The arrival into Da Nang was filled with apprehension. I could feel it in us. It had been thirty-five years. When he left then he had no idea what the future held for him. I doubt that there were any threads of imagination like this. How could a child in an orphanage imagine a future including the scene we were now a part of?
I woke with the tension building around me. The 6.40 am flight had come far too early. As we turned and lined up on the runway, I could see the mountains and a sleepy Vietnamese town. Everything pushed us back in time. The airport did not have a flight controller tower. Obviously someone, somewhere was controlling our actions, but it was not here. The car that circled out and led our plane to our designated parking spot. Even the simple baggage area led one to believe that we had left modern civilization.
As we wandered to a tourist stand, I could see an unfolding day filled with frustration and angst. There was no way we were going to be able to retrace steps we had no memory of walking. The information was too sketchy. The memories of those who knew were beyond reach. This era had long disappeared.
We hired a taxi to take us to China Beach. As we rode into the unknown, the pointlessness of our quest became all too apparent. Our lack of Vietnamese language skills, the missing reference points, and no local contacts suggested we would fail. As we stepped out to a dilapidated shack on a sandy beach, it was clear that we were truly lost.
In a moment of calm resignation, we headed back to the one hotel on the beach. It was a sailor’s moment. The “rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.” (Acts 27.17)
As we walked into the open lobby with the sea breeze gently pushing against our face, I knew there was something more. It was an invitation into the unknown.