More Than Elephants: My Trip Around the World (literally) Part Two

If you didn’t read part one of this post, please do so! Some of this will feel like a play-by-play but as a sports fan and as a songwriter, sometimes storytelling needs a good play-by-play. I also need to use words to process my emotions especially in regards to something as huge as this event. Get your tissues ready.

(That disclaimer was for me to get my tissues ready. You probably won’t cry. Though, if you do, you may want some tissues.)

We dropped off our luggage in our rooms soon after arriving at Ashirwad. Grace and I ventured out to the “recreation area” which was a large dirt slab with a basketball goal and a volleyball net. There we met two guys from USA/Canada and started kicking around a soccer ball. For the next thirty minutes or so, many others from places like Australia, Asia, and USA/Canada started to join in. Spending the last several days together helped to easily break the ice with others. Our dinner that night was the first of many, many rice dinners that we had that week.

The next day began our USA/Canada pre-trip where we visited Golconda Fort. At Golconda we were able to look out over the city and take in the sights. We walked up at least 25,000 steps, possibly more, no one knows for sure. We learned quite a bit about the fort, but it was more interesting to see how many people were staring at our group.

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We had butterscotch ice cream cones, while Seth had some kind of chocolate bar and missed out on the phenomenal butterscotch ice cream. We stood around in the shade. Pro tip: when you go to a place like India with no clouds and a dry heat, you’ll find that shade is very best thing, second only to ice cream. We were able to just relax for awhile and began again having conversations about future dreams for our ministries. Hopefully those dreams always involve ice cream breaks.
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The next day we went to Lumbini Park which was an outdoor amusement park. Spoiler alert: the park was pretty much a ghost town. We took a quick boat tour to a small island on the lake with a large Buddha statue. Afterwards, we had an incredible lunch at a restaurant beside the park. It was here where I first had legit Indian naan. As the wait staff brought out our bowls of naan, I literally shed tears as I’d talked up my excitement for fresh naan from India. We also drank masala coke which tasted like coke mixed with chicken broth, so there’s that.

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Like manna from Heaven

That night was the official beginning of Third Wave. Groups from 61 different countries gathered together for a celebratory banquet and presentation by the Indian Field. It was quite beautiful. As we walked into the banquet we were each presented with a rose and a pin in the shape of India.

On Wednesday, all of the Third Wave participants went to Ramoji Film City and Sahas Adventure Park. Ramoji is the world’s largest film city (filming location). We got to see and experience many film sets, dancing, and even had lunch at Jimmy’s, where we ate pretty spicy pizza. At Sahas Grace, Seth, Matt, Mike and I did three things: ropes course, zip line, and you guessed it, drove ATVs. While I’ve never zip-lined or driven an ATV before, remember, getting out of my comfort zones helped me to be the person I really am, which in many ways, is quite an adventurer.

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Jimmy’s!

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I realized early on that I need to exercise more often!
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Much harder than it looks!
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So what if I’ve never driven an ATV. So what if I was covered in dirt. So what if I had dirt in my lungs.

Thursday began our plenary sessions of the week. We were able to worship freely during our services, singing in our own languages. We were forced to have thought provoking conversations with people from other countries throughout the sessions. We were challenged to “go together”.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

One of the favorites of the week was “tea time” which would be after our first session and not long after lunch. The coffee in India was dope. It had hints of buttery goodness. Cue the Psych quote: “I can’t help it, Shawn, my body craves buttery goodness.”

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The coffee was great but it wasn’t strong enough. Thankfully Grace brought Starbucks Via packs which, although they were almost two years out of date, gave our coffee the strength it needed to get us through the day. After waking up at 2:30am this morning, I could use some of those now!

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two years out of date and still kicking!

We were given three books on the core values of NYI: be (evangelism), do (discipleship), and go (leadership development). We were told to read one chapter and we had the opportunity to sit in small groups to discuss the chapter that we read. I chose leadership development. You may remember from part one that I had a deep down desire to one day train and lead youth pastors. This book, like 100% of the trip, came at the right time. The author of the chapter is from Australia, and talking with him and the group about the chapter was a delight.

One of the nights there was a global talent show, where at least two acts from each region of the world showcased a talent. It was here where I learned that Canadians also have country music and line dancing (Cadillac Ranch) and that we were literally in the midst of a K-Pop star at Third Wave. https://youtu.be/GMmR8d668Rg. This dude is legit!

“D as in David. A as in Artist. V as in Victory. I to the D I’m David David.”

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Mo, Mark, and Jake, from Canada

During the afternoon we would meet with our field (Grace, Seth, myself, Matt, Mike) to ask and answer questions together. We shared hopes, dreams, struggles, and fears together in this group. We were able to learn so much more about one another in these settings.

The whole trip was an incredible experience. I had countless opportunities to talk openly about a lot of the struggles of being in ministry. I was able to hear from friends who’d experienced different struggles because of being women in ministry. We shared hurts and we laughed. We cried and were angry for one another. Being with young leaders for two weeks was not enough. I wish I could spend every week with them.

We ended the week with another celebration, food, and fireworks. There were vendors from India who were set up around Ashirwad. One of those was a henna station. Many of our friends got the tattoos and even one got them on his head! I have no idea how long they’ll last but I’ve already had several comments about the henna on my hands that have led to me sharing about my experience in India.

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Another vendor was creating customized coffee mugs. Many of us from the Thailand trip got matching “magic” mugs, which show a picture when hot liquid is added. The picture is of us in the water with the elephants. I’ve already used it quite a bit. Grace, Seth, and I also decided to get a separate mug with two pictures of our field for Matt and Mike, as a “thank you” for being our trip “dads”. Spoiler alert, all five of us got one because, when in Rome.”

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One of the most interesting things about our stay in India was the shower. Remember how I said accessing running water in Thailand was difficult at best? Here’s the thing: showers and bathrooms are just so different from what we utilize in America. We took bucket showers. I’m sure you understand but if you don’t, here’s how it goes: you fill up a bucket with hot water (in our case it was always lukewarm), take it to a stall, take a smaller pitcher of that water, and pour it on yourself. Then, you wash and rinse. It taught me a lot about how much water we waste daily, for sure.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this. We met and heard from several individuals who are ministering in areas of the world where it is dangerous. I wish I could share more than this, but they are all my heroes.

We left Ashirwad around 11:45pm on Sunday night and our flight departed at 2:45am. This would become the longest Monday ever. Remember how Thursday basically disappeared during our flight to Thailand? It was reincarnated in the form of a 36 hour Monday. We flew to Dubai, to Milan, and then to New York.

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One last picture before we board!

I’ll be very raw and honest right here. As our flight was inching closer and closer to New York, part of me wished that it would not end. Granted, it wasn’t the most comfortable just sitting awake watching movies for 10 hours. But, when I left my group at JFK to get to Laguardia Airport on my own, I felt like I was leaving behind people who I’d miss dearly in the days and weeks ahead. That has proved to be very true.

The people that I met on our pre-trip to Thailand are incredible human beings. Because of that trip together, we bonded so quickly and always gravitated back to one another while we were in India. That’s not to say I didn’t make friends with people from other regions and across USA/Canada, because I absolutely did. But again, there’s something about flying together for days on end, traveling across the world, bathing elephants, experiencing a taste of Heaven in our worship, and doing all kinds of things together, that creates friendships and bonds that are hard to break.

Honest moment. My favorite movie for several years was The Waterboy with Adam Sandler. There is a scene in the movie where Bobby Boucher (main character) catches an interception, runs into the other team’s end zone and blows the game for the Mud Dogs.

Guy: Nice job, (bad word). You lost us the game!

Bobby: I’m sorry. Would you please still be my friend?

Guy: No! Get away from me!

Bobby: Okay…

This is one of the saddest moments of the movie. I could share other movie references here but this one sticks out in my mind. Making friends is weird for me and I’ve always hoped it would just happen naturally. The fear of disappointing others and just not being good enough always keeps me from going out on a limb and really trying. So, you can imagine how going into a trip like this added some extra anxiety.

“I don’t know these people. They’re probably not going to like me. I’ll probably have to eat my lunches on the ground, alone.” – Me before the trip, probably

The people that I traveled around the world with are people who, at least for two weeks, seemed to really get me. They allowed me to be myself.

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People told me that this trip would change my life. Well, it is hard to articulate the many ways in which that is the case. However, I’ll share five.

  1. I will never look at someone from another country and culture the same way again. Diversity is incredibly beautiful, and within the context of the church we see a true glimpse of the Kingdom. Everyone has a voice. Every person has a seat at the table.
  2. I will never look at America the same way again. America, we have so far to go. We say things like, “speak English or leave” to people from different countries, whereas other countries cater to English speakers and almost everyone speaks multiple languages. There are many things about America that I am ashamed of, especially after spending two weeks across the world. Nonetheless, there is still hope, and there is always room to grow.
  3. I will never look at the church the same way again. Singing together about our God in our own languages is one of the most beautiful experiences I will ever have. Meeting leaders from all across the world and hearing their stories, dreams, and struggles was so life-giving. I realized very early on that we are all experiencing some of the same struggles in ministry. The church global is a beautiful thing. I’m so incredibly thankful that the Church of the Nazarene is one of the few denominations of the Christian Church that truly dedicates itself to the global mission.
  4. I learned very early on that there are a few things that I need constant in my life. First, I need a leader in my life who will walk with me and help me grow through all the days of ministry, not just for a season. In other words, I need a mentor. It was said best by someone other than me, “How am I going to ask someone else to share my crap while they have so much else to deal with?” This is how I’ve felt for a few years, similar to how I’ve felt about friendships. Nonetheless, I cannot walk alone. Truly, I’ve gone very fast alone, but I know that the only way I’ll go far is to not walk alone. Second, I didn’t realize my need for a community of leaders my age until I got to India. Being around church leaders my age was everything. If I could only bottle up the experiences of conversations, stories, encouragements, laughter, and everything else that went into those moments with these people. I need community. I need to be around leaders who are dealing with a lot of the same things that I am as a young leader.
  5. Lastly (actually there are at least 30 more points but I’ll keep it at four). I made friends that will be friends for life if they’ll have me. We will forever be connected together through these shared experiences and will always be able to say “remember that time at Third Wave…” I would get on a plane and travel to you in Nashville or Ohio or Illinois or wherever you are in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity to just sit and have lunch or coffee with you. You were the most life-giving part of the trip. Thank you.

I would like to say that if you gave money to send me on this trip, I hope you understand that you contributed to experiences that I will truly never forget. Your support allowed me to experience the world, the church, different cultures, and so many other things that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have been able to experience without you.

I boarded the plane unsure of what I was about to experience. I came home with an overflowing heart and experiences that I would live over in an instant. I left home unsure of what ministry would look like for me in the future. I came home realizing that I have so many friends who also don’t have all of the answers, and that’s ok.

I don’t have all of the answers, and that’s ok.

Finally, as I said before, this trip was so much more than bathing elephants. I know that I’ll be processing this trip for weeks and months to come. I know that I’ll be reflecting on this trip for the rest of my life. And I know that my friends will show up in sermon illustrations for a long, long time.

To my elephant friends
Grace, Seth, Matt, Mike, Bailey, Morgan, Hannah, Libby, Ryan, Todd, James, Miranda, Amanda, Jacob, Kris, and David: Thank you for helping me shed the introverted comfort zones that seriously cripple me. Thank you for helping me see that those comfort zones are keeping me from being my true self. Thank you for sharing your stories and dreams and hurts with me. Thank you for leading and serving in the areas where you are and encouraging me simply by being you. I cannot wait until we are all together again. Until then, remember that I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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Author: tjoshbennett

I'm Terry Bennett, a husband and a dog owner. I'm a songwriter and a pastor with a love for adventure.

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