MB missionary freed from Dubai

Dubai, UAE -- A Myrtle Beach missionary charged with distributing Bibles and Christian compact discs in a Muslim-dominated country returned to her home church early Sunday morning.

Vivian Gilmer, a 72-year-old grandmother who describes herself as a "servant of the Lord," received hugs and well wishes from members of First Baptist Church.

She returned from Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates, early Friday. Marie Bush, a missionary from Waxahachie, Texas, was released with Gilmer.

Both had been held in Dubai for the past two weeks after authorities said they gave Christian material to people in Dubai.

"I am happy to be here," Gilmer said. "Everything was taken care of; it was just a matter of procedure."

A church leader described Gilmer as a hero and thanked God for her safe return.

Gilmer and her husband, Fred Gilmer, joined a large prayer circle after regular services.

More details of her arrest were posted Sunday on a Web site operated by Tom Cox Ministries, an Arkansas-based religious group.

Gilmer and Bush were part of a larger group of missionaries attending a "shopping fair" in Dubai, said missionary leader Kay Cox. The group traveled to Dubai after finishing other work in India.

About 13 people attended the fair and agreed to meet in the evening, she said.

When Bush and Gilmer didn't appear on time, the group discovered the women were being held by police for giving out Bibles and compact discs to friends.

"Gilmer and Bush had given Bibles [and a CD] as gifts to friends attending the fair that they met during the weeklong Dubai visit," Cox said on her Web site.

Other missionaries with Tom Cox Ministries were told to leave Dubai, Cox said. Gilmer and Bush had their passports confiscated.

They were allowed to stay with another missionary during the investigation.

"They had our passports, but we were free to come and go [in Dubai]," Gilmer said. We went to church a couple of times; we were not behind bars."

Bush has gone on several missionary trips with Tom Cox Ministries and portrays Joy the Clown, a religious character. Gilmer, a veteran missionary, is planning a vacation trip to Hawaii and other religious work, she said.

The past two weeks have not swayed her faith, although she did have a little jet lag.

"I'd be willing to go back, if the Lord is willing," she said. "This wouldn't stop me from working for God."