by Barbara Ann Oliver
Wow! I have been home for two weeks already! I am just now coming out of the fog of jet-lag and holiday-company-overeating-lag.
We left Tasmania on November 12 and spent Thursday in Singapore repacking for Myanmar (Burma). Singapore is sort of a hub for the Choates. They stay at the Supreme Hotel, and the hotel lets them store luggage. Since they are usually toting books from place to place, it is convenient to unload things that aren’t needed for certain parts of the trip.
We were met at the airport in Myanmar by Winsome Vertannes, a single woman who lives with her mother. They do all the cooking and arranging transport for the missionaries who come to teach at the preacher-training school, which is held in the spring and fall. We drove to the Seasons Hotel in Yangoon, formerly Rangoon. It is an amazing hotel, with an attentive staff. We had to stay in a hotel because the government does not allow foreigners to stay with locals.
The Burmese are a very pleasant and polite people. The predominant religion is Buddhism. The country is controlled by the military. They had free elections, but when the people elected their president, the military put her under house arrest, where she remains to this day.
I have to say, Myanmar was one of my favorite countries, except for one thing. The Myanmar government has a strict policy regarding the internet. I was not able to check my email or even go to the home pages of my email servers! For over a week I was nearly internet-less! It was frightening!
We left Myanmar on Monday, November 24 for Singapore. We spent the night at the Supreme Hotel again, gathered up all our luggage the next morning, and were on our way to the airport by 6:30 am. Our flight was at 10:00 am, Tuesday morning. About 25 hours later, we arrived in Jackson, MS at 8:00 pm, Tuesday evening. No, that is not a math mistake. We gained about 10 hours. Tuesday was a long day!
Since I have been back, nearly everyone has asked me, “Did you have fun?” Well, yes, we did have some fun on the trip. But was it a fun trip? No, I can’t say that it was a “fun” trip. I can say that it was an adventure.
This was not a vacation trip. It was a mission trip. Anyone who has been on a mission trip will understand what I mean. People think, “Wow, you went to all these cool places! Did you see the sites? Did you travel in style and stay in luxurious hotels, and eat expensive, exotic foods?” No, no, no and no!
We saw very few “sites”, we stayed mostly in other Christians’ homes and ate food that they prepared for us (which was often exotic, by the way). We seldom ate in restaurants, unless you call Burger King in the airport a restaurant! We traveled for days on poorly air-conditioned trains in which we had to take our own food and water. We sat elbow-to-elbow in the back of airplanes. We still haven’t figured out how we managed to always be put in the back of the plane!
Was it great? You bet! Would I take a vacation to most of the places I went? Not on your life! Would I go again if there was a need? In a New York minute!
There are brethren strewn all over this world, and I have met some of the best. I would love to see them again. But I probably won’t have that opportunity. As she was giving me a good-bye hug, one dear old sister, whom I met in New Zealand, whispered in my ear, “If I don’t see you again, I will see you in heaven.”
Our lives are as fragile as that old lady’s whisper. It is up to us to pack as much service to God as possible in the short breath of time we have on earth. Hang on tight, because sometimes it can lead you on a wild adventure!