Vietnam 2016 - Day 3
It is Friday April 1st, and I am excited!! Today we will meet with the Vietnamese pastors, and we will pick up our motorbikes! Praise the Lord!! Let's go!!
We wolf down a quick breakfast around 6:00 am local time (at least what we can eat, which is mostly bread and Sprite for me). At 7:30 am we assemble in the lobby of our hotel with our suitcases, because we will be hitting the road shortly. We glance out the front lobby doors, and there are Karen and Ut, surrounded by a group of Vietnamese United Methodist pastors!!!
It was a joyous reunion as we are reunited with pastors some of us have known from previous trips, and we quickly meet the newer pastors who will be joining us for the very first time. These brave and resourceful preachers are from all over Vietnam, some from as far south as the Mekong River, some from the Ho Chi Mihn area, and for the first time, some are from the Hmong villages in the far northern areas near the Chinese border.
Everyone is excited, and so we begin by singing a couple songs together in praise, It is noisy and boisterous and we sing, some in English and some in Vietnamese. Traffic in front of the hotel slows down and pedestrians stop and stare as this group of pastors are singing joyously at the top of their voices!!
After several songs are sung, we take turns praying... praying for safety, praying for direction, praying for fellowship, and praying for the weather... but mostly thanking God and praying that our mission might touch the lives of the villages and churches we have traveled so far to see.
At last, we mount our motorbikes and we ride off into the busy traffic of Hanoi. To get an idea of just how big Hanoi is, it will take more than an hour to navigate the streets and the traffic just to reach the western outskirts of this city of over 8 million!
One minor incident... one of our riders, Roberta Eddy, Shawnee Valley District secretary, got sidetracked by following the wrong person in front of her, then she ran out of gas! Luckily she had a walkie talkie, and after several anxious moments, a couple of our very sharp and resourceful Vietnamese pastors were able to track her down, get her to a gas station, and catch up with our group in short order. A few quick prayers of thanks and we are finally out of town and on our way toward the mountains.
We rode over 300 km (about 200 miles) that Friday. The roads have been decent as we traveled west and a bit north of Hanoi. As we travel farther away from Hanoi, the towns become smaller, and we pass through many small villages. Mountains and valleys, towns and villages... and the villagers we encounter along the way seemed enthusiastic and friendly to see these motorbike riding foreigners.
In the late afternoon, we arrive in the town of Son La. We check into our hotel around 6:00 pm, clean up after the long ride, and head to the dinning room for a nice supper. Everyone is tired, so most head off to bed before too long.
**Side note: While meeting the pastors and picking out our motorbikes prior to leaving our Hanoi hotel, our luggage was loaded into our minivan by the hotel staff. Much to my surprise, my suitcase was missed and left in the hotel lobby! About half-way to Son La, we received a call from the hotel informing us that they found my suitcase in their lobby. Well, believe it or not, we made arrangements for a hotel shuttle to deliver my suitcase to our Son La hotel! This was a trip of about 300 km here, then 300 km back to Hanoi!! What a trip for the shuttle driver. But by 9:30 pm, I had been reunited with my suitcase and was able to shave, shower, and change clothes!
Yes, God is good, and despite our best (or worst) efforts, He cares for us, watches out for us, and leads, guides and directs us.
One other observation... after several delays, missteps, and glitches, we developed our own catch phrase... "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape!" Praise the Lord!!