Our group departed from several points across the U.S. today, (Tuesday March 12th) for our adventures and classes in Yangon, Myanmar. From Virginia, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, we boarded flights bound for Chicago. Most of us gathered there, for one of the longest flights most of us had ever taken. Chicago to Hong Kong, in just a little under 15 hours, we couldn’t wait to get on our way! Our team this week consists of five faculty members from Central, including President, Dr. Molly Marshall, along with two staff and an Executive Director from a Midwestern state convention.
The rest of our group is made up of 10 Doctor of Ministry students, representing two different cohorts. The first group started their studies in the fall of 2011, and our group began meeting in the fall of 2012. While in Myanmar we will meet for two classes at The Myanmar Institute of Theology. Our classes are Incarnational Theology and Inter-Cultural Pastoral Care.
All of our travelers arrived very close to on time so there we had no serious delays as we made our way across the globe. One interesting note was that the path our flight took from Chicago to Hong Kong involved crossing over the frozen Arctic of Alaska, across the Bearing Sea, over Siberia, and China and finally into Hong Kong. It appeared that most of the students started their flight finishing up reading assignments. But after an hour or two of reading, who could pass on the incredible selection of free movies being flashed across the TV Screen in the back of the seat in front of us. I have been waiting to see the Academy Award winning “Lincoln” and there it was right at my fingertips. (Sorry Honey, I’ll watch it again with you!) We were treated to, not one, but two meals during the 14 hour 50 minute flight. It was a wide body aircraft, allowing plenty of room for folks to get up and stretch your legs, walking the aisles throughout the flight.
Another interesting thing about the timing of this trip, involved experiencing, essentially, an extremely extended “daylight” day. Our flight left Chicago O’Hare at 3:20pm Central Standard Time, and began its north by westward journey. Since we were flying toward the west at 3600 feet at cruising speed of about 550 miles an hour, the sun stayed up for nearly the entire flight. About an hour before we reached Hong Kong, I could see the sun finally set on the far western horizon. I could see it on my TV Screen, because the aircraft had a nifty onboard camera mounted on the underside of the jet, allowing each passenger an opportunity to see the horizon as well as the mostly frozen earth below.
From Hong Kong we had one more flight into Yangon, a mere three and half hour flight that would cross the China Sea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Thailand, before landing in Yangon at 11:30pm Myanmar time. (MMR) As you can imagine, by the time we made our way through customs, we were very thankful the hotel is just minutes from the airport. Our staging hotel has wi-fi, so most folks are using email and skype to contact their families back home. The rest of our days will be filled with adventures and classes, and I will leave our other writers to fill you in on those details as this amazing experience unfolds. For now, please excuse me while I try to get a few hours sleep and get adjusted to Myanmar time.
“The vocation of the “pastor-theologian” is one that appeals deeply to my personal sense of calling. I have never felt particularly gifted as a “shepherd pastor,” or a “CEO pastor,” but have always had an abiding spiritual curiosity that has led me to seek God both intellectually and in community. Working on a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree at Central gave me the valuable freedom to explore theology and biblical studies more deeply than I could have imagined. I not only learned how to conduct research in my field of New Testament studies, but I learned how to better form my own questions in search of answers. Central helped me to realize my own vision of making biblical scholarship accessible to the local parish, a vision that I hope to carry well into my future.”