The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. For Brandon Wallace, of Sedalia, that single step not only led him on a mission trip to India but it led to further strengthening his faith and belief in doing God’s work in service to others.
Wallace, the middle school principal and athletic director at Smithton Schools, spent 10 days in Delhi and Chandigarh, located in the northwestern part of India as one of a six-member missionary group from Cornerstone Baptist Church.
Three students from St. Louis and Hannibal also made the trip.
“This was the first mission trip I have taken,” Wallace said. “I always felt led to do something like this, but never had the courage to before.”
Cornerstone Baptist takes a mission trip to India every two years and, according to Wallace, it was through the encouragement of his pastor, Chris Guffey, and many members of the congregation, as well as his family, who helped to convince Wallace the timing was right for his journey.
The nine-member group left the United States on Dec. 27 and returned Jan. 6.
“I am thankful to my family and my wonderful wife for being a single parent during the holidays,” Wallace said. “I missed them every day but they knew that going was important.
“I wanted to model to my kids that if God leads you in a direction, you trust in Him without question,” Wallace added. “As I continue to grow as a Christian I know it is God’s purpose for us to share Him; it is part of our churches mission to, ‘know God and make Him known.’”
Wallace said the stories he was told about India did not give the reality of the country or its people.
While India’s people have a belief in multiple gods, Christianity makes up only about 3 percent of the population in the country.
“We traveled by train between the two cities which allowed us to really see the landscape of India,” Wallace said. “We also got a good dose of the systematic poverty in India.
“Although many would say the Caste system doesn’t exist anymore, what we saw would tell you differently,” Wallace added “I would say the slums had the biggest impact on me.”
The people who live in the slums are known as the “forgotten people,” according to Wallace, who added that he has seen poverty before, but there was no comparison to what he saw there.
“It was hard to see the children who literally had nothing,” Wallace commented. “We even came upon an older lady who had rescued a little girl whose mother had thrown her in the trash as a newborn.
“This is just one of the many stories about the children in the slums who you know deep down there are no programs, places, for them to go,” Wallace said. “This is their life and will always be their life; you just hope the church, and hopefully an education will help them get out of the slums.”
Most of the work Wallace did was visiting and witnessing in village churches.
He also spent a day in the Chandigarh Baptist School. While there, Wallace said he helped do a school assembly for about 400 students.
“I showed them a video of Smithton School and we did a skit about what God has to offer,” Wallace explained. “It was a great experience.
“The entire school has about 1,200 students and after the assembly I got to spend some time in classrooms and visiting teachers,” he added. “Once again it affirmed for me that kids are kids no matter what part of the world we are in.”
Despite news reports on the difficulty of travel to other countries, Wallace said the group took a direct flight both to and from India.
“We experienced great hospitality there and many were curious about us,” Wallace commented. “As always, they had preconceived ideas of what Americans are like, mainly due to television and social media.
“We tried to give them a true picture of what Americans are about and were very conscious about putting forth a positive image,” Wallace added. “I quickly fell in love with India and its people.”
Wallace characterized the people of India as a very social culture who are rarely seen by themselves.
“Not only because we were in a city of millions, but family and friends are very important to them,” he explained. “I felt my American tendencies by needing some space and quiet, but in their environment, that is not important.
“I really loved that about the Indian people,” Wallace said. “It is most apparent in the way they raise their children and take care of their elderly; they are truly a wonderful, beautiful people.”
Although Wallace works with people on a daily basis, he commented that he entered the trip with a lot of anxiety and worry of the unknown.
He added that prior to the group’s departure he felt he was definitely out of his comfort zone but thanks to the prayers and support of his family, friends and his church family he feels he is ready to return to India someday.
“It’s easy for me to say now, since there has been time between getting back and now, but I would love to go back to India someday,” Wallace said. “There are so many who have mentored me and are responsible for my development as a disciple for Christ; I don’t know what the next adventure will be for me and my family, but I have great people around me who are willing to share their faith with me.
“I, in turn, will share that with others,” he added. “It’s God’s way. How can you turn away from that?”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.