and the prophet (peace be upon him). In the last half hour we women were given abayas and hijabs and told that we must cover up BEFORE leaving the bus. It is very difficult to put on a full body garment and wrap one’s head while standing in a moving aisle without a mirror. We all coped.

Then off to a hotel for lunch, passing by a stunning car park and magnificent buildings. Like Jeddah, Medina appears to have been totally constructed in the blink of an eye – there is NOTHING ancient or dated. The purple tower pictured is the elevator bank in the hotel. While there, a number of men passed through the lobby wearing large bath towels. They were making an umrah, we were told, a sort of mini-pilgrimage to Medina and Mecca preceded by cleansing rituals and refraining from certain activities.

Following lunch, we walked to the Prophet’s Mosque, the second mosque built by Mohammed (pbuh) and the second holiest site in Islam (after the Kaaba). We, of course, couldn’t enter the holy ground but got a photo through the gate. While waiting, two encounters:
1) a charming young woman befriended Hope; only her eyes were visible but they twinkled and she asked for a photo for herself and wanted Hope to take a photo home with her.
2) a grumpy woman shook her finger crying, “Cover your hair” while a man grabbed Hope’s hijab and yanked it forward.

Our visit continued to a museum displaying scale models of places in Mohammed’s life (pbuh). The Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, we were told, were built on empty land, certainly not on the site of the Temple Mount.

Then to Quba Mosque, the first that Mohammed (pbuh) built. Two things happened here:
1) We watched a group of eight Muslim women eat a meal while gathered on a curbside, while the men sat at a table behind a wall.
2) We got to use the toilets (aaaaaaargh, blech, ugggh). The bus restrooms were out of order because the water tank was malfunctioning; permeating the air was a strong aroma was of fecal material covered up from time to time with a spritz of Arab perfume.

After our three hour trip back to the ship (peace be upon her), our butlers waited outside holding a welcome banner.

Posted by HopeEakins 11:19 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (2)


Update: We can't get away from it all

overcast 69 °F

a96a18a0-ac70-11ec-8dcb-bb009b7b6f07.jpgWell, well, it's hard to leave Jeddah. We had to get an exit stamp in our passports, so ..... into a shuttle bus to the cruise terminal, a loooong walk through the arrival hall, out one door, a long walk around the building, into another door, a looooong walk through the exit hall, a fuss over the stamp and back on the ship. This took about 45 minutes. Then the announcement: "This is the captain speaking: some of you have not received an exit stamp. Return to the cruise terminal immediately and get your certification or the ship will be held in port." While this is happening we see a large gray cloud rising over the city. Three hours pass; the captain's voice grows gruff. It turns out that the Saudis computers had a glitch and undercounted us. Finally we sail away ....... and then see explosions on the shore where Yemeni missiles are hitting the city. The Yemeni Houthis are attacking the Saudis. They have hit another refinery in Yanbu where we are scheduled to dock tomorrow. We are expecting an itinerary change!

Posted by HopeEakins 19:21 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (2)

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia

A difficult visit to a difficult place

sunny 80 °F

5d61f9c0-ac3c-11ec-b38e-e3c767a3f832.jpgb1078230-ac3b-11ec-b38e-e3c767a3f832.jpg1.jpg11111.jpg12121.jpg121211.jpgd6bda540-ac40-11ec-b369-e1a7318ca052.jpgSix days ago we left the stunning beaches of the Seychelles to sail through the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea on our way to Saudi Arabia. And then we saw it, saw Jeddah (largest Saudi city after Riyadh) appearing above the most beautiful turquoise water imaginable. Really, the sea around us looks like it has been colored by kindergarteners trying to get the brightest best azure ever – or maybe like God’s exuberance on the first day of creation. But then you look up .... above the twinkling seas, huge container vessels and orange cranes looking like huge giraffes and docks and trucks and swinging arms compete for attention and whistles and sirens and beeps fill the air. Jeddah is one of the least attractive ports we have seen. We would say the same for the city of Jeddah.

The country offered tourist visas beginning in 2019 and then closed for Covid, so visitors (other than diplomats, academics, and foreign workers) have only been allowed for 10 months. The country has spent billions of dollars on tourism – and, to our eye, almost none of it is appealing. New roads, new landscaping, new ministries of culture, new cruise terminals abound, and there is not a scrap of litter on any road. All the new buildings are mammoth, all are shiny; none have charm. The landscape is a giant construction site interspersed with fields of rubble. You can see the photo of the tallest flagpole in the world. The Saudis are very proud of this distinction but don't fly flags on it when it is windy.

We drove up and down the corniche, past an immense (everything here is immense) park with 32 sculptures from 32 nations (or something like that) and winding paths and little kiosks – but no people. Actually in a whole day in this city of 4.5 million folks, we saw maybe 30 local people. An enthusiastic and delightful young guide led us on a walk through the Old City, evacuated three years ago so that its 600 buildings could be refurbished. The remnants of the buildings are amazing coral constructions with wooden Roshan windows arrayed across their facades. They are being rebuilt with new materials and new methods – and the whole thing looks like Disney Land – or maybe more like a movie set. The former residents are not moving back in; the area is to be a giant museum.

Three facts about Saudi Islam we did not know:
1. Atheists and agnostics are officially defined as terrorists.
2. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death.
3. Execution is by beheading for men, stoning for women.

Now about getting in and getting out:
IN: We took a bus from the ship to the cruise terminal (immense spaces here, remember) and then entered an enormous hall with seventy desks arranged in rows. Desk 1 took our passports, but the computer didn’t work. Desk 2- same thing – camera didn’t work. Desk 3. Long wait; official borrowed a pen, took all ten of Bill’s fingerprints (laboriously), took a photo, checked his vaccine and booster certificate and his entry application, stamped his passport and wrote an inscription in it. Hope went to Desk 4. Same process but agent wouldn’t give her back her vaccination certificate. Hope squawked; he scowled but he gave her the certificate saying, “You are very lucky.”

OUT: We presented our papers (twice) at another mammoth entry hall. On the third check, we were each pulled aside and told in sign language that our passports were not acceptable. Then they took the passports. Official 1 called Official 2; both threw up their hands and went about their business. After half an hour we were a bit anxious. For reasons unknown, official 1 checked Bill’s p’port again and let him through. Not so for Hope. Her stamp (identical to Bill’s, we swear) was NOT acceptable. A ship’s lecturer came by and asked to help. His first and excellent bit of assistance was to direct Hope to close her mouth and look down. Then he and Bill and the Officials conferred and somehow magically, we were on a bus that had been waiting 45 minutes to bring us to the ship. I do not think we will be writing plaudits on Saudi Arabian tourist websites.

Posted by HopeEakins 14:36 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (1)

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