|Gary Ginter in Vietnam
Gary Ginter, the Treasurer for Western Buckeye ESC and Pastor at Columbus Grove Methodist Church was fortunate to make two trips to Vietnam in the past three years. His first trip was April 7 through the 21st in 2010. He recently went back to Vietnam March 1 through March 12, 2012.
He described his first opportunity as “Every once in a great while, an opportunity presents itself that has the potential of impacting your life and the lives of others on behalf of Christ”. This trip was designed to see the United Methodist Church and our ministry in Vietnam first-hand, to experience Vietnamese culture, to teach and witness the "Good News" of Jesus Christ, to worship with brothers and sisters from the other side of the world and to witness baptisms and renew my own baptism, to engage in ministry with people of villages and emerging United Methodist churches, to be renewed spiritually, and to meet former Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong who have given their lives to Christ.
While on his two trips, Gary was able to travel extensively throughout the countryside. He discovered Vietnam is a beautiful country and so diverse; from the rice paddies to the mountains, from the warm inviting beaches of the South China Sea coast to the rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta, from the triple canopy jungles to the banana and rubber tree plantations - such vibrant colors, from the green, lush jungles to the deep blue of the South China Sea. Most of the roads are not the best, but that only means your journey will take a little longer, giving you ample time to take in the sights and enjoy the scenery.
Gary's Thoughts on the trips:
Vietnam is a land of contrasts. Yes, the land is diverse, but so are the people. To me, there was a marked difference between those who lived in the cities and those who dwelled out in the rural areas. Their clothes were different, their food was different, and their friendliness was different. It was very obvious to me that the city dwellers had more money to spend - their clothes were nicer and more modern, and many of them loved to shop. In the mountain villages, many were living on the equivalent of about $2.00 per day. In some areas, coca-cola was cheaper than milk, and mothers would buy coke, water it down, and feed it to their babies.
Vietnam is a country of hard working, industrious people. Most labor is still done by hand - whether working in the rice paddies, fishing for self or for sale, or building a roadway - manual labor was abundant. Everywhere we went, in the heavily occupied cities or the sparsely populated countryside, most work was completed with shovels and wheelbarrows.
Vietnam is a country of young people. Everywhere we went we were surrounded by children and teenagers. Conversely, we saw very few older individuals (by older I mean 50 years). What this means is that there are very few Vietnamese citizens who are old enough to remember the war - shorter life expectancy and a harsh environment have left a relatively young population.
Vietnam is a place of hospitality and friendships. At no time did we as Americans feel threatened or afraid. We felt neither hatred nor animosity. Instead, everywhere we went we were welcomed with open arms, smiles, and graciousness. In the small churches we were greeted with bottles of water and fresh bananas. They fed us and they graced us with gifts. Church members would surround us, gives us hugs, shake our hands, and want their pictures taken with us, even though they would never see a copy of the photo. It was almost as if they wanted their picture taken for us - so that we would not forget them. And their number one request?? They asked if we would pray for them.
Finally, Vietnam is a country where the Spirit of God is moving mightily. Just three years ago, there were only about 50 United Methodist churches serving about 1,000 people. Today, the congregations number over 150 and serve over 10,000 individuals. Christians in Vietnam are serious and enthusiastic. Serious in that they are literally willing to risk their property and their lives in a Communist controlled country to spread the Gospel. Enthusiastic in their praise and worship, willing to out-sing and out-praise most congregations I know.
In closing, let me offer these final observations. In my opinion, we (the United Methodist mission team) traveled to Vietnam to accomplish three goals. First, to purchase 18 brand new motorbikes, ride them through the country to make ourselves visible, and then to give those bikes away to Vietnamese United Methodist pastors to use in their churches and in their villages to promote the Gospel. Second, we were to visit the budding United Methodist churches, meet their congregations and their pastors, and offer encouragement and support to their efforts. Finally, we wanted to send a strong, clear message to the Communist officials in Hanoi that the United Methodist Church was in Vietnam to promote the Gospel, help the churches and the pastors, and to work with the Government in bettering the lives of their people. In my humble opinion, I really think we accomplished our mission.
“If we want to expand our students’ global literacy, we need teachers who both believe global education is critical and urgent and are knowledgeable about the international dimensions of their subject. Teachers can only teach what they know—from study, from travel, from experience and from learning collaboratively with their colleagues”.
|Sandi Freeman at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, June 29th, 2011.
Sandi grew up and was educated in Pittsburgh City Schools. She earned her B.A. in Pre-Law at Penn State University. After graduation, she worked on Wall Street for several years and then became a Victim-Witness Advocate in the New York City District Attorney’s office. Working in the legal system, specifically with children, fostered a desire to address their needs in a more constructive setting. She went back to school and earned a M.S. in Elementary Education, specializing in Gifted Education, from the State University of New York. She became a teacher/coordinator of gifted programs with several rural districts in central New York. In 1998, she took a sabbatical year to teach English in China. In 1999, she moved to Ohio to work with Madison/Champaign ESC as Supervisor of Gifted Services and then moved to Fort Wayne to begin work at Western Buckeye ESC in 2001.
Sandi’s current role at Western Buckeye ESC is Coordinator, Gifted Services. She facilitates the identification and services for gifted children within each of our partner school districts. She also provides ongoing professional development related to gifted identification and services. Sandi has been successful in several fiscal initiatives to secure funding for a variety of opportunities for the local schools, including: professional development for educators, performances by ballet, opera, theatre, other performing arts companies and hands-on field experiences. She also coordinated the Region One Dual Credit grant and facilitates the implementation of Credit Flexibility. This year she will also serve as Curriculum Coordinator for Crestview Local.
Sandi was one of sixteen teachers selected nationwide to participate in the 2011 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program, Argentina: A Cultural Crossroads. She had the honor of spending more than five weeks in Argentina, learning about the history, diverse culture and educational system. Sandi will be using these cross-cultural experiences to develop curriculum and teaching materials to use with our students. To see photos of Sandi’s adventure please click here
, or better yet, contact her for a guided photo tour of Argentina or more information about her Fulbright experience.