Seven months before his death, and one month before being honored by the United Nations, globally respected and honored friend of world leaders Herbert W. Armstrong flew from England aboard the Gulfstream iii jet, touching down in Damascus May 6, 1985.
He was greeted at the airport by ucla Professor Giorgio Buccellati and Dr. Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati of California State University–Los Angeles. At the time, the couple were “archeologists excavating in the ancient city of Terqa in the Mesopotamia Valley on the Euphrates River on the site of Tell Mozan, possibly ancient Urkish, near the Syrian border with Turkey” (Worldwide News, May 27, 1985).
This excavation was financially supported by the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (aicf), of which Mr. Armstrong was founder and president, and ucla, along with having cooperation from additional foundations and donors.
Also greeting the aicf president was Professor Zuhd, curator in chief of Syria’s National Museum, and U.S. Embassy cultural attache, Mr. Burgess. While in Damascus Mr. Armstrong stayed at the Meridian Hotel.
On May 7, the office of Syrian Prime Minister Abdul-Ra’ouf al-Kassem made available a courtesy vehicle for Mr. Armstrong and the entourage for their travels to the National Museum. During his private tour, the unofficial ambassador for world peace viewed ancient artifacts from the cusp of the second millennium before Christ, the very times of Israelite patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Some of the more notable archeological items he spied were idols of pagan gods, clay seals from various kings, Ugaritic alphabet displayed on a tablet, jewelry, gold and ivory from the Hittites.
As a result of this experience, the Worldwide News noted, “Mr. Armstrong made some additions to his book Mystery of the Ages to show how ancient cultures view deities” (ibid). He added to his final book comments such as, “The ancient pagan nations made many different idols out of clay, wood, stone and other materials. Many examples of pagan idol gods have been dug up by archaeologists and may be seen in museums today.”
From the National Museum, the group, with the addition of U.S. Ambassador William Eagleton, drove to the office of their official Syrian host for their visit, Najah al-Attar, the minister of culture. In 2006 she was appointed to the office of vice president.
During the visit, she thanked Mr. Armstrong for the aicf’s archeological support of the excavation in the ancient city of Terqa. He presented her with a special publication highlighting discoveries from the project. Thereafter, the minister presented him with a special gift of a silver set of cup holders, which he accepted and noted would be displayed in the Hall of Administration building on the grounds of Ambassador College in Pasadena, California.
Mr. Armstrong and his Syrian archeological team then drove to the middle of the old city to Azem Palace, which is located near a biblically recorded street. Anciently, the Apostle Paul was struck blind by Christ on his trip to Damascus (Acts 9:1-10).
Acts 9:11 records God’s instruction to the disciple Ananias, “And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth.”
Paul met Ananias on Straight Street, and God restored his sight as promised. Mr. Armstrong and the archeological team traveled the length of the famed road prior to turning into the palace grounds. Mr. Armstrong even recalled a visit to this same location 29 years earlier with his wife, Loma, and oldest son, Richard.
After their tour of the palace, Mr. Armstrong drove to the home of Ambassador Eagleton and his wife, Kay, for a luncheon meeting which had 15 attendants, including key embassy personnel along with the mayor of Mayadin, a town located near the team’s excavation site.
Ambassador Eagleton, conversant in Arabic, French and Spanish, had served over three decades abroad in the Foreign Service, predominantly in the Middle East and North Africa. He returned to Syria filling the top diplomatic post 33 years after working as an embassy employee in the country. He served in this role until 1988.
The embassy employed a Moroccan chef, who prepared a unique lunch featuring dishes from his home country. During the meal, “Mr. Armstrong explained the activities of the Ambassador Foundation and talked about his new book, Mystery of the Ages” (ibid). After the meal, the U.S. ambassador asked the unofficial ambassador back for dinner.
Back at the Meridian Hotel, Mr. Armstrong’s afternoon was consumed by writing his personal for the September edition of mass-circulation magazine the Plain Truth. At age 92, having recovered from heart failure in 1977, now with failing hearing and eyesight, much of this type of work took the form of dictation to his personal aide.
That evening he returned to the Eagleton’s home as requested for dinner with various archeological personalities involved in their excavation. After a light meal, “The ambassador thanked Mr. Armstrong for allowing him to be part of the Ambassador Foundation’s activities in Syria. He explained that the U.S. government gets partial credit for any successful project whether the government has any official part in it” (ibid).
The following day, May 8, Mr. Armstrong and his team toured the fourth-holiest place of Islam, the Great Mosque of Damascus, or Omayyad Mosque. In 634, the Arabs conquered the city, building the mosque on the very location of the Christian Basilica of John the Baptist. The site provided a glimpse of architecture from the period a.d. 700. The mosque is believed by its congregants to be the location to which Isa, or Jesus Christ, will return. Writing in the same Worldwide News edition, his personal aide noted, “The visit gave Mr. Armstrong additional material to add to Mystery of the Ages.”
Afterward, in a rare display of honor from the Syrian government, a luncheon was hosted in Mr. Armstrong’s honor by Dr. Attar on the 15th floor of the Cham Palace Hotel. The minister of culture had invited Dr. Bahassi, the director of the National Library, the dean of faculty of the University of Damascus, U.S. Ambassador Eagleton and other dignitaries.
Adding to the trip’s authenticity, the meal consisted of traditional Arabic dishes. During lunch, Dr. Attar reflected on archeological excavations in the country. Then Mr. Eagleton spoke of the humanitarian endeavors of Americans like Mr. Armstrong through the aicf in an effort to “help humanity in spite of its seemingly unsolvable problems.”
As guest of honor, Mr. Armstrong spoke last and stunned his audience by telling them he worked for the U.S. government! “Half of my salary goes to the government and another part to the state of California.” He concluded by commenting on world events of the day, telling the guests that peace was coming to their country and region but not as they might think it would.
Today, Syria is in crisis. Yet, amid the tumult, its people can be comforted in their contribution to Mystery of the Ages and its message of the way to peace, abundance, joy and well-being for mankind. They, like you, can request a free copy of Mr. Armstrong’s final and finest work and find open to light of day the spiritual archeology and excavation of the laws, principles and way to individual and ultimate world peace. ▪