Well, the time has finally arrived. After much planning and contemplating...after immunization shots and medications...after picking up all the stuff I think I'll need (and probably some stuff I won't)...after receiving many generous donations from friends, family, church members, and even a couple strangers...after much prayer, the time has finnaly arrived. I am on my way to Vietnam.
On Wednesday morning April 7, the Mission team of 30 men, women, and three teenagers, will board a plane in Cincinnati at 10:00 am for Chicago. In Chicago we will change planes to a 747 and fly to Hong Kong (15 1/2 hours in the air!) From Hong Kong we will fly into Ho Chi Minh City arriving around 10:00 pm April 8. For those of you who like to calculate this out, we will spend about 35 hours in airports and airplanes! We will then spend our first night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Ahhh, but we are not quite done with flying yet. Our first morning in Vietnam will find us once again in an airplane flying north the the city of Hue. In Hue, we will purchase our motorbikes (12 motorbikes to be exact) and in Hue will begin our journey. Our first stop is not on the schedule. One of the team members was stationed in Vietnam and we will travel a few miles north of Hue to visit the location of his deployment during the war.
As we travel south, we will visit United Methodist churches and the Imperial Citadel in Hue. We will follow the coast on Highway 1A approximately 81 miles to Hoi An, where we will visit churches and the ancient town. We plan to spend the night in Hoi An. Next morning we continue south another 81 miles to Quang Ngai, visiting established churches and home churches along the way. We will spend the night in Quang Ngai.
Our third day will find us again traveling south along the coastal road to Quy Nhon, where we will leave the coast and turn inland into the central highlands. Our next stop is Pleiku in central Vietnam, with several stops along the way to visit and encourage Vietnamese pastors and churches. Overnight in Pleiku, and then off again next morning continuing south on Highway 14. Today we will visit Dac Lak, visiting the UM church there. Our overnight stay will be Buon Me Thuoc.
From Buon Me Thuoc we will continue south on Highway 14 to Dac Nong for lunch, then continue south to spend the night in Dong Xoai. Next morning we are off again to visit churches in the Binh Phuoc area, then to Binh Duong, and finally arriving in Ho Chi Minh City for the night.
Most of the rest of our time in Vietnam will be spent in the Ho Chi Minh City area. There we will visit the new United Methodist Center as well as spend time visitng churches and Vietnamese pastors in the city. There is a plan to hold a United Methodist Rally in the Ho Chi Minh City Soccer stadium (which holds around 10,000 people). Pastors in the area were asked to come and bring people with them to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to see what the United Methodist Church was doing in Vietnam.
Oh yes, about the 12 motorbikes. Altogether, the team will have traveled about 750 miles on these new bikes. The plan then is that the motorbikes will donated to Vietnamese United Methodist pastors to take home and use in their church work.
We will have a day or two of free time in Ho Chi Minh City for sight-seeing. Recent plans also include a trip farther south into the Mekong Delta to visit pastors and churches in that area. We will board our plane on Wednesday April 21 for the return home (another 35 or so hours!).
If I haven't already, I want to thank everyone who has been so very generous in their prayers, their concerns, and their donations. Trips like this are possible only because of individuals like you. You are helping spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, a missionary even if you don't leave your own home. I am humbled in your presence, and grateful in your generosity.
Keep us in your prayers over the next two weeks. For those who wish to follow our journey, you can read about it on Wade Giffin's blog - wocumc.wordpress.com
May God richly bless each and every one of you for your kind generosity in serving God.
In His Service,
Gary Ginter, pastor St. John's UMC Columbus Grove, Ohio