Against the Gates of Hell
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Against the Gates of Hell

Chapter 11:

Ambassadors for Culture

For Service To Man and His World

   When it became apparent that God had given Herbert Armstrong grace and favor in the eyes of government leaders, our response was to demonstrate in tangible form the Church's love, concern, and generosity towards the peoples who welcome us into their midst.
   In his travels, Mr. Armstrong had become sharply aware of the gigantic problems erupting on the world scene, problems eroding the very foundations on which civilization, as we know it rests. Everywhere he found life's ugly visage: crime that imperils man's safety, inflation that threatens his economic welfare, lowered moral standards that undermine the stability of his family and his government. Worst of all, he found hatreds — deep, abiding hatreds that cause nations to leap at each others' throats and murder each others' people by starvation, torture, and the horrors of war, made more terrible by the misuse of scientific achievement.
   Man need not hate, need not rebel, need not hurt himself and his fellows. Man, Mr. Armstrong knew through his visionary insight, had a mind infused with a spirit that was God-given, God-implanted. And that this mind with its divine spirit had a potential — an "incredible human potential," he calls it — to lift himself above baseness, cruelty, and all the other ills that beset the human race.
   Out of this religious — philosophical understanding was born the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, whose guiding principle is wonderfully simple yet far reaching. The Foundation's goal is to initiate and carry forward cultural, educational, and humanitarian projects that can be of specific service to the peoples of this sadly imperfect world. By lending its support mincing no words, I am talking of specific financial aid — to all kinds of humanitarian and cultural causes; the Foundation believes it can create in men and women an awareness of their individual and collective potential for good.
   This Foundation is now operating in many parts of the world and expanding continually as the Church itself continues to grow. Its multifaceted projects serve everyone, without respect to race, national origin, or religion, thus slicing through the complexities that divide a world where hatreds,, prejudice, and personal ambitions rule.
   This great effort was born out of what appeared at the time to be a failed enterprise. The story of its origin is worth telling.

   More than two centuries ago, the poet William Cowper wrote: "God moves in a mysterious way/His wonders to perform." We of the Worldwide Church know this great truth from the experiences of our lives. The things that seem to be coincidences are part of a Grand Design for Good. Evil events are not isolated in the great void of time, committed for random reasons and forgotten, but portents sent to us of still greater evils. Conversely, what appear to be defeats are opportunities, if we would but grasp them, for dazzling successes.
   In 1966, Herbert Armstrong began negotiations with a personal representative of King Hussein I to develop Radio Jerusalem into a powerful electronic voice from which we could broadcast our message. The station, on the Jordanian side of the Holy City, had a weak transmitter that could barely beam its sound much beyond its immediate area. But it was situated in the City of God, the city that, in the world of tomorrow, would be the center of God's government. The message of the Gospel, coming from there in English, French, and several other languages would have enormous impact — psychological as well as spiritual.
   With the infusion of capital and the help of a major engineering firm, we envisioned a station that would rival our Radio Luxembourg message in power and influence. It was this station the strongest in Europe, that had helped build the Work originally in London because its English-language broadcasts could be clearly heard there. An equally powerful station in the Middle East would be a considerable asset. We signed a ten-year contract with the company that had built Radio Luxembourg, Radio Cairo, and Radio Ceylon, to reconstruct Radio Jerusalem. Hussein was delighted with the pact: he could take it to a bank, discount it, get the cash, and build the great station that we as well as Jordan wanted and needed.
   By the late spring of 1967, work had started and the wattage had already been stepped up, although as yet only a prelude to what eventually was to come. Delighted at the rapid progress, Mr. Armstrong suggested we go to the Holy City and make our first broadcast. He knew it was premature; not too many persons would hear his voice. But those who did would be told that Christ's Apostle was speaking from the ancient city where Jesus celebrated the Feast of Passover at the Last Supper and where He was crucified. It would be an electrifying event.
   But tensions were rising in the Middle East. By May Israel, deeply concerned over the increasing frequency of raids along the Syrian frontier, had begun to mobilize its forces there; Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of the United Arab Republic, was rattling his sword, placing his armies on alert while accusing Israel of being poised for attack. Conditions worsened daily; on May 18, Nasser banished the United Nations Emergency Force of 3,400 men from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, claiming that full-scale war was now imminent. A few days later, Nasser's troops occupied Sharm el Sheikh, closing the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli vessels and thereby cutting its sea lifeline.
   Still we decided to go. But before we could, enter Jerusalem, the Six-Day War had erupted. Israel launched its attack on June 5 and in less than a week had seized the Jordan's West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights and opened the Gulf of Aqaba to its shipping. Israel also took control of the entire city of Jerusalem, and thus the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan lost control of its only radio station.
   Our efforts to obtain a Jerusalem radio voice came to a standstill, but God was moving in His mysterious way. While we regretted we could no longer work with King Hussein and Jordan on Radio Jerusalem, the loss of our project opened for us a great new way to serve mankind and at the same time demonstrate to the world our true Christian character.
   Creation of the AICF was still five years off, but the start was made soon after the end of the Six-Day War. It all began with a series of "coincidences" — but were they really?
   Dr. Herman Hoeh, a faculty member of Ambassador College and an amateur archaeologist, was digging in the Jerusalem area in the summer of 1967 with a group of seminarians from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. While there he heard of a massive excavation being planned not far from the sacred 160-foot-long Wailing Wall which, with the surrounding holy area, had now fallen into Israeli hands. By digging near the south wall of the Temple Mount, leading Israeli archaeologists hoped to discover other remains of this great shrine of the Jewish people and, perhaps, the ancient city of King David.*
   By "coincidence" Dr. Hoeh met Dr. Benjamin Mazar, who was formerly president of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and several of his colleagues. Dr. Mazar, an archaeologist, almost single-handedly had built the university from small beginnings into a major institution.
   Dr. Mazar, in charge of the dig, confided his worries to Dr. Hoeh: It would be the largest undertaking in the history of archaeology but costs would be extraordinarily high. Even though about half the expense would be met by the Israeli government ernment through Hebrew University, Dr. Mazar foresaw difficulty raising the rest.
* David, ruler of Judah and Israel, captured Jerusalem and after building a wall around the ancient stronghold, called it the "City of David." He built himself a great cedarwood palace from which he reigned. (The story is recounted in 2 Samuel.) The dig is hoping to uncover the site.
   Upon his return to California, Dr. Hoeh casually mentioned to Mr. Armstrong and me that perhaps we might like to visit Israel as a stopover en route to Japan, where we had scheduled a series of meetings. He talked briefly about the dig, kindling our interest. Mr. Armstrong was intrigued. Although it meant a good deal of re-jiggering of timetables and a far more circuitous journey than we had planned, he decided to go. Dr. Hoeh came with us.
   In Israel, we met Dr. Mazar, who took us to the site of the proposed excavations and explained their purpose.
   It was love at first sight. We listened enraptured, envisioning the secrets of the past that could be unlocked near the Temple Mount by the tools of the biblical archaeologists. These archaeologists, discoverers of ancient lands and bygone civilizations, have recovered relics of many towns, cities, and homes buried by the sands of time. We knew, as we stood near the Wall that biblical archaeology, which curiously enough is barely more than a century old, had already unearthed an amazing amount of knowledge about the years when religion itself was born, thereby helping, us to a clearer understanding not only of the people but the Bible itself. If we could actually see the relics of life as it was lived in those years, if we knew more about ancient people's homes, clothing, businesses, professions, educational institutions, their artistic achievements, their manner of worship, if we could understand these and other facets of those ancient days, would we not accept all the more readily and completely the reality, the truths, the infallibility of the Bible?
   On that visit, we discussed the project at luncheon in a private dining room in the Knesset with Dr. Mazar; Dr. Josef Aviram of the university; Gen. Yigal Yadin, who had organized the Israeli army in the 1948 war and had been chief of staff until 1967; Minister of Tourism Moshe Kol and Dr. Hoeh. Mr. Armstrong told the gathering he was most favorably impressed but deferred a final answer until December 1, 1968.
   The decision was a firm yes. And so, at an historic meeting in the official residence of Israeli President Zalman Shazar and the other officials, the Church formally entered into joint participation with Hebrew University and the Israeli Archaeological Society as co-sponsor of the great excavation. From that time, each summer, Ambassador College has sent dozens of students to Jerusalem to work on the project. That dig was completed in 1978. Many treasures have been uncovered of our historical and religious past, but some time will pass before the cataloging and publication of all of the finds. Today, we have already begun our sponsorship of a new dig, designed to uncover the city of David.
   With the dig acting as trigger, we moved rapidly to direct, active support in other areas. Having remained friendly with the Hashemite kingdom, we shifted our backing from Radio Jerusalem to a number of cultural activities within Jordan, particularly with the university. For our help, both Mr. Armstrong and I were decorated by King Hussein. Soon we had joined forces with the International Cultural Center for Youth, a fine organization founded by Eleanor Roosevelt and Moshe Kol of Israel, which brings Arab and Israeli children together in the West Bank area, helping them to understand one another and to grow up in peace and friendship.
   Our new phase seemed to take on a vibrant life of its own. One project led to another, and yet another and another. We became involved with the King Leopold III Foundation, which conducts anthropological expeditions around the world. Working with the universities of Brussels and Antwerp, we joined in sending teams of experts to remote places where they collect data and contribute to our knowledge of the varieties of mankind, the beginnings of the human race, and its slow march toward civilization. We discovered that schools were virtually nonexistent in the mountainous areas of Thailand; we backed a project that equipped mobile classrooms, which would go directly to the villages.

Toward Excellence

   By 1974, the sheer number and complexity of these activities made it necessary to form a separate entity, apart from Ambassador College, which would operate them. I suggested to Mr. Armstrong that we create one vast frame into which they could all be placed, and he agreed enthusiastically. And so, in 1975, the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation came into being.
   From that time on, all enterprises, the old and the new, were carried out in the name of AICF. The use of the name "Ambassador" was retained because it symbolized the method by which the Church seeks to fulfill its Work and its primary mission worldwide. As the foundation flourished, we never lost sight of the original two-pronged concept, which underlay all its goals and activities:
   That man is a unique being, possessing vast mental, physical and spiritual potentials — the development of which should be aided and encouraged;

   That it is the responsibility of all men to attend to and care for the needs of their fellowmen. This is a precept professed by the vast majority of religions of the world — appropriately summed up in three biblical words: "Love thy neighbor."
   Herbert Armstrong, busy with Church affairs, turned over the administration of the new foundation to me. Year after year, we continued to step up our sponsorship of projects, which were as varied as the needs of people on every level of society. We aided benefit funds for handicapped children in England and Monaco and a clinic for underprivileged children in Cairo. At the same time, we sponsored oceanographic research in conjunction with the University of Brussels and political research with an institute in Tokyo. We became involved in an education program for mountain people in Nepal, with the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Tokyo, with the University of the Ryukyus' exchange program in Japan, with the World Wildlife Association in Switzerland.
   While California's attorney general may not be aware of these humanitarian activities, heads of state and government leaders throughout the world know. They have received widespread recognition in the form of commendations and awards to the Church from Belgium, Sri Lanka, Egypt, India, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Monaco, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Iran, Costa Rica, Tanzania, south Africa, Spain, the Bahamas, and Jamaica.
   Of all the projects, special words must be reserved for the cultural center that has been created in the heart of the Church itself at Ambassador College. When I look at the glass and emerald-green granite building that houses it, my mind flips back to that afternoon in 1957 when Herbert Armstrong swept his arm in an arc around the infant college and predicted that some day, the most beautiful campus in the country would be built there, and in its midst would stand a great auditorium.
   In less than two decades, the vision became hard reality. The Ambassador Auditorium was completed in 1974 and has been acclaimed by architects, performing artists, and critics as one of the finest concert halls in the world. The seven-story building, with its high fluted columns rising out of an artificial pool and bridged walkways to the great bronze doors, serves several functions. It is used by the college for academic forums, assemblies, and classes. It is the college chapel where worship services are held. And it has become a magnificent performing arts center, a showcase for the world's leading artists, which calls full attention to the Church while strengthening cultural bonds with others.
   The auditorium is a rare jewel, "a miniature palace of rare woods and marble," the Hollywood Reporter has called it. In its short life, it has won the allegiance of the greatest stars in the concert world, a world that presents a polite, dignified face to the public but is actually as ruthlessly competitive as any other phase of show business, or of any business.
   The main theatre, seating 1,250 persons, is equipped with computerized lighting and the finest in acoustical projection and balance. The lower level contains a lounge, two studio-classrooms, a workshop, and dressing rooms for the actors and artists. Designed by the architects as an international cultural center in consonance with the theme of the AICF, materials and furnishings came from nations around the world. *
   When the building was completed, an audience of dignitaries attended the dedication ceremony and the opening event. Facing them as they walked through the great bronze doors was a large interior wall of rose onyx on which were carved the words: "Ambassador Auditorium. Made possible by gifts from the Worldwide Church of God. Dedicated to the honor and glory of THE GREAT GOD."
   God was its inspiration and its purpose, said Mr. Armstrong that evening. The hall was a vehicle, he told the guests, to bring to our home city of Pasadena and the entire greater Los Angeles community a continuing stream of the finest talent the world could produce.
   It was a bold pledge, but it was kept. For seldom in the history of the performing arts have so many great artists appeared under one roof, season after season. In a remarkably few years, the Ambassador Auditorium has become the finest artistic and cultural center in the West, if not the entire nation.
* The black granite outlining the veranda, walkways, and bridges came from Angola; the green granite exterior walls from Brazil; the vertical feature strips in the interior walls are Burmese teakwood; the two 600-pound Baccarat candelabra in the grand lobby are French; the 30-foot-tall fountain, consisting of five one-ton egrets, was designed by the English sculptor David Wynn; the single-piece wool carpeting in the grand lobby and lower lounge was especially woven in Hong Kong; the soffits, supported by twenty-six quartz columns encircling the auditorium consist of white Italian mosaic tile; the veranda, walkways, and bridges are Norwegian Sandeflord gray granite; the royal purple-and-gold wool carpeting in the main seating area comes from Philadelphia; and the three-ton chandelier in the grand lobby, with its 1,380 crystals, is from West Germany.

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Publication Date: 1980
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