Stephen Giles shares his experience about travelling to India and learning to deal with discomfort.
“James Munk (Director of Kairos North America) shared what he does in India. He spoke of the challenges in working with college and high school young people in India and about the mission there. He said that one way we could serve the mission in India was to participate in the May households he was organizing. It sounded like a real adventure; it hit at something within me. I thought about it and then called James and said, ‘I’d like to go.’ Within about 10 minutes, James was saying, ‘when you are in India…’ ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘I’m really going; I’m on the team!’
“I was looking for adventure, which I thought maybe that wasn’t a ‘spiritual’ enough reason to go. James said no, it is good for young men to crave adventure.
“Soon, I was on my way to Bangalore, the capitol of the state of Karnataka . It is an enormous city by my standards (8.42 million). Besides James and me, our household included 12 Indian guys, one Filipino, and one American doing a GAP Year in the Philippines.
“My first impressions of India: it was warm (even at 1:00 in the morning) and there was not much night traffic. Then morning came. There are too many cars for the roads; it is hot and noisy with scooters and motorcycles everywhere. We walked around the neighborhood which was really helpful for seeing Indian street life. There are lots of street vendor stands with fruits and other foods. You can buy a fresh coconut, for example, cut the top, drink the milk, scoop out the wonderful flesh.
“Living in India made me re-evaluate distance and speed. Driving an hour and a half would be normal coming back from an evening activity. 30 mph would be very fast (I don’t think I ever achieved that on a scooter). Driving in the U.S. is so easy in comparison: a two-lane road in India would have three cars and a truck across the same two lanes.
“My role was mainly to be part of the small group, be a solid member of the household, and be a witness of a man ‘fired up’ for the Lord. I also did the morning prayer meditations. James told us on the team that we were an ‘authority’ just because we were there on behalf of the Sword of the Spirit and knew how to apply the talks we were hearing in our lives.
“Our household did ‘memory-making trips.’ We traveled to national parks and had adventures together. We grew in trying new things. In our household talk series, we heard about not making decisions based on fear of discomfort or pain.
“We took bucket ‘showers,’ had six guys sleeping on the floor as well as three each in the two bedrooms, and ate off our laps because we had no table. Personal space was lacking so it was a stretch for us all. I learned that it is OK to be uncomfortable and that we have a very easy life in the U.S. I learned what I actually need and what I just want. We all learned to do dishes, cook, and work on a task together (and stay until the job is done). There were no moms to do stuff for us!
“Looking back at my time in India, I can see that I grew in an attitude of ‘gameness’: being willing to do things outside my comfort zone. It was a lot more fun when I was willing to try new things, new foods, and be uncomfortable. Embracing that attitude allowed me to take on more responsibilities and do things that were ‘out there,’ rather than sitting safely at home in the air conditioning.
“I grew as a disciple – I did things a little ‘unsafe’ like sharing the Gospel with someone. I saw that being afraid or uncomfortable keeps me from doing things for the Lord – not really good reasons. I learned lessons by ‘doing,’ not just from hearing a teaching.
“I am moving on to a mission year in Detroit this fall. I’ll be an employee of YouthWorks-Detroit, working with Detroit youth. However, since I didn’t get sick in India and I got a 10-year visa, James said I am coming back!”