Right after we finished our Caribbean tour, Bonnie went back to St. Pete and I headed to training in Kentucky for my very first international mission trip. While I had traveled to Asia before, I had never done so on a mission trip with a group of strangers, so this was bound to be a new experience.
The team I was to travel with was from all different parts of the nation. Ted and Wes were from Ohio, Amber was from West Virginia, Ross was from Louisiana, Julie was from L.A., April was from Texas, and Melissa was from Tennessee. The premise was that they each played an instrument and sang, so they were going to form a worship band and we were going on tour. My role in the group was that I was in charge of media: Taking pictures, videos, running the worship lyrics at the churches, etc.
Though I had never heard of anything like this before, I thought it was any amazing way to spend the word of God. Regardless who you are, whenever a tall white guy walks anywhere in India or Malaysia, he’s going to be noticed. But give him a guitar, a microphone, and let him sing some Coldplay covers and every ear is his. From there, he can trail off into whatever type of Christian Rock songs he wants and the crowd will continue to engage. And that’s pretty much the way it went for our first two weeks in Bangalore, India.
We had two awesome Indian hosts (Paul and Max) along with a fantastic Indian driver named Cesar. Paul was our primary host and he was amazing! He was about my age and he called himself “The Rock Priest” and his image fit the name. He had long black hair and he was into heavy metal rock music. But even more than that, he loved Jesus Christ and was on a mission to reach a generation for His glory. As such, Paul took full advantage of our group’s visit by booking us at shows all over the city. From cultural centers and cafes to churches and youth centers. One time, he even had us go play at some girl’s birthday party.
In general, Bangalore was very culturally different from the U.S. not only was it much more humble, but so many of the customs were different. From the cows roaming freely through the city to the plethora of rickshaw (three-wheeled taxis), from the Hindu temples on every corner to the insane amount of mopeds and disregard for traffic laws. It was wild to see two grown men, just friends, walking down the street holding hands, linked pinky style and swinging their arms. Or the complete disregard for personal space when standing in line (uncontrolled mob) to pay for you lunch. Or having two guys ride on moped together.
In the U.S., for a guy to ride anything other than a Harley Davidson can often times be seen as less-masculine. From that perspective, no self-respecting American male would ever ride a moped, much less be caught dead riding on the back of his buddy’s moped. But in India, nobody thinks twice about it. So, when Max and I were walking out of the mission office on our way to the apartment (about a block away) and Max told me to hop on to scooter, I was very hesitant. I told him I was cool simply walking the block.
To which he responded: “C’mon!!!”
When in India…
It actually wasn’t a big deal for anything other than my ego. The next day, I actually hung off the back of Max’s scooter taking pictures while we rode all over the city.
Though we were in India for a full two weeks, the time seemed to just fly by. Paul kept us so busy that we didn’t have time to blink. All in, the people were absolutely wonderful and loving and kind.
What was most crazy for me was that I was under the impression that we were going to “take the word of Jesus to India” and there were Christian Churches and Bible Colleges all over that place. It turns out, the Apostle Thomas was baptizing people in the name of Jesus Christ in India two-thousand years ago.