Mission Trip to India Was Powerful, Humbling for GCU Students
Story by Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Photos courtesy of Anthony Mann and Jacob Page
Anthony Mann had an idea of how it would go on a typical mission trip: Drop in, help out, take off.
“You go, you build, you do some work,” he says.
He wondered if that would be enough of a challenge when he signed on for a three-week trip to India in late May with a group of nine other students, led by GCU’s global missions director, Jacob Page, and Page’s wife, Mimi.
As Mann lay in a broken bed with no air conditioning at the end of a 122-degree day in Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, he was feeling rather challenged indeed. India was oppressively hot, crowded and squalid, and he got right to the point the next morning with his roommate, Jeff Matney.
“Dude, if I found out we had to leave today, I’d be OK with it,” Mann said, expressing aloud what the others were thinking after only one day.
Mann, Matney and the rest — including five freshmen — stuck with it, lasting the entire three weeks in a Third World country awash in socioeconomic problems and not known for being overly friendly to Christians.
“I fell in love with the people, and I’m going to go back someday,” says Mann, who was GCU’s student-body president for two years, graduating in May.
“This trip was about people. It wasn’t about the usual kind of service. We were supporting, encouraging and ministering all the time. And God used those people to change my heart.”
Page, a veteran of many mission trips, calls it the “most impactful” one he has ever led, admitting that it took the group way outside its comfort zone. He includes himself in that assessment: Because he was the leader, he often was called on to preach, even at a wedding.
Cell-phone and Facebook contact wasn’t allowed for the students — and wasn’t missed.
“It was a difficult trip with the heat and the food and the different modes of transportation,” Page says. “We took planes, trains, automobiles and buses. The culture is in your face and it’s overwhelming.
“(The students) had to depend on God. It was uncomfortable, and they had to learn to grow. They learned a lot about themselves, and they learned how blessed we are.”
Important connections were made through Jonathan Rees, a recent master’s degree graduate of GCU, who went on the trip and has family in India. Rees has four uncles who live in Mangalagiri, a town of 230,000, where they combine to pastor nearly three dozen Christian churches.
The GCU contingent represented the first white people that Mangalagiri had ever seen. That’s right — ever.
“We had 40- and 50-year-olds coming to us — college students — for prayer,” Mann says. “Their life is so much harder, yet they wanted us to pray for them. That was humbling.”
The ways of the Hindu religion were an eye-opener for the visitors. A city near Agra had thousands of Hindu temples, including one where hundreds of live monkeys were worshipped. A visit to a Delhi slum was no better; the place was filled with abandoned children who flocked to the GCU group.
This was big-time culture shock. And it’s just what Page had in mind when he planned the trip.
“I wanted it to feel dark, so they’d see the world the way Jesus is forced to see it every day,” he says.
However, after the first few grim and depressing days, the travelers went out into rural areas, receiving a reception that was as warm as the weather.
Rees’ grandparents, who had never met white people before, rented air conditioning and Western toilets for their guests — plus a generator that would keep the air running past the daily limit of four hours of electricity.
“It’s an incredible family,” Page says. “Their hospitality was amazing. We needed water constantly, and they did what they could.
“Your expectation on a trip is that you go to serve, but you end up being served.”
Mann says the trip was evidence of the simple power of presence, an opportunity to take the Gospel to a distant, remote region and lift the spirits of those living there.
“A group of young Americans draws attention,” he says. “It made people question and wonder why we were there. It wasn’t the typical trip, but this taught us that there are many ways to do the work of the Lord.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.