Visiting Ancient Church Ruins in Saudi
This past week, Becky and I joined some good friends, who are working in Saudi, and drove north to the coastal city of Jubail. We headed up to this area to visit one of the oldest church buildings (which is in ruins) that is still standing. Yes—church ruins in Saudi! The ruins are from the 4th century A.D. Here’s the story, in brief; it’s fascinating!
In 1986, some young men were four-wheeling in a large area, near Jubail, used as a dump by the locals. It still is. It is an area about 60-80 acres in size that sits behind a gas station off the main highway. It is predictable desert—sand, scrub brush, and stones. It is an area strewn with trash, tires, old furniture, and lots of garbage. At one point, the young men’s truck got stuck on something. As they dug it out, the object they were stuck on turned out to be the top of a wall. They called the authorities, who came and excavated the site. It turns out that it contained the ruins of a small building that was very ancient. Then they found several crosses carved into the building—in Saudi Arabia! Clearly, this was a very old structure. It turned out to be an ancient Nestorian church from the 4th century—1,600 years old! Sadly, once it was discovered, the site was fenced in and now just sits behind the gas station, in the large open dump, exposed to the elements, falling apart. There is simply no motivation to protect an ancient church building like this.
We were driven there by a local guide; otherwise, you would never know how to find this place. Becky and I were captivated by this ancient site. As we four-wheeled back in, it was 100 degrees, blazing sun, and windy. Becky and the other women with us were wearing their black abayas in the Saudi summer heat. We climbed out of the truck, made our way to the fenced perimeter, and were able to get in because the lock has been broken for some time. The ruins are fascinating. The structure is small but still shows the care and craftsmanship of its ancient builders. I couldn’t believe that we were actually standing there, walking around this building and taking photos. At one point, we all joined hands and prayed for God to invade this beautiful land once again and unleash the Gospel. It was all a bit surreal.
The Arabian peninsula is rich in history and nearly untouched by archaeologists. It was, at one time, a land that had churches and many Christians. This is where the Apostle Paul came for three years to learn and mature as a new believer. The sands of Arabia were dotted, at one time, with small kingdoms, and crisscrossed by caravan routes. These routes were traveled by ancient Arabs, Greeks, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans. It is an area teaming with history, secrets, stories, and intrigue. It is a fascinating land indeed.
If you want to see a short clip on YouTube, click here; it’s well worth the viewing.
Pastor Jay & Becky Childs